Notion Growth Strategy: How Notion Reclaimed The Collaboration Space

Notion Growth Strategy: How Notion Reclaimed The Collaboration Space

In a world where collaboration is key, (especially in 2020) there is a whole suite of platforms to keep you and your team together. They may be Google’s tables, Monday,...

In a world where collaboration is key, (especially in 2020) there is a whole suite of platforms to keep you and your team together. They may be Google’s tables, Monday, or even Asana. But one platform sets itself apart by being the “all in one” tool. This workspace integrates CRM, spreadsheets, wiki sheets, and share documents most elegantly and flexibly- making it great for marketers!
Meet Notion.
Many of you have probably heard about this amazing tool. Not only is it a NoGood team favorite, but it’s a great example of a true growth story. The product itself is not designed just for teams like us- it’s a self-service product, built as you go, and ultimately its growth has largely been driven by organic adoption. The drag and drop accessibility along with seamless transition has made it a no-brainer tool and a product people love. So, how did they do it?  A little strategy, a great product, and of course, knowing how to grow.

What is Notion?

Since its re-launch in 2018, Notion has been the growing platform for individuals and teams alike. The Notion 2.0 launch gained the attraction of millions of users and over 6000 upvotes on Product Hunt.  It has been used by large corporations as well as smaller, growing internal teams. Notion has done something different- they have simply provided what they replace, how they make your work life easier, and what they integrate with.
Notion’s growth strategy is different for many reasons. Their driving factor of growth has been how they grow horizontally, that is, marketing to a large base of people and segmenting their audiences. Their use of ambassadors, Notion community, and a very tailored brand voice has made their $2 billion value an admirable feat.
While some believe growth happens due to setting goals and growing teams, Notion thinks otherwise. Their small and agile team has some key elements that have helped drive them to these huge goals. Their Head of Marketing, Camille Ricketts attributes some of their key elements to their founder, Ivan Zhao‘s voice, their storytelling ability, and their in-house designer and developer of Marketing. 
“We do have a small team and I think it’s not necessarily about efficiency as it is about being clever. We have a designer and developer on the team. Which is an unusual thing to have someone with that skill set purely allocated to marketing.” Camille attributes it as one of the most unique and important things that have allowed them to test, grow, and develop.

Where is Notion Now? 

Notion’s strategic design and organic-based growth are unique for platforms that are both B2B and B2C, so how exactly have they jump-started their growth, and what trends are helping their rise?
1. Flexibility- Think of this like the widgets on the home screen on your smartphone. Customization and usability are key. Notion uses the knowledge you give it (say a small business with under 30 employees) and sets you up with specific and useful templates. If it is not specific to what you want, you can create your building blocks and search from their pre-done templates. 
In a year that’s focused on support and changes in environments, the tools themselves are adaptable to organizing your workspace and lifestyle. Notion’s creation of this ultimate flexibility makes it a product people love from all backgrounds and lifestyles.
2. Community- Notion has created the title of the “Notion Pro”. This may be one of the most unique and interesting ways Notion has leveraged their customers and their LTV. We’ve seen a lot of Notion’s traffic and conversions come directly from organic search, Proving that people love their products and have feedback on them. Notion’s marketing team is complete with a community manager that helps recruit individuals who love their product to actively advocate for it. These individuals have shown how much they love Notion and prove to be guiding voices on the changes and developments. Having customers that want to tell people how much they love a product is one of the easiest ways to spread the word.
3. Active Replacement- Almost everyone in the world uses some form of organization and management tool for their life or work. So why switch things over? Competitors like Evernote, Wiki, Airtable all provide similar services, but you use a few different ones to manage everything you need. Notion’s website, set-up feature, and templates show you just what tools you can remove from your life. Each page and template will show you just how it works and how you can seamlessly stop using another tool. The explanation is transparent, concise, and easy to use.
4. Clean Design- Notion’s design is clean, simple, and an almost perfect blank slate. It’s designed for you to build as you see it fit. In addition to the hundreds of templates already at your disposal, you, as a Notion user, can create your templates and add to the ever-growing community. This feedback loop is extremely important in understanding how the company has been able to leverage its creators and customers. This also allows them to see in real-time how to innovate and adapt their platform.
5. Personalization- Collaboration tools are designed to a catch-all. Personalization allows the tool to appeal to a larger horizontal audience and allow users to customize their preferences. Notion follows this but takes it one step forward. When setting up your personal or company Notion, they automatically begin setting up (a data-driven) workspace with tools they think you will need. Through a quick 1-2 minute personality and use assessment, Notion builds out the beginning tools you need, within minutes of your initial sign-up. This feature gives a new sense of personalized and adaptivity that doesn’t involve converting and recreating files or spending hours in customization settings. This not only makes your user feel a part of the process but it encourages them to at least start playing around or piecing together what their workspace can look like. This feature takes the pain out of potential customer struggles and shows them the value prop from the get-go.

