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Founder Spotlight: Éva Goicochea

16 May 2023

A Conversation with the Founder + CEO of maude

When you read the tagline “Intimacy for All,” you get a glimpse into Éva Goicochea’s vision for maude’s customers. As a sexual wellness brand with ambitious goals, maude would have to navigate strict advertising regulations, limited wholesale opportunities, and societal taboos to effectively bring its intimacy products to the masses. Fast forward to today — maude made history as the first brand in the sexual wellness category to be sold in Sephora’s brick-and-mortar stores (264 of them to be exact), and boasts a cult-like following of men and women of varying ages in over 30 countries across the globe.

Éva’s work with maude helped pave the way for the thriving sexual wellness market we see today, and her contributions have earned her much well-deserved recognition among her peers. You can find Goicochea in Entrepreneur’s 2019 100 Most Powerful Women, WWD’s 60 Power Players in Health and Beauty in 2020 and 2021, Fast Company’s 2021 Next 1000, and Inc.’s Female Founders 100 in 2022. With all that under her belt, we were excited to uncover Éva’s strategies for acquiring and retaining customers, her insights on building a strong brand community, and her tips for fostering long-term customer loyalty in this edition of our Founder to Founder series.

1. On a high level, how would you describe Maude’s ideal customer segment?

I would characterize my approach as ‘for-all’, basically. Before we launched five years ago, we decided to do a big cross-sectional survey to try and understand who our product was resonating with initially. The results were all over the place — we received responses from individuals of literally every age and demographic imaginable. This actually reaffirmed what I had initially thought, which was to create a brand for everybody. In this category, what really connects us is more psychographics and emotional needs, as opposed to saying that this could only be used by X type of person. Ultimately what we’ve done since is try to create a clear brand that speaks to those shared needs and qualities, as opposed to essentially limiting ourselves to a specific audience.

2. How would you describe your experience marketing to a more general consumer?

For us, the process of finding our product-market fit was really organic. We basically came out of the gate saying, here’s what we do and here’s why we exist. After that, we started to see who we were attracting and could tailor our messaging more specifically. I will say, we’ve had a lot of press since before we launched [which was helpful in] driving traffic to our site. Typically there are many more female-leaning publications than male, so at first, we were seeing a primarily female audience. Nowadays, close to half of our customer base is male.

3. At what point did the ratio of men to women begin to even out?

I think it was after we had been around for a while and started to expand our product mix. While only one of four of our initial SKUs were geared towards women’s intimacy, that product was the one attracting a lot of attention right out of the gate. 

I mentioned earlier that the vision for maude was always to create a brand for everyone, and I think the launch of our burn massage candle really solidified our positioning as a gender-inclusive brand. Not only was the product enough of a novelty to pique the interest of more people, but I would also say the scent actually leans more “masculine.”

Ultimately, I think what we have learned is that sticking with your values versus projecting what you think your audience is, is really the best way to gain more audience share.

4. How do you measure maude’s brand affinity with a broad target audience?

Our product assortment is a little more complicated than most. It’s more straightforward for a skincare brand, for example, to understand how customers are responding to their brand. Like, if you’re a gen-z makeup company and sales among young women are soaring and you’re going viral on TikTok, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that your brand is resonating with your target audience.

Because our product can be used by almost anyone over a certain age, it’s not always easy to know exactly who we’re going to appeal to. What we know and how we communicate to our cohorts is usually more related to the products that they choose than their demographics.

5. How does your product marketing approach differ for each SKU?

Here’s the other layer — we can’t advertise all of our products. In fact, we turned off Facebook Marketing about six to nine months ago because… it was expensive, and it was inefficient. What we did instead and still do is determine who our bath customers are, who our body comments are, who our supplement users are, etc. and what their lives look like. We look through the lens of the product, figure out who all the possible users are and what their lives look like, and approach marketing with that in mind. Keep in mind, the user could be male, female, old, young, etc. It doesn’t matter. Our goal is to encapsulate all the ways that the product would make sense in their lives. 

6. What strategies do you use to keep customers engaged and loyal to your brand?

We have a blog we created right out of the gate. It originally started as what felt like more of a Tumblr, but now it’s fully content we distribute via email marketing and it’s the highest opened email every week. [The content] is the biggest traffic driver in terms of re-engaging our existing audience. The blog has become the ecosystem that they can continually engage. 

