Office Hours: I am head of marketing at Notion and led content and marketing at First Round Capital.Featured

Hi Everyone! I’m Camille Ricketts, Head of Marketing at Notion. Prior to Notion, I led content and marketing at First Round Capital, worked in digital services for the White House, managed global content at Kiva Microfunds, and helped manage communications at Tesla. I started my career as a journalist, reporting for The Wall Street Journal in London and New York, and I have my degree in history from Stanford University (where I spent all my time at The Stanford Daily). Ask me about content creation, marketing, brand building, and more!
👋 2 questions for you Camille: 1) Big fan of Notion and your content / marketing — was sold the min I landed on your About page (incredible storytelling)! What would you say is the "secret sauce" behind Notion's marketing success? 2) Community building is such an important part of brand building these days, and Notion does this especially well. Could you talk a little bit about how community building fits into Notion's marketing strategy, including (a) how you distinguish the two roles at Notion and (b) how marketing + community teams work together operationally, day-to-day?Thank you!
Hi Betty! Thanks so much for the questions! To respond to each one: 1) Our community is absolutely the most vital piece of our marketing effort. Notion has been able to grow to millions of users without paid marketing for this reason and this reason alone. Our community members share Notion with others, start massive online forums of their own (40K subscribers on Reddit, 20K members on the main Facebook group - all run by the community for the community), hold events, teach courses, and even write text books (4 have been published in South Korea alone). So our goal is simply to support and fuel our advocates as much as possible. We have a community leader on our team who is dedicated to connecting these incredible folks to each other, providing them with reimbursements and resources to continue creating and hosting programming, offering them new opportunities. We've also been really pleased to help a number of them build their own lucrative platforms as consultants and creators. The big key is that if you can help people realize reward that matters deeply to them through support your brand, you have a sustainable system that will continue to grow, and your relationships will deepen. So try to figure out what that piece is for you and your product. We're beyond grateful to all the people around the world who have contributed to ours.2) I think you probably suspected that community was going to be my response to #1, so I'll add just a bit more detail here. We have two different types of community teams at Notion: community marketing and community support. Our community leader on marketing (the remarkable Ben Lang) runs our ambassador program, is constantly in touch with the people who run other groups around Notion, discovers YouTubers and helps them create content to extend our brand and teach more people about the product, and more. Our community support team (which is around 15 brilliant people strong) answers user questions and fields feature requests. All of them double as UX researchers, always delving deeper to understand how individuals and teams want to optimally use the product and what it helps them accomplish. While we operate pretty independently, there's a lot of crossover when it comes to providing above and beyond support to help people succeed in how they use Notion.
When you worked at First Round on First Round Review, how did you choose subjects to interview and how did you hone in on the very specific topic or focus of each piece you wrote? Would love any tips for approaching interviews effectively and writing a cohesive story .
Hi Sylvia! Great questions. We were super focused on the subjects - honestly much more so than on the topics we ended up covering. We decided what to write based on the interviews we had access to. We sourced subjects a few ways - through recommendations from our partners and teammates and our community, through reading articles on medium, and who was sharing interesting insights in tweet storms, etc. We were constantly combing Medium and Twitter for this kind of material. And also looking at what companies out there in the ecosystem had achieved and who had been responsible for those initiatives. One of my favorite interviews was with Brian Rothenberg, who ran growth at Eventbrite, and that came purely out of me wondering who the heck was responsible for that company's viral expansion. We also paid close attention to speakers at events and who was sharing unique insights in those venues. As part of our process developing stories, we'd have a kick off call with every subject. This was 20-30 minutes before the actual interview with the express purpose of choosing a topic that would yield knowledge that would resonate with our readership AND be very exciting and motivating for the subject to share. We always outlined this expectation at the beginning of every call - i.e. "What's something you'd be psyched to talk about that would also help our readership build better startup companies?" Having time set aside just for this purpose was very helpful. You have to make space for ideation. It's not something you can expedite. Sometimes we'd even need to do a few kick off calls to make sure we got to the right idea. After the kick off call, we'd send a list of questions based on what we discussed to the subject so they could marinate on them. They didn't have to take notes or do any formal prep. We found that the simple act of them reading through the questions would vastly improve the quality of the interview. It's definitely a step worth adding to your process if you haven't already. It's amazing how small actions can have such outsized pact. I've talked about this in a few interviews, but the next important thing to do is to approach each question with a 3-tier sequence. First, ask the question on face value, then dig deeper by asking "how" specifically they did the thing they just described. Then last, ask for a real world example of that thing in practice. As an example, you might as someone how they hire such talented engineers. They might respond that they interview for certain aptitudes. The best follow up would be a very granular "how" question - like "What questions do you ask to test those aptitudes?" Then follow up asking for a time when they ran an interview process this way and what the result was. Hope this answers your questions! Thank you!
Love both products! Big fan of First Round. A contact of mine recently wrote an article for First Round and mentioned me/my work in it. It got me wondering, what's the editorial process for First Round? If someone wants to write a piece - how do they pitch it etc?
Hi Rach! Thanks so much for the question. I left First Round in March 2018, so I don't know how much of the process there has changed. I do know their absolutely fantastic current editor Jessi Craige-Shikman though, and she is a remarkably talented and thoughtful content creator. One thing that few people know is that almost everything on the Review has been written in house based on interviews. Even though some articles may have a contributed feel to them - a member of the First Round team has helped either write it in its entirely or shape it for the audience. Based on how things operated while I was there, we got a lot of recommendations, but we mostly proactively reached out to subjects who we knew had something unique to share. The best way to pitch a subject or idea would be to find a warm connection to the First Round team who can introduce you to Jessi. Hope that helps!
Thank you for being willing to share your insights!I am going to be hiring a head of marketing for my company in the upcoming months. I don't have much of a background in marketing, and this position is very important for the next phase of the company. What should I be looking for? I'm leaning toward hiring an experienced marketing expert, but not sure what to look for. Also, how can I recognize someone who may have less experience but has great potential?
That’s an excellent question. I’d love to learn more about your company.
Happy to connect - feel free to message me directly.
Hi Hannah! This is a great question. So much of it depends on your product, audience, and the brand you're trying to build. Enterprise and consumer marketing tend to be very different animals over time, but can start out pretty similarly. At the beginning, I've seen the most success with onboarding good storytellers. Stripe's first marketer is an amazing storyteller. Figma's first marketing hire is an extraordinary storyteller. That's actually how Notion's marketing role was first advertised to me, too.The important thing is that a good storyteller isn't just a good writer. It's not just about having talent at language or word choice. It's someone who wants and knows how to deeply understand an audience from both a qualitative and quantitative standpoint. They'll come in and invest a ton of time speaking to users, getting a sense for any segments that emerge, understanding how the product is used and what role it plays in their lives, the unique value that it provides, the type of people in adjacent audiences that you might be able to appeal to, and the arguments that you can successfully make as a result. Without this at the foundation of your marketing strategy, it's not possible to succeed long-term. You'll always need to backtrack at some point to shore up this positioning. So I recommend hiring someone who has demonstrated these instincts in the past, and has been able to manifest their learnings as landing pages, onboarding email sequences, social media posts, and content. Soon after, you may want to complement them with someone who can own the data piece, but I think that's a good place to start.
