Digital Marketing Report Card: Pass or Fail?

At our most recent SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank, tech marketers and sales professionals gathered to discuss a lineup of topics, including how they’re using social media for B2B, the impact of CASL on email, the power of SEO, and face-to-face vs. webinars and online.

These are the key takeaways from the February 15 Think Tank event:

  1. LinkedIn is the social media platform for business. The greatest value comes from having access to background on targeted individuals, their organizations, and contacts to assist with more meaningful relationships.
  2. SEO is critical to providing a way for prospects to find your organization, using both paid and organic search, with organic perceived as the most credible.
  3. Even though digital marketing is critical to the marketing mix, person-to-person contact remains and will remain the most effective way to engage a prospect or customer.

This SMA/ITAC Technology Marketing and Sales Think Tank was hosted at Tech Data in Mississauga, Ontario by Irene Buchan, Director, Marketing and Cloud, of Tech Data Canada. The discussion was moderated by Bob Becker, Principal, SMA.


  • Richard Sheppard, Director of Sales, Marketing and Solutions, Blair Technology Solutions Inc.
  • Shimrit Frenkel, Senior Manager, Americas Field Marketing, CyberArk
  • Doug Long, Director of Marketing, Emailtopia
  • Chris Keirstead, Account Executive, GoldCare
  • Heather Hewitt-Mason, Business Partner Marketing Leader – Canada, IBM Canada Limited
  • Caterina Didio-Duggan, Canadian Regional Marketing Manager, Information Builders (Canada)
  • Ali Mahdinezhad, iWeb
  • Ariyo Panahi, iWeb
  • Irene Buchan, Director, Marketing and Cloud, Tech Data Canada
  • Amanda Perralte, Business Analyst II – Marketing, Business Solutions East, Telus Business
  • Shannon Major, Country Marketing Manager, Canada, VMware

Top marks go to LinkedIn at SMA/ITAC Think Tank on digital marketing

Marketing and sales professionals from a range of tech companies shared insights and issues in a free-wheeling discussion on digital marketing at the latest SMA/ITAC Think Tank, held on February 15. At this latest edition of the quarterly Think Tanks, open to all ITAC members, participants weighed in on the topic of Digital Marketing Report Card: Pass or Fail? According to attendees, the results are still somewhat mixed.

“We have a lot of tools we can use, but it’s still a process of figuring out how to use them more effectively,” said one participant. (In order to respect the open nature of the Think Tanks, and any proprietary information shared, the quotes in this article are not attributed to specific individuals or companies.)


For this group, LinkedIn is one of the top social media platforms for B2B. As it has evolved from a place to find a job to a place to find prospects, these marketers say it’s offering them more value. “I use LinkedIn to research companies so I know how to market to them. It’s also a great way to learn about someone before cold calling, or to learn more about registrants for an event,” said one attendee. LinkedIn’s tools also provide a great way to zero in on prospects, for example by title or vector, according to the group, and the emailing options within LinkedIn also offer an option to get beyond the restrictions of CASL.

Some companies are taking the step to “co-opt” their employees’ own LinkedIn profiles, encouraging them to include corporate messaging and product promotion, particularly the execs. Said one participant: “We’re doing executive coaching, and part of it is getting people to be more active on their own social media – to develop their own personal brands, and do social selling.”

Instagram is also a popular tool for several of the participating tech companies, used mainly to showcase company culture in an effort to attract employees. “We use it to show that we’re a fun place to work.”


When it comes to email, the advent of CASL, and other challenges like functional mailboxes, where emails go a department rather than a specific person, have meant that marketers have had to be more creative, expanding into new inbound techniques. “As an email recipient, I like CASL,” said one marketer. “Now we’re doing more IP listening. For example, when someone clicks on an ad, we send them something, i.e. ‘We saw you looked at this, here’s more info’.”

For many in the group, in terms of finding prospects, email has limitations that go beyond CASL. “Email is a way of conducting business, not getting a prospect. People don’t buy because of a random email. It requires a personal conversation,” said one attendee.

Face to Face and Webinars

It turns out that face-to-face is still the number one form of communication, according to the group, but it has to be worth the investment in time. “My preference is for face-to-face, but it has to be worth the resources,” said a sales exec. “I do more webinars with existing clients, i.e. I’ll pull in an expert for a specific piece.” For other companies, webinars provide a good way to offer training, and demonstrate product features. For global organizations, or even Canadian companies with customers scattered widely, webinars provide a way to hold sessions with experts and industry analysts. Said one marketer: “People do tend to tune out, but webinars are good for when people are busy, or travelling. But it’s hard to get people to attend.”

A key finding: keep the number of fields on an event registration form as low as possible, ideally two or three. It’s easy to scare off prospects with a request. “We find the drop-off rate is very high when we ask for any info,” said a participant.

The Feb. 15 Think Tank was hosted by Irene Buchan, Director, Marketing and Cloud, Tech Data Canada, at Tech Data’s Mississauga offices, and moderated by Bob Becker, Principal at SMA. Marketers from Blair Technology Solutions, CyberArk, Emailtopia, GoldCare, IBM Canada, Information Builders, IT World, iWeb, Tech Data Canada, Telus Business and VMware convened to share insights and learn from the experiences of their peers in the tech industry.  

The SMA/ITAC Think Tanks, held at different host locations across the GTA, are one of the benefits of membership in the Information Technology Association of Canada, or ITAC. To find out more about the Think Tanks or ITAC, contact Bob Becker, Principal, SMA at 416-275-6782 or email at

Posted By: SMA

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