Office Hours: I’ve led marketing teams at Gretel, Mux, Segment, and Wealthfront. I’m Maya Spivak. AMA!Featured

Hey everyone!

I’m Maya Spivak. Up until recently, I was a marketing exec at a couple of developer-focused SaaS companies, most recently at Gretel, the synthetic data platform powered by generative AI. Now, I work independently with tech founders, VCs, and marketing leaders who want to build beloved developer brands or advance their marketing strategy.

Before Gretel, I was the VPM at Mux, the video infrastructure platform, where I was responsible for the full spectrum of marketing including growth, product, and brand marketing.

If I focus just on my specialty, my “major” is brand marketing. I honed my brand skills over nearly 6 years at Segment, joining when the company was only 60 people and leaving shortly after its 10x growth in size and ARR, when it was acquired by Twilio for $3.2B. Prior to Segment, I led marketing at Wealthfront for 2.5 years selling sophisticated investment advisory services to consumers.

I started my career at Wildfire (which was acquired by Google) and Techcrunch (when the first Crunchbase articles were being written for debut.)

During my downtime, I enjoy everything about food– its branding, its retail strategy, its history, its trends, and of course, actually eating it. I also have two small kids and a husband here in San Francisco, so there’s enough to keep me going like the Energizer Bunny most days.

Ask me anything about being a marketing leader, developer brands, b2b versus b2c marketing, selling generative AI, being on an exec team, or whatever else!