Thank you! This is very helpful!
Hi @crickettsI love your Content Marketing Tips podcast with Sonal Chokshi. I have so many questions and super excited for this :)1) What resources/frameworks/books would you recommend for startups in the prosumer space who are looking to learn and grow? 2) Considering how Notion straddles both a user's work and personal life... do you prioritise traditional B2C or B2B channels? What's been the most effective? 3)Lastly, what are the most common startup marketing mistakes you've seen from your time at FRC? Thanks so much!
Aw! Thank you so much Becky! Sonal is one of my most important idols :) I hope I can be helpful to you! 1) A lot of the same tactics apply to both the B2B SaaS and prosumer spaces. Success largely depends on good upfront positioning, understanding every single phase of your marketing funnel (from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective), and leveraging your champions. I actually just made a list today of great resources I've relied on in the past for B2B SaaS that may come in handy for you as well: - SaaStr's blog: Openview Ventures' marketing resources: Launching to Leading by Ken Rutsky (book on brand storytelling that should apply to your company)- Obviously Awesome by April Dunford (the best book on brand positioning I've ever read) - First Round Review's post on positioning featuring the totally miraculous Arielle Jackson: This post from Hubspot on content for every point in your funnel: 2) Given how new marketing is and how much we've relied on organic, we've defaulted over the past year toward B2C, focusing largely on building up our community and investing in channels with B2C appeal like YouTube and social media. However, in the last quarter and going forward, we've rotated most of our marketing effort toward B2B - shifting our early paid efforts to LinkedIn, and developing top of funnel content that we'll be able to gate to generate leads. So... the evidence I have so far is mostly about B2C. Cultivating a community ambassador program has been extremely rewarding to us (thanks entirely to the members of that program), as has YouTube marketing because we've been able to find niche channels that appeal directly to our audience in a way that drives high-quality sign ups. No matter what kind of product you're marketing, I would ask whether or not there is a niche YouTube audience you could tap into.3) Startups are enormously complex (which I have even more appreciation for now at Notion than I ever had at First Round), so the number of possible mistakes is infinite. I'll narrow my view to just marketing since I can speak to that with just a bit more authority. The number one mistake I have seen is company's creating a ton of content just for the sake of creating content hoping it'll move the needle. It's tremendously hard to do content well and very easy to do it badly. It's easy to do a lot of it very badly - but in a way that still requires time and money. Companies that don't do the adequate audience analysis, or that don't invest in evaluating content performance are wasting time and money - and likely eroding their own brands. I've seen a huge number of companies kick off content marketing by recruiting a number of freelancers and giving them cursory instruction to produce content that's relatively undifferentiated and noisy. In the end, they didn't improve their SEO and they made a lackluster impression on many prospective users. Another costly mistake is not investing in scaleable systems when you're still relatively early. This is actually a mistake that my team is addressing right now. When I came aboard at Notion we really dove right in to cover a lot of missing bases, like good email onboarding, templates, a help center, etc. We didn't double down on audience research, consistent style guides, shared talking points and value propositions. We relied on the relation of tribal knowledge to initiate all new team members into the stories we wanted to tell and how to tell them. But this won't keep working as the team scales fast. We need to backtrack and do a lot of this groundwork now, which is fine, but I wish I would have done more of it in my own first 90 days. Highly recommend using your power of being new to answer a lot of these more fundamental questions.
I love Obviously Awesome!!
Thanks so much @cricketts - so many golden nuggets across this post and the entire thread. Our entire team have bookmarked this. I have feeling it will be our go-to-resource for a long time :)
Hey Camille 👋 Thanks for taking the time to do this! I love notion and how many use cases it has. Given the many use cases, I’m curious how the marketing team prioritizes which personas to reach out to.Additionally, when you’re targeting this persona - how do you go about getting them past their specific use case and using notion in all it’s other magical ways?
Hello hello :) Thank you so much for the questions and I am so glad you are loving Notion <3 The number of Notion use cases is a massive blessing but also a bit of a curse. When you have a product that can be used by anyone for anything - you always run the risk of it being for nothing in particular for no one in particular. It's been really important for us to narrow down our story in ways that are useful but also not too limiting. We determined our primary personas through a lot of user conversations (literally hundreds) - it's clear to us that Notion is instantly embraced by engineers, designers, product leaders, and HR leaders. When we spoke to all of these users, we'd always inquire about use case (and in fact our community support team is constantly inquiring about use case too so this learning persists) and were able to narrow it down to three use cases: wiki/knowledge management, project management, and notes/shared docs. With this information in mind, we literally created a matrix with our personas across the top, and the use cases down the right. In each cell, we created a piece of content that would be relevant to both. So, for example: content about how to set up a wiki for designers, how to project manage for designers, how to use Notion docs for designers. It's been really productive to have this kind of guidance - not just for written content but also the video tutorials we've been creating and how we've organized information on our website. We'll expand the use cases and personas we create content for over time, of course, but it's been helpful to have these beachhead concepts in mind to start. When it comes to moving customers past the use cases that hooked them, I think you're looking at tactics for retention and engagement marketing. You want to respond to their needs and interests, so consider using data and instrumenting your product so you can trigger messaging based on user behavior. That way, if a user does something new or indicates an interest in the use of your product, you can send them an in-app message or an email or a push notification that will motivate them in new ways. You can send them user education, or prompt them to upgrade their plan, or suggest new use cases. The key here is personalization. How can you learn more about how they are using your product to make precise suggestions that map to their own motivations? That's the ball game when it comes to getting them more engaged or broadening their use.
Hi Camille,so wonderful to have you here, I love Notion! I have three questions: professional and personal ones :)- I was wondering what are the marketing channels you use and which of them are the most effective? - How important is brand building at Notion? Is it recognized internally? Sometimes I feel it is al about hardcore 'growth hacking'.- And which hard skills would you recommend to work on for a person willing to a tech company? I am a marketeer with an FMCG brand management experience, and it would be great to hear about your experience!
Hi Darya! Thank you so much :) Really wonderful to hear you love Notion! To answer your questions:1) We've been really lucky with organic growth and have only diversified our marketing channels recently. We're very active on social media. Invest a lot in community building. Have experimented with podcasting, and are now running campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. One of the most surprising and biggest success stories has been YouTube. We've been really proactive about connecting with and occasionally sponsoring or forming affiliate partnerships with productivity YouTubers who are fans of Notion, and who have been creating lots of content about it already. It's been amazing to see some videos land that drive hundreds of thousands of views and tends of thousands of signups in a single day. For companies in categories where there is a following or community on YouTube, I strongly recommend exploring that potential.2) Brand building is instrumental to Notion's success. It's amazing to hear from so many people that they see our illustrations on social media, or in stories about Notion and immediately recognize us. I'm lucky to work full-time with a supernaturally talented illustrator named Roman Muradov to create this identity for us. Brand building is the long-term investment that you need to continue depositing energy and effort into because it compounds over time and is what will end up differentiating you in your market. Short-term growth hacking tactics will yield short-term results but won't get you over most plateaus. Notion's Co-founder Ivan Zhao had created so much of the brand identity (and so much of it emanates from who he is and what he values) by the time that I joined, that I truly consider myself a steward of his vision and want to make sure we're continuing to show how we're building something new with a much bigger vision. We're on this mission as a company to make it possible for anyone to build the tools they need to solve their problems. Short-term marketing efforts are needed to fuel our journey there, but we need to keep continue talking about that journey and the destination.3) In terms of hard marketing skills, I highly recommend developing the quantitative muscles you need to understand how marketing initiatives are performing, how you can adequately test them to get real signal and iterate, and how you can turn the dials and pull the levers to move metrics in the direction you want. This is becoming extremely important across the marketing discipline - even if your core skill set is in writing. It makes you completely irreplaceable if you can both create assets and set them up for success.
thank you so much for your answers!
