📈 Notion’s Growth Strategies

9-year startup journey towards a single goal and valuation worth over $10B

SaaS Strategists,

You may have noticed that I praise Notion in my previous issues.

Well, that’s because, over the years, it has become my second brain. 🧠 

It has become my second operating system accessible from any device.

A product that is used by more than 30 million people, out of which 4 million are on a paid plan.

Today, I’m breaking down growth strategies used by Notion, that helped them disrupt the market.

Let’s dive into the strategies that helped Notion go from a simple drag-and-drop web interface to a #1 productivity tool on the market 👇️ 

Today’s issue of SaaS Strats is brought to you by Nortik Software Solutions

Are you looking to onboard pre-interviewed senior software engineers into your team or build your SaaS startup from scratch?

Nortik has a proven track record of helping their clients build SaaS startups that have raised over $150m+ in funding combined.

4 of them ended up being featured in TechCrunch.

If you’re looking to expand your software development team with high-performing engineers, while increasing your profits, book a FREE discovery call here:

Notion’s Growth Strategies

Almost 80% of Notion’s growth has been organic.

Let that sink in.

6% comes from paid ads.

Let that sink in again.

Okay.

So it’s safe to say that they nailed organic growth marketing strategies.

Combine this with a killer product and you have yourself a recipe for success. 🪴 

Here are the strategies that helped them grow to where they are today:

01 Great Product Hunt Execution

Notion’s SEO is so strong, that even when you search a term that has nothing to do with Notion, such as ‘Product Hunt Launch Checklist’, you are prompted with Notion’s templates on the 1st page of Google.

But, I’ll talk about this in a second.

Notion’s first version launched back in 2016 when Naval was one of the hunters.

Notion 1.0 Product Hunt Page

Since then, they have built the initial pool of users, who saw Notion’s potential early on.

The team behind the launch knew that in order to keep the users on their platform, they must constantly communicate with them.

So they did.

They posted constant updates.

Engaged in conversations.

And answered all of the incoming questions.

Which led to Notion 2.0. in 2018.

This launch was an even greater success than the first one, being covered by The Wall Street Journal.

With the initial user base they acquired for over 2 years, this launch took off. 🚀 

6,5k upvotes

#2 Most innovative use of technology product of the year

You name it, Notion had it.

There are 3 elements that helped Notion execute a great Product Hunt strategy:

1) Communicating product updates clearly to their audience

2) Engaging with journalists to cover their launch

3) The launch strategy itself, specifically the version 2.0.

A greatly executed PH strategy could help you form the initial customer base.

Make sure you implement it with great attention to detail.

02 Product-Led Growth

Notion is one of the perfect examples of how product-led growth should be implemented.

Product-led growth is a strategy that mainly relies on the product itself as the main customer acquisition channel.

Unlike certain companies that require sales professionals to guide their potential customers through long cycles and demo meetings in order to explain how their tool works,

PLG does the exact opposite.

Putting the product first, SaaS companies that utilize PLG give their customers a way to experience the product firsthand, either for free or through a free trial period.

Now, Notion does this perfectly.

They marketed themselves as the ultimate “all-in-one” productivity tool allowing their users to create to-do lists, documents, databases, and much more + interconnecting everything into one ecosystem.

Main Copy Seller

Freemium model

Notion’s first take on product-led growth was its freemium model.

Notion implemented a free pricing model that allowed users to access a basic version of their product, try it out, and see if they like it.

The initial adoption was large in the student groups, who used the software to organize their uni notes, track their study progress and keep track of specific assignments and tasks.

As users became more accustomed to the platform, they slowly started upgrading to premium plans for access to advanced features, which created a scalable way to convert free users into paying customers.

Freemium Model

User-Centric Design and Intuitive Onboarding

Notion prioritized user experience by offering an intuitive onboarding process.

New users were guided through interactive tutorials and prompts that helped them understand the core features and functionalities of the product.

This hands-on approach increased user engagement and reduced the learning curve, encouraging users to explore the product's capabilities and find value quickly.

Interactive Onboarding

Viral Loops and Collaboration Features

Notion leveraged viral loops by incorporating collaboration features.

Users could easily invite others to collaborate on their documents or projects, even if those collaborators were not initially using Notion.

This created a network effect where new users were introduced to the platform through their existing connections, driving organic growth and expanding Notion's user base.

Collaboration Feature

In-Product Upselling and Expansion

Notion employed in-product strategies to upsell and expand its user base.

For instance, users could encounter premium features or limitations while using the free version, prompting them to consider upgrading to a paid plan.

