David Kirkpatrick

Digital Marketing 101: A panel for startups

July 6th, 2012

Recently, I had the privilege to sit on, and moderate, a panel discussion on the basics of digital marketing for the technology startups being incubated at Tech Wildcatters in Dallas this spring and early summer.

We covered a variety of digital marketing topics, but we focused on three areas: email marketing, social media marketing and online privacy. And, I wanted to share some of the panel’s wisdom with MarketingSherpa readers. Luckily for me, I was joined on the panel by two excellent marketers – Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer, Eloqua, and Shama Kabani, CEO, the Marketing Zen Group.

It was called “fireside marketing,” but, thankfully, the fireplace was virtual given the summer temperatures in Dallas.



The discussion opened with email and a quick recitation that cannot be emphasized enough — particularly for this crowd of mobile app developers and tech startups — email is not dead.

Not only is email not dead, it should probably be the linchpin of almost any digital marketing effort.

That said, both Dennis and Shama agreed that starting with an email marketing program is more difficult today than even three to five years ago. People are much more wary about sharing their email address with you, and they are more likely to opt-out, or just flat out mark you as spam if you don’t provide relevant content in your email sends.

An important part of any email program is list building. Dennis made the point that if you purchase a list, you will most likely get what you pay for – a database full of bad addresses. Even for the addresses that are good, you have no way of knowing if the recipients even want to receive your mail.

Our entire panel agreed a much better practice is to get a clear opt-in, and when collecting addresses via a form, go for fewer, rather than more, form fields. Shama suggests simply asking for first and last name and email address. Once you begin engaging with the subscriber, you can then add data to that person’s record.


Deliverability and relevance is an email challenge

Dennis offered some tips on improving email deliverability, starting with understanding your prospects and end users.

“Traditional batch and blasting doesn’t tell you much about the likes and dislikes of your customers when they visit,” he says.

Dennis adds, “By gaining a prospect through Web forms and then monitoring their uses of email and website, you can know more about their needs and wants so that you’re always sending targeted and relevant email.”

He also mentions this approach creates a “quality over quantity” mentality to list management, and facilitates “reading into users’ digital body language.” Two email tactics that help improve deliverability.



Shama says a major aspect of social media marketing is to consider the different platforms as welcome mats for your brand, and to provide different options to connect with you for the people engaged with your social media outreach.

Some people want to connect with you, and possibly your customers, on Facebook. Others might want to follow you on Twitter to get links to the content you are producing or promoting.

With this in mind, the Facebook strategy should be more about the audience, not your company. Across all social media platforms, Shama says, it’s not about the number of followers anymore. It’s about where and how those followers engage with you.

And B2B marketers? LinkedIn is still the social media platform of choice to create those touch points, reach out to new high-level prospects, and engage with potential prospects through LinkedIn Group discussions.

Shama provides a six-point checklist for some social media best practices:

  1. Build around your audience’s brand. What does their interacting with you online say about them?
  2. Content is the cornerstone for all social media marketing.
  3. Focus on how you will provide value. The medium is not a substitute for the message. Don’t get on Twitter if you don’t have anything worth sharing.
  4. Offline strategy should come before online tools.
  5. True ROI comes when all the pieces play well together. Social media, email, PR – it has to all be integrated into a strategy.
  6. There is no excuse for not having an editorial calendar. Plan out your online activities, and you will be much more on track to deliver.


Content is vital to digital marketing

In the checklist above, Shama mentions content being the “cornerstone” of social media marketing, but it’s really the cornerstone of all digital marketing. The goal of most email is to get a click to a piece of content on the website, or a landing page requesting registration in exchange for an e-book, whitepaper or other content piece.

Don’t forget that content is more than just blog posts and whitepapers. It is also online videos, webinars (and webinar replays) and slide decks uploaded to sites such as SlideShare.

Find out what works for your audience, but also offer a variety of content types, in different lengths and even different form factors. Some of the audience will be consuming that content on a full desktop or laptop computer, but increasingly, they will be using smartphones and tablets to engage with your content.



Not the sexiest of digital marketing topics but a very necessary one. It’s currently a very hot topic with the European Union making changes to its privacy directive, Pacific Rim countries taking a more active look into online privacy, and even ongoing stirrings on Capitol Hill in the United States, mostly brought on by data breaches, such as those at Epsilon, Zappos and others.

Online privacy is best approached as a transparency issue by marketers. Tell your customers how you handle their data, and be very upfront about the process.

All this begins with the privacy policy you post on your various online outlets.

Dennis says, “An often overlooked opportunity for marketers to educate consumers and assure them of good intentions is the boring old privacy policy. If your lawyer is writing your privacy policy, you may miss a marketing opportunity.”

He provides a seven-point checklist on optimizing the privacy policy:

  1. Write it for consumers.
  2. Keep it short.
  3. Index it or give it headers so people can find what they want quickly.
  4. Audit the policy at least once a year (and have non-lawyers read it for clarity.)
  5. Link out to relevant sections of your policy to “Contact Us” features so readers with questions can get answers.
  6. Inform customers about policy changes, but be sure to do so before the changes go public, and give people a chance to change preferences prior to launch.
  7. Highlight the policy throughout the site.


A surprise guest shows up at Tech Wildcatters

Hopefully our fireside marketing panel provided some insight for you and for the startups we addressed.

Gabriella Draney, co-founder and Managing Partner, Tech Wildcatters, says, “The startups generally figure out product and team very early, as well as who their target market is. The next step is to figure out scalable distribution, of which digital marketing is huge piece.”

Tech Wildcatters is a Forbes Top 10 Accelerator two years in a row, and ranked top ten by Kaufman Foundation.

On a lighter note, our entire talk was almost derailed when Shama got distracted by an unexpected guest.


Related Resources:

Email Marketing Trends: The results from 6 live polls conducted at Email Summit 2012

Content Marketing: How scrapers impact your content strategy

Digital Marketing: Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth”

Social Media Marketing: An early look at how marketers can use Pinterest

Social Media Marketing: Opportunity knocks worldwide

Email Summit: Integrating mobile, social and email marketing channels

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

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