My interest is how to build a brand simultaneously to acuiring customers. I'm currently acquiring my first 200 customers for a start-up and have an imposed deadline for when this needs to be done. The company has no brand for the product, no assets, and no company tone of voice. How would you recommend I approach this?
Hi Telma! This is a good question. I completely understand the urgency to do both at the same time. After all, time is of the essence and it feels like brand and customers are both necessary. However, I think you have a pretty unique opportunity the way you've described it. Since you're focused on onboarding new customers now, you have the opportunity to learn from them in a more in-depth way than usual. And whatever brand you create can come out of those interactions and that learning. If I were you, I wouldn't necessarily try to pull off both simultaneously (I admit I don't know everything about your company, so this is a recommendation based on limited info). I would instead focus on providing the best darn experience to these 200 people as humanly possible, and spending a lot of time understanding their needs, wants, goals. How do they talk about the problem space? How do they talk about your product and the challenges it solves? Literally keep track of the words they use so you can echo them in your marketing materials. Mirror their needs back to them. Create experiences for them to share their feedback, and for them to see how their feedback has been used or baked into your product in effective ways. What kind of brand would they trust? What would the elements of it be? Where might they still have doubts and how can the brand you construct address these doubts? For instance, a theoretical product might still create doubt about security or privacy. The best brand would respond to these concerns. In developing close relationships with this cohort of customers, you can start to see the commonalities they share - which indicates the type of customers you can go after. At the same time, you can bring these early folks along on the journey with you - making it clear that you'll respond to their needs, apologizing in authentic ways for your shortcomings. These are the people who can and will become your advocates in the future. They'll help you attract even more people.An early group of customers can often be referred to as a "customer advisory board" - I remember writing an interesting piece on this for First Round featuring the wisdom of sales expert Pete Kazanjy. Perhaps worth checking out: the information you collect from your initial audience, you can develop a brand that responds to the needs, problems, concerns, and expectations of prospective market. I hope this helps!
Thanks so much @cricketts. A lot of your suggestions are things I'm currently developing (a steering committee, solid relationship marketing, and the brand will evolve with consumer feedback - which is a blessing). I should have articulated my question better, but a key barrier at the moment is knowing how to target my audience and get those first 200 people to speak to me. I've been testing channels (ads, cold calling, direct mail, emails) and haven't found the perfect combination which makes the subsequent brand development etc. quite tricky.
Hello @cricketts - I am so impressed by your background and the work you have accomplished. Thanks for sharing with us. I was wondering if you would be able to share where you put your focus on the marketing funnel. Do you have acquisition efforts tied to every step of the funnel or are you primarily focused on one or two stages? We're a lean org and I am trying to determine how to balance our efforts to drive the most value.
This is a really great question, Christy! We're so new in our marketing journey that we haven't had a chance to focus on all parts of the funnel yet. Since I arrived, we've been focused pretty mid to bottom funnel. We've invested a lot in community, which generally connected and helped existing users become even more engaged and skillful with the product. We spent a lot of time optimizing onboarding and developing user education for people who had signed up already. Now we're finally turning our attention to the top of the funnel (beyond our current social media efforts) with our first paid campaigns and leveraging content in new ways. So... I guess the answer is we've tried a little bit of everything and now we're poised to double down where we need to for the business. If you're determining where to place your focus, though, I would ask a few questions. Do you have healthy organic growth/traffic? If so, then I think you can focus your efforts on mid funnel which will allow you to test and patch holes in your process, shore up retention, and make sure future traffic you drive hits your goals. If you don't have this kind of traffic, then you need to focus on top of funnel acquisition - otherwise you won't have the numbers you need to run adequate tests at any point in your process. So I would run some diagnostics on your business and see where you net out - decide from there. Hope that helps!
This is so helpful, thank you. :)
Thank you for sharing your insights with us! -With the pandemic and lockdown, has your marketing strategy shifted at all? And with the 'new normal', how are you engaging with users?-What does your marketing stack look like? (thinking all things content, creative, campaigns, etc.)-What advice do you have for someone in marketing wanting to grow from a contributor level to management level?
Happy to help, Anita! Thank you so much for the questions. To answer each of them: 1) Our strategy has pivoted a lot - though mostly because Notion is a handy tool for remote work. As soon as lockdown set in, we rotated fully toward telling stories about remote work. We not only launched content about how Notion was useful for remote and how to use it as a remote team (a video and written posts), we also launched content about how to work remotely more effectively in general. We've observed how many companies are working from home for the first time, and the strong appetite out there for information, tools, advice, tutorials that will make this easier and keep companies better connected. There is strong incentive right now to learn how to do remote well, so if you can ride that trend you're in good shape. Even if your product isn't enabling remote work, perhaps there is some angle of it that can tie into this theme of teaching people how to do it well. Something to think about. One big thing that changed for us is that our community (a hugely robust marketing initiative for us) used to host a ton of in-person meetups that would introduce new people to Notion and deepen existing users' engagement. This is no longer possible, and it can no longer be our number one recommendation for how community members can get involved. We've pivoted to recommending virtual events, content creation, launching courses, and making videos to our community members - and we've tried to create content of our own to make all these efforts easier and more accessible. For example, we launched a site all about how you can run a business with Notion either offering consulting, selling premium Notion templates, and more.2) Our marketing stack is still relatively young. I joined a year ago as the first marketer, and most of the team has joined in the last 6 months. Right now, we're focused on community, content, design, and product marketing (which also covers social media for now). We also just hired an amazing performance marketer to rev up paid campaigns for the first time ever. We're running on LinkedIn right now after experimenting with newsletter and podcast ads. We've had a lot of success with video content in particular - our YouTube channel has grown from 0 to 40K subscribers since the start of the year thanks to this strategy. Over-indexing on really high quality design has paid off for us. Everything we launch has to be on-brand and beautiful. It's worth the extra time investment. And this has been possible because we have designers on the marketing team itself. Both of them are also developers, so that all assets are designed and built by the same two people. It's a hugely valuable (not so) secret weapon I recommend to other marketing teams. We're about to launch a bunch of written content geared toward user education. We also have a content marketer who is focused 100% on supporting the sales team with the enterprise material they need to generate leads and close deals. 3) My advice for growing into a leadership role is learning to (and being willing to) wear many hats. One thing that I think really served many of the people I've seen on this trajectory - they drive into things that they do not know how to do and they figure it out. They figure out how to do their own data analysis, they do their own lightweight graphic design (Shaun Young and I made all the graphics for First Round Review ourselves), they learn the tenets of SEO, they track how their content is performing and iterate based on data. They don't rely on other people around them to get all of this done, which is how they resist being pigeonholed. This can be hard to do at large companies where there are many people with specialized skill sets. So one thing I do recommend (very generally speaking) is spending a few years at a smaller company where you don't have an army of other people to rely on and are therefore forced to be scrappy and put on many hats yourself.Hope this is helpful!
