Before co-founding interviewIA, UB Ciminieri spent 16 years in Denver working in sales and marketing. Through his network, Ciminieri met Joe Thurman, and together they created a blog to help companies with their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Because so many business leaders were eager to learn how to grow and improve their hiring process, that blog quickly morphed into a consultancy.
Now, Ciminieri is just five months in and thinking about nuts and bolts like how to build out the startup's email marketing plan and what marketing tech they need to support it, as well as what leadership looks like at interviewIA.
Whether you’re a startup co-founder or a small-business owner, you're probably familiar with these considerations. In this article, we’ll pair Ciminieri’s leadership growth story with some tech tips and tricks to help you along your own journey.
When did you first consider yourself a leader? Do you remember the exact moment it happened? For Ciminieri, it was tough to shift his mindset from that of a performance-oriented contributor to a future-oriented leader.
As a co-founder or business owner, you have to embrace the fact that you can’t do everything yourself. It’s your job to set the vision, but you have to hire a team to make it happen.
For those just ascending into leadership roles, Ciminieri recommends maintaining strong relationships with your co-founding group. That way, you have a safe, constructive space for self-awareness and can share honest feedback with each other about soft skills.
“Joe [interviewIA’s CEO] will call me up and say, ‘Let me hear your voice. You like to collaborate but at some point you have to make the decision,’” says Ciminieri.
Ciminieri says it can be especially difficult for co-founders to make the transition from being a contributing “doer” to hands-off leader, but self-awareness really helps. Find time to ask yourself if being a leader is what you really want, because your team will be looking at you to set the pace of the company.
Use video conferencing software and/or calendaring tools to schedule regular meetings with your co-founding team. They can be 1:1s or group meetings, but make space to check in with your founding team members. These meetings help keep everyone’s vision aligned and ensure the company is making forward progress.
Ciminieri considers himself an extrovert, and because his strength is talking to people, creating podcasts for his startup was a smart move. He quips that while some people like to read books, he likes to read people.
However, just knowing your strength isn't enough. You need to be able to amplify that strength, and turn it into an action that moves the needle for your company.
For Ciminieri, that meant embarking on a networking plan to connect with leaders, then creating and distributing podcasts on interviewIA’s LinkedIn channel. Ciminieri measures engagement and other metrics on LinkedIn so interviewIA can optimize their strategy.
Whatever your content strategy, it’s important to ensure you’re measuring success metrics across channels depending on your goals (e.g., clicks, engagement, conversion rates). By monitoring your success using analytics software, you can determine what channels best suit your startup, so you can do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.
If you decide that podcasts are part of your content strategy, consider investing in podcast hosting software, which helps with video and audio creation, publishing, promotion, storage, and hosting.
As you implement your content strategy, it’s important to consistently re-evaluate the content you create so you don’t go too far off course. While you need to get some content under your belt quickly, you’ll want to make sure your content is on brand and following your messaging objectives.
Ciminieri started with a foundation of articles and podcasts because it worked well for thought leadership and engaged his target audience. He includes diverse perspectives throughout his content, such as AI and ethics topics for the developer community or how to investigate and solve for biases for people managers.
Ciminieri thinks this is a good time for him personally to review his team’s work and re-evaluate next steps. He plans to slow down the pace of content generation for the time being so he can refine the company’s voice and brand identity.
And that’s good advice for any early-stage startup. If you’ve had a chance to execute on your marketing strategy for a quarter or two, take the time to hit pause. This may feel uncomfortable if it feels like you’ve hit your stride, but it can be really important to ensure you don’t go too far off course.
Consider this saying attributed to Yogi Berra: “Lost but making good time.” Don’t let this be your company. Have a clear direction, but don’t be afraid to stop, ask for directions, and course correct.
When it comes to testing and evaluating content, other startups we spoke to found analytics software invaluable for learning about their key audiences and their behavior to tweak their strategy.
You can use such tools to track the demographics of visitors who come to your site from different ad platforms, and then use custom content and messaging to reach and target each unique user group.
If you find that something is resonating with a particular audience, work more of that type of content into your strategy. Test, and repeat.
The last piece of the puzzle is applying your marketing processes to software that will help you grow and scale.
For Ciminieri (who is only six months in after interviewIA’s launch date), the next step in the business plan is tracking all that content they’re creating with a marketing automation platform.
Ciminieri chose HubSpot after engaging with a Hubspot Platinum Partner to help create their marketing playbook (he also had some past experience with the platform). He loves how easily everything is connected. They’re also currently working on building their website with HubSpot to allow better tracking.
Your software isn’t a quick fix to developing your content or marketing strategies. You first need the process and resources in place, and can then find software to support your efforts.
But while your software may not be able to work magic right out of the gate, it’s crucial for helping you scale and getting your message in front of potential customers.
With that in mind, don’t wait too long to start researching tools. It may seem like a big financial investment up front, but the startups we spoke with found that it really pays off as they scale.
When it comes to your marketing tech stack, there are many different approaches. Some startups go with an all-in-one stack (using one tool/software provider to cover all marketing tech needs). This works well if you’re operating on a tighter budget and getting things off the ground.
If you need to drill deeper in certain areas and worry that an all-in-one platform won't accommodate specific needs, you can learn more about how to build a marketing tech stack using components here: Here’s What a Startup Owner Has To Say About Building an Effective Martech Stack.
If there’s one thing startup founders agree on, it’s this: Know the problem you’re trying to fix before you spend the cash on a shiny new software platform. Software is essential to helping you scale, but purchasing the right software is key.
Get the basics like brand tone and voice, content types, personas, and customer journey mapping down first, and then find software to help you scale, track, analyze, and optimize.
The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.