Go-To-Market Report for Startups: 2019

Actionable data and advice for founders looking to build an all-star GTM.


Every Decision a Startup Makes Matters

From a financial perspective, it's never been easier to start a company. With resources like co-working spaces and affordable web hosting becoming common place, almost anyone is capable of creating their own startup. Much harder, however, is leading that startup to growth and success. That's why how you bring a product to market has never mattered more than it does today.

In order to help guide your decision making in 2019, we at HubSpot for Startups surveyed over 290 successful startups to find out how they made the decisions that led them to prosperity. We covered topics such as how startups manage their recruiting and hiring, how they think about high level operations, the methods they use to generate demand, and many more aspects critical to a startup's survival. Below, we cover some of the biggest learnings we took away from our survey.

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Employee Recruiting, Hiring, and Engagement

Possibly the most important contributor to a startup’s success is the people that are hired in the early days. However, making choices around hiring and recruiting is much easier said than done. Read below to find out how the successful startups of today navigated these decisions.

SalesMarketingSuccessful startups employ 2.5x as many sales professionals as marketing.

Respondents reported having an average of 6.1 sales professionals per organization and only 2.4 marketing professionals.


Our research shows that a successful startups hires over twice as many sales professionals. How do you feel about your current hiring process and pipeline? If you aren’t confident check out our ultimate guide to sales hiring here and our ebook, “How to Hire & Train Marketing All-Stars” here.

ConfidentThe majority of startups feel confident in their early hires.

65% of respondents said they felt confident that their initial marketing and sales hires were an appropriate level of seniority. 30% felt that these early hires were not senior enough and a small minority thought they were too senior. Founders reported having slightly less confidence in their hiring decisions than lower level individual contributors.

Initial Hire Seniority-1

Your early hires help you develop a culture that will impact your business for the rest of its life. Have you thought about your company culture yet? If not, see how HubSpot thinks about building an inclusive and diverse culture: 



IncentiveStrong commissions remain the primary incentive for sales reps.

65% of respondents reported that their startup used strong commissions to incentivize their sales reps. This was followed by end of quarter or year incentives used at 20% of organizations.

Sales Rep Incentivization

If you are looking for a way to effectively compensate your sales representatives, the old ways might be the best. Simply giving strong commissions to sales remains not only the most common but also the most effective method among successful startups. If you are unsure if your compensation plan is the best fit, check out the Ultimate Guide to Sales Compensation here or 9 Tips for Building a Competitive Sales Compensation Plan here.

CodingEarly engineering talent is

48% of respondents listed an engineer as their first hire following the founders. This was followed by a sales professional and then a marketing professional with 19% and 8% of respondents listing them as the next hire respectively.

First Hire-2

Second Hire-2

Acquiring great engineering talent has two components: hiring the right engineers and maximizing the relationships between your engineers and the rest of your staff. If you are looking to hire a great engineer check out these 10 tips for hiring here. If you aren't quite ready to hire a full-time engineer to your staff check out this guide on hiring a freelance developer into your organization. Lastly–like any relationship - the relationship between you and your engineers requires work to maintain. Check out these 6 tips for improving your relationship with developers today.

time-5Startups are selective about the time they spend on recruiting.

93% of respondents said they spend less than 25% of their time on recruiting efforts and 53% report spending 10% or less of their time. Higher level employees spend the least amount of time on recruiting efforts while lower levels tend to spend more.

Recuriting Efforts time

Recruiting the right candidates to your startup is crucial to long term success, however, spending too much time on recruiting can be detrimental to the other aspects of your business. If you want to recruit all-star candidates without losing all your time, try the process of Inbound Recruiting using the instructions laid out here.

Diversity-1Diversity & Inclusion is not viewed as a top priority by most startups.  

Diversity and Inclusion was viewed as a top priority for 2019 by fewer than 2% of all respondents. The apparent importance of D&I decreased as job level increased; founders and C-level executives were less likely to see it as a priority than managers or individual contributors.


The answer is unequivocally YES. If you were told that your company could outperform its competitors by 35% by making one simple choice you would jump at that opportunity. Well, companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by just this amount. Need another reason to start thinking about Diversity and Inclusion today? It is significantly easier to bake D&I into a company’s culture and processes during the early days than to attempt to force it in later on.  Check out this post on inclusive employee resource groups if you are looking for ways to up your diversity and inclusion game today.




Strategy and Operations

A grand vision for a startup won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have a well-built strategy in place. We asked startups about the kinds of decisions they made when it came to thinking about their strategy and operations so that you could use these insights to inform your own decisions.

Working on laptop-1Startups spend most of their time developing their product or service.

Over 42% of startups spent the majority of their time in the last year on developing their product or service. This was followed by acquiring customers, which 37% listed as the largest use of their time.


What do all the best products and services today have in common? They were all created with customer feedback top of mind. While customer feedback shouldn’t be the only force guiding your product or service development, it should be a strong one. If you are unsure exactly how to get customer feedback try these 15 tried and true strategies for collecting customer feedback or use these three methods to increase the amount of feedback you are already getting. But how you can squeeze all the juice out of the feedback you are receiving? Use these instructions to determine if the feedback is useful to your organization and determine next steps.

Startups wish they had prioritized  
their time better in 2018.Prioirtize

70% of startups said they wish they had prioritized their time differently in 2018. Startups that prioritized their time around getting more funding in 2018 felt the most confident in having spent their time well and those that prioritized content creation felt the least confident in how they spent their time in 2018.