@cricketts Thank you so much for your insights! We're actually in the middle of rethinking community and marketing -- this was very helpful :)
Hi Camille! What's one piece of advice you think is integral in building a career as a content marketer?
Very similar to the answer I gave above, I think gaining the quantitative and distribution side of this skill set is incredibly useful. If you are someone who can conduct audience research in a structured way that yields core insights about your brand, construct content strategy based on those learnings, write the initial pieces to manifest those learnings, and measure how they perform in a way that allows you to iterate - you're a full-stack content expert who will be invaluable. I would do whatever it takes to equip yourself with those skills - including training on analytics and marketing automation software.
Thank you! Are there any certifications you suggest as good flags you've done the work if you don't currently have the opportunity to do it in the office and want to learn?
I would check out the courses offered by CXL and Moz as a good place to start :)
I always like to hear about marketing’s relationship to sales. How can marketing help with a “too many leads problem”? Context: a few campaigns resulted in to too many leads. Some went cold. Any suggestions on how marketing could have helped with this?
Hi Amelia! Thank you so much for this question! I think there are a couple approaches to this problem, both on the marketing side. They both require focus on data. First, I would recommend investing in lead scoring. Either invest in something like MadKudu, or develop your own methodology. It's important that you can automate the elevation of leads that are likely to pay off. The other thing you can do is determine, again using data, where your highest value leads are coming from. Isolate each channel and run analysis not just on how many leads converted, but what value they yielded over time. I recommend starting on this early because it takes a lot of time to get signal on this. You also have to account for experimentation in every channel. One of the early hires I recommend for B2B is marketing ops. This person can keep track of the data across your customer journey and constantly keep eyes on which channels are working from a sales perspective. This is a very high level recommendation, but I hope it's a bit helpful!
@cricketts Thank you! This is SUPER helpful. I was just looking at a CRM that does voice drops and can track activity from emails to texts on a single dashboard, so I can see how this can work in real life. Thank you again!
👋 Camille, thanks for joining and well done on Notion! 👏I’ve got 2 questions: ☝️What are the top qualities you’re looking for when hiring for your marketing team that are besides the technicalities required for the position? ✌️could you tell a little more how you’re measuring communities and link to commercial success?Thanks a lot and good luck! 🙌Margaret
Hi Margaret! Thank you so much for the lovely words and great questions. Strong emoji game! 🔥☝️Top qualities I look for are 1) Strong writing ability - both their facility with language and ability to structure stories, 2) Grit - marketing often requires a lot of execution work no matter how senior you are. Can you write that landing page copy? Figure out how to make your own graphics? Schedule and conduct 25 customer interviews? It's a lot of doing. Not everyone can do that much doing. And 3) Generative creativity - Can they come up with a lot of hypotheses, or story ideas, or tactics to try on the spot (a good interview exercise). Marketing is often about a lot of high-volume testing, but to pull that off, you need ideas to test in the first place. Everyone on the marketing team at Notion is a great writer - including the designers. Cory and Sam could both write the landing pages they build if they needed to. Both of the content leaders on the team, Nate and Andrea, also make their own screenshots and GIFs to go along with their stories. They didn't bristle at this. Our product marketer, David, had never made a video in his life. Now the video tutorials he makes for YouTube get tends of thousands of views. He didn't blink when he was asked to figure out how to design the look and feel of these videos and make sure the sound quality was perfect. All of this has allowed us to cover a huge amount of ground in a very short amount of time. ✌️Measuring the impact of community is notoriously difficult. We haven't hit upon the best way to do this either since community manifests in a lot of ways - content, events, support, acquisition, retention. One thing we do is track how many people attend community-held events (now virtual), courses, and more. How many people watch community created videos, or use community created templates. It happens on a pretty ad hoc basis. We're not the best source of this information. I highly recommend checking out the resources created by CMX and Bevy (the most authoritative sources of community-specific advice).
Hi Camille, thanks so much for doing this! I’m starting a new position as the head of marketing at a VC and would love your advice on what to focus on (3-5 initiatives I should prioritize) during the first 100 days on the job. Thanks!
Congrats on the new gig! That's super exciting :) And in my experience, marketing for VC is one of the awesomest roles possible. SO much amazing variety and learning among brilliant, creative folks. In your first 100 days, I'd suggest: 1) Talking to as many founders as possible. Make sure they are representative across the categories your portfolio covers. Talk to founders who have just taken your money and founders who have exited. Talk to founders who your firm didn't choose to fund and ask about their experience. You want every company you speak to (regardless) to walk away with a positive impression because everyone is a potential brand ambassador. Tech and VC operate in a very small world. People talk. They pass along the people and firms they think are great. You want to be at the top of the list people would tell their friends to talk to. Meticulously capture the insights you collect from these conversations and see what themes emerge. Definitely ask all the founders you speak to where they are a) still struggling without answers b) nervous/what keeps them up at night, c) already certain about what they need to make it to the next step. If your firm can provide any of the things that come up, that's a good place to start. Determine what real utility you can deliver (even if it's fairly niche) and build out those programs. 2) Interview each of the partners at your firm to get a very detailed sense of their backgrounds, interests, what will make them feel like they are succeeding. What brands do they want to build as individuals and as a collective? You want to do both. Building a strong brand as a firm can help you weather generational change when partners move along or retire. But each partner needs to have something they are known for in order to cast wider nets for companies. You want to leverage their unique skills and interests as assets that could be potentially helpful for founders. All VCs these days say they want to roll up their sleeves and build alongside their founding teams. This is becoming generic. What exactly do your partners know how to do that will be relevant to what founders actually need? Depending on the types of companies your partners want to work with, figure out one channel for each that might help them reach the right people. Maybe one is better at events, one is better giving quotes in the media, or is better at writing long analytics posts. You want to match channel, strength, and topic matter. 3) Audit the firm's website and make sure it's telling a story that aligns with what you learned in steps 1 and 2 above. For VC firms, the website is of vital importance. Everyone who hears about you through any number of channels will end up there and use that information to determine whether they want to connect further. All VC firms' websites are converging into the same thing, so it's also one of the best places to differentiate. It's not that hard to stand out. For instance, if you look at First Round's homepage, it's actually a Q&A where they've captured a ton of their brand value and voice. They talk very directly about how they're different, they show how committed they are to transparency, they're very explicit about what founders can expect from them. What is your version of this? Invest in making your site a true calling card for what you stand for and what you can deliver. Then you can start experimenting with the types of content you think will best give founders the utility they need. Hope this is helpful! If I can ever be a sounding board or source of support for you, please reach out!
Wow, thank you so much for this awesome response! It's extremely valuable and I can't wait to put your suggestions to work. Thank you!!
