How do your startup marketing efforts measure up? How common are the challenges you’re facing? How unique are your strategies and tactics? We’ve got answers to all those questions in The Startup Marketer Outlook: In Pursuit of Peak Efficiency


Our exclusive research report found that a majority of startup marketers are ahead of their 2024 growth targets and are confident in their ability to meet them by year’s end. At the same time, though, they are struggling with steep customer acquisition costs, changes in buyer behavior, and an overall lack of efficiency.

The Story Behind the Story

Firebrand surveyed 250 senior marketers (Director level and above) at early and late-stage tech startups about their growth expectations, strategies and challenges. More than half (59%) indicated they are ahead of revenue growth targets, only 17% said they were behind target, and more than a quarter said they are actively focused on building their profile ahead of an IPO.

Performance varied across sectors, with cybersecurity most likely to be ahead of target (79%), AI next (71%) and enterprise software / SaaS in third (70%). Hardware / semiconductor startups were the least likely of all sectors to be ahead of target (38%). 

The Optimism Ends at Optimization

Unfortunately, respondents are not particularly confident in their ability to optimize: when asked to evaluate their marketing departments, the lowest-rated abilities were “making accurate data-led marketing decisions” and “improving marketing efficiency.” 

There was, however, a marked difference in the data skills between high-performing startups and the rest, suggesting that data competencies are critical for success. Sixty-four percent of startups who are ahead of their revenue targets were confident in their ability to make accurate data-led decisions, while only 28% of those behind target said the same.

“Being able to make data-led decisions is a common goal, but for many startups their data is disjointed and their marketing activities become siloed as a result. That’s why, in our experience, the best-performing startups are able to quickly implement across multiple channels, analyze the results holistically, iterate, and then double down on the most effective ones,” said Morgan McLintic, CEO of Firebrand.

Beware of Buyer Behavior

As part of our deep dive into startup marketers’ challenges, we asked how they’ve seen buyer behavior change over the past year. While our respondents noted a number of changes, the most common were buyers seeking shorter contracts and customers being unwilling to act as references. Another common challenge? Disrupted buying processes due to the arrival of a new decision-maker.

“The good news is that growth is happening. The bad news is that it’s extremely hard-won. Buyers are more risk-averse and less willing to commit, which leads to longer buying cycles and higher customer acquisition costs. In a nutshell, marketers are under pressure to do more with less, but there’s not much juice left to squeeze. No wonder many of them lack confidence in their ability to optimize their marketing programs,” said McLintic.

How to your efforts measure up? Download the Startup Marketer Outlook<br />
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Take a Deeper Dive into the Data

This is only a small sliver of what you’ll find in The Startup Marketer Outlook: In Pursuit of Peak Efficiency. Dive deeper into the numbers and explore a variety of intriguing findings — including priority tactics, shorter buyer journeys, and differences between early- and late-stage startups — by downloading our full report.

About the Author

Lucy Allen is a Principal at Firebrand with two decades of technology communications experience. Lucy leads client operations, from executing programs that help clients grow their business, to developing Firebrand’s team and services. Prior to joining, Lucy held leadership roles in global agencies including US tech sector chair and Bay Area GM at Edelman and chief strategy officer at LEWIS.