What Is: Digital Marketing



Name: Matt and Katie Iles (@nine_lines)
Occupation: Co-Founders, Nine Lines

1. In 140 characters or less, what is Digital Marketing?

The pursuit to understand your customers, master your messaging, and grow your business.

2. What’s your favorite part about Digital Marketing? What gets you most excited?

The industry’s constantly changing, and we’re constantly learning. We love to experiment and analyze. But ultimately, we love growing companies. We see that aspect alone as vitally important and deeply fulfilling. With Digital Marketing, you can bring immediate value to the customer and to the business. What’s more exciting than that?

3. A Digital Marketer is most like a A) Gardener B) Fortune-Teller C) Mad Scientist or D) Choose your own. Why?

We definitely see ourselves as Mad Scientists.

Scientists because we need to test our hypotheses, analyze our data, and defend our conclusions. We should be guided by reason.

Mad because we try to be wildly creative, if not outright contrarian. We should dare to explore new and treacherous heights. The best, most effective marketing helps you stand out to your customers, which means it’s outside what’s already been done. That chase – trying to consider the context of a customer experience through a new lens – requires just the right touch of madness and curiosity. 🙂

4. If a startup company were a large and empty piece of property, then digital marketing would be _________?

Marketers are like homeowners who love to entertain. Yes, they need to invite many people – but a dinner party is only fun if its an interesting or ‘quality’ crowd. Oh, and of course they better clean up the house before they arrive!

It’s not enough to convince people to show up to the party if it turns out to be a bust. This is why product and marketing are so closely intertwined, and why we get deeply involved in aspects such as user experience, feature requirements and customer service as well as content, advertising and marketing campaigns. Everything is one brand, one integrated experience to your customer. If you think only in silios – this is marketing, this is UX, this is analytics  – means you’re not aligned with how your customers think and interact with your brand.

5. How would you explain the relationship between Digital Brand Strategy and User Acquisition Marketing to a five year old?

Branding creates loveable characters and unforgettable stories, just like those from your favorite Disney and Pixar movies. User acquisition makes sure you go to the theaters to discover those characters and stories in the first place. And then also buy toys and clothes so that a sequel can get made.

6. What are some of your favorite books, links, resources, influential tweeters, for someone interested in getting started in Digital Marketing?

  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  • Unleashing The Idea Virus by Seth Godin
  • Permission Marketing by Seth Godin (seeing a trend here?)
  • Brains on Fire by Robbin Phillips
  • Unmarketing by Scott Stratten
  • Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
  • Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik
  • Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few
  • Predictive Analytics by Eric Siegel

7. What advice would you give to an aspiring digital marketer?

Approval comes from below, not above. Let the data lying at your feet guide you, empower and embolden you. Don’t defer to someone with unfounded ideas just because they might sit in the corner office. In fact, this space is moving so fast that you should feel confident in your ideas even if no one else can grasp your vision yet. When you sound like everyone else, you’re already behind the curve.

Dare to takes chances. Measure your outcomes. Learn and improve. But more than anything, find a way to start today.

8. What are some difficulties a startup would face without a digital marketer?

Most startups are so focused on the product and responding to customer requests that they don’t have the time or the wherewithal to ‘read’ their data. We step into situations where companies have been literally flying blind for months, and in less than 2 weeks, we surface game-changing findings about their users that completely recalibrates the company’s direction. That’s why we’re launching Tycoon, a mobile app to make it easy for teams to see, understand and act on their data together.

The marketing tactics (search, social, email) are critical to growth, but how do you execute without understanding what’s working, what’s not and why?

We bring clarity, insight and data-driven strategies that dramatically improve the maturity of the business’ basic awareness and overall plan of attack.

9. What are some companies you think are killing it in digital marketing?

We keep a list of rotating companies that we regularly refer to for inspiration. Our agency’s focus happens to lean ecommerce, so that colors that list a bit. In no particular order:

  • Nasty Gal
  • Everlane
  • Harry’s
  • Jack Erwin
  • Anthropologie
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Inside Hook
  • Quartz.com

10. What are some of the difficulties or challenges facing the Digital Marketing community today?

Attribution, attribution, attribution. We would almost never pay for ‘enterprise’ software of the bloated and overpriced variety. But we would pay hand over fist for something that could actually show the true impact of each customer touchpoint along the customer decision journey so that we could optimize more efficiently and accurately. At this point, even with the copious data at our disposal, we have a fuzzier view than we would prefer. We have heard of several companies trying to bring the real deal to the market, and we’re excited by the prospect of trying them out soon!