Sexual wellness companies across the board – whether you’re us or Durex – make sales to an individual customer only around two or three times a year, typically. For the most part in this category, you just don’t see people making purchases that often. So for us, it was really critical to create other ways to interact with the brand. 

8. How do partnerships and collaborations play a role in your customer acquisition and retention strategies?

I believe maude is a product for everybody at any time, but it’s anyone’s guess when that time is. So we occasionally use product collaborations for an extra touch point with our customers. For example, we launched a special-edition puzzle during the winter because that’s generally a time when people are cuffing up and being cozy. The downside is that it’s not always measurable to commit to a partnership and that it will ultimately convert to sales. We found that partnerships on the social media side, though, such as giveaways really work for us. 

9. What do you look for in a potential brand partner? Do you typically collaborate with like-minded companies or brands outside of your category?

Outside of our category. Ultimately, we’re building a brand that is more closely related to any other part of your health and wellness than it is what you’ve seen before in sex. We’re an intimate wellness company, not just a sexual wellness company. 

I’ll give you a funny example. When we first moved into our Brooklyn office, we opened our own brand pop-up in our retail studio and it wasn’t easy to get people through the door. That next year, maude and 25 other brands hosted a pop-up called “Staycation,” where we basically built out an apartment and showcased our products in the rooms that they would go in your home. maude was sort of in the bedroom/bathroom area amongst all kinds of products, none of them being sexual wellness, and it felt like a fit. Everything felt really cohesive and natural, and that’s kind of where we discovered how to approach elevating what maude is doing. We love crossing into other categories people wouldn’t necessarily associate us with, and having it click for people like, ‘Wait a second, this makes sense.’

10. Which paid acquisition strategies, if any, have been successful for maude?

I think it has to be affiliate marketing and press. It’s not for everybody, and I think it works for us because because of just how underserved we all are in this category. People want to read about sex; people want solutions. So when you put maude in a magazine or a top ten list, people tend to click through and buy the product. Ultimately both affiliate and press are a validation of the product, and when you have a high-risk, high-touch product like maude’s you really want that. 

Then, on the Google Search side, there is an audience that is already seeking out this type of product or information and they’re more likely to convert. But when you’re talking about serving them on other channels like Facebook or Instagram it’s not as much of a high-intent audience. It just doesn’t work!

11. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your industry colleagues on customer acquisition and retention?

You have to figure out where your audience wants to see you show up. I have seen brands that, in my opinion, overextend themselves or overvalue where their customer wants them. For instance with content — there are some verticals or industries where content makes so much sense, right? But there are others that don’t make as much sense and in that case, you just have to figure out for yourself where to show up. 

About maude

Based in New York and launched in April 2018, maude is a modern intimacy company that is creating the next chapter in the outdated sexual wellness industry through quality, simplicity, and inclusivity. Leading with universal design, we make modern, body-safe and high quality essentials for before, during, and after sex by working directly with manufacturers from around the world for a fresh perspective on the category.

  • Available DTC in 33 countries and 500+ retail doors nationwide
  • Became the first sexual wellness brand sold at Sephora stores
  • Featured in 1700+ press pieces including the New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Forbes
  • Following four successful funding rounds, Goicochea is one of ten Latinas to raise over $10MM in VC funding

About Éva

After studying marketing in New York, Éva returned to California and spent her early career as a legislative aide in healthcare at the California Medical Association. She then went on to work in ecommerce and brand strategy with companies including The Natural Resources Defense Council, ADIDAS Y-3 and SLVR, Squarespace, Steven Alan, Josie Maran Cosmetics, and in 2012, joined the early team at Everlane.

In 2017, she converged her passion for healthcare and brand to begin the development for maude. To date, Goicochea is one of only 10 Latinas to raise over $10 million in consumer goods and was voted Entrepreneur’s 2019 100 Most Powerful Women, WWD’s 60 Power Players in Healthy and Beauty in 2020 and 2021, Fast Company’s 2021 Next 1000 and in 2022, received a CEW Female Founders Award along with industry icons Bobbi Brown and Jeanine Lobell, and was one of Inc. Female Founders 100 in 2022.

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