Maya Moufarek, founder of Marketing Cube, worked for companies like Google and American Express for more than 15 years before starting her own agency. Today, her London-based firm works with startups around the world – and their startup clients rave about the results, based on what we heard from TechCrunch Experts in our growth marketing survey.
"She's an absolute powerhouse who knows growth better than anyone I know," said Alice of The Lowdown. KatKin's Nikki O’Farrell told us that “[She has an] are expert ears and eyes from the world of startups / scaleups and growth. Their functional and direct approach enables you to work fast and see results quickly. ”Constance von Luko said that they“ [r] really liked their way of thinking, both practical, no bullshit, while also being super strategic. ”
We interviewed Moufarek to gain her experience from working with larger companies, how she applies this to smaller companies, how to optimize the success of her customers, trends that she sees in growth marketing and more.
(This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.)
We have received many testimonials about you through our TechCrunch Expert Project, in which your direct approach and practical experience have been mentioned. In your opinion, how do these characteristics contribute to your success in working with startups and designing strategies?
The truth is, ambitious founders and executive teams often have no marketing background, so they have to outsource to find the right support to achieve big growth ambitions – usually within a very limited time frame.
"Pick a marketer or agency with no direct experience and you may just get the wrong answer for your situation."
In this situation, experience is everything – there is no uniform marketing approach for startups. Marketing strategies that help find the product market fit are very different from attracting your first 100 customers, which is very different from scaling your customer acquisition or lead generation. There are many subtleties to this type of role too, which makes it quite unique – choose a marketer or agency with no direct experience and you may simply get the wrong answer for your situation.
With over 15 years of experience in a range of companies – from startups to corporations, and Series A to private equity experience – I've had the opportunity to actually apply hypergrowth best practices as well as full ones Offer C-level support. For this reason I founded MarketingCube.co, a boutique strategy for strategic growth consulting for innovative startups and scale-ups.
Being direct is vital because startups naturally strive for quick and transformative results, not endless presentations and lengthy processes, so a hands-on approach is crucial. You need to get right to the beating heart of the company, understand the culture, involve the right people – and be happy to tell founders and management teams things they don't always want to hear. In return, they receive a solid foundation, ambitious results and the right tools to get started and continue doing so after leaving the room.
What lessons have you learned from working with larger companies like Google and American Express that you use when working with startups?
Now everyone sees Google as a huge company with endless products and extensive teams, but when I worked there in 2005 it didn't seem like a mega-company. It was hypergrowth after IPO, but the EMEA and emerging markets that I contributed to were like regional startups on a scale. At the other end of the scale, American Express was a more traditional and established company with legacy systems and processes that was beginning to undergo a digital transformation.
So the lessons from these companies are very different – but there are some universal principles that are always relevant.
One lesson – which was particularly true at Amex – is to always be prepared for changing markets that could disrupt your business. This may seem strange for a new startup, but the economy is volatile and things change very quickly. It is difficult to prepare for any situation, but you must have the vision and drive to lead the market and the means to make it happen.
When it comes to CX / UX, I tell everyone I work with that less is always more. It might be a cliché, but that doesn't mean it's not true. By that I mean, customers want fewer clicks, fewer words, and simpler, more direct steps to reach their end goal.
Google really understood the importance of providing your customers with a seamless experience and keeping them excited – after all, customers are the lifeblood of any successful business.
If your company is truly customer-centric, it is always possible to successfully carry out a digital transformation or to adapt to a changing market. Amex has shown many times how a brand and a company can reinvent itself.
Finally, always agree on a clear set of goals and key results (OKRs) to ensure focus, prioritization and collaboration. Agility and speed are the competitive advantages of young companies, and OKRs help to achieve this and create accountability.
Has a growth marketing professional made a big difference to your startup? Please share your recommendation in our survey.
If you look at your portfolio, you have worked with companies in a variety of fields such as Pexxi / Tuune in healthcare technology, YuLife in insurance, and Andjaro in human resource technology. How does your approach to each customer differ to ensure that you optimize your customers' success in their field?
First of all – regardless of their specialization – every company is in a different phase and has different needs. It is therefore important to ask the right questions, set the right goals, and involve the right people and teams in the beginning.
In addition, every business model, industry, and audience has its own principles, best practices, and proven strategies. For example, in health and finance, credibility and trust are vital. For an HR SaaS brand, on the other hand, the challenge is to increase adoption, as the market they create is completely new.
So I always start with an audit of your customer base or your target group:
What role do they play for the company?
What problem are they solving?
What added value do they bring?
I find Clayton Christensen's Job-to-be-do (JTBD) framework very powerful because it is relevant to the product, marketing and strategy teams. It is based on the assumption that consumers don't buy products, but rather “start” solutions … and just as quickly “fire” them if they don't do the job right. It shifts the focus away from the "ideal" customer personality to the actual problem and its solution.
