5 growth tips for scaling companies – AMA with Joe Cross, TransferWise

We recently were lucky enough to welcome Joe Cross, Global Head of Marketing and PR at TransferWise, for an incredibly insightful AMA to a room full of marketers and founders from scaling companies to delve into the FinTech unicorn’s exponential growth.

We asked Alan McAlpine, Product Marketing Manager at Curve, to share his key takeaways from the session and what other companies can learn from TranferWise’s incredible journey to date. Over to you, Alan!

“Growth”. If you’re a scaling company in any sector, it’s a word you’ll hear on a day-to-day basis. It’s a confusing word at best, and a misused one at worst. But what does it really mean for you and your business, and how can you put it to good use?

When the game is growing – attracting more engaged customers – few can boast the CV that Joe, Global Head of Marketing and PR at Transferwise, does. I recently attended an AMA with Joe moderated by Seedcamp’s head of marketing, Natasha Lytton, to hear his thoughts on how scaling companies can crack growth and what lessons we can apply to our own startups. Here are five top tips:

  1. Know the needle/s you want to move:

From acquiring new users to retaining existing ones, growth involves spinning many plates at once. And when there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all metric to gauge the health of your entire growth funnel, how do you plot a course to “destination growth”?

Picking the right metrics to focus on is key. If you can’t attach the right metric to a particular funnel stage or team output, you can’t meaningfully manage it. Definition breeds direction, so take the time out to define key growth metrics. This isn’t to say you should have one needle to move for the entire company, but when you go about the business of picking metrics and setting KPIs, keep them manageable, meaningful, and relevant.

Looking at the One Metric that Matters allows you do this – it’s the measure of success for your business as a whole or by department. For Joe, this is at the core of how Transferwise build for growth; having learned over time that NPS (Net Promoter Score, or how your customers feel about your service) drives referrals to their product, they made this a core KPI for their Product teams. An explicit set of metrics allow you to have constructive discussions and take individual ownership of moving specific needles in the direction of growth.

📚 But wait, I want to learn more! Check out “Lean Analytics”.

“Your customers are always going to have something to say. Listening pays off!”


  1. Bring focus to your growth engine:

So you’ve decided on some key metrics, let’s say “total new users per month”. The temptation might be to jump straight to “let’s advertise on Facebook, crack SEO, put money into SEM, and fire on all cylinders for PR” all at once. Joe emphasised how focus is your friend, here.

Start with a list of the channels you could focus on. These shouldn’t be any old channels, but the ones that you believe are right for your product. Look out for potential “Product-Channel Fit”.

Products are built to fit with channels. Channels are not to built to fit your product. So, if you have a product with a short sign-up journey and route to first “wow” moment, building in referrals might be the way to go. Joe notes that this is what worked for Transferwise – they knew that they could easily convert buzz into usage, and in turn into viral growth, so optimising and tweaking referral channels was a no-brainer vs. other popular channels.

Bring focus to growth where it makes sense with your product, and don’t be drawn to each and every channel that you see “the company next door” using.

📚 Wait, I want to learn more! Check out Product-Channel Fit (B. Balfour)


  1. Nail your story:

“Transferwise is a political communication with a product behind it.” For Joe, this reveals one of the most important things to bear in mind when looking at growth: tell the story.

For startups, the temptation is to build your messaging around rational statements that focus purely on the nuts and bolts of product functionality. While, Joe admits, this is invaluable in the early stages of your company, it can only get you so far. Sooner or later, startups have to move to get in touch with their emotional side.

It’s not enough to sell someone a solution. The real kicker is getting them to realise that they have a problem in the first place. Look for that emotional pull, or higher purpose, that brings potential customers to lean in, to give you their attention when there’s so much noise.

Being bold about this can sometimes feel counterintuitive or even uncomfortable, especially when you’re still building that initial trust around your product. Joe’s advice? Trust in your mission, and channel that story into your messages.


  1. Test, Test, Test:

Once you’ve got an idea of the needles you’re trying to move and the story you want to tell, next up is testing.

Don’t be afraid to ask the question “what could happen to _____ if we ______?”, building experiments off the back of that. Joe recalls the Transferwise team asking a similar question of their TfL Underground campaign and their unexpected impact on viral growth. When planning these types of tests, be sure to ask:

💬 What are some of the ideas I could try?

💬 Which channels are a natural fit for these ideas?

💬 How am I tracking this stuff? (and you must, must track everything)

💬 What does “success” actually look like in this test?

The last question is crucial. If you have no idea what success might look like before you start testing, how will you know what success looks like after testing? Want to try this yourself? The team at Pipefy have the perfect Growth Experiment guide to get you started.

Joe highlights that in your early stages, you’re not necessarily going to have the expertise or the hours to test that channels that you think are right and ripe for growth. Embrace this. If you think a channel could work great for you and have some ideas on how, get help (from freelancers, contractors, part-timers) to get off the ground. This allows you to give that channel the best shot at doing well; if it seems right for you, great! Hire someone full time to take responsibility for it. If the channel doesn’t work, you’ve given it the best chance of succeeding for the time.


  1. Your customers are there; talk to them:

Outside of the four walls of your office, few know your product better than your existing customers. They’re an invaluable source of honest insight, and can be the data standing between one business decision and another.

Transferwise tapped into this resource when ironing out which how they talk to existing and potential customers. Asking their biggest fans from their user base what they liked about Transferwise helped the team prioritise and refine their messages.

From wondering how to reduce the drop off in your funnel (📨 try asking the users who drop out why they didn’t go on to try your product), to finding out how to better defining how you talk about your product (📨 try asking users who recommended you to others how they’d describe you to a friend), your customers are always going to have something to say. Listening pays off!


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