Hi Camille,Thank you for volunteering your time to answer questions! I'm interested some tips/advice on how you keep up with the ever-changing landscape of both 1. Marketing platforms (i.e. social media, email, etc) and2. Current events (i.e. COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, Elections).Do you typically steer towards creating a message that is timely or one that is more "ageless" or withstanding time?
My pleasure! Thank you so much for your questions! I hope I can help. 1. Marketing trends change really fast - particularly social media and paid channels. Tactics that worked even last year already feel tired and ineffective. It's really difficult to keep up. Email hasn't changed quite as fast. Really huge success on social media definitely depends on being "of the moment." If social media is a major channel for you (and it really isn't for everyone), then I Would recommend hiring someone who can focus on observing and staying on the cutting edge of those trends. if you can't hire someone full time, try an agency. Social media is one area where agencies can do an even better job because they are so steeped in what's contemporary - their business depends on it. That's why all the major brands that nail it on social media rely on agencies (like Wendy's ;). To keep up with trends across other channels, I would recommend reading the blogs and listening to the podcasts that stake their claim on surfacing and understanding these changing tides. SaaStr and Openview are two good examples for SaaS. On the podcast side, GrowthTLDR and the Copyblogger Podcast are among the best that fit this bill. Hope that's at least a bit helpful! 2. Some of your marketing efforts should stay the course while others - those that are a bit more temporal - can be molded to fit the times. Content marketing and social media are the best channels for adapting your brand to respond to what's important to people. What's critical is that you remain authentic. Your approach to incredibly important issues can't ring hollow. Ads and emails can often fall prey to this. They don't give you enough to work with. They're innately self serving. Be careful that you don't co-opt a message for your brand's benefit. Social media allows you to amplify important messages - it can have value if used properly. Content gives you the space and time to express something meaningful. For the most part, you want your brand to be recognizable and consistent. Consistency and ubiquity are the two great strengths of any brand - that's how you capture enduring mind share.
Thank you, this is very insightful!
Hi @cricketts your background is super fascinating. My questions for you are:1. When targeting customers for Notion, how did you choose an ideal client and what market research techniques did you use to find out what your audience wanted from the product?2. When crafting a brand story, what elements do you consider non-negotiable? Thank you and keep killin it! 🙌🏾
Hi there! 👋 Thank you for writing in! To answer each of your questions: 1) From the very beginning, we were having hundreds of conversations every day with users. Some of the earliest employees at Notion were community support professionals who doubled as UX researchers, always taking the extra time to ask users how they were using Notion, what they wanted to do with the product, what could make it better for them, why they wanted a certain fix or feature. All of these conversations were tagged by topic, feature, type of feedback and piped into a database that made it easy to understand what the data was saying at 10,000 feet, but also made the real qualitative substance of users' comments available to read at any time. This constant research formed the foundation for the product roadmap and feature development. The numbers of tags would inform what to build next, and then engineers could dive into conversations to understand what was truly wanted and needed. Through this, we were also able to tag based on persona and use case - making it clear that early audiences to target would be engineers, designers, product leaders, HR leaders - and that our key use cases to delve into were wiki/knowledge base, docs and notes, and product management. Perhaps you could consider a system like this to cover more ground early on. Community support rendered a vital service while also producing this learning at the same time. 2) When you're developing a brand story, it's non-optional to have a deep, intimate, precise understanding of your audience, who they are, and the benefit they are looking for from your product. You also have to create language and clarity around what you do differently, otherwise there's no reason for you to exist. Lastly, you have to give your story a relatable protagonist - a customer that had a problem that was costly (that many other people have), but who was able to fix it and realize a lot of desirable value with your product or service. You have to get telling this story really dialed in with more and more recognizable customers as you acquire them. Products can either be vitamins or pain killers. Vitamins make life a bit better, more convenient, more delightful. Pain killers actually solve real, deeply-felt problems for people. In my experience, pain killers always win. You want to find a way to tell your brand story so it's a pain killer.
very insightful, thank you!
I have so many questions! Thanks for taking the time. Just a few: How do you measure progress and success in brand building? How have companies like Notion and/or First Round defined content marketing? As a content marketing consultant, I often struggle with just how broadly each client can view content marketing. Does it include all content created for external purposes? Just those for lead gen? What about customer retention? Does it include the marketing of the content or just the editorial operation? No right answer - I think every company has a different viewpoint and I'd love yours!
Hi Adrienne! Thank you so much for all the lovely questions! Measuring success with brand can be really tricky. Depending on your product, it can be really hard to attribute conversions to any one thing. Especially if your product has a high price tag and longer consideration cycle, your customers have probably been convinced by a number of touch points, not any one thing. So you have to ask them at some point what it was that convinced them or how they discovered you. That's one of the only certain ways to get signal on what type of brand initiatives are worth it. If you have a lower cost or free product where many people are churning through your user journey at all times, you have to look at what big movements in the data are telling you and get crafty about how to run experiments without any clear cut results. OOH brand marketing is a big example of this. There's no way to know if someone signed up for your product because they saw a billboard or saw your ad on a bus stop. So it makes sense to only launch OOH campaigns in one city at a time to see if results from that city are significantly different from elsewhere. Then you can generally conclude there was some impact - even though there are many other variables involved. With podcast advertising, it helps to offer a promo code or vanity URL where a reward can be redeemed to create some attribution. So my advice is to be creative where you can to get the data you need, but get comfortable with making calls based on qualitative and quantitative intuition.Content is a very big word that covers many things. It can refer to social media and video sometimes as well as written blog posts, ebooks, white papers. It can even refer to events unless you say otherwise. So you have to put parameters around it yourself. In my experience, content is a mix of brand creation and lead gen. You want some content to tell the bigger story about why your company and product is important and notable. You want some content based in keyword research that will drive top of funnel audience toward conversion. You want some content that will expand engagement of current users and push them toward more valuable use cases. To your last question, I do have conviction that content will only be successful if you're focused on both creation and distribution. If you concentrate only on editorial - then you'll probably end up creating a lot of stuff that isn't ideal for the distribution you need. If you focus only on distribution but not editorial, you'll end up with a lot of low-quality stuff that will erode your brand. It behooves you to have the same team of people working on both.
Thanks so much for your insight here, it's much appreciated!
Thank you @cricketts! Notion is one of my favorite products, and First Round is fabulous, absolutely LOVE their blog content. Do you have any advice for early stage startups who are trying to find and evolve their voice in their marketing/content? It can take a long time to make a dent in the content world especially, so it's often hard to tell when a signal isn't coming because we haven't been patient, vs when it's a sign to pivot and adjust. Any thoughts you have for these early days would be amazing!
