Everette Taylor is an entrepreneur and marketing strategist who previously served as Chief Marketing Officer at Sticker Mule, the hugely popular custom stickers startup, and was CMO of Skurt, an on-demand rental car app that was recently acquired by Fair.com.

In this interview produced by OF10podcast, Will Lucas (OF10podcast host) and Everette discuss how students coming out of college break into marketing opportunities for startup companies, and tips for startup teams to get to product-market fit.

Note: This portion of the interview is derived from the audio interview heard on the OF10podcast with Will Lucas. To hear the podcast, subscribe in iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This interview has been edited for length.

Everette: I started my first marketing job when I was 18 and worked full-time marketing jobs throughout college. I actually started my first marketing company in college, so I have had a really different trajectory than most. I gained a lot of experience early on my own, and the piece of advice that I’d give to young people, especially those in college, is that…it’s very easy to just enjoy college and not work, and just focus on your books, and not really get experience or learn outside the classroom. And what I would tell them is to start strategizing on your personal brand. Create a website, start building your social following, start putting together a portfolio of work that you’ve done. Go to different companies or local companies, and even if you have to work for free somewhere, do it so that you can build a portfolio in marketing. Whether it’s coding or you’re working on a product – whatever your skill set is, go out there and get experience. You can hustle, hustle, hustle all you want, but you have to have credibility to back it up. Doing this work helps you build that credibility.

At the end of the day, a lot of people want things given to them, but you have to realize that this is a reciprocal thing. If you want an opportunity with a company, understand and know exactly what you’re bringing to the table that may benefit them – they’re taking a chance on you.

Will: What unique perspective do you feel you personally bring to the table? When you’re marketing products and services, what do you feel is your greatest strength that sets you apart in helping make the venture successful?

Everette: I think what makes me special is that you have these growth marketers, growth hackers, and folks who are super analytical, very data-driven, and people who can really take marketing to a science. But a lot of the times what they’re lacking is that personal skill or ability to understand people and what people want. I think being able to merge the analytical side, while being a personable individual in understanding people and how people operate, that’s just something that can’t really be taught. And it’s also about being able to bring a diverse perspective that a lot of people don’t have in the tech and startup industry.

A lot of marketers who grew up in the white suburbs and went to Stanford – they might not understand how to market to minorities. So being able to be versatile in the sense that I understand different types of people, mixing it with that analytical and technical side makes what I bring very powerful. I’ve just been blessed that I’ve been able to work on some really incredible products with some really intelligent people.

Will: Let’s say you have a company that has some early indicators of success, but now need to grow their user base. What’s their next step?

Everette: It’s always so interesting to try and answer that question, because a lot of people ask me, ‘How do I grow my company?’ and I tell them, why are you asking someone who doesn’t know your company? People sometimes ask for opinions too much. You obviously want to get creative and you want feedback from people, but you have to understand that you’re the one who sees the data, you’re the one who understands the product. People who aren’t at war with you everyday, those folks aren’t going to understand how to grow your product the way that you do. So a lot of times I get people that say, ‘Hey, I’m at this stage, how do I need to grow myself now?’ I can give you general advice on that, like asking questions on, ‘What is your strongest marketing channel?’ and ‘what can you do to continue to optimize that?’. Because the problem is, with a lot of companies, is that they see a channel working really well and think they shouldn’t focus on that anymore, and instead, look at some of the things going wrong in the market. And I say, ‘No, don’t do that.’ You want to get the most out of the channels that are working for you. Dry that channel out and let it really drive growth for you. So you want to double-down and optimize that channel by taking a closer look at the data and run growth experiments.

Don’t grow something on what you think is right. You need to backup a tactic with data and evidence.

Will: So, if you had a soapbox to preach on explaining why data and metrics are so important to startups and marketers – what would you say?

Everette: Time is the most valuable thing you have in life, and time is also the most valuable thing you have at a startup. So, if you are able to look at data and figure out what’s a good idea and what’s a horrible idea…that can save you so much time. Every day the clock is ticking. One minute goes by and you’ve just wasted money. To be data-driven and understand what’s going on is extremely, extremely important. Really, anyone who can figure out Google Analytics can be data-driven. That doesn’t make you special. Being able to take that data and be creative and come up with cool things to be able to rocketship your company, that’s where the value is at and that’s what separates the data-driven folks verses the people who can really grow companies.

Hear the podcast episode in full here.