Welcome to Meet the Service, a newsletter by Fishburners, where we meet the expert operators and strategists who are scaling their impact across the ecosystem. In this series, we’ll be diving into their world as the experts of their chosen domains, hearing all about their experiences, valuable lessons and practical advice on the art of building, growing and operating startups.
Stella Startups: The Service transforming the way you build and fund your startup’s brand.
Meet Stella Startups, the innovative marketing team pioneering a new approach to startup marketing, without the heavy price tag. Addressing the age-old dilemma of needing marketing to drive revenue, but revenue to fund marketing; Stella Startups is on a mission to give ambitious, hard-working founders access to the marketing guidance they need to thrive, without compromise.
In the second edition of our new series, Meet the Service, we met with Gemma Clancy the Co-Founder of Stella Startups to dive into the complexities and challenges of startup marketing and the work she and her Co-Founder Bridget are doing to create accessible growth solutions for early stage businesses.
In this newsletter, you’ll hear all about Gemma’s experience as an accomplished marketing strategist and how her experiences, like working with the world’s leading marketing scientists, lead her on her mission to create affordable and curated support for early startups.
You can connect with Gemma and a suite of other experienced Startup Service Providers, 100% free via the Fishburners Service Hub. Get started now →
Hi Gemma, thanks so much for joining us today. To kick things off, I’d love to learn a little more about your experience as a marketer in the tech and startup ecosystem and how that led you to create Stella Startups with your co-founder Bridget.
I’ve been in the marketing industry for almost a decade now, working for brands big, small and everything in between. Looking back, I credit the beginning of my journey to co-starting Stella Startups with a single question I found myself asking time and again… Does it really need to be this complicated?
I’ve been really fortunate to have such varied experiences as a marketer. I’ve worked with the leaders at blue-chip companies like Coles and Australian Super. I’ve learned the inner workings of the industry through my time with the world’s leading marketing scientists. And I’ve borne the challenges of startup marketing, both as a team member and as an entrepreneur myself.
Through all these experiences and after all the things I’ve learned. I kept coming back to the same conclusion: that complex requirements don’t need complicated solutions.
And sure enough, what was once a considered thought, quickly became a core principle in all my work and the results began to show for themselves.
Looking back, I don’t think it comes as any surprise that my co-founder Bridget and I gravitated towards working with startups. As two people who are incredibly passionate about startups and helping bring new ideas to life, we committed ourselves to scaling our impact across the ecosystem by bringing clear relevant brand and marketing solutions to early stage businesses.
Through both our experiences as startup and scaleup operators, we understood the complex challenges of marketing and growing new businesses. And as entrepreneurs, we knew the challenges of funding it.
So, Stella Startups was born. Driven by the mission to give ambitious, hard-working founders access to the marketing guidance they need to thrive, at an affordable price.
Based on this experience, I’d love to hear your take on the importance of marketing for startups, particularly in the early stages of their lifecycle. Why should a startup invest in its marketing and brand image? What value does a robust marketing plan offer to startups, especially when there are so many other competing costs to consider?
Absolutely, we understand the chicken-and-egg feeling for early-stage founders. You know you need marketing to drive revenue, but you need revenue to pay for marketing…
The reality is though: nothing sells itself so you need to invest at least some funding into marketing to get the ball rolling. The key is to invest it wisely.
Many founders start trying things based on the latest trend, marketing buzzword or advice from a well-meaning friend or personal connection. This is almost always not a good idea. We see founders waste their time (and money) trying things out without a plan, and without solid brand foundations to help any messaging they’re putting out there connect with their audience.
In the rush to act, it seems like a good idea to just start trying marketing tactics, Facebook marketing or LinkedIn outreach (as just two examples), but without solid marketing foundations or a strategy in place first, you’ll most likely be wasting money and actually end up losing time. Going through the process of nailing your USP, elevator pitch and key messaging for your ideal customer profile will actually save you time and money in the long run. And so will having a clear marketing plan with objectives and measurable key results.
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Stella Startups is positioned as a different kind of partner for startups, offering a transparent, lean, and objective approach to marketing. What prompted you to take this approach and how has this benefitted your clients so far?
Most early-stage startups can’t afford marketing managers, so agencies or freelancers become the only viable option. However, a lot of mainstream agencies or freelancers tend not to solve the startup marketing dilemma because:
- Agencies can have too many overheads for startups (meetings, account service, meetings…) and are usually too expensive. Also, they often favour one or two particular tactics/channels they specialise in, which might not be the right fit for a startup.
