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What's It Like to Work in Marketing at a Startup?

Marketers do whatever it takes to acquire users and are tasked with broadcasting a startup’s message to the outside world.

Everyone knows a solid user base is the foundation of any successful startup. But how exactly does a startup go about acquiring an active group of users? Solving that riddle is the moving target every marketing team tries to hit. Though many qualitative or content-oriented jobs are often sorted under the marketing umbrella, in actuality solving marketing problems is a very analytical job. Marketers spend a huge portion of their days staring at Excel, performing data analysis, and experimenting with different campaign strategies. This data analysis and campaign tweaking is the best way to efficiently acquire users and spread awareness for a startup.

Without a functional marketing team helping to build a user base, the other teams at the startup are essentially spinning their wheels for nothing. The customer service team can’t do its job because there are no customers, the product team’s efforts are being wasted because no one is using the product, and the sales team can’t work to qualify leads if the marketing team isn’t bringing leads inbound to the website. A startup without user activity is like a ghost town; all these great structures but not a person in sight. That’s why hiring competent marketers is so vital to any startup’s success.

What Does the Marketing Team Actually Do at a Startup?

While each marketing job is different, certain responsibilities are consistent across startup marketing teams. It’s important to remember that, depending on the size/mission of the company, a marketer could be responsible for just one of these functions, a couple of them, or all of them.

Manage paid digital campaigns

Marketers manage, track, and optimize digital campaigns across a variety of channels. These include Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, and lots of others. In a nutshell, marketers work to narrow down a certain user profile, and then pay money for advertisements targeting that user demographic on a specific channel. The marketing team then keeps track of the results and doubles down on the campaigns that perform the best.

Optimize Google Search

SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is another tool that marketing teams use to target users. Basically, marketers figure out which keywords would best appeal to their user segment, and then advise developers and content writers to build web pages around those keywords so the company’s content appears favorably in search results.

Execute email marketing campaigns

Another effective tool marketing teams use to grow a user base is email marketing. By using this strategy, marketers establish consistent touch points with customers via email, usually with the goal of inspiring some sort of action. Ecommerce marketers are particularly adept at using email marketing to let folks know about a sale or a new product line.

Manage social media channels

Finally, some marketers (especially those at smaller companies) are tasked with managing the startup’s social media presence. These include platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Flipboard, Vine, and many, many others. Marketing teams should mainly be concerned with growing the community around a startup while also ramping up engagement on the respective platform.

What Are Some Qualities of Successful Marketers?

Above all else, marketers should be both analytically minded and creative. They have to understand what sort of messaging will appeal to what demographic while at the same time having the analytical chops to optimize campaigns. Marketing teams are constantly evaluating which combination of channels, campaigns, demographics, and financial allocation produces the best results, and as a rule they keep meticulous track of their data. As in most roles at a startup, patience is also a virtue in the marketing world. Marketing experiments might take days, weeks, or even months to unfold, and it’s important to thoroughly understand which variables cause which results. In order to come to these conclusions, marketers need to let campaign experiments run their course. On the more creative front, marketers often need to write copy, ensure their campaigns are onbrand, and tweak their message for each target segment. Finally, marketers should be able to stay level headed, evaluate results objectively, and let the data do the talking.

What’s the Growth Potential of a Marketer?

As you work in marketing you’ll understand how to grow a user base and which marketing channels are effective for which demographics. You’ll get really good at understanding marketing analytics – conversion rates through a signup funnel, cost per acquisition metrics, Google Analytics, and lots more. As far as professional growth is concerned, if you want to launch any kind of product in the future, getting a job in marketing is a great training ground in how to tactically build awareness and acquire users for your platform. Furthermore, entry-level marketers can quickly rise to marketing managers where they would manage huge digital campaign budgets, and eventually some can even become product marketers, or CMOs.

While startups have many different teams working in tandem, at the end of the day startups need users to actually engage with the product. Solid marketers simultaneously bring users into the platform’s fold and broadcast the startup’s message to the outside world. The job isn’t just about getting any group of people engaged though, it’s about appealing to the right demographic and crafting marketing campaigns with nuance. A company that is appealing to 70 year olds is going to need a different marketing mix than one where teenagers are the target demographic. Marketers also need to be versatile and willing to learn new things, as the changing technological landscape ensures the tools of the trade are bound to change as well. With a solid marketing team in charge, there’s no limit to how many people a startup can reach.

Looking for a marketing job at a startup but don’t know where to start?

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