Awesome People - Ep 55

Avoid these 3 common startup marketing mistakes (please!)

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

This will be our last newsletter of 2020. Happy holidays!! We’re ending on a high note, with one of my favorite topics… marketing!


Please meet Sarah Vincenti, Your Interim Head of Marketing 📈

I met Sarah through Kendall, one of my favorite game designers and storytellers. Sarah was an early employee at Uber (~ employee #100!) and was there for 7 years. She wore many hats across marketing, brand, and product. She’s launched and scaled hundreds of products and campaigns, including some of Uber’s more fun projects like on-demand roses for Valentine’s Day, Global Uber Ice Cream, and their influencer program. On a more serious note, she also was on their IPO team and led the build of their investor relations site. 

Now she works with early-stage startups, pre-Series B, to stand up marketing programs and teams. Most recently helped a clean deodorant and bodycare brand launch two new products (including a new hand sanitizer!) and got them into Nordstrom! One little known fact about Sarah is she’s from San Diego and loves Mexican food, BUT is allergic to avocado and has never tried guacamole.

You can hire her as an Interim Head of Marketing to:

  •  Build out your growth and marketing strategy 

  •  Recruit a rockstar team of marketers 

  •  Create a GTM plan for an upcoming launch

  •  Build and optimize your email flows

  •  Scale an influencer program

  •  Get your product on Amazon

Need an Interim Head of Marketing or some marketing help? Let me know and I’ll connect you to Sarah!


Sarah was kind enough to share 3 hot marketing tips 😍

Eat your vegetables before your dessert

I was taught this early on in my career, and it rings true across industries and stages of growth. Build a very strong foundation before moving on to the fun, sexy side of marketing. Want to build out a flashy campaign for one of your products but don’t have a website optimized for conversions and AOV? Stop.

I’ve seen founders spend thousands of dollars a day on ads with a < 1% conversion rate and no funnel analytics. You’re throwing money away. Often people want that short-term sugar hit from dessert, but you need to eat those tasty veggies first! Make sure every aspect of your core, from your website, tracking, messaging, drip campaigns, etc., are working like a well-oiled machine before you invest time and money into campaigns.

Hire the best to be the best

You know that saying: you’re the average of your 5 closest friends. This is true in business too. Bring on top talent. People who are experts in their fields. Then empower them and stay out of their way. During the early days of Uber, we were on a rocketship with explosive growth. We were never not hiring. It felt like we were always playing catch up and constantly overworked. But rushing to bring someone on, who wasn’t the right fit, always made things harder in the long run. After UberX launched, we were desperate and hired two new marketing managers in the same week. We didn’t have the full team on board and it was a huge hit to morale. We had to invest extra time into training them, only to let them go a couple of months later. No matter how quickly you’re growing, take your time to bring on the right people.

Avoid these 3 common mistakes 

Mistake #1: Trying to be everything to everyone

If you’re everything to everyone, you have no real point of view. What makes your business or product unique? What tone and voice is different from your competitors?

With so much noise across email, ads, and social, lean into what makes you special. Celebrate those differences. Take Liquid Death, for example. It’s water… but they’ve created such a strong point of view, and live and breath it throughout every touchpoint, that you have no choice but to remember them. 

Mistake #2: Putting too much weight in vanity metrics

Want to grow your social to 10k, 50k, 100k followers? Great, me too. But followers, likes, and your beautiful Instagram grid isn’t everything. 

I’ve seen founders want to buy likes or followers. I know a company that paid $5k for one of those Kardashian/Jenner giveaways, “follow X brand to win.” They got tens of thousands of followers, but they were crappy followers. Their engagement rate plummeted to less than 1% and they had a negative ROAS.

Don’t do it, it won’t do anything meaningful for your business. Focus on building a community. Engagement metrics are your north star. As you continue to create engaging content, your community will develop, and you’ll gain followers. 

Mistake #3: Bringing on an agency too soon

Agencies can do amazing things for your business. But they’re very expensive and you’re usually one of many clients. While working in-house, I’ve learned that hiring freelancers, whenever possible, is best. I saw this through trial and error when finding the best person for paid ads. Find someone who only has a few clients and can dedicate meaningful time to your business and be a true extension of your team. 

Need marketing help? Respond to this email and I’ll connect you to Sarah!


As always, let me know if you have any questions and if you want an intro to any of the folks in this email (including the PS section 🎉).

Happy holidays and see you in the new year!

Stay awesome,

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

If you liked this, ❤️ it below. If someone forwarded this to you, sign up here 💌


Most Recent Awesome People 🙏

Kevin - Cybersecurity consultant. Kevin has helped tech startups pass critical security audits for enterprise sales and conducted security assessments for highly regulated Fortune 500 financial services firms. 

Jasmine - Blog post writer and contract strategist. She's trusted by marketing leaders at Zapier, Patreon, and Shopify for blog content and copy. Marketing Brew named her a top marketer to follow.

Sriram - GTM and growth advisor. Sriram is a well-respected investor and runs growth teams. He scaled Spotify from 5 to 60+ markets, HeadSpin from $0 to $15M ARR in 4 years, and increased Tinder’s international market share to account for > 50% of rev.

Want intros to anyone here? Lmk and I’ll connect you!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️