Hi Emma! Thank you so much for the questions and the kind words :) Content marketing definitely takes time, so you should keep depositing coins in that piggy bank. It took First Round Review over 6 months to build any kind of notable audience (thank goodness they were so patient). At the same time, you want to make sure that the story you're telling is differentiated enough to break through. Content you create will not work unless it's connected to a brand that feels unique and necessary. There are some early signals you can pay attention to - qualitative evidence like people writing in to say how much they appreciated a piece, or occasional traction on social media. If you're not seeing these things, then it might be time to re-theorize how you're approaching content. The most successful content marketing is either very high utility or emotional resonant. You're either equipping people to do something that they really want to do, or moving them. The latter is harder to do for brands. Possible, but harder. Utility can be easier to look for to start. What do people really actually need to know how to do that no one else is adequately teaching them? What still stumps your users/customers? What do they not have adequate source of information for? Can you be that source that tells them how to do something that has stymied them for a while? Since you mentioned you're early, I suggest thinking through your positioning. Just like a company has to position its product in the mind of its potential customers (i.e. what it is, who it's for, why it's important), it behooves a brand to position its content in the same ways. Your content is a product that needs to be useful to a particular audience. I think I recommended this book somewhere in this AMA but I would highly recommend reading April Dunford's "Obviously Awesome." She prescribes a step by step process for positioning that can be used for both your product and content. It's brilliant and very short - like 130 pages. I read it on a plane and marked up the marginalia - it was SO transformative. I think it could be very helpful as you think through what type of content might have the impact you're looking for.
Hi Camille! It's wonderful to have you on. I run Community & Marketing at a pre-seed & early stage firm in Berkeley called The House Fund. I am new to VC (started in Feb 2020) and I'm continually learning the many applications and meanings of marketing in the world of venture.✨What types of content & channels did you find worked best for generating deal flow (directly tying marketing back to quality referrals) and what are your insights on how to measure effectiveness of marketing in VC? ✨Are there any strategies you'd recommend to build brand awareness for a VC firm, without having a huge budget?✨Lastly, as it relates to founder support, how did you select the most impactful topics to write about (or events to host) to help your portfolio?Thank you 🙏
Hey there and congrats on the (relatively) new gig! Sounds super exciting :) I hope I can help! 1) Content and events tended to be the most effective channels for deal flow. Content was helpful because it extended brand awareness, and events helped us cultivate close relationships (and capture referrals). A lot of people heard of First Round for the first time because they saw a Review piece on social media, or someone sent it to them. Content casts a wider net for you that can achieve some vitality. Social media gives content multiple lives. You can remarket your content in a number of ways via social media - across channels. Events of all sizes can increase your intimacy with people both inside and outside your current community. It also gives you more of a basis to ask people who else you should know and prompt them to invite new people into your orbit. 2) Building brand awareness in VC (in my opinion at least) is all about focus and differentiation. So many VCs are saying the exact same things on social media, on their websites, at events. They love to roll up their sleeves and provide real support. It's never too early to approach them. They really care about founder success and wellbeing. It's not to say that they don't. It's just that all these messages are starting to blend together - and when this happens, money becomes a commodity. To really stand out, you need to figure out what makes you different. It doesn't have to be huge. It can in fact be pretty minimal or niche. Maybe it's a type of expertise one of your partner's has, or a facet of your audience that is unique, or a specific variety of contacts you have that can help your portfolio companies. Do some digging to figure out what your edge is. That's the differentiation piece. Then there's the focus. If you're focused on just 1-2 things, you can generate a lot of expertise and value. Let's say you only focus on material science companies. Then maybe you know literally every growth stage firm that also loves material science. Maybe you know a bunch of academics who can help in this area. You're special at something. This is meaningful if you can achieve it. 3) Finding the most impactful topics was also all about differentiation. The best stories we wrote at First Round Review represented new thinking, or took a contrarian point of view. I think I put this in one of the other responses here, but in our prep calls with subjects, we would ask them to think about something they did that their peers didn't that actually made them successful. We would also ask about times when they tried something unlikely to work but it did. Our whole goal was to get to information/advice/tactics that were unusual or new that had proven to work. We were writing to elite operators who had a great sense of what had been tried already, or what was rote advice in their fields - they were hungry for new thinking, new things to try, cutting edge strategy. That's what we aimed to write about.
This is so helpful - thank you Camille!
I just want to say that I love Notion! It’s changed the way my team works.
Thank you so much Ananya! If I can ever help with anything, please send me a note at [email protected]. Consider me your customer success rep! ❤️
First "Thank You" for doing this AMA Camille @cricketts. Like everyone here, I am also a big fan of your work and Notion. I have a ☝️quick question :For early-stage startup founders wherein you are just 2 or 3 founders and have limited resources:"What top 3 actionable advice would you give to make a powerful/successful brand-building?"Thank you.
Hi Shalvi! Thank you so much for sharing. I've seen my share of companies at that size during my time at First Round. There are some differences if you are building something for enterprise vs. something consuming facing, but I'll try to make recommendations that will be relevant in either case. Generally speaking, if you're building for the enterprise, you want to focus early on a small cohort of customers who you learn from and make happy - they become your evangelists that help you carve out brand recognition. If you're building something for a consumer audience, it makes sense to invest in brand identity that is differentiated and memorable and get in front of as many influencers as you can. Here are the three things I'd suggest: 1) Spend the time on positioning your product. This means literally positioning it in the minds of your users as something they need in order to get a clear, significant value/benefit. I've now recommended it a few times in this AMA, but the best book possible to learn how to do this tactically is "Obviously Awesome" by April Dunford. It starts with talking to many of your users to methodically surface, capture, and learn from how they use your product, how they talk about it, and what they want from it. I also highly recommend this article from Arielle Jackson, who successfully positioned Gmail, Square, and dozens of other products: Create consistent style. You can change it down the road, but early on you want something that looks and feels unique. It might sound simplistic, but having a recognizable visual brand with distinct colors and aesthetic actually goes a long way, especially if you put it on everything. Notion has absolutely benefited from having a recognizable style with the black and white, pen and ink drawings, and logo that looks way different from the run of the mill startup. When you're consistent - you start to become ubiquitous - and you can make your company seem bigger than it is. Here's the best article I can recommend on this for very, very early startups from branding expert Leslie Ziegler: Identify the channels that are going to be the most meaningful for you early on. Depending on what your product is, it may make more sense to invest in social media, or content, or paid marketing. Where do your customers live online? Where do they discover new products adjacent to yours? Who do they follow and admire? What convinces them? How many touch points do they need before they make a buying decision? Once you have a clear sense of the answers to these questions, choose the 1-2 that are actually feasible for you and double down on those. Make those effective, then slowly hire people to take them over and explore new channels that open up. Hope this is helpful!
@cricketts Thank you for taking the time to do this!Do you have any tips for balancing time & resource vs impact when it comes to content?And are there any good ways to measure ROI when you sell low-volume, high-value products/services?
Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for the great questions. To answer each: 1) Producing good content is enormously time consuming, while also being very experimental and not yielding immediate benefits. It took six months for First Round Review to start attracting significant audience. Even when you're on the right track with content, it can take time to compound and reach enough people to make a difference for brand awareness. The best thing you can do is maximize your learning per unit time. Place bets that will actually give you signal on what works and what doesn't, and will help you understand your users much better. Don't place small bets. Take big swings based on concrete hypotheses. Do your customers want blog posts or white papers? Entertainment or tactical advice? Could quick social media posts do the trick, or do you need to invest in more production value? Try a bunch of things, but be rigorous about what you can learn, how you'll measure it, and the process you'll run to draw strong conclusions. A lot of companies try a bunch of different stuff without the process. They fail to adapt fast and end up wasting a lot more time and money. 2) When you're selling low volume, high value - you get to know your customers a lot better. You can track the lifecycle of deals from discovery all the way through bottom of the funnel. You should have a good sense of where all your customers are coming from and how they were persuaded. At some point in the sales cycle, you absolutely have to ask how they heard about you and what persuaded them. Even if a deal falls apart before purchase, try to get this information. It's some of the only signal you an get on which channels you should be investing in. It's extremely hard to attribute conversions of this type to content. People probably enter your sales motion after reading a few posts, seeing your brand in the news or on social, etc. No one thing caused them to pull the trigger. So you have to ask and then optimize based on the qualitative and quantitative feedback you collect. Experiment to figure out the best points in your user journey to ask.