NotionAI was the most recent addition, which allows users on the free plan to use 10 monthly prompts.

Which led people to start converting more.

Notion AI’s Table Summarization

Community Engagement and User Feedback Integration

As already mentioned, from the early days of its ProductHunt launch, Notion fostered a strong sense of community by actively engaging with its users and incorporating their feedback.

This approach included hosting webinars, sharing user stories, and implementing requested features.

By involving users in the product development process, Notion not only improved its offering but also increased user loyalty and advocacy, driving word-of-mouth referrals and attracting new users.

And there’s a quick product-led growth lesson for you folks!

But let’s not forget…

03 Community-Led Growth

Notion is a great example of a product where your community does the selling for you.

They didn’t follow the traditional route, going all in on paid ads & scale via content marketing strategies.

Since they were so engaged in the early days, their community is now paying them back.

At the moment, Notion’s subreddit counts close to 300k members, growing daily.

Members connect and share templates, ideas, and how-tos, which turns Notion noobs into pros in less than a month.

People are building their own businesses selling templates and consulting services to companies and individuals that use Notion.

Notion’s team also organizes meetups across countries and has built location-wise local groups.

With this distributed approach to community building, they have built the core pillars of their community all across the world, and still continue to listen to users’ feedback and execute upon it.

Notion’s Community Page

04 Consistent Feature Updates

Notion sends out monthly emails with the new feature and platform updates.

You may brush this off as something that’s not that important

But think about the last time you got a feature update from some software you use.

Either they are non-existent, or there’s always some paywall behind them.

This has a huge impact on their retention.

Few companies use this approach to genuinely inform their users about what new features have been released and how they can benefit them.

Bonus points for including visuals!

One Of The Emails Including The Template Gallery Product Update

05 Ambassador Program

When Notion noticed their communities are blooming left and right,

They went a step further.

Introducing: Ambassador program

As they say, Notion Ambassadors are passionate, volunteer enthusiasts who teach and share Notion with others.

They lead local communities, organize online and offline events, produce courses and tutorials, create templates, share translations, and much more.

Ambassadors are community leaders, usually content creators and consultants who help new Notion enthusiasts get up to speed quickly and discover new innovative ways to use Notion in their everyday lives or businesses.

The key step in this master plan was to identify the biggest power users, and knowledge holders and partner with them in order to expand their community and user base.

Really, really smart move.

Notion’s Ambassador Swag

06 Student Benefits

Notion knew that the initial adoption of the platform was huge among students.

So they introduced Educational benefits, with options such as unlimited storage on a free plan.

Education plans are 100% free for university students and teachers who associate their accounts with their school email addresses.

With the Education Plan, they allowed access to all Plus Plan features, except adding additional members to your workspace.

Free For Students

07 The Ecosystem

Similar to Apple, Notion has ecosystemized its user base.

What do I mean by this?

When I switched from an Android phone to an iPhone, I was blown away by just how everything is well connected and simply works.

You get used to the gestures, apps, and mechanisms.

Then you buy a MacBook, and it’s just…consistent.

You have all of your contacts, messages, and apps synced.

Then you buy an Apple Watch, again, same thing…

Notion leveraged its ecosystem with a bit different approach.

First, they started integrating other apps and tools into the platform, such as Slack, Google Calendar, and Figma.

Notion’s Integration Library

Then they released Notion API, which allows users to create their own integrations.

Notion’s API

Lastly, they created a template gallery which is by far the biggest thing they have launched.

The template gallery includes different pre-made templates for Product Development, Project Management, Content Calendar, Meeting Notes, etc.

Ready-made templates - and with one click of a button, you have them inside your organization.

Notion’s Template Gallery

Their template growth loop strategy is the following:

1) People discover a template that solves a problem for them

2) They start using it / sign-up

3) Users find new templates that help them solve more problems and are interconnected with the first one

4) Users start building their own templates

I’ll talk about ecosystems in SaaS in a separate SaaS Strats issue and will go in-depth on how companies leverage this strategy to maximize retention.

08 Ease Of Decision-Making

In Notion, everything is a page.

You don’t have to worry about creating a task / database / list / document and worry if you can scale it later on.

With this approach, the platform removes the burden of early decision-making and worries if a certain step will have a big impact later down the road because you can simply update it as you move.

Example:

When you create a database in Notion, in a matter of seconds you can switch it to list-view, timeline view, kanban, or even a full calendar.

Filtering, sorting?

All covered.

This is a huge product benefit that gives you the option to build fast and iterate as you progress.

