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Once you’ve caught the Startup bug, is there any looking back?


It would appear not. At least if you’re a marketer that is!


It’s estimated that 100’s of millions of startups are created each year. In actual fact, the exact figure is something of a conundrum given the different stages that businesses can be at and the fact that many startups begin life as side hustles rather than full on registered companies.

Regardless, suffice it to say it’s a lot!

And with trends in remote working and the ‘no code’ movement predicted to take off in the coming years, it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

With such substantial growth, it comes as no surprise that startups represent a huge opportunity where jobs and employment are concerned.

From developers to sales reps, marketers to HR leads, the hiring needs of a successful and growing startup are both varied and urgent. In fact, the nature of a startup is such that things change rapidly from one day to the next.

As Chloe Hall, Marketing Manager at personalization startup RevLifter describes,

“Every day is completely different – things happen each day where you have to drop what you’re doing in order not to lose an opportunity.”

Not only does that mean new hiring requirements pop up quickly, but the skills needed can change rapidly too.

Read any Startup job description and you’ll often find the following phrases come up a lot:

  • Dynamic environment
  • Be willing to get your hands dirty
  • Respond well to change
  • Deal well with ambiguity
  • A generalist who can learn quickly
  • Resourcefulness in finding solutions
  • Able to work off own initiative with little guidance

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, was somewhat ahead of his time when he said ‘change is the only constant in life.’ Little did he know that it would come to make up the very fabric of our working lives in the form of startups.

And perhaps it’s a warning to anyone thinking of joining a startup soon. Be prepared for change!



🚀 The Startup Marketing Career Path

Despite the trepidation of this roller coaster adventure, more and more of us are choosing the startup career path. The offer of ‘constant change’ and ambiguous environments seem to hold more appeal than the dull and boring alternative.

And nowhere is this truer than for marketers. That heady band of adventurous explorers who like nothing more than rolling their sleeves up and getting their hands dirty with everything from Google ads to rebranding projects.

Perhaps it’s because marketers are used to change anyway.

Marketing as a discipline is always changing, as Mason Morgan, Head of Marketing at the global banking and payment services startup Freemarket, explains:

“Marketing is constantly changing, it’s never the same from one day to the next. Google is always changing its algorithm, social media channels are always changing their algorithms, so you have to be ahead of the curve.”

And it’s not just the channels that are always changing. New martech (marketing technology) tools land on our plates every month too. You only have to glance at Scott Brinker’s Martech Supergraphic to see that constant change and ‘overwhelm’ are just part and parcel of the marketing job.



🧓 Not just for the young ‘uns

What’s interesting though is that the appeal of working for a startup isn’t solely popular amongst younger marketers – either those entering the workplace or with a few years’ experience under their belts.

Quite the opposite in fact – more and more ‘seasoned’ marketers are turning their backs on long-held corporate careers and plunging into the startup world for their next big adventure.

Steven Elliott, ex-agency owner and early-stage startup founder, is one such individual.

After a number of years advising large, global companies such as Sage and Oracle, he made the leap in 2019 to the startup world, with the launch of a cycling technology product called Race.Radio.

“I was suffering with fatigue and disillusionment, you know, the broken promise of marketing technology and the difficulty of differentiating in an overcrowded market. There’s a stark contrast between this and the energy and optimism you find in the startup world. With the product I’m now developing, what I like is that I’m scratching my own itch. Cycling is a passion of mine, so whether the business scales globally or I manage to eke out a comfortable income, it’s something I’d be happy doing for the foreseeable future.”

It’s something close to my own heart too. I took the leap in 2018 and haven’t looked back.

Like Steven, I too was disillusioned with the corporate world.

Truth be told, I’d always somewhat struggled with the bureaucracy found in bigger companies. And whilst I’m all for solid planning and making sure you’ve thought things through, the months it could take for some companies to launch a new product or campaign just drove me mad.

If you’re drawn to marketing in the first place, it’s very often because you’re curious about change and interested in the nebulous world of psychology. Whether that be through creative routes such as design and copywriting, or data-driven routes such as performance marketing and campaign testing.

Quite often, these are things that are stifled in bigger corporate companies where the red tape takes over. Marketing is very often held back by approvals that involve scores of people and processes that take weeks to get done.

That great idea you had for a campaign ends up getting ripped apart and goes nowhere. You never really own anything; your creative gets diluted into something banal and your messaging gets sanitized to the point no-one will read it.

