When it comes to marketing, Everette Taylor knows his stuff. The Los Angeles-based entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of digital marketing firm MilliSense, co-founder of marketing community GrowthHackers, growth strategist for Microsoft and former CMO of custom sticker shop Sticker Mule.

His journey wasn’t easy. At 17, Taylor, who grew up in a rough part of Richmond, Va., was forced to live out of his car – which didn’t even run. Determined to rise above, he did some odd jobs for cash, and eventually got a job at a CVS before enrolling at the only college he applied to: Virginia Tech. At 19, he started a small entertainment company that would arrange parties and social events. A few years later, he connected with entrepreneur and investor Sean Ellis, who helped him break into the tech industry and partnered with him to launch GrowthHackers. Fast-forward a bit and, at age 26, Taylor is now a marketing star.

Taylor participated in a live chat on the site Product Hunt Tuesday where he shared some of the strategies that have helped him succeed.

On marketing mistakes

When it comes to growth and marketing, Taylor says too many startups fail to listen to their audience and do the proper research. There are ways to be save time when launching a business, but taking shortcuts with your customer will only hurt you in the long run.

He offered a recent example in his work at Microsoft. After beta-testing an app and getting feedback from customers, he and the rest of the team decided they needed to completely change direction.

“It’s less about tricks and more so about taking time to get to know your audience and develop the product so that you have product/market fit. You can promote your app all you want but if it’s not something people want, you’re wasting your time,” he says. “Make sure you’re putting in the time to get a feel for your audience and from them you’ll get inspiration for marketing strategies.”

On how he would spend a $1,000 marketing budget

When asked how he would advise an early-stage startup with a marketing budget of $1,000, Taylor’s advice is simple: Save your money.

“The ROI you’ll get on [$1,000] in marketing spend isn’t worth it,” he says. “You’re thinking inside a box with marketing budgets instead of out of the box – which can’t be the mentality of a startup marketer.”

Taylor says that most of the things an early-stage company needs to do in order to build traction are free – or close to it. That includes creating content, building an email list, growing a social media audience and optimizing your website.

“All these things can be done with little to no marketing spend outside of paying for some software. And a lot of marketing software you can use at least for one month for free.”

On Snapchat

Taylor has a strong social following across all of his networks, but he’s managed to develop a particularly engaged following on Snapchat. As he explains:

Due to Facebook’s algorithm and things tending to get lost in Twitter’s real time feed, especially depending on how many people you follow – Snapchat gives you a platform with higher engagement and typically the full attention of the people who are watching your snaps. That’s super valuable. I still make sure to post on all platforms, but Snapchat is unique and reaches a different audience for me than I’m reaching on FB and Twitter.

Two of the brands he feels are “crushing it” on Snapchat are Blavity and Buffer.

On the most valuable lesson he’s learned

“Staying true to who you are and personal happiness matters most. Don’t sacrifice who you are or your emotional health for success.”

On breakfast

What fuels this marketing maven? Taylor says that too often he ends up skipping the most important meal of the day. However, when he does manage to grab a bite in the morning, it’s usually one of two things: “Pop Tarts or a breakfast burrito are my go-tos.”