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The Power of Internal Marketing: Real Reasons Why People Join Startups

Founder of Orchid Agency
Mariya Finkelshteyn
May 25, 2021
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PEmployees are not just cogs in a machine, they are the most valuable asset of any company.

Employees play an important role in how customers and potential team members perceive the company. As such, before you even attempt to sell your products or services to customers, you must first sell your vision, objectives, products, and services to your employees. Having a solid internal marketing strategy will help you do just that.

Startup companies can benefit greatly from prioritizing internal marketing to increase employee retention and engagement.

  • Boosts motivation – Employees who believe in the company’s vision are more likely to be motivated to work hard because they understand the purpose of their work. Commitment to the mission pushes employees to develop grit for the benefit of the company, whether it’s working overtime to meet near-impossible deadlines or accomplishing last-minute changes to deliverables.
  • Aids crisis management – Startups are expected to go through long periods of uncertainty before they can have stability. Consistent transparency earns the loyalty and respect of employees and fosters a deeper connection to the company beyond being just a source of income. As a result, employees are far less likely to jump ship during difficult times.

But how do you get people to join a startup in the first place?

There are three main reasons why an employee would choose a company over others.

  • Money – Let’s face it, most startups are unable to provide the same salary and compensation packages as large corporations. Startups typically have small budgets and have to closely monitor their burn rate. This results in offering lower salaries and higher equity packages, with the expectation that equity will pay off in the long run. 
  • Benefits – For the same reason as above, most startups are unable to provide comprehensive benefits like 401K matching, educational or tuition reimbursement, off the bat.
  • Perks – This is an area where startups tend to “win” the most comparatively to the  traditional companies. Pre Covid, the common startup perks were working remote or from home 100% of the time, swanky offices with ping pong tables, adult beverages and other snacks. 

So if it's not the money, benefits or perks. Then what are the real motivations for joining a startup?

Why do People Join a Startup?

The biggest reasons for joining the startup are to be a part of something bigger, work with founders and build an incredible culture. Gone are the days when it was a privilege to become a company cog in return for large sums of money. Instead, employees place a higher value on work-life balance, learning experiences, being recognized as an integral part of a team, and mental health.

A great startup culture creates a positive work environment, which is usually shaped by the following:

Awesome Founders

A company’s culture stems from the founder’s personality and values. The way they build the business is based on their strengths, and they are bound to attract and choose like-minded people to join their team.

Everyone else’s work attitude could also be widely influenced by how the founders present themselves to the team—are they easily approachable or are they uptight? Authoritative or lenient? These are all contributing factors to how employees will perceive the brand as a whole, since founders are first and foremost the human representations of their businesses.

The Vision and Mission

Employees are a company’s first customers and the founders are the first salespeople. They need to be able to use their excitement of the products or services they provide and how it makes an impact on the world in order to influence employees to have the same mindset. Exposure to the founders allows employees to have a better understanding of their vision. Founders must be able to set an example and show enthusiasm in achieving the brand’s mission, while also embodying the company’s core values.

Horizontal Leadership Structure

This type of leadership structure has fewer structural layers, which encourages open communication and transparency that is uncommon in corporations. This empowers employees to contribute in decision-making processes. Project management is tackled more efficiently because it’s a collaborative effort. 

Doing so also paves the way for better employee retention, not to mention employee engagement. When team members feel valued and heard, they are more likely to put in more time and effort in coming up with fresh ideas that could drive your brand towards growth.


The lack of bureaucracy gives employees more freedom, which may give greater employee satisfaction. The emphasis on innovation allows employees to discover or come up with creative new ways to achieve goals. With more control over their roles, employees are able to take the initiative to explore other areas of their role according to the needs of the company. Not confining your employees to their niches keeps them from hitting the proverbial wall and curbs early burnout, which is known to decrease productivity levels.


A limited workforce allows current employees to step up to the plate and try new things when opportunities arise. An ‘all hands on deck’ mentality exposes employees to new aspects of the business and allows them to build new skills. The ability to try different things enables employees to find what they’re best at and most passionate about, and makes career growth far more achievable at a shorter period of time.

Letting your employees know what’s in it for them early on in the long run will fuel them to strive harder and continuously forge their potentials until such time that they are ready for the next step in their careers. 


Having a smaller team also makes it easier for a startup to be more accommodating to the team’s needs, placing more value instead on each individual’s contribution than their obedience to policies. Employees aren’t always required to adhere to strict work hours, provided that deliverables are finished on time. This allows individuals to execute specific tasks to the times of day when they are most productive, resulting in better output.

Startups typically embody a culture that prioritizes people: employees and customers. The way you treat employees matters. The main cornerstones in this aspect include:

  • Respect – As a founder, you should always be aware that employees are helping you build your dream and vision. Treat employees with gratitude and respect in order to gain their loyalty. While this sounds like a basic value, you would be surprised how many startups and companies tremendously fail at meeting this need.
  • Recognition – Even the smallest wins matter in a startup company, so the impact of an employee’s contributions are clearly visible and should be recognized. In addition, seeing firsthand how their work makes a difference instills a sense of pride and belonging, and encourages them to contribute more. It could be as little as sending a company-wide email thanking your employees for their efforts, or going the extra mile and giving special awards to exceptional performers, and service recognitions for those who have dedicated years to the company.
  • Feedback – Working closely with founders opens up the opportunity for employees to receive direct feedback from the visionaries themselves. Your feedback is of high value because it’s a clear directive of how to achieve the mission as it was originally intended, not an interpretation of a fellow employee. Despite it being a personal matter to you, words matter so make sure that your feedback is delivered in a professional and non-demeaning manner.

All of these values create a healthy work environment that increases employee loyalty and productivity. Happy employees are also prime advocates of the company to potential customers and employees.

Internal Marketing is Vital to Long-Term Success

Internal marketing supports the startup culture you’re trying to build. It slowly but surely keeps employees passionate about their work and invested in the company’s success. Unsure how to cultivate an awesome company culture or develop an internal marketing plan? Talk to us today!