Thanks, @cricketts! What questions do you ask and take into account when developing a company's marketing strategy, and how do you advise collaborating/communicating with other department leads to make sure that strategy is well informed, supports company goals, and that other department leads understand the role marketing plays in their success?
Hi Clare! Thanks so much for the questions! To take each in turn: 1) Here are the questions I would recommend asking as you develop your marketing strategy: - Who is your audience? What do they have in common? How might you segment them into cogent categories that you can reach/appeal to in the same way? - What problems do they need to solve? What pain are they experiencing? What is it costing them? What type of solution do they need? What benefit or value does the solution provide? - What words do your customers use to describe their problems and the benefits they need? Can you bake them into your own communications? - Where does your audience hang out online? Or in the real world? How do they discover products like yours? Who influences their decision making? How do they make decisions on what to use or buy? What channels will actually reach them with content/information that will be sufficiently convincing? - How many people do you need to operate these channels well? Use this to guide team formation. - What tests can you run to get the knowledge you need to reach your audience even more effectively? Start placing those bets first. Maximize learning over time first. There are many more things you can ask, but this is personally where I'd suggest starting to make sure your first activities are as informed as they can be. 2) It's extremely important for marketing, sales, customer support, and product to be in constant contact with a lot of connective tissue between them. You should be in each others' meetings. You should have point people on each of your teams responsible for keeping communication flowing and making each other aware of your priorities. Early on, I would say that maximizing your learning for marketing requires mobilizing sales and customer support to constantly pass along their conversations from customers so you can all learn from the same source material. This is of vital importance. Set a Slack channel aside for this type of knowledge sharing. Keep a repository of documentation from all customer conversations tagged to give you high level insights about what was discussed and learned. Involved all three teams in building the playbook for how to speak to customers based on what you have learned from them. To help other teams learn why marketing is important and contribute to your efforts, take the time to ask them (repeatedly) what they feel would make their own teams successful. Then connect marketing's goals to those things. Sales wants to close deals - they depend on leads driven by marketing. Customer support wants to minimize tickets and marketing can help them with scaleable user education. Product wants what they build to have tangible impact, so they need to equip marketing with the information needed to frame new features. Get inside their heads and goals and make it clear how you're useful explicitly for them. Suddenly your needs will get prioritized a lot more often :) Hope this helps!
@cricketts I have referred back to this multiple times in the past year+. Thank you so much for the thoughtful response, which both gave me ideas and some reassurance. Really appreciate it!
A big fan of your work @cricketts! What are the 2-3 things anyone who is looking to become better at storytelling should know?
The feeling is mutual, Z :) Here are my 3 recommendations for anyone who is looking to become a better storyteller: 1) Learn how to do audience research - Every good story comes from an intimate understanding of the people who are meant to hear and resonate with that story. What's important to them? What problems do they identify with? How do they describe those problems themselves? What pain and cost do these problems cause? Who do they relate to and respect - who would they emulate if given the chance? What do they want to achieve in their lives and jobs? There's a reason why a lot of the best B2B marketing advice suggests knowing how your customers get promoted - it's ideal if you can link acquisition of your product or service to their goals/success. Remember that everyone has emotional connection to something. Maybe it's their work. Maybe it's the role work plays in their life. If your software saves someone time, perhaps they get to spend more time with their family, which is what truly matters to them. Try to build a profile of your average audience member and make it very detailed. For many products, it's a good idea to gain this level of understanding about the customers that truly embrace what you're offering - your "best fit" customers. That way you can determine how people become these types of customers. It's worth making a list of these people and interviewing the one on one to understand their commonalities.2) Figure out what is new, differentiated, contrarian - People aren't interested in what they've heard before or things they feel like they already know. That's the problem with 98% of content marketing on the web right now. It's just a rehash of high-level advice and table stakes skills that people skim and think, "Yeah, sure, but then what?" The content that really captures attention is all about new thinking - what advances general knowledge for your audience? What is a tactic or lesson or anecdote that they have not heard before? It requires knowing what they likely are already familiar with. But that's worth it. Surprise them with a different viewpoint, or something that worked but wasn't likely to. It's something we really focused on at First Round Review. We would often ask out subjects, "What's one thing that made you successful that most of your peers do not do?" or "What did you try that worked even though you didn't think it would?" People read stories for the tension and the payoff. Finding the new and different introduces both. 3) Make it human - There are many studies showing that people respond better to advertisements that feature the faces of people. There's a reason for this. We're programmed as humans to rely on social proof that other people trust or have benefited from a particular solution. When we see other humans our brain defaults to relating to them. When you tell a story, be sure to include an example of whatever you are explaining in practice, as it has been used by or affected other people. Give the people in your story a name and real dimension. Make them easy to visualize and equip them with real human emotions as part of the story. Make it clear that what you are saying has had real consequences for real people - either good or bad. It will bring the story to life in a way that's very important. At First Round Review, we'd always ask about tactics, but right after that we'd ask for a real-life example of those tactics at work for all the reasons above.I hope that helps! Always happy to chat more about this.
Hi Camille!Thanks for taking the time to do office hours!I'd love to learn more about your time at the USDS. What took you from the private sector to the White House and what did you do in your time there?Thanks! :)
Hello! Thanks so much for asking :) It was a super weird but awesome interlude in my career that still has me totally inspired and hopeful despite everything that's been going on. The honest answer for how I found myself there: My colleague Lucy, who ran events and knowledge programs at First Round, had gone over there first. A year later she came back to CA to visit and basically said, "Cam, this is everything you've been looking for - it's so inspiring, please come join me." First Round very, VERY generously granted me a sabbatical for about 6 months to go do this. If they hadn't, it wouldn't have been possible. The thing that got me: All the initiatives USDS was engaged in with a strong social mission that I believed in. At the time, Obama was President, and the USDS was digitizing the immigration application, making it easier for refugees to relocate to the U.S., helping veterans access their benefits, powering broader access to health care. It was beyond amazing. I had to be a part of it, no matter how complicated moving across the country for 6 months was going to be. I can't stress enough how rewarding this work was, and how eye opening. I learned so much. The reason Lucy thought of me is because USDS needed documentation of their tactics that had made them successful catalysts for change. It truly was extraordinary how this one organization was able to go into government agencies and spur progress. There were so many learnings that enabled this, but they were largely unwritten. Given what I was doing for First Round, it seemed really consistent for me to document this type of process through interviews with the people doing the work. During my time there, I collected this type of knowledge and distilled it into an Operations Manual that (from what I understand) is still used to initiate new USDS employees and help them internalize what has been helpful in the past. I'd just like to say here - for anyone interested in applying technology for public service, this is an amazing opportunity. There are still folks in DC doing inspiring work right now, and they are always looking for help.
