“Passion is all you need.”

“You’re a startup. Everyone is your audience!”

“Use ChatGPT for all your content to save time and money.”

There’s a lot of bad advice for startup marketers out there. We’re on a mission to make sure you get the really good stuff.

That’s part of the reason we ask every guest on our podcast, FiredUp!, to share their best piece of advice for startup marketing teams. Whittling this list down to seven was tough, but here are a few of our favorite nuggets that you can start taking advantage of today:

Keep it simple 

Startup marketing teams often face two major challenges: a desire to be everything to everyone, and being expected to spin straw into gold. With such high pressure and very limited resources, it’s not feasible to accomplish everything you (or your exec team) wish you could. For example, when it comes to a complex initiative like implementing an ABM strategy, Bill Odell honing in on what’s going to move the needle.

“Keep it dead simple. Do a pilot, agree on it, get a small team of experimenters who like to try new things, and set the expectations. We’re going to do this together, we’re going to learn together, and it’s going to take time. But keep it simple.”

Go all in on getting your brand right

If you’re going to choose one area to focus on, choose your brand positioning. If anyone can vouch for how important this is, it’sCreative Director of Brand Navigation Bill Chiaravalle.

“For a startup, really realize that your brand is your business, and your business is your brand. The brand position is what drives everything. When you have your brand articulated, clarified, and well-defined, your employees know who they are, how to be, and where they’re going. It is an investment that will pay off in both the short and long terms, and it’s really one of your most valuable assets. If you’re going to do it and do it right, be all in on it.”

Take your time to tell your story

This doesn’t happen overnight. In the startup space, firefighting in the short term is often the modus operandi, and with so much tumult in recent years, focusing only on the present has been a means of survival. But with conditions calming, businesses are now better placed to use a longer-term lens. Nuri Djavit, CXO of EMOTIV, recommends taking full advantage.

“Everyone is starting to realize that brand, storytelling, and emotional connections actually matter, and it takes a long time to build those. Otherwise, we would just continue to spend more and more on Google and Facebook and expect constantly increasing optimization with whatever the algorithms are telling us. We’re starting to realize that long-term strategies and that what we do [now] will impact next year is starting to matter again. I’m enjoying seeing the reinvestment in radical creativity.”

 “Me, me me” isn’t the way to be

Telling your story should not be an act of me-centricity. Too many startup marketers think that sharing their journey and passion is all they need to gain the affection of would-be customers. In reality, the average customer is only interested in how what you do relates to them. Therefore, your customers should always be your primary reference point. Kate Harris has some questions to get you started:

“What are the moments when people light up? Are those messages really resonating with people? And if not, what are? What are those hair-on-fire moments where people are like, ‘Oh, my God, I need that’? What are the most common questions that [you’re] getting from different customers, investors, or users? Really pay attention to those because I think when you have those common questions, you need to sort of answer those in the storytelling of the brand and the messaging, and really lean into those hair-on-fire moments.”

And if you don’t know the answers, go straight to the source. Ruler Analytics’ Head of Growth Jamie Hallitt says, “The most important place to start is with customers. Ask them what made an impact on their decision-making. This can provide more insights than any data alone and helps you understand not just what happened but why.”

Don’t underestimate the power of your content

Content marketing is the backbone of your entire customer journey. PR and SEO generate initial awareness, but content takes the baton and runs with it. Your content is how your customers learn, find value, and determine fit between their needs and your product or service. Nicole Pytel put it perfectly when she said: 

“[Content marketing] is not just words on a blog, video clips on LinkedIn, or a subject line in your email newsletter. Content is the ‘then what?’ for PR, SEO, and paid media. Without an amazing content marketing strategy, all of the traffic those things generate is just going to fizzle away. You’re not going to have the experience that you need to keep that traffic, get it through the funnel, and get it over the finish line.”

Define success on day one

While life is about the journey instead of the destination, your marketing efforts are about results rather than methods. Tactics matter, but they’re a means to an end. Richard Bagnall recommends keeping your eye on the endgame and working backwards.

“Focus on making sure you become what you measure. So, let’s measure against our organization’s objectives. Let’s agree them upfront, let’s have a proper plan. Let’s get out there and crack on with focusing against those objectives.” 

Avoid the lure of vanity metrics

Measurement can be challenging, especially for startup teams who have to quantify intangible benefits to highly-expectant exec teams. Some founders get attached to pet projects and end up having to justify ego. Vanity metrics like clicks and engagement are nice to have, but are not indicative of business impact and can skew perceptions about the success of marketing efforts. As our own VP of Content Marketing always says, “the data tells the story.” Chris Heggem advises that startup marketers stand firm about focusing on the right metrics from day one. 

“Set the tone right off the bat that we care more about hitting our number than about how we hit it. You want to make sure that that’s where you have alignment with all the other leaders.”

Thomas Been encourages startup marketers to see the forest from the trees. No, really. He used this arboreal imagery to describe the soft metrics startup marketers should pay attention to:

“Don’t plant trees just because they’re gonna last 2,000 years. Learn how to plant trees, and learn what makes them grow. Don’t be obsessed by scale, but really build an organization that knows how to grow. What can you measure to see that the tree is growing? Can you plant it and water it in the right way? Can you adapt this process so you can seize new opportunities? Your company is going to evolve. If you have this in the DNA of your organization, I think you’re going to see a growth curve and the forest is gonna grow pretty rapidly.”

These tips are only a small fraction of the insights you can find on our FiredUp! podcast. For these full episodes and more, tune in here or through your favorite podcast platform. Every week, we’ll keep you up to date on all the latest trends, strategies, and advice you need to crush your marketing efforts, all in under 60 minutes.

(Note: Some of the quotes have been edited for length and clarity)

About the Author