How Notion built a $10 billion SaaS company with a community-led growth strategy
What is community-led growth?
Community-led growth (in the context of software products) is a go-to-market strategy that emphasizes on the creation of a customer community that is highly engaged and helps the business grow by providing regular feedback about products and services.
Community-led growth can also be thought of as being an extension to product-led growth with the important difference being that a company can start building the community well before the product is set to be launched. This helps the company engage with prospective customers, understand demand for the product and can help the company start building network effects early, which would be very useful in helping the company grow by leaps and bounds in the future.
Why has community-led growth become popular?
Software is moving at a faster pace than ever before in history, and customer churn has become a serious issue for companies. With the meteoric rise in new products, customers flock to a newer product that solves their problem better or offers better customer service. Thus, customer engagement has become more critical than ever before.
Building a community is a great way to engage customers. Moreover, a community does not have to be directly related to the product and often, the community is focused on a role or persona for example - Sales Leadership Community, Product Marketing Community, Developer Relations Community, etc. A B2B SaaS Marketing technology leader like Hubspot which is heavily focused on marketing may want to launch a community where marketing folks can interact and engage with each other.
A community can also share ideas with each other and help increase brand advocacy and evangelism. Community members often discuss their problems and together can come up with joint solutions or optimizations to problems. Thus, community-led growth can improve brand advocacy, customer engagement, help the company get product feedback, and reduce customer churn.
How Notion built community
So how did Notion build a community that helped them grow to 15 million active users?
Notion built a Reddit community with 155k users where members ask questions about the Notion platform and other members answer questions and earn karma points. Notion's Reddit community also rewards members by giving them power-ups and making them "Community Heroes"
Notion created templates for the various org functions like engineering, product management, design, HR, sales, etc. which pulled in early adopters with those backgrounds.
These early adopters customized the templates to make them more suitable to their use-cases, and shared it with their co-workers and communities, which in turn brought in more users creating a viral-loop!
This strategy was instrumental in helping Notion achieve network effects early on. Notion's templates can be found here
Notion has a very popular ambassador program where they invite their top fans to become ambassadors and support them in various ways (creating online courses, etc.). The bar to become an ambassador is high which makes it competitive and in turn gets more users to join and participate, thereby creating a viral loop.
However, it is important to not get too carried away with these strategies especially when you're early on in your startup / company journey. What worked for Notion at 10K users may not necessarily work for you at the start. Thus, it is important to test one strategy at a time.
How you can implement a community-led strategy for your product
The most important to nail down when you're implementing a community-led strategy for your product is the goal for the community. Following are some examples of community goals:
- Sharing knowledge
Communities can be used to share knowledge about a topic and while this is often applicable in the context of online learning, it doesn't have to be limited to academic situations. For example, a community of marketing professionals can have a goal of sharing knowledge about the best marketing practices currently applicable in the industry.
- Feedback and Idea generation
A community can exist for feedback and idea generation, especially in the context of startups and innovative companies. For example, a startup can create a community to get feedback about its products and services through member upvotes.
- Referrals and network effects
Referrals are a great use-case for a community as well. Top community members can refer members from their network and in turn be compensated by the organization that controls the community.
- Customer acquisition
A community can be a very low friction way to acquire customers. Members would want to join a community to learn from and network with other members and this would be a very easy way to acquire new customers because people love socializing and engaging. Once the members are active in the community, they would organically try the product if it appeals to them, and this would be an easier way to acquire them.
- Customer engagement and retention
Customer churn is a big issue for several companies. Especially new-age companies that are growing quickly. A community is a great way to increase engagement because as mentioned in the previous point, people love interacting and engaging in a low-friction way. Several SaaS startups use this strategy to keep their customers engaged.
- Improve productivity of support staff
Lastly, a community can also be used to improve the productivity of the support team. This usually takes the form of a knowledge base for customers where they can search their problems and queries and do not require human intervention.
Once you've figured out your community goal, the next step is to build a Minimum Viable Community.
Minimum Viable Community
That being said, one of the first steps you can take is to build an engaged Minimum Viable Community (MVC) which will give you feedback, and help increase your reach by bringing in more members once you make them happy by solving their problems.
We have written extensively about creating an MVC when you're just starting out, you can check it out here 👇
Minimum Viable Community
Hope we have convinced you of the impact that a community-led growth strategy can have on your business. If you'd like to build community for your company, do check out Casa.
Casa helps you achieve community-led growth for your startup. We are a community platform and provide all the tools you will need to build a community even before you launch your product / service and right up until you have thousands of community members and beyond.