Understanding Sean Ellis' business levers and North Star metrics is critical to growth. It's about focusing on the metric that directly reflects the value of your business and your products to your customers. At Airbnb, for example, this can be the number of nights booked; for Spotify, minutes listened to. It's about simplifying your strategy into something digestible, memorable, and applicable.
The North Star metric is not a revenue metric. The sales result from the value you have supplied. Not the value itself.
What are startups still doing wrong?
All too often startups don't really know their audience or make the mistake of believing that branding can wait.
According to CB Insights, “no market demand” is the main reason why startups fail with 42%. To me, this shows that too often founders do not fully understand the market potential and its alternatives, the pain points and fears of their customers, what drives the audience away from their current solutions, and what the pull points are for the business.
This is why I really love the JTBD framework – it prevents you from seeing the customer like a strict "persona" and instead lets you see the solutions they need to find.
Regardless of the maturity or level of success of the startup / scale-up, we often return to customer insights and really test how well they know their audience in order to improve their value proposition, messaging, and growth opportunities.
When it comes to branding, a brand really does exist in the hearts and minds of consumers, making it difficult to quantify. Founders often delay the brand building process or lay the foundation for it. But an established brand helps increase perceived value by unleashing incredible margins or market share, depending on a company's pricing strategy.
Strong, effective brands are not created overnight. Many founders think that branding means costly advertising, which it doesn't. Branding takes place in every interaction between a brand and its customer base over the entire purchasing life cycle – before (advertising), during (how and where the purchase takes place) and after (CRM, guarantees, customer service).
On the other hand, what are startups doing better than ever today?
At the moment, startups are working on bolder, more diverse and more effective topics.
I started angel investing and it has shown me a fantastic and wide range of founders and innovative ideas. I am fascinated by how far and wide founders are distributed to reshape our lives and change the future.
A few new companies that have inspired me are:
FairHQ combines scientific research, data-driven insights, and best practices to help you embed D&I in your business.
The fertility circle helps find the best information about fertility for parents. Because one in six people has difficulty getting pregnant, they connect individuals with a supportive community and provide access to healthcare professionals.
Hapi Plan enables family and friends to invest in their children to ensure their financial security for the present and future.
What major trends do you currently see in hiring growth marketers?
I often hear founders say that “growth is the new technology”. For as long as I can remember, tech companies have been fighting over talented engineers, and now it's the same for talented growth.
I think there are several reasons: One of them is the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions as companies hit hard by the crisis are now hiring at the speed of light. Many small businesses applied the “cut deep and early” recommendations to manage their cash flow, so they now have to rebuild complete marketing and growth functions.
Fortunately, a lot of money is currently flowing into startups, so the demand for talented growth has increased enormously. Ultimately, as we have all seen, the crisis has catapulted the digitization of businesses and purchasing funnels for more established businesses that now need digital growth marketing talent to maintain their sustainability.
In times of upheaval, there is great opportunity for innovation, and as I have seen, this has made hiring managers and recruiters quite creative in finding and attracting growth talent. Many have expanded their geographic search as remote working has become the norm. Some even applied account-based marketing best practices by creating target lists of talent and creating automated sequences to reach them. It was really interesting to see.
In your “Hire a Growth Marketer – Where To Start” post on your website, mention the T-Shaped Growth Marketer. How has the shift in the company's priorities during the pandemic changed the skills that growth marketers consider essential in their work?
During the pandemic, we had two categories of companies: (a) those that were seriously affected by the restrictions and (b) those that saw an increase in demand for services like Deliveroo and Netflix.
The severely affected had to turn and turn quickly to survive. A good example is Airbnb, which is rolling out digital tours and online experiences to support their hosts and ensure they keep engaging with guests. Another is Oxwash, which previously only did laundry in the hospitality industry and shifted its business to cleaning scrubs and bedding for NHS hospitals at the height of the pandemic. By adapting, they learned how to clean according to NHS clinical standards and keep a tense health service afloat. For these companies, flexibility and customer development were the essential elements of the T in their growth team, as they had to set up a completely new offering in no time at all.
On the other hand, companies that succeeded through the lockdown saw increased needs for CRM skills and merchandising. Finding the right tone for the nation's mood – and curating relevant recommendations or services to connect with existing and new customers – was the motto. Data and analytics have become an essential skill to understand changing behaviors and how to manage pandemic demand, especially as companies like Ocado struggled to meet customer demand at the beginning of the pandemic and therefore limited time windows had allotted for delivery.
The wealth of knowledge and adaptability of the growth teams in these two types of companies shows how valuable T-shaped marketers are, whether large or small companies fail or succeed.