Thanks so much for joining us @mayaspivak!Elphas – please ask @mayaspivak your questions before Friday, September 8th. @mayaspivak may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi, Maya thank you for giving all of us time from your busy schedule. My question is regarding my career, I am still struggling to get a job despite doing everything as guided by hiring gurus. With M.B.A and Masters in Public Administration plus 18 years of work experience after relocating, I cannot find anything or lets says no one is hiring me.
Hi Kina,That sounds very frustrating, and I'm sorry you're going through it right now. My best advice would be, get down to the relationship level. For any job of interest, what is at least one relationship you can cultivate that would get you ONE degree closer to the company/role? It doesn't have to be your immediate family and the companies they work at. If there's a local company that has a job you're interested in-- scour LinkedIn for any relationship to anyone you have at the company. If there isn't any, how might you establish one? Is there someone you can find in the department that you want to work in, and could you send them a message asking to learn more about their job, how they feel about it, more about the company itself. Can you offer up something of value in this relationship-- something you can offer that would be helpful to this person such that they want to spend some time talking to you? Outside of the most traditional things you can do to your resume that HOPEFULLY wont get an auto-rejection from the program that "reads" them-- going through a person that is human and within the company goes a much farther way. They can tell you how the hiring process actually works inside of the company, whether there is any sort of referral incentive for them (in that case, win-win!). But you have to find the actual people to form the relationships with, then ask.
Hi Maya, Thanks for doing this! How do you get in as a marketer to a SaaS company without prior SaaS experience? I am 10+ years into my marketing career but find that most of these orgs want a good amount of prior SaaS experience.
You're right, they do tend to be linked to one another, these experiences. The best way to hop from one place to another without the requisite experience is to see what you can do with a relationship. Between Wildfire/Google and Wealthfront, I had no fintech experience, or B2C experience, but I did use Wealthfront. Being a happy customer counts for something! My knowledge of the product and the space made up for the initial gap in industry experience, and the rest was history. What products do you use that you adore-- are they hiring? You just need to start with one, and the rest tend to fall in afterwards, assuming you're growing and doing interesting things.
How do you run your independent work business, and what specifically are you offering as your services to the founders, VCs and marketing leaders who you work with?
Hello! I'm actually in the process of writing this all out and launching a website to explain them, so they're top of mind. I have four core services, and three of them are pretty packaged up, while the fourth is kind of "ongoing advisory," filling in the rest of the gaps. Here's the copy I'm working on...I know its wordy, but you asked! :D The Glow-UpYou’re building something pretty cool, and you’ve got the chops to do it well. But there might be a crayon missing from your box– the creativity crayon. You don’t even know what color it is, that’s how badly it's missing. The creative element of your brand is non-trivial, however. It’s what dictates the first interactions between you and prospects, customers, investors, and potential future talent. What people see when they land on your property, how it sounds, what it does in those first moments– your brand identity could mean the difference between reactions like, “Shut up and take my money!” to “Ok, seems legit,” to “There’s no way their runway even outlasts my proof-of-concept.” Aim for the left side of this spectrum with a Glow-Up, where Maya teams up with really rad designers from her network to redo your brand identity, resulting in full-fidelity Figma files (with copy!) for your home, product, and about pages. Baby’s “First” Brand CampaignAre you really excited about the idea of brand marketing but not sure how to start? Let’s package up your first campaign as a project. Maya can work directly with you and your existing marketers to strategize and plan it based on your business goals and timeline, or if you don’t have any of those folks, do some IC-work herself and pull in her mighty network for the rest. Here are some things you can do in a project-based format: Out-of-home (billboard) advertisingEstablish (and execute) a user conferenceLaunch a community meetup or field marketing seriesScare up (and build out) some partner co-marketing campaignsCreate a content theme for the half/year complete with content plan and its method of production Positioning and Messaging Hire Maya to conduct your positioning exercise using the Dunford Method (for more than the price of the book but less than the Dunford herself.) After interviewing the founders and all customer-facing and influencing leaders across your team, Maya will research your competitors, compile your differentiated values, and write you a sales narrative that includes your new positioning. This takes 2-3 weeks to complete, and you’ll walk away with fresh messaging for that elusive one-line elevator pitch everyone can’t wait to tell their grandma (or the nearest journalist.) Ongoing Marketing AdvisoryDo you just want a pretty cool marketing expert in your corner, working with you one-on-one or directly with your people weekly, coaching on the right next marketing move, doing editorial review and guidance, and opening every network door she’s ever walked through to get you the best production partners with the scrappiest pricing:time ratios? Let’s get an Advisory agreement together. For a bundle of hours and bps, you’ve got your very own fixed in the wings.
Hello Maya. Your work is brilliant. I'm Brazilian, enthusiast in communication and marketing. In your experience what are the principles for successful B2b marketing development?
Thank you for the very kind compliment! Say more about what you mean about "marketing development?" Any examples would be helpful, and I'll come back and answer!
@mayaspivak Sorry for the ambiguity. It would really be planning. Does marketing planning necessarily need to be guided by principles?
Nope! But I'm a simpleton-- for me, planning is about aligning to the overall company goals, and then your marketing goals as they ladder up to those goals. Nothing else matters-- what are the company goals, and how does your work help achieve them.
Que precisão! Muito obrigada pela resposta e por seu tempo. Sucesso e saúde!
Hi Maya! Thanks for doing this. My questions are:1. What is it that you love about marketing? What drives you in your role? What are the skills that you get to tap into that fuel your ambition?2. What are some of your favorite food brands? Not necessarily for the taste of the food but more so for as you say the branding, the retail strategy, the history, trends, etc... Curious to learn more about food branding!