Creating A New Database View

09 Ease Of Sharing

What if someone told you you can build a business with just 1 Notion page?

Hard to believe?

Well, people are doing exactly that.

With a highly-flexible page sharing options, you can create a product that is literally just a Notion page.

Not just in-app sharing, but web sharing as well.

People are creating databases filled with VC data that you can filter, marketing strategies, courses, and much more.

With 2 clicks, they share the page with the world & monetize it on Gumroad and similar platforms.

Product / Resource Example

Ease of sharing has other benefits as well.

Companies started spinning up pages with open positions using Notion.

If you’re a startup, why waste time integrating job application tools into your website when you can simply link to a Notion page?

Example Of A Company Careers Page

The possibilities are endless, and by now I’m sure you understand how Notion can bring people together.

You discover new ways to use Notion every day.

P.S. You may have noticed that you received the SaaS Startup Validation Framework when you signed up for SaaS Strats - which is exactly what I’m talking about.

10 Staying Up-To-Date With Industry Trends

With the new AI trends popping out left and right, Notion isn’t staying behind.

Their product growth strategy isn’t “build, then grow”.

Rather it’s “build and grow at the same time”.

So naturally, they launched their newest AI tool called Notion AI.

Notion AI is a wrapper that brings ChatGPT directly into Notion and can perform some powerful actions such as article summarization, changing the tone of voice, and even creating tables out of specific action items.

I wrote about what Notion AI can do here:

Following how the market fluctuates and adapting accordingly helps Notion stay up to date and allows them to give its users the best possible product for productivity, collaboration, and management.

After all, adaptability is more important than your skillset.

Credits to Ryan Kaufman, Ankur Tiwari, and Jaryd Hermann for their materials on Notion’s growth and inspiration to write this issue myself.

Also if you would like to learn more about Notion’s path to success, watch this video:

To recap the key takeaways from this article:

1) Develop A Good Product Hunt Launch Strategy

2) Grow Your Startup Using The Product-Led Growth Methodology

3) Build An Engaged Community And Listen To Feedback

4) Be Consistent With Your Feature Updates

5) Try And Implement The Ambassador Program

6) Give Out Educational / Student Benefits

7) Ecosystemize Your SaaS

8) Remove The Burden Of Decision Making

9) Make Your Product Easy To Share

10) Stay Up-To-Date With Industry Trends

P.S. If you like SaaS Strats, you’ll also love Category Surfers:

🔝 Top Tweets

Here are the 2 top tweets from this week:

🔥 SaaS Fire

SaaS products so good they'll light up your week:

To achieve similar success as Notion did with their launch, check out The Product Launch Checklist.

SaaS Pricing Explorer helps you optimize your product’s pricing using insights from 1000+ pricing pages.

💡Idea of the Week

Here’s the SaaS idea of the week:

A proptech B2B platform designed to transform the property management landscape. Leveraging the power of AI and IoT, it offers real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and data-driven insights for property managers and owners. From residential complexes to commercial buildings, the platform ensures optimal efficiency, reduces operational costs and enhances tenant satisfaction by proactively addressing maintenance issues and optimizing resource allocation.

Pros

  • Predictive Maintenance: The platform’s AI algorithms analyze sensor data to predict potential maintenance needs, allowing property managers to take proactive actions before issues escalate. This results in reduced downtime, lower maintenance costs, and improved overall property value.

  • Tenant Engagement: The platform enhances tenant experience through smart automation and personalized services. Tenants can report issues via a user-friendly app, and the platform ensures timely resolution. Additionally, it provides tenants with energy consumption insights, promoting sustainability and cost savings.

Cons

  • Initial Investment: Implementing this platform involves installing IoT sensors and integrating them with existing property management systems, which may require an upfront investment. Convincing property owners about the long-term benefits could be a challenge.

  • Privacy Concerns: Collecting data from sensors might raise privacy concerns among tenants. Ensuring transparent data usage, obtaining necessary consent, and implementing robust security measures are crucial to address these concerns.

How did you like this week's issue of SaaS Strats?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

I hope this issue of SaaS Strats helped you understand what makes Notion so powerful and how it grew year after year.

Hopefully, you’ll try out Notion yourself if you’re not already using it.

And that you’ll also learn some new growth strategies you can implement inside your SaaS startup.

Until next Thursday,

Ognjen Gatalo

Chief SaaS Strategist ☁️ 

P.S. If you would like to get featured in SaaS Strats, or think you have a product worth breaking down, reply to this email & let’s connect!

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to SaaS Strats to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now