For just about anybody, this process is demotivating – but for marketers, it steals the lifeblood from their very existence.

Join a startup, however, where ideas are welcomed, experimentation is the culture, and working across five or ten different things all at once is the norm, and your marketer finds his or her home at last.

“It’s that adventure of trying to test things out. You go in with a product, test it, then think you need to change it again; you test an audience, find that it’s better than another audience.” 

Mohsan Ebadian, Performance Marketing Manager at Datasine, an AI-personalization startup.

“You get to spend small amounts of money on experimenting with things before you take that big leap.”

Diana Alice Florescu, Head of Marketing at Rainmaking, a corporate innovation and venture development agency.

“Being in a startup – if you have an idea and you pitch it in the right way, then it can happen, and a lot quicker than it does in bigger companies.”

Chloe Hall, Marketing Manager at RevLifter.



🤔 The Biggest Challenge of Startup Marketing

That’s not to say that startup marketing is easy – far from it. And marketers need to be wary of burnout when they’re riding the startup adrenaline wave.

One of the biggest challenges is staying on top of everything that’s going on – not just in the startup you’re working in, but also in the wider marketing industry.

Oh yes, FOMO is truly alive and well when it comes to marketing, and especially startup marketing.

Luckily, there are ways to manage the overwhelm and find a path through the marketing maze.

Here are just some of the things that successful startup marketers do to stay ahead of the game.

1. Aggregator applications.

Make use of aggregator applications such as the Google News app and Zest. These will filter articles and news for the topics you’re interested in so you’re only seeing the relevant stuff and not having to sift through it all yourself. The Content Hub in immerj is another great aggregator if you’re looking for a way to get a few key marketing articles to read each week

2. Learn from remarketing.

If you can see how others are doing it, not only can you get direct recommendations, but you can also learn from their tactics and approaches. “Trust in remarketing – it does a lot of your thinking for you. And be open to reading.” Mike Killen, Founder at Sell Your Service Limited, a company specializing in funnel building.

3. Make lots of lists!

Use tools like Trello to prioritize. Trello also makes it easier to reprioritize when things change at the drop of a hat! Somehow moving a tile from one column to another makes it seem that little bit less stressful.

4. Join communities.

These can be either offline events via Eventbrite or Meetup, or online communities in Slack and Mighty Networks. Start asking around and seeing what’s out there. Or browse through Twitter or LinkedIn and you’ll soon pick up a few.

5. Divide up your tech.

A super easy way to help you focus is by setting up your browsers and applications to work for you. For example, set one browser up to block ads. Use this one when you’re doing focused or deep work. Then have another browser open to ads – and use this one when you’re researching how other companies are doing their advertising.

👊 Startup Marketing – there’s no looking back!

It’s a widely known fact now that the rate of failure for startups is high – about 90% at the latest count. And that the road to almost certain failure is bumpy and, at times, stressful.

Despite all that, most startup marketers plan to stay working in startups.

The flexibility it affords both professionally and personally far outweighs the stress it brings. And the opportunity for creative freedom and experimentation seems to balance the strain of constant change.

As Anna Bancroft, Marketing Manager at IT innovation company Block Solutions explains, it can be addictive:

“Working in a startup – you get a chance to launch, you get it to where you’re happy, then you’re looking for the next one.”

For many, the startup lifestyle fits perfectly with a dynamic and curious personality.

“It’s the nature of my personality that I have to try different things and that’s why I really enjoy the startup space. If you want to do something, nobody is going to tell you not to do it. You really have the luxury to try a lot of things.”

Diana Alice Florescu, Head of Marketing at Rainmaking.

For others, startups represent innovation and creativity:

“I’d love to stay with startups as I love to explore new ideas and be creative. Marketing in particular gives you the space to do just that. Working in a startup, it’s a very exciting environment where you feel like you’re at the forefront of innovation.”

Barbora Juhaszova, Marketing Manager at blockchain startup Qadre.

Bethan Vincent, Marketing Director at the innovative tech agency Netsells, sums up startup marketing perfectly,

“There’s no such thing as a linear career anymore. I’m a doer, I like getting stuff done, I don’t like bureaucracy – and that’s always lent itself better to smaller businesses and startups.”

Startup marketing seems to be something of a love bug.

And it would indeed appear that once you’ve caught this bug, you don’t want to let it go.

For many marketers out there, there really is no looking back. And if you haven’t yet tried it, the resounding advice would be – give it a go!

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