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Notion: How they went from $0 to $1 Billion with creators and community

Let's dig Notion's Case Study

Hey there,

When we say 'productivity', what's the first thing that comes to your mind?

For 35Mn+ people, Productivity = Notion and Notion = Productivity.

But how did this note-taking app become every working professional's go-to for maximizing their time?

Back from the Dead

Founded in 2013 by Ivan Zhao and Simon Last, Notion originally started as a web page builder. However, the initial concept faced scalability challenges and would often crash. By 2015, financial constraints led them to downsize the team and relocate to Kyoto, Japan.

There they noticed a rising demand for productivity tools. This marked a strategic pivot for Notion. After multiple iterations, in 2016, they launched Notion 1.0. with basic document creation, organization, and kanban-style task management allowing non-technical users to customize workflows. It was very similar to Confluence but for a broader audience.

The new avatar of notion combined their original vision of “Giving non-techies the ability to make their own tools without writing code” with the current market trends.

Soon, in 2018, Notion 2.0 was introduced that expanded the platform into a versatile all-in-one workspace.

Soon after:

But what really changed? Yes, of course, the product itself changed a lot, but a lot of things came together to make Notion what it is today.

Power Users 1.0 - Community

Notion's community is special because users love the platform so much that they talk about it online without being asked. They even make whole YouTube channels about it.

Notion capitalized on the trends and developed strategies around them:

a. Template gallery - Users were creating templates for Notion’s online workspace and sharing them with their peers. Notion noticed this and offered support by creating a template gallery located on Notion’s Community Page.

b. Ambassador program: These are passionate enthusiasts that teach and share Notion within their own communities in return for perks and early access to updates.

c. Block by Block conferences: It is an annual event series to bring the community together in a more centralized way. It's a virtual conference with interactive workshops.

Power Users 2.0 - Influencers

One big way Notion gets its name out there is through influencers. These are people with lots of followers who talk about their experiences with Notion. When they do, it encourages others to try it too.

To make sure influencers really understand Notion, the company looks for ones who already use it. They don't just pay influencers to talk about Notion; they want them to genuinely like and understand it.

According to Ben, Head of Community at Notion, it’s key to focus on people who are already using it. “Many brands pay influencers to read out a script, around 30-60 seconds written by the brand describing their product,” said Ben. “When we tried that, the return on investment just wasn't there. We realized it was critical that creators use and understand Notion before we work with them.”

Notion also focuses on teaming up with influencers who are popular among other influencers. This way, their message reaches even more people.

“The key has been to reach influential creators followed by other creators,” said Ben. “If you can get them on board, they can help you reach so many more creators over time.”

To validate if their strategy is working, Notion looks at a mix of conversion metrics like brand exposure and market penetration.

To find these influencers, Notion looks at who's recommended on YouTube and how many people are engaging with their videos.

“At its most basic level, keeping track of CPAs is a good measure of success, but what's really powerful with creators is as more people watch videos over time the CPA goes down,” said Ben. “This content is evergreen and continues to drive people towards your product indefinitely.”

Note: CPA is Cost per action or cost per acquisition.

There is barely any influencer in the ‘productivity’ ‘content creation’ and ‘note taking’ space that Notion has not partnered with. As of Q3 of 2023, there are 90 Notion influencers and ambassadors. Almost 49.37% of Notion’s traffic comes from YouTube.

Notion’s Next Move?

While Notion’s current marketing strategies have been pivotal in helping them reach this scale, it has also bought them the luxury to make bold choices going forward.

Notion's user base is dominated by professionals in Technology (20.03%) and Education (17.24%). They should focus on getting the non-tech savvy people working in consumer brands to use the notion. They can also tap into the finance bros and help them with data organization and documentation.

Another thing that they could preemptively do is start figuring out how to get the early GenZs who are still in college to get using Notion. People between the age group of 25-30 account for 37.14% of Notion’s users and the 18-24 age group makes up about 26.16%.

Do you also think Notion should now stop playing safe and do some unexpected marketing? Share your thoughts with us.

We discuss more on Notion’s influencer marketing strategy in our next episode of Influencer Matchmaking on YouTube. The video will be live soon, so do subscribe.

While you are at it, check us out on Instagram too.

See you next Tuesday with yet another brand!

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