There’s old saying that luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. That may well describe how Kevin Sandlin got into the startup tech scene.
He says his first “real job” with a high-tech startup after his MBA program was the result of having gone to high school with someone that worked there. He got his first real break when the management team filed for IPO and he “was the only person in the room who could work an Excel spreadsheet.”
It appears as if he’s never looked back. If you’re into the startup tech or marketing scene in the Atlanta area, chances are you have bumped into Kevin. He’s my guest for this edition of the Off Script series.
1) One of the ways I’ve gotten to know you a bit is through Atlanta Tech Blogs site you created and champion; how did that get started and what is the state of its affairs today?
After deductmor (my startup) crashed and burned, I was looking for my next opportunity, and I made a list of all the Atlanta tech blogs and bloggers to see who I’d like to call on. I published that list on my blog, and got such a great response that I bought the domain, built a WordPress site, and started pushing everything to social media and email. Today, we have 20,000+ readers or followers and more than 300 active blogs. Any startup, entrepreneur, or community player in the Atlanta startup ecosystem can add their blog – or individual post or announcement – for free. You blog, we promote.
2) How has blogging as a discipline or functional area evolved and how should it fit in the marketing or communications construct from a tech company’s perspective?
Blogging has evolved to become THE way that any audience gets to know any brand. Google actively publishes more than 60 blogs in over 50 languages. That alone should be enough evidence to any organization that they must blog. From a tech startup’s perspective, you’re ignoring the oxygen you need to breathe if you don’t blog.
3) You are active in the local startup and tech scene in Atlanta, through groups like the Atlanta Tech Village. What would you say are the top 3-5 marketing things a tech startup should focus on?
a) Creating a great culture;
b) Telling your story; and
c) Getting traction with real users.
It’s not original, but ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’
It’s shocking how many ‘successful entrepreneurs’ here in ATL completely ignore culture. They are and can still be successful, but nobody wants to work for them.
See these related interviews:
Good Martech Talent is Hard to Replace; Off Script #23: Allison Schneider
Alpharetta is a High Tech Secret; Off Script #13: GSU EiR Bill Bradford
Sales Beware the Buyer’s System; Josh Pitchford in Off Script #10
4) Atlanta is carving out a name for itself in financial technology (fintech), cybersecurity, and marketing technology (martech) which is great locally. Yet these spaces are all getting very noisy and crowded. What marketing advice would you offer to local companies to cut through the clutter and differentiate themselves?
The only way to differentiate yourself is to solve a real problem.
5) What is the single most important skill or characteristic companies in these categories should look for in hiring marketers or bring in outside agency help?
The ability to communicate. I’ll use Terminus’ Sangram Vajre as the example. Look how well he communicates the Terminus ABM message. He wrote a book! He tells the ABM story nonstop, all the time, consistently, over and over and over again. The results speak for themselves.
6) There’s a lot of discussion as to what’s changed in marketing over the last decade. What hasn’t changed?
You still have to solve a problem that is big enough to have an audience that will support a business. You still have to reach your audience with the right message at the right time.
7) Your civic activities extend beyond technology. For example, you’re a member of the GSDF (which many states, including VA and MD have as well); for those that aren’t’ familiar, what is the organization, what does it do, and what does the commitment look like?
I joined the GSDF for 2 reasons: I wanted to serve my community when things go south (aka, “run towards the sound of the guns”), like during Hurricane Irma, and I wanted to be the example to my kids of what the words “serve” and “sacrifice” really look like so they have an appreciation for anyone and everyone who wears a uniform as a warrior or first responder.
The GSDF is the Georgia DoD. We support the GA National Guard, and we are the ones in uniform when emergencies occur: fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowpocalypse, etc.
The commitment is all voluntary. You volunteer, get trained, maintain your status, and serve one weekend a month for drills and then as needed in emergencies.
8) Just for fun…fill in the blank:
- One company with marketing you admire is…SalesLoft for their nonstop content marketing game.
- You’re favorite marketing campaign of all time is…the Chick-Fil-A cows.
- One publication or blog you read regularly is…Hypepotamus.
- If you weren’t doing what you do now you’d be…hunting, golfing, camping, raising labs or newfies.
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And we don’t want to leave out Pitch Practice: Over 4.5 years, 2,500 pitches, and one board room named after us at Atlanta Tech Village. Pitch Practice meets every Friday at 1 p.m. at Atlanta Tech Village to help entrepreneurs get better at communicating who they are and what they do.
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Marketing Principles Remain the Same; Off Script #15: Jeff Beale