December 07 2015

3 Marketing Experts Talk Marketing for Startups



Marketing can make or break your company. Do you have a product or service, but no one knows about it? Then you have nothing.   We are fortunate to have savvy marketing experts working at several of the companies we invest in, and we want to share some words of wisdom on marketing in the digital age that they were kind enough share with us.   Our experts:

  • Tripp Stanford, the In-House Digital Marketer for the Chattanooga-based moving company, Bellhops
  • Kate Joy, Head of Digital Marketing for Torch– the router for parenting in the digital age.
  • Carrie Lawson, Business Manager at Torch


To begin, we asked them when the process of marketing begins when creating a startup.  

Stanford: “Marketing should be considered during the initial brainstorming sessions when you’re developing the product or service. There’s a popular quote, ‘a good product will sell itself.’ The product or service a startup is creating needs to focus on building a killer product and it should end up selling itself.”

Joy: “Marketing happens from the very beginning. And it should! For Torch, at first it was the grassroots type of Marketing; the founders talking about our idea to whoever would listen. And it evolved from there. Focus groups, events and expos, a small social media presence, a blog… And once we actually launched there was paid advertising across many different channels.”


Speaking of social media, marketing now must include campaigns for social media outlets just as much as it does traditional marketing efforts. So, we asked our experts how they approach social media marketing.

Stanford: “Plan to devote most of your resources to the two or three social platforms where it’s the easiest to communicate with them. If I sold knitting and crocheting supplies, you better believe I’d have thousands of followers on”

Joy: “We collaborate – a lot. We have channels where everyone can share ideas they like, set some end goals, and then we deduce what will work from us from there. As far as keeping up with trends, it’s helpful to have all of the team on board. That way everyone feels like their opinion matters and they can say – ‘Hey, have you checked out what X is doing? I think that would be cool to try.’ Ten sets of eyes and ears are better than just one!”


But what about marketing for those companies who don’t have the budget to hire a marketing team? We asked our experts what are the crucial marketing efforts that all startups- even those that have a few people working in their parents’ basement- need to employ.  

Stanford: “Have a website, an email address, a phone number, and be present on a couple social platforms. There’s no need to spend money in the early stages, but you should build your social presence, infusing yourself into those target customer online communities, and start personal conversations.”  

Joy: “As a good rule of thumb, it’s great to find your audience on social media and engage with them as much as possible. The ideal SM channels will differ based on your type of business (LinkedIn vs. Facebook vs. instagram), but find your audience, provide content that will help them and engage them, and grow your digital following. Get out and talk to as many people in your market as possible. Hold focus groups to get feedback, attend events, and spread the word as much as you can. Your story and your passion are your greatest marketing assets. “

Lawson: “Email is a great way to keep in touch with your customers and let them know what’s going on. People say that email is dead, but it’s actually not. Email is the number one way to get in touch with Millennials, and it gives you an opportunity to say a little bit more about what’s going on. Just make sure to deliver good content that makes people want to open your emails and click through to your website. Don’t be spammy, and people will stay on your list.”


If you are planning on starting a business, one of the best ways to improve chances of success is to learn from the mistakes of others. We asked our experts what marketing mistakes they see most often in startups.  

Stanford: “Starting with a bad product or service. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. It’s better to invest time into building a product people want.”

Joy: “Trying to be too corporate too quickly. Part of the charm of the startup world is that it’s real people with passion trying to build something great. If your brand tries to be too corporate and wash over all of the gritty, quirky reality of building something from the ground up, you miss a huge opportunity to connect with people.”

Lawson: “No matter what your business, good customer service is vital if you want people to come back again and recommend you to their friends. Your marketing presence includes your customer service team, and a lot of startups can get bogged down in the day-to-day and forget this.”


On top of these great insights, what makes these marketing experts and their companies stand out?  

Stanford: “Our relentless approach to data. We strive to obtain and analyze every ounce of data on our marketing campaigns possible. We’re quick to see what does and doesn’t work and to invest more resources in everything that works.”

Joy: “Adaptability and a positive attitude. There’s SO MUCH CHANGE in the startup world, if you can’t adapt quickly and keep smiling, you’re already sunk.


And finally, we gave the experts the mic and let them add anything else they want future marketing gurus to understand. What did they have to say?  

Stanford: “Get a college education. I know it’s not cool and it costs money, but it helps. The trick is to actually care about what you’re studying and pair it with a good amount of external industry specific studying.”

Joy: “Try things, make mistakes, don’t take feedback personally. Even if you try something insane and it doesn’t achieve the goal you’re looking to achieve, at least you have a great story later. We had a campaign where our graphic designer routinely dressed up like a robot and we took pictures and video of her doing crazy stunts. And now those pictures and videos make us laugh hysterically.”

Lawson: “I agree with Kate. Don’t take anything personally. You spent hours on something and the company pivots before you get to implement it? That’s not your fault, and don’t dwell on it. Terrible click through rate on a campaign or a lot of unsubscribes on an email? Use that data as a tool to figure out what you did wrong so you can craft something better next time.”

We want to thank these lovely people for taking the time to share their insights. And thanks for reading!

This post was written by Katlyn Whittenburg, the Social Media Manager at Lamp Post Group. Stay up to date on what we are doing! Follow us on:

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