- Freelancers typically work best when contracted by a Marketing Manager (or similar) who handles the ‘what we’re doing/why/how we can measure it’, rather than a founder who thinks they need a freelancer’s services but doesn’t have the marketing skills to pull it all together
Having felt this pain ourselves, we’ve moved away from the mainstream ‘agency’ model by clearly defining our key services and our pricing (as much as possible) so founders have as much clarity as we can provide. See them here.
We’re also different from freelancers who usually come in and focus on helping execute one specific project or area of marketing. We’re not focused on one or a few particular marketing channels, such as digital marketing or content. Instead, we look at the big picture of what channels and tactics a startup’s product needs right now, and how we – or our network – can help them.
We’ve built services that startups need to move forward with marketing confidently and to begin building impactful brands. These include:
- AUDIT – We take stock of your marketing and messaging to see what’s working, and identify the main gaps.
- TELL service – We lay a rock solid foundation for all your marketing – everything you need to tell your story, regardless of channel. We’ll work with you to nail your unique selling proposition (USP), narrative, tagline and key messages. This is grounded in insights from interviews with the founders as well as a few key customers or prospects.
- SELL service – We’ll develop a 3-month marketing sprint plan for you, with clear objectives and actions and regular check-ins to keep you on track. You can lean on our services (from us and our network) or deliver the plan yourself.
- SCALE service – With this service, we’re your full marketing team. This means everything from our ‘Sell’ service but we deliver the 3-month sprint plans for you (or with your internal resources).
This pragmatic approach has helped give our clients the peace of mind that the activities they’re investing time and money into are part of a larger strategy, as opposed to approaching marketing sporadically and hoping for the best. This also reduces founders’ sense of being overwhelmed because we try to create a realistic marketing strategy that is aligned with their resources and focuses on the activities with the highest probability of success, not everything and anything that might work.
It’s no secret that startups have unique marketing and branding needs. How do you assist young businesses in crafting a distinctive identity that not only captures attention but also establishes credibility and legitimacy within their respective industries?
Great question! We’re passionate about laying strong brand foundations early because it’s the bedrock on which to build all marketing activities (and drive future profitability).
This is exactly why we created our TELL service. It’s a deep dive (without the ‘deep’ price tag) into your story, including your customers/potential customers, to build a clear and compelling brand narrative, USP, tagline and key messaging for your ideal customers.
Then, this is rolled out in every ad, landing page, video, piece of content, etc. building the picture you really want to paint, rather than a patchwork of messaging that doesn’t really speak to anyone. From a visual brand point of view, some of our clients already have functional logos but if needed, we work with startup-friendly designers to level this up for startups, too. The good thing is that, if they’ve already undertaken the work to define their ideal customers/key audiences and develop their brand narrative, creating the brief for a designer to work on the visual identity is really straightforward as they can get across the essence of the brand in minutes.
In your experience, both agencies and startups have distinct work cultures. How does Stella Startups leverage its lean and efficient approach to seamlessly integrate with a startup’s dynamic environment, enabling productive collaboration for effective marketing outcomes?
We’re more like a startup than an agency. We’ve worked in both and we don’t believe the agency model works for startups for many reasons, namely cost, structure (meetings, account service people) and sometimes, preferences for the particular channel/s that the agency specialises in.
We operate like a startup, with streamlined budgets, tech tools to help us be efficient (Slack, Trello, Canva, Figma, etc.) and a clear-eyed focus on what actually needs to be done and how we can provide the most value in the shortest amount of time.
Lastly, for any entrepreneur who is currently navigating the early stages of their startup journey, what advice would you offer to assist them in getting started with marketing? What steps can they take to ensure they are setting themselves a strong foundation for growth?
No matter how tempting it seems, don’t start trying things sporadically and seeing what sticks. At least not until you have a firm handle on who your ideal customer is and what your unique selling proposition (USP) to them is.
These bare essentials will help you understand where to focus any marketing efforts – if you know who your ideal customer is, you can then consider where to connect with them and if you know your USP, you’ll have an idea of what you want them to know. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but it’s better than nothing!
A much better idea would be to reach out to us via Fishburners’ free Service Hub for our startup marketing packages of course 😊 ✨ .
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