How Marie Poulin went from designer to Notion Mastery community founder

We continue our Rosieland Community Interview series with Marie Poulin founder of Notion Mastery.  Notion Mastery is a hybrid course and community that is “perfect for individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, our flagship Notion training will help you master your life and business workflows with Notion through live-training, courses, office hours, and an active and supportive community.”

This interview dives into how Marie went from an interactive designer to course creator and community founder, what it takes to run and build the Notion Mastery community, and lessons to share with future community professionals.

Getting to know Marie Poulin, Founder of Notion Mastery

What’s your background and how you found yourself in community?

I’ve studied design, permaculture, and design thinking + innovation.  I initially worked as an interactive designer and helped entrepreneurs and small companies develop online brands, interactive experiences, digital products, and eventually digital strategy.

This work naturally evolved into deeper more collaborative partnerships with my clients such that I took on more responsibility and began to really get to see behind the scenes of more highly scalable products, many of which had online curriculum and community elements.

I began to develop my own expertise at the system-level, gaining a deeper understanding of all the moving parts involved with scaling online programs, from the customer experience perspective to software and technology, marketing systems, and to community building and retention.

After years of working with clients on their product ecosystems and communities, I wanted to try building one of my own.

The community I’m currently leading is part of a hybrid course/community called Notion Mastery.

What do you wish you knew before embarking on your community journey?

I wish I would have known how much the community would shape the curriculum.

I wish I had known about codes of conduct, community management, and setting expectations.

I think it’s also important to be aware of how much weight there can be to feel a sense of always being “on” and available to the community, so personal boundaries are really important!

What would you do differently if you had to start your community career/ journey over?

I would have liked to have done a little more work up front to define the culture of my online community, as well as put some community management principles in place.

It’s one thing to have a vision for what you think your community can become, but it’s another to be really intentional about the culture. I would have done the work to put some of those documents and expectations together from the beginning.

Understanding the Notion Mastery community model and growth

Tell us about the Notion Mastery mission and 'superpower'.

Our community mission is to foster curiosity, exploration, and participatory learning in a digital environment that feels “safe to fail”; where budding Notion users can ask questions and express themselves in a supportive environment that gives them access to both Notion experts and helpful community members who are eager to share helpful approaches and perspectives..

We pride ourselves on answering tricky questions (both technical and philosophical) thoroughly and thoughtfully, so students know that it doesn’t matter how simple or complex their question may be, there is someone ready to provide encouragement, support, and direction with kindness.

We know that feeling like a beginner at something can be intimidating, and we do everything we can to ensure that students know that wherever they are in their journey they are supported!

What tools and technology do you use to run Notion Mastery?

We use Circle as our primary community tech, with many supporting tools. Here’s the full list of tools and software used to run Notion Mastery.

  • Loom for screen sharing to share challenges or answers to questions
  • Notion for hosting curriculum
  • Wistia for hosting videos and workshop replays
  • Cleanshot for sharing beautiful screencaptures
  • Descript for video editing
  • Tiny.url for sharing and tracking links
  • Thrivecart for payment processing
  • Wordpress for website hosting
  • Dropbox for sharing files and hosting data in the cloud
  • Canva for creating graphics
  • for forms and data capturing, like onboarding and feedback

What’s the business model for Notion Mastery and how did you arrive at that decision?

Our community is just one aspect of our educational program, so there is curriculum, templates, live events and workshops, and community.

We had experimented with selling the course separately from the community, but ultimately we believe that the community is an essential aspect of the learning, and we felt it was doing students a disservice to make the course available without it. It’s also much easier to manage to have everything integrated. We went through a few initial pricing experiments before landing on our current business model which is a single price point for the whole integrated course and community experience.

The course and community access expires after 12 months, so this will be the first year that we’re offering ongoing community access for a small additional yearly fee.

Tell us about community growth in Notion Mastery

What did you find worked well for bringing growth to the community?

Since our community is so heavily connected to the curriculum, we have focused more on the journey of mastery more so than the community. One of the reasons we’ve done this is that the folks that embark on this journey are not necessarily seeking community; they’re looking to get more organized and productive.
So we focus on selling the journey to mastery, and the community ends up becoming an unexpected delight.

The two biggest things that have worked in terms of growth are: Creating Youtube videos teasing concepts that are taught within the course, doing guest podcast interviews, and doing low-cost public workshops and webinars designed as lead magnet for the course.

What types of community generated content (CGC) worked well?

“Showcase” content works really well: inviting students to share what interesting things they’re building, either with screen captures, Loom walkthroughs, or Youtube videos.

Biggest lessons and what’s next for Notion Mastery

Tell us about your biggest lesson in community and what’s next

Communities are not set it and forget it. You have to nurture them, listen closely, and be ready to adapt with the needs of your community.

There are also different “seasons,” so things might feel differently at different times in the year, or during different launches, or depending on the vibe of groups of people joining at one time.

Be ready to listen to the unique needs of each season.

Share one large failure in community building, and what you learned.

If you don’t define your community culture, it will get defined for you, and you may not like where it goes!

One example of this is we experienced some tension around how one of our community members was replying to some of our students (rudely and sarcastically). I had some expectations I hadn’t expressed or codified, and I made assumptions about how people would behave within the community.

I realized I hadn’t done a good job of defining our values and expectations in a way that was publicly communicated and visible… aka, I didn’t have a well established code of conduct, for both students AND our team! I wish I’d done more research on that before.

Managing a community means making tough decisions and enforcing boundaries when there is poor behaviour.

What's next for the Notion Mastery community?

We’re always experimenting with new conversation channels and ways to create engagement that feels easy and helpful for our students, and we want to do a better job of highlighting the unique things our students are building.

We’ll also be initiating the new ongoing membership renewal system.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Marie and the Notion Mastery community journey.  

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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