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Did you know that in the first 6 months of 2015, Indian startups have raised $3.5 Bn ? Almost every other day a new startup idea is funded. The sheer numbers, the ideas and innovations will blow your mind away! Interestingly, as I read through the list of funded startups, I recognized that they were all pointed solutions to a specific customer need / problem area and as relevant to the Indian context.Bottom-line, no dearth of problems and no dearth of solutions!

What I was personally curious about was who is investing in these ideas? I observed all kinds of individuals and enterprises. I’ve read news of large Indian companies investing in start-ups. From Wipro which has ear-marked 100 Mn$ invest in startups to Infosys which has set aside $250 Mn for startup investments to Mr.Ratan Tata who is funding startups – (the latest investment being in Ola cabs) – It appears that Indian enterprises and business leaders are investing in startups. Whether it is purely a financial investment or a business decision to diversify the business portfolio or to be a part of the next big innovation – I can’t say for sure!

Not to mention, high net-worth individuals are also funding start-ups. From Bollywood celebrities (like Amitabh Bachchan’s investment in JustDial which grew 10K% times in value to Karisma Kapoor’s investment in BabyOye – there are umpteen examples of Bollywood stars who have invested in new start-ups. Even the premier management institutes like IIM’s (Indian Institute of Management) run contest to identify and fund new business ideas, and also provide mentorship and guidance for startups. Not to mention, that there are ample startup accelerators in India

See, here’s the thing | The Indian startup community has never been more vibrant – with money flowing in along with cool innovative ideas, big dreams, willingness to tread the uncharted waters and a thirst to be part the next BIG thing!

I can see flavors of this in my own personal and professional network. The number of entrepreneurs, mom-preneursideapreneursintrapraneurs has increased significantly in the last 2-3 years. Since many of them know me personally, and know my experience / expertise in digital marketing – they ask me basic / complex questions. However if I look back – I see that 7 questions have been repeatedly asked by all of them – irrespective of age, business, industry, size / scale of operations.

In this post, I am answering those 7 questions for the benefit of any startup based on my experiences.

Question 1: Should I have a digital marketing strategy?

Answer : This depends completely on your overall marketing objectives, which should be directly linked to business objectives. Once you are convinced that digital marketing is indeed an important element of your overall marketing plan, spend time to understand how digital marketing works. This is the most important step for a fair chance of success. Go for formal (paid) learning programs or enroll for a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Attend webinars from experts on the topic.

Most importantly even before you start, be clear on how you will measure the ROI (Return on Investment) and success of your digital marketing initiatives.

Question 2 : What is the boundary between online, digital and social?

For ease of understanding, I have depicted it in the visual below:

online-offline marketing

Online Marketing examples include web-sites, blogs, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), online ads, email marketing, blogs, twitter, online Press Release (PR), etc.

Social Media Marketing examples include leveraging social media platforms like Twitter, FaceBookLinkedIn for your marketing and promotional activities

Offline Marketing examples include print ads, Press Release, Direct Mail, Telemarketing, etc.

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Real-world Social Marketing refers to marketing through ‘real-world’ social interactions and conversations at events, word-of-mouth publicity, etc.

Question 3 : Digital / Social Media Marketing – What first and What second? Why?

Answer : It depends on your business, and your understanding of social and digital. I know of companies whose digital strategy drove their social media marketing strategies, and I know of companies whose social media strategy drove their digital initiatives. Suffice to say, the digital world and social world are closely coupled and if you do one, you (or / and the ecosystem you’re a part of – like partners, customers, community, suppliers) also make inroads into the other. In most cases, Social Media Marketing is typically a sub-set of Digital Marketing.

Question 4 : I hear a lot about ‘Content Marketing’. Should I even go there?

First, understand what is content, or more specifically what it ‘digital content’? It includes E-mail, digital notesWebsite / Landing pagePresentationsVideos / InfomercialsBlogs,WhitepaperFlyersInfographicsCorporate CommunicationTweetsCase Studies / TestimonialseBookBooksSurveyResearch ReportsInterviews / Q&A (Question and Answers), Press Release (PR)Status Updates (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Google+)Audio content / Podcasts, etc.

Content Marketing is leveraging the power of content to achieve whatever marketing objectives you set out with. These objectives can range from Brand Awareness to Lead generation to User / Customer engagement to Sales to Lead Nurturing to Social Advocacy to Professional Networking.

If you believe that content marketing can help you achieve your overall marketing objectives, go for it. Else, you might consider putting that time and money into something else.

The most important thing to understand about content marketing is that it takes time and focused efforts to yield results, and that it is an evolving journey. As your business grows and evolves, so will your content marketing strategy. If you don’t have a long term commitment plan and a dedicated focus, you are better off not doing content marketing.

I suggest you go through the posts below:

Content Marketing 101 | What I’ve learned from creating More than 3000 pieces of content

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The Art and Craft of Content

[Infographic] The Art and Craft of Content

Question 5: Which social channels should I use? FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, ?

Answer: The choice of which social channels to use depends completely on your social media objectives and where your customers are. First, define who your customers are and their‘customer personas’; and use the power of tools and technology to gather data and insights around which social channels they frequent. Don’t do Social because everyone is doing social and because it is the new buzzword. Do it because you believe it will add value to your business and marketing; and enable you to achieve your business objectives.

Question 6 : How exactly does Social Media work?

Answer: Based on the Karmic ways of the universe and life. Simply put, you get back what you give

Question 7 : Can any marketer do digital marketing? What are the key skills for success in digital marketing?

Answer : Yes and No. Yes because anyone can learn digital marketing, if you are already a marketing professional it is easier. However, No because assuming that anyone with knowledge / experience in traditional marketing will be able to effectively do ‘digital marketing’ is a myth.

Broadly, I’d think below skills are of paramount importance for digital marketing

1) Storytelling
2) Visual Design
3) Creativity
4) Sharing as part of your DNA
5) Excellent articulation skills (especially written)
6) Understanding and usage of digital marketing tools and technology
7) Thirst for learning
8) Genuine love for the written word
9) Balanced and controlled (in thoughts and emotions) – because what you say or do in social media can make or break your brand value

Digital Marketing is an evolving and exciting space; and will continue to evolve. Everyone is learning, so be open to learning, failing and course-correction. That is the only way to succeed. A conscious and consistent effort to be clued and glued into the latest and greatest is critical to succeed.

Did I miss any question? Leave a comment, and I’ll be sure to respond.

Note: “The opinions expressed in the blog are my personal views only.”

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.