Hiya!1. My favorite thing about marketing is that you’re telling a story about a thing and if people like your story, they try your product. It’s an allowance to be creative, and to test your ability to move someone. And it’s ok! It’s not manipulative or disrespectful, it’s a real invitation to move someone. Name another industry like that! (Other than design). 2. Trader Joe’s has an incredible story. Seriously! Joe Coulombe wrote a memoir before he died in 2020, check it out. It’s such an incredible look into the TJs rationale and reason for being. 11/10 recommend.
What are the major differences btw b2b and b2c? Work life balance? Creative? Etc
Hiya! Truthfully, for me the major differences have been the channels in which you advertise your brand and the complexity of emotions you're dealing with directly with consumers. If you're selling B2B, you're most likely working with something fairly rational that doesn't inspire massive emotional responses. But if you're selling very well could be. At Wealthfront we were selling sophisticated financial services, so we're dealing with people's money. Lots of folks find money talk (particularly investing talk) to be very intimidating, and they can have very big emotional reactions (especially along with the market and how volatile it can be.) That makes everything about the job harder. Now imagine you're selling health stuff, fertility stuff, medical stuff, beauty stuff, heck-- even clothing... its all a reflection about how a person feels about themselves and their virtues and deficiencies. Heavy sh*t! I feel safer in B2B, less emotionally involved. Does that make sense?
Would love to know what contributed to your success at Segment during the period of its rapid growth? Any practical tips on how to stay on top of your game and make an impact during this exciting but chaotic time of company transformation?
The best tip would be to hang on tight and enjoy the ride! There’s nothing more chaotic or fast paced than being on a rocket ship where the product is selling like hotcakes…except for being at a company where nobody wants to buy the product at all— that’s as chaotic and fast paced because you’re just trying not to drown. In either scenario you’re running around like your hair is on fire because there’s always something to be done, and quickly. But when you’re lucky, that thing has to be done quickly so you can serve all those customers who just can’t WAIT to get their hands on your product. So maybe the answer is— you don’t do anything other than recognize whether you got lucky enough to be at a place with Product Market Fit, and then do your best to satisfy that fit.
Hi Maya, first off, congrats on your amazing success at so many great brands in tech. Kudos to you!My question is mostly about how to advance in your career.I’ve been in an individual contributor role for the past 7 years (though I have a manager title). While I have learned and done a lot, I’m not sure if I’m on the right track to advance my career.I’m honestly less occupied by the title (director vs. manager) than I am by the responsibilities that come with the title.In your opinion, what separates a director from a manager and a VP from a director? Is it just years of experience? or there are specific achievements, skills that make a difference? Thanks!
Hi Rachel! Thank you for the kind compliment. Have you spoken to your manager about career advancement and your path in your current role? They should be your biggest advocate after you, and should be able to shed some light on the path to growth and what it looks like. Whether your role, in your company, selling what you sell, in this market— what it looks like if things go well in the next year, two years. If they don’t have that… I’d start exploring for where you might find that instead!To answer your question, generally speaking those types of titles are “mapped” at an organization. Usually they’re mapped to the scope of your responsibility and whether it’s just limited to one team/org or whether leadership is required cross functionally (or even across the whole company!). A company that hasn’t taken the time to map that out yet is typically less mature in their HR structure, and that’s ok! It’s worthwhile asking though, to see what the map is inside your current company. You’ll see whether it’s “years,” or scope or team size or leadership cross functionally, or even what combo of those things it is!
What do you think are some misconceptions about how marketing works today? Are there any concepts that are stuck in the past (relevant a couple years ago but not so much today)?
I think the biggest thing that’s irrelevant to today is that there’s no current concept as prevalent as the 4 Ps. In college, marketing 101 is: product, place, price, promotion. That’s not where marketing starts and stops anymore! There’s B2B versus B2C, there’s brand versus growth versus product marketing. What about Ops? What about content? It’s a world of specificity, but unless you’re doing it professionally, nobody around you has come across the concept. (Or, not enough to really know how differentiated the jobs can be.)
Hi Maya, nice to meet you. I’m hoping you can lend some advice on my career trajectory. I’ve been the marketing director at a few different companies and then 6 years ago founded my own start up, which I ran with a team of 15. We were known in the industry for marketing, both brand and content. I am now the director of strategy at an 500 person company. In mt second week they asked me to do an audit of the marketing department and I was horrified at what I discovered. They could have been burning their budget in the backyard and it would have been just as effective. I’ve been asked to take over and lead the department, which I’ve agreed to. There has been no title change and candidly, I’m not interested in another director of marketing title…I feel it’s beneath me. There is no CMO or VP above me. Our CFO has also urged me to make deep cuts and based on how ineffective things have been, I agree with him. I’ve cut nearly all the contractors and replaced them with more cost effective resources I’ve found on upwork. My request to build an offshores marketing team however, was denied for budget reasons. I feel a bit as though I’m back in the trenches doing things I was doing 6 years ago. I feel I’m capable of holding one of those higher titles but also trying to understand what skills might I need to shore up or learn to be a fit for that role. What do you think are the biggest differences between director to VP or VP to CMO? Any advice on how I can best position myself to ask for this promotion? And make the best of the current situation? I’m eager to continue to grow and hone my skills.
