Editor’s note: WRALTechWire publishes today the latest in a new series: In-depth interviews with Triangle entrepreneurs. Today’s interview focuses on Corey Post, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Startup Factory, where he mentors new companies on how to generate qualified Internet traffic and build an online following. Post is leading a new American Underground-backed company, The Digital Marketing Foundry, which will offer digital marketing instruction in a classroom setting.

Post has held senior roles at several prominent startups, such as director of marketing at California-based Cornerstone OnDemand, which went public in 2011, and at IAC and Landmark Communications. Locally, he worked with Durham startup, Shoeboxed.

He did social media consulting for LegalZoom and ReachLocal, which went public in 2010. Post is a frequent speaker at industry events, including the Internet Summit in Raleigh and the Affiliate Summit and writes for digital marketing sites such as AWeber and KISSmetrics.

He holds an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration where he held a full tuition scholarship for his achievements in media.

He’s joining American Underground and the Startup Factory in a fresh venture, leading a new company called The Digital Marketing Foundry (DMF). DMF will offer digital marketing courses at a classroom in the American Underground in Durham with online support.

Allan Maurer: How long have you been Entrepreneur in Residence at the Startup Factory, Corey, and what is your role there?

Corey Post: I’ve been here a year and a half. I mentor the new founders. Many are focused, rightly, on developing a product. But they also have to focus on customer acquisition. In this world of social media you not only have the opportunity to bring prospects into your funnel as customers, but also as brand loyalists.”

Allan Maurer: What led to starting the Digital Marketing Foundry?

Corey Post: A lot of entrepreneurs need this knowledge, so at the American Underground, we talked about how to institutionalize it by holding classes at the American Underground where people can come and learn about things such as Ad Words from a tactical point view of what actually works.

Allan Maurer: How is the new company funded?

Corey Post: Chris Heiviy and Dave Neal of the Startup Factory, the American Underground and I have all invested. I can’t disclose the amount but we have decent operating capital.

Allan Maurer: When does school start?

Corey Post: Classes start in a little over a month. We’re still in the early stages of getting up the web site and developing the courses. We want the site to be user friendly so people can easily find what they want to learn. There’s so much noise out there on the web. We want people to find what they need. But if you go to DigitalMarketingFoundry.com right now, you can get 15 percent off your first course.

Allan Maurer: How much will the courses cost?

Corey Post: The cost varies, ranging from $300 to $500 a course. A lot will depend on how many days of instruction are involved and the depth of information offered. One of the things we noticed at the Startup Factory is that people have different levels of knowledge. Some are beginners, some are intermediate. We’ll hold classes for different levels of expertise so students can maximize what they get from their time in the classroom.

Allan Maurer: What do most entrepreneurs need to know about digital marketing?

Corey Post: From working with entrepreneurs at the Startup Factory, we saw what the needs are. Ad Words, Google Analytics, analysis. How to reach and message customers. Social is big. How do you use Facebook ads to drive conversations and revenue? We’ll look at platforms such as Word Press and the underlying principles in digital marketing and data analysis.

Allan Maurer: You’ve had wide experience with several companies. What are some of the primary lessons you’ve learned?

Corey Post: It’s all about data. You have to take your best guess at where to focus based on the best data available. Then find ways to generate more data. It’s all about testing and being able to pivot based on your tests. Let the marketplace give you a map to success. People willing to take information, apply it to unique circumstances and then test are the ones who come out on top with successful businesses.

Allan Maurer: Can you give me an example?

Corey Post: I started in the newspaper business, which was really good experience. But I could see the digital trend. Everything was moving online. So being able to pivot into a completely digital world has been really helpful to me. I encourage people to do the same – look at the marketplace.

Allan Maurer: That’s interesting because I did much the same in 1999. I had been founding editor of several startup magazines as well as established ones in Charlotte, but you could see that print publications were facing a tough time ahead. I switched to online journalism and it made all the difference in my career. What can entrepreneurs do to speed up their learning curve?

Corey Post: Ask a lot of questions. Most successful entrepreneurs – most successful people – aren’t afraid to say ‘I don’t know, help me through this.’ Another thing is to partner with really good people. Having a good team, co-founders, and active investors is just super important to achieving success.”

Allan Maurer: Now that the barrier to entry in starting a new digital company is lower because of cloud services and such, do entrepreneurs have an easier time getting established?

Corey Post: The barrier to entry is lower with software as a service and cloud opportunities, but the barrier to success is higher because of the number of people in the market. You still need to adopt this ethos of I’m going to test then pivot. Often, you can take a so-so idea or average idea, look at data, pivot and try something related but slightly different and deliver real value to the marketplace. Having these services that let you test cheaply allows you to find opportunities you weren’t aware of when you started. Part of that is marketing and we’ll teach all this. Tracking people’s eye movements online, where they drop off a form, then using data to create a product more powerful than you had envisioned.

Allan Maurer: We see a lot of app startups, but it seems like a tough go to make money with them.

Corey Post: How do you monetize apps? It can be difficult. One solution is to use them as a funnel and acquisition channel to onboard people to a larger product on the web or reside on someone’s tablet or phone for persistent brand awareness. Shifting the idea of what an app can do can mean the difference between success and failure.

Allan Maurer: You’re preparing to offer formal courses, but isn’t a lot of this digital marketing information already available free online?

Corey Post: There is a lot of digital marketing information online, but a lot of times people writing about it are not well versed in what they’re doing. They suggest doing things such as guest posting, which can actually hurt you in Google if done wrong. It can work under certain circumstances, but you need to know how to do it. A lot of people post information that’s unsound and others don’t want to give away their secret sauce or explain how they succeed because it would just increase competition. That’s why people should seek out mentors or instruction. Trying to figure things out yourself can be harmful rather than useful.

Allan Maurer: Aren’t lots of entrepreneurs fresh business school grads? Does that give them a boost?

Corey Post: I went to business school and studied finance and marketing. It was a fantastic experience. But because the digital ecosystem is constantly changing, these schools can’t cater to digital marketing. You have to be in the mix, constantly learning new things and what the next new idea is. Those who succeed get out there and learn from others. These Digital Marketing Foundry classes are about providing a leg up to people so they can go out and build a company or be part of a successful team.