Marketing a SOC Report
May 2, 2019
A SOC (System and Organization Controls) report provides an organization with much more than just an audit of its financial and/or security controls. These reports are not just a means for securing a one-time customer either. SOC examinations open the door for organizations and create opportunities for future relationships with new clients. One of the main challenges organizations face with SOC audits is they don’t fully understand its potential, and they don’t understand the best ways to communicate the benefits of a SOC report to prospects.
Whether an organization possesses one or not, SOC reports are often viewed as just part of the process; an item to cross off the list before the contract can be signed. Certain clients require a SOC audit, so organizations comply with that request in order to gain business. But undergoing an audit of that size and scope is a substantial investment for organizations – in terms of both time and money. Shouldn’t an investment of that significance provide a return greater than only one additional client?
To get the most value out of a SOC report, organizations need to proactively market the completion of an audit. Marketing a SOC report is one of the best things an organization can do to differentiate themselves from their competition, and position themselves as an industry leader and trusted partner.
If an organization has already completed a SOC audit at the request of a client, they need to be using it as a tool to obtain new clients. If an organization doesn’t have a completed SOC audit, it’s recommended they have one done – even if a prospective client is not actively requesting one. A SOC audit acts as a demonstration of an organization’s understanding and commitment to financial and security controls.
The Acute Differences Between SOC 1, 2 & 3 Examinations
With three different types of SOC examinations, knowing which is best for an organization overall, and which is best for marketing purposes is difficult to grasp.
- SOC 1 is limited in scope and is best suited for organizations that must instill confidence in their controls over their customer’s financial data. Client’s external auditors use this report to assist in the audit of their own financial statements and for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or similar regulations. Use of this report is restricted to the management of the service organization, user entities, and user auditors.
- SOC 2 examinations focus on how client data is stored and protected, and is a more technical, security-focused report than a SOC 1. This report is an assessment of an organization’s controls as they relate to the AICPA’s (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) five Trust Service Criteria: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Unlike a SOC 1, a SOC 2 report can be given to prospective clients, existing client, auditors, business partners, and regulators with insight into the internal controls of the organization. Although there are restrictions around marketing the findings of the audit, there are no restrictions on marketing the fact an organization has completed a SOC 2 report.
- SOC 3 assessments cover the same subject matter as a SOC 2, but its use and distribution are not restricted. The description of the system is less detailed than a SOC 2, and is primarily used for marketing purposes. The reports are certified and can be made publicly available via client website.
The Competitive Advantage of a SOC 2 Report
More than ever before, companies are requiring their vendors to prove they are properly protected by completing a SOC 2 audit. When pursuing clients that require a SOC report, already having one completed provides a huge advantage over competitors that do not. Marketing just the completion of a SOC 2 report is a substantial competitive advantage and demonstrates how mature the security and control environment of an organization is.
Organizations have always made the claim (and will continue to do so) that they are properly securing the data of their customers. But a SOC 2 report, backed by AICPA standards, is indisputable evidence of that claim. Data security is rapidly becoming the top priority of companies as major corporations are more readily affected by data breaches and hackers. The ability to show strong controls around security, confidentiality, and privacy is a key component of marketing a SOC 2 report. Possessing a SOC 2 report demonstrates a strict adherence to security and a willingness to invest the time and money to prove it.
For companies concerned with security and controls, marketing a SOC examination improves the appeal of working with an organization from a buyer’s perspective. Because cybersecurity is such a pervasive issue, a SOC 2 report on controls relevant to the five Trust Service Criteria (security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy) substantially reduces buyer concern.
Simply having a completed SOC 2 audit demonstrates to potential customers that the organization understands security and understands its importance to their clients. It says something about an organization. It communicates something culturally significant about the organization and what they value.