Hi @caitlinobigelow-- First off, if I knew how to add emojis inside a post, I'd give you several claps for a super interesting career so far. Also-- it sounds like you're a boss b*tch (in the best possible way) and you already know a few important things-- what title you're interested in, that if you're given a bunch more work and an entirely new mandate, that should come with a re-scope and comp review. You already know the answer on the topic of your current I'll answer the latter questions about differences in skill sets.Truthfully, it becomes about strategic planning and executive communications (and the management thereof.) The biggest differences is that you become pretty removed from the actual process of doing the work, and much closer to the process of managing other peoples teams who do that work, managing those people, unblocking their blockers, and communicating up/down/all around while you do so. You won't get hired into a VP role typically unless you've already been a director (recruiters and the people who use them tend to be pretty linear like that) but you've done it shouldn't be a blocker for you. They'll ask about the size of the teams you managed, and about cross functional collaboration, and those two main questions are your two main tells that these aspects of the job ARE the differentiators. Now CMO, I don't know-- never been one. But I've also never reported to one-- I tend to stay at startups small enough that CMO isn't a thing. But I suspect there's no difference in the role, its just the scope of the challenge-- how big is the brand or collection of brands, how big is the coverage (sometimes global!), how big are the budgets. It becomes about scale at that point, but the job itself isn't too different, from what I'm told.Best of luck!
Hi Maya! I am starting my own consulting firm and struggling with how to package and price things. Elevator Pitch: "We help small and medium businesses obtain and maintain security certifications like SOC2, GDPR, HIPAA. Remove the road bump of security questionnaires and close deals faster." My first instinct is to provide a pricing calculator that takes into account size of company and technologies they may already be using or want to use. I am getting advice to have a "package" option where for a flat price a deliverable is provided. Given that I want to sell my ongoing services WITH tech partners where I am the managed service provider, do you think the once-and-done package offering is needed? The model I have in my head is not a typical consultancy...perhaps a need to reframe and say I am a managed service provider? Any thoughts would be appreciated. This would be all B2B.
Hi Linda! I'm no expert here, so when I found this book and read it cover to cover, I adored it. I am also following the model, and it sounds like the advice you're getting is straight from there-- package at least ONE thing up, your intro thing, and that makes lead flow so much easier and repeatable. Beyond that, you can have your customized services and pricing, but the lead flow should be standardized. That way, once a client has bought your package and is happy with the initial service, and they know they want to keep working with you for more complex and intricate compliance work, they're a known quantity and so are you. Here is that book-- its for creatives, but I think you'd like it anyway:
I'm an Account Executive exploring my next opportunity - I switched to tech sales after a long run in digital and content marketing to be more hands-on and specifically help nonprofits leverage technology to make a greater impact. One segment where I am seeing (unsurprisingly!) a lot of opportunities is with selling generative AI. I'd be very interested in your take on what it takes to do this effectively, insights into the market potential, and examples of anyone who is doing it well. Thanks!
Great question! I actually don’t know at the moment who’s doing a great job selling GenAI in the strictest sense— the investments are so high, the compute is so intensive and expensive, that what they’re charging doesn’t seem to overtake what theyve paid in so far. That’ll happen with time tho, as economies of scale always do. That said, the “brands” that are really standing out are not just the obvious leaders trailblazing their way through the industry (OpenAI) but also the great storytellers (Anthropic with their vision of a “constitutional AI” and being positioned as the anti-OpenAI) and also the ones making great investments into developer relations and advocacy (Cohere, for example.)
@mayaspivak thank you! Great point about the investment level and effect on how quickly companies are jumping on this large and rapidly moving bandwagon. I'm going to check out Anthropic and Cohere for sure.
Hi!I am currently creating an app in the fintech space that utilizes AI and I was wondering - how do I get my first customers? My friends and family have already told me that they like my idea but they like my idea but wouldn’t be customers (not surprising since they don’t use fintech apps in general). How would you suggest I go about this?
What an interesting setup! Who are the right users of your app, do you have a strong idea there?If you know what type of person it is, their interests, the places they “hang out,” where they read, who they watch on YouTube— that’s where I would start. Scrappily, in the comments section or in a meet up group (I’d go to all the fintech meetups in the area for a long time in this setup!) That’s where I’d start. Would (and do you) use the app yourself?
Hello Maya,Thank you so much for your time. What research/document you put together did you put together you case to hire more talent and build your marketing team? I currently am part of a team that runs too lean for our company’s revenue. Looking for how to make a case to hire more to bring in the skills we need for our organization.
Hi Maya — Thanks for doing this. I'm a founder at a SaaS start-up in the video space and we are MUX customers. I'm a product person and not a marketer. This is something I struggle with. We are a small team of 5 people and I handle all the product work and the non-tech work — including design, customer conversation, sales, ops, etc. Whatever basic understanding of marketing I have, is from reading blogs and newsletters. When I scour the internet on where and how to get started, there is overwhelming amount of information that takes me down different rabbit holes. However, none of this is helping me with practical execution. Is there a word of advice/ guidance for someone like me about how and where to get started with understanding marketing strategies? What is one rule of thumb?Thank you. Best,Therese
You’re a founder and you have enough to worry about. If it’s at the point that you have 5 teammates and you’re googling things and not feeling satisfied at the answer, you might consider exploring finding some help! Even at the earliest stages you can likely find advisors that help guide you to those earliest tactical plans that you and your team can actually execute. You don’t have to pony up to get them to do it for you, that can be expensive. But it’s probably worth it if you can pay for an hour with somebody that can get you a quarters worth of a strategy to execute! It should at least pay for itself in terms of the time it saved you in googling and feeling overwhelmed.
Thanks for your response, Maya. There was a time I had considered that. There is also this expectations that founders should have all the skills it takes for sales, gtm, customer conversations, etc. For the longest time, I was tied to this "gotta to do it all myself" cycle. Are there communities or groups that you could/would reccommend as a good place to find relevant people willing to give their time? Or Linkedin search is the way to go?
To find relevant people willing to give (aka sell) their time, I would start with your existing network. Your investors have trusted advisors that are already "friends of the firm" that they usually happily introduce you to. If there are none of those, your founder friends do too, other groups you already belong to who may have worked with trusted advisors before. And you can always email me! :)