Startups often spend so much time focusing on the latest challenge in front of them that they fail to properly define their priorities for the year ahead. This is understandable–taking the time to set your work aside and focus on this sort of high-level thinking can feel like a wasteful distraction. However, deciding your priorities for the year doesn’t take long and can end up saving you a lot of time and wasted effort in the long term. If you are looking to establish your priorities for the year, check out the instructions on this page here.

FocusSales, branding, and staff top the priority list for 2019.

‘Selling more product or service' was noted at the top priority for startups going into 2019. This was followed by growing one’s brand and then hiring brilliant staff.


Establishing your priorities for the months to come can be a tricky task at times. On thing that you want to be sure of is that when it comes to choosing these priorities, you are making well-thought data-backed decisions. If you are looking for a little bit of data to help you on your way, check out "The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2018." With stats from SEO to sales, this information will help you get in the right mindset for making important prioritization decisions. 




Calendar-30Goals are typically set on a quarterly or monthly pace.

34% of startups report setting their goals on a quarterly basis and 33% report doing so on a monthly basis. 39% of startups also report doing their quarterly planning one month before the onset of each quarter.

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You can’t blow past your goals if you aren’t setting them in the first place. Research shows that establishing goals makes it significantly more likely to see success in your efforts. When it comes to how your startup is going to market there are three primary sets of goals you need to care about: marketing, sales and service. Use the tools below to set each of your respective goals:

ArmsCleanMany startups are finding success without institutional funding.

While 80% of successful startups interviewed have received a round of institutional funding (angel to IPO), a hearty 20% are seeing success without ever having received such funding.

Most Recent round of funding

Every startup is unique and whether or not it might be the right decision for your startup to pursue institutional funding will depend on a variety of factors such as your market, your product/service, your customer acquisition cost, and many other elements. If you are looking for some advice on what your particular startup should do, follow the insights laid out in this article to help determine next steps.

Brand Awareness and Demand Generation

Every young company wants to increase its brand awareness and generate more interest in its product or service. While there are many ways to go about this, there is a lot to learn from the successful startups of today that can help your organization propel into a success story of tomorrow.

OrganicOrganic, content, and SEO remain the most popular methods of demand generation.

48% of respondents list using organic, content, and SEO methods for generating their demand. Fewer than 4% of respondents said that their organizations use traditional TV, radio, or billboard ads for demand generation.

Demand gen

There’s a lot of noise out there these days and standing out isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. With the right strategies in place, however, you will be able to attract the prospects you want and convert them into happy customers. Check out these 5 ways your startup can start driving massive organic growth today. While you’re at it, make sure that you are avoiding these 22 pesky SEO myths that refuse to go away. If you are new to the content creation game or just looking to up your skills, use this content marketing workbook to kick your strategy into high gear.

Digital AdsDigital ad use is strong in startups.

41% of respondents list using digital ads (Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter) in their demand generation efforts. The majority of startups spend less than $100,000 per year on digital ads and 74% of startups implemented digital ads within 2 years of founding.


Digital ads can be an incredibly powerful tool for your business if used well. Optimizing your ads strategy is not rocket science but can be extremely costly if you get it wrong. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Advertising in 2019 to make sure your digital ads are bringing in as many leads as possible.

ExcitedLinkedIn is critical in raising awareness.

LinkedIn leads the charts as the most valuable channel for spreading awareness, followed by blogging and use of one’s homepage.


While LinkedIn is the clear winner among successful startups looking to increase their brand awareness, this isn’t necessarily the case for every business. If you are looking to increase your brand awareness in 2019, check out the Ultimate Guide to Brand Awareness here.

About The Respondents

How many people does your company employee?

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How long has your company been in business?

How long has your company been in business?" data-description="" data-graph-data="%5B++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Less+than+1+year%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+3.3%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%221+to+2+years%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+26.64%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%223+to+5+years%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+56.5%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%226+to+8+years%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+11.7%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%229+to+10+years%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+1.9%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22More+than+10+years%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+0%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%5D" data-shape="column" data-type="white" data-source="" data-x-axis-label="" data-y-axis-label="">

Which option best describes your role in your company?

Which option best describes your role in your company?" data-description="" data-graph-data="%5B++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Founder%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+28.04%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22C-level+executive+%28Not+founder%29+%28e.g.%2C+CEO%2C+CMO%29%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+9.35%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Vice+president+%28in+charge+of+one%2Fseveral+large+departments%29%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+7.48%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Director+%28manage+a+team+of+managers+and+high-level+contributors%29%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+9.35%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Manager+%28manage+a+team%29%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+21%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Individual+contributor%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+24.8%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%5D" data-shape="column" data-type="white" data-source="" data-x-axis-label="" data-y-axis-label="">

What is your most recent round of funding?

What is your most recent round of funding?" data-description="" data-graph-data="%5B++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Seed+Capital%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+24.3%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Angel+Investor+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+25.7%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Series+A+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+21.5%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Series+B+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+7.48%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Series+C+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+0%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Series+D+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+0%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Mezzanine+financing%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+1%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22Initial+Public+Offering+%28IPO%29%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+1%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%2C++%7B++++%22name%22%3A+%22We+do+not+have+any+institutional+rounds+of+funding%22%2C++++%22value%22%3A+20.1%2C++++%22category%22%3A+%22%25%22++%7D%5D" data-shape="column" data-type="white" data-source="" data-x-axis-label="" data-y-axis-label="">


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