Breaking Down Notion’s Strategy

One of the most unique things about Notion’s growth is how much of their growth comes from organic search and social. Notion has been growing at incredible rates with average visitation above 20 million every month.

As previously mentioned, Notion’s growth has not been the result of an immense amount of paid ads, long advertisements, or absurd amounts of marketing spend, but rather through its value to the community it fosters. Over 80% of its traffic is driven through direct search with paid search coming in at a little over 6%. We saw a huge amount of this traffic building from the second launch in 2018 off of Product Hunt. The widespread support and Reddit community rallied behind all the features Notion has to offer and its ever-increasing ability to build community and a workspace for everyone.

When looking at their social media and advertising channels, most people haven’t seen too many ads regarding Notion. They simply used the traction they got from the people that already LOVE their product. Notion did run a few small paid social ads promoting their free use for students, but nothing in comparison to traditional SaaS companies.

One unique thing Notion did was focus on their branding principles from the get-go. They focused on two specific trends: 

  1. Creating something that allowed people to work better
  2. Creating a product that allows buyers to respond with good design and great stories

These basic ideas are what created the flexibility and love for the product and ultimately feeds their entire growth loop. From the beginning of your experience with Notion, they set you up to be a part of a community that you trust. You hear about how great Notion is, your search and begin your personalization process, and then as a community member give back and improve the platform itself while simultaneously bringing others into the community. Notion did a brilliant thing in merging their consumer and community that has tremendously increased their growth.
Another major facet of Notion’s brand is its clean and concise brand voice. Similar to the founder, the company itself gives you a feeling of cool, calm, and collected. The perfect blend you’d expect from a lifestyle management tool. The voice and simplicity of the founder are carried from the website landing page to every last detail and even the template headings. Notion tells you what it is, how it works, and how it benefits you- taking the pain and processing away.
Lastly, many SaaS companies during this phase are focused on their numbers- churn, conversions, and sign-ups. But, Notion took a strategic approach- they developed their content as their community provided them feedback. They removed the pressure to grow to a certain number and did what any growth stage company should do- they focused on the quality of their content and making it a platform a smaller audience loved. By shifting their focus on quality rather than quantity, the numbers followed and even surpassed their goals.

Lessons Learned From Notion:

They want to be able to build the tools to help people work the way they want to

~ Camille Ricketts, Head of Marketing, Notion

Throughout the last few years, we have seen Notion grow to new heights and do something not many companies do as well- create a product people love to use and love to talk about. So what are the key takeaways can we learn from Notion’s growth strategy?

  1. Branding and Unique Selling Points- What makes your company better than the competitors? How do you communicate that? Notion’s brand is transparent and simple- they’re giving you the tool that makes you leave every other tool. They want to give you something simple to make your life simple and that is the core of their product.
  2. Recognizing and Utilizing the User- Understanding what people like and dislike about your product are the best ways to develop a growing product. Hearing and seeing your user’s pain points and addressing them from the beginning has been key to Notion’s overarching success. Their use-case quiz is something everyone SaaS company should be looking into adopting.
  3. Showcasing community voices- The development of a Reddit community [subreddit] and Notion Pros allows Notion to leverage their market at a scalable and efficient level. Their real-time feedback and supporting community have driven their organic traffic and their improvements.
  4. A small and agile team- the Notion marketing team is no average team- they developed their skillset and identified how much community, content, and continuous development means to their growth and work within those key areas. We see that come through in their overall strategy and their growth.
  5. Cleverness over efficiency- One thing that stood out from Notion was their emphasis on quality over quantity. While other companies were focused on hitting numbers, they took a different approach and focused on how to be clever and clear. The content reaction has been incredibly intentional, while their branding has been clever and community-forward.

Overall, Notion has an incredible story about growth and the ever-emerging tools we see in the collaboration space. It has incorporated strategy, community, and convenience to build a product that does it better than its competitors. Its strategy is unique in growing organically and through a community. If you are looking for a team of experts that can help you crush growth, we’re here to help.

Sumita Gangwani
Sumita is a growth marketing analyst with experience working with startups in the e-commerce space.


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