I love Notion's copy so much! What's been your favourite marketing/reporting project you've ever worked on and why? Did it come about organically or did you have to find it yourself?
The First Round Review will always have a very special place in my heart. First Round gave me the extraordinary opportunity to build something from scratch, shape its look and feel, determine which stories to tell and what our narrative approach would be. I'll be forever grateful. It's my favorite because I learned so much over the course of the 5 years that I was doing it and felt very connected to the content and the team (working with my writing partner Shaun Young was the best thing in the world). The Review ended up being a blend of organic and proactive learning. I got really lucky given First Round's access to incredible operators to interview, but I definitely learned so much more over time about how to interview people well, how to synthesize information, and how to present it in a way that would be uniquely tactical.
Hello! Nothing to ask just wanted to tell you that my team and I LOVE Notion. Keep up the fantastic work!!
Awww, Milena! Thank you so much :) Means a lot that you said that! 💖
@bettyc and @Rishraic asked some questions I'm curious about so I'm just here to fangirl and say I love your work. I hope to catch up with you IRL next year!
Thank you so much, Pooja! Warms my heart, and I hope my answers have been helpful! 🙏
Started using Notion early this year and haven't gone back since. 1) What recommendations do you have for early stage scrappy founders who are looking to build strong PR/marketing, but don't have much capital to work with?2) What is a good strategy for handling controversy?
Hi there! So happy to hear Notion is working out well for you :) To answer your questions: 1) Really good question! Tech PR has changed pretty substantially over the last several years. There's less bandwidth and interest in covering new companies. There's a lot of skepticism (which is healthy for the ecosystem - it just means less free coverage just because you've raised a round). In this environment, it's actually better be a founder running a DIY comms strategy than retaining a PR firm in a lot of cases (not all, but many). Reporters like having direct access to founders, and reaching out on your own can feel authentic. Still, it's hyper-critical that you tie whatever your company is doing to prevailing themes/trends/issues in the industry at large. You need to figure out how to make those connections in order to break through. If you can do this, then I recommend meeting with as many reporters as you can - not for coverage, but just to get to know each other and get what you're doing on their radar. Before COVID, we'd invite reporters to the office for lunch or coffee with the founders on a regular basis. When you know each other personally, it's such more likely a journalist will pick up the phone or reply to your email. If you can't connect what you're working on to something bigger that will get the media's attention, that's okay. It might actually be advantageous. You can rely on owned media (which is becoming a much bigger deal). Figure out what story you want to tell, create that content, and distribute it through channels that you know reach your customers. In this area, I would explore the potential of video (especially if your product has an interesting visual angle to it). It can be easier to produce than written content, can be turned into written content later, and allows you to make it personal. 2) This is a big question. It really depends on the nature of the controversy. Sometimes you want to harness controversy to generate interest. If you have a contrarian or differentiated point of view that resonates with people, maybe you want to play that up. If this is negative controversy - like you've made a serious error of some kind, or misbehaved publicly - you need to get ahead of it with a transparent apology, then move on quickly. Put your heads down and keep building. That's your best chance - listening, being open, and committing to provide the value your brand promised. It's key to move fast and be honest. I hope this helps!
How do you structure a marketing team for a small (~25 person) PLG startup?
Thanks so much for the question, Kat! Since growth is product-led, you want your marketing efforts to fuel that as much as possible. Here are a few ideas for you that come to mind: 1) Showing off the product and its benefits - Showcase the great design and value props of your product or service. Make sure your website, social media and ads case it in its best light. Make it look good. Make the benefits easy to understand and hyper relevant to the audience you're reaching. Requires good aesthetic sense and writing ability. 2) User education - Teach people how to get the most out of using your product. Equip them with best practice. Make sure they are using it optimally. You can use blog posts for this, tips and new feature explanations via social media, drip email campaigns post sign-up. If product is leading your growth, make sure the product really shines and that people have access to everything they need to have a good experience. 3) Advocacy resources - How do you turn users into champions? You need people who will sing your praises from the rooftops, and take it upon themselves to convert and orient new users. People will do this, but if you give them help, it will happen faster and be more effective. Consider the ways you can identify potential advocates (i.e. usage data cross-indexed with their Twitter following or influence within their companies), and then target them with email and content that will develop your relationship, make them feel special and closely networked with your company, and excited to share your offering with others.Based on these priorities, and given the size of your company, I'd recommend focusing on content and community first - and then perhaps considering marketing opps/performance next. Cover those bases with one hire in each area of expertise and then double down as needed. Content will help with all three of the initiatives listed above. Marketing ops will help you measure their effectiveness and iterate. Performance will help you with distribution. I hope this is what you were looking for!
Love Notion! Question, what advice would you give your 21 year self now?
So glad you love Notion :) Here are the things I wish I could go back and tell young Cam: 1. You have so much optionality. If you find yourself thinking you could never get a certain job or meet a certain person or do a certain thing, interrogate that conviction super rigorously. At 24, you can go learn to do anything and many people will be willing help. 2. Taking great care of your body is not something to postpone for later. The sooner you learn those habits, the better you're going to feel for longer. Also, don't underestimate the connection between physical well-being and emotional well-being. They are dominos standing right next to each other.3. I remember having a lot of self-limiting beliefs - like "Oh, I'm not qualified for that" or "Yes, I want to do that thing, but where would it take me?" Before age 30 is the time to try things that seem scary, or maybe even illogical. Do the things that you love, that inspire you, that you can't get out of your head, that you find yourself working on or thinking about even when you're tired or outside of your main work.4. I wish I had taken far bigger risks earlier in my career. The stakes only get higher as the years go by, and suddenly you find yourself unable to make a radical move or explore something very different. You have too many responsibilities, or your experience has become too specific and focused. Early on is the time to be an energetic and ambitious generalist and get a lot of exposure to many things.
Hi Camille! I'm a senior college student and I'm curious- how do you get buy-in from stakeholders and agreement on important value metrics?
Hello there! Thank you so much for the question! It's a good one. As teams get more mature, the more decision making modalities you end up needing. It helps to create protocols for yourself around all kinds of different types of decisions. For instance, here at Notion, anyone on the marketing team can ship something if it's easily reversible. We're constantly needing to experiment with landing pages, ads, emails, etc. A long chain of approval would stymie learning. For less reversible decisions, like materials created for big launches, videos that will represent the brand for a long time, etc., it's helpful to have a defined review process where you have designated exactly who the stakeholders are, what roles they can play, and what authority they have. You may have heard of the RACI framework - where for a project you can define who is responsible, accountable, contributing, and informed. I think that's a good model to use for weightier decisions.You can apply this to building support for value metrics. Just make sure you've set clear expectations about who's involved and how. That way no one will be surprised, and those that disagree will be more likely to commit once they understand the mechanics of the decision. As for persuading people to adopt metrics you think are right, it really depends on how people like to take in information. I know founders who are more likely to agree when you create a doc stating your position clearly with supporting data. I know some who like to debate and often arrive at a different conclusion than they had initially through conversation. It's worth talking to your manager (or others involved) about what their preferred method of decision making is so you can approach them from the strongest foundation.
Thanks for all these wonderful tips!