Exclusive Q&A Featuring Jon Brenner, Head of Lifecycle Marketing at Notion


Will Pearson

We sat down with Jon Brenner, Notion’s Lifecycle Marketing Lead, for an exclusive Q&A. Grab some down-to-earth advice for email marketers and a sneak peek into the collaborative strategies fueling Notion's intentional yet rapid growth.

Jon talks about what sets Notion apart with a look behind the curtain on one of the world’s fastest-growing startups. Plus, he delved into the pivotal role of email marketing in their success. And here's the kicker: Scalero is part of the secret sauce!

What inspired you to join Notion?

I joined Notion in early 2021 when we were just under 100 employees. I was coming off of a pretty wild 5-year ride at Dropbox, where we went from a private Series C startup to a public company, scaled the business to $1B in ARR, and grew the team to around 2K employees.

I was itching to get back into building mode and was jazzed to join Notion because of the unique product- and community-led growth models, the brilliance and humility of the founders and teammates I met during my interviews, the prospect of joining a rapidly growing company with a lot of hard problems to figure out, and honestly, the fact that I was planning my wedding in Notion and was addicted to feeling like a productivity guru for once in my life.

What separates Notion from its competitors?

There are two things that really stick out to me about Notion:

How many companies can say their product is best-of-breed and all-in-one?

Our users love us because they don’t have to do the thing where they’re spending their days bouncing between dozens of tools and apps instead of focusing on actually getting their jobs done. Managing a project or roadmap, creating documentation, organizing team knowledge, and hundreds of other use cases happen in Notion. And they’re all connected and talk to one another in delightful ways.

Also, in the past, if you were working with a connected suite of tools, it most likely meant you were compromising on design, /UI/UX, or functionality by not choosing the best-of-breed tool. Not the case with Notion. We have an advantage in that our CEO is a designer by background, so everything we build and bring to the world has to ooze with craft and polish. It’s a huge part of our culture, and it’s what makes the product feel like such a treat to use!

Notion is ubiquitous and universal

On a more philosophical level, our mission is to make tool-making accessible for the masses. That means Notion is a piece of software that can be tailored to do anything for everybody. Whether you’re a student organizing your class notes, an individual planning your vacation itinerary, or a team at a company trying to do your best work, Notion can help solve your problems.

There are even fascinating overlaps and flywheels between these things — the student who loves Notion in college joins a company and advocates they start building their team’s workflow into Notion.

The team leader who used Notion at startup A brings it into scaleup B. The employee who was at first skeptical of using Notion for work ends up having a positive experience, and realizes it’d also be great for organizing their family’s weekly dinner recipes. And on, and on, and on.

How does email marketing play a role in Notion’s success?

If you think about what I just said in the section above, how is somebody possibly going to understand how to use a product that’s infinitely flexible and connected unless we’re helping you along that journey and tailoring it to you and your unique goals.

Lifecycle marketing has continued to be an important growth and educational lever for our Notion and our users because we’re the team communicating the right information at the right time to the right user. And we’re doing that through synchronized email and in-product experiences. So, all the communication a user receives is complementary and self-reinforcing.

How do you leverage Scalero, and how has it made a difference in your business?

I like to tell people that Scalero is our secret weapon. They’ve acted as a true extension of our team. At Notion, we grow very intentionally, which means we run a pretty lean operation in terms of headcount. But our ambitions and goals are that of a company orders of magnitude our size. So we’re always trying to figure out ways to do more with less.

We rely on Scalero to get us there, whether it’s something really technical like implementing a new privacy management software or something strategic like helping us figure out how to stand up new channels or growth motions.

Or sometimes it’s something as simple as asking, “Hey, how would you recommend we do this thing?” and getting a trusted answer from people we genuinely enjoy working with every day.

What advice do you have for email marketers?

Three things (plus a bonus):

Get closer with your Product team.

This should be a strategic partnership, not a transactional one where you just ask them to build you things. Work together to build joint user experiences that reinforce one another. That’s when this stuff starts to feel magical! (And once Product sees the magic, they’ll probably be more compelled to build cool stuff for your team anyways).

Figure out how to enable other teams to do email self-serve.

There’s a natural thing I’ve noticed where the Lifecycle teams want to be helpful, so they start focusing on inbound requests from other teams who want to leverage email. You help them, they get a win, and everyone is excited!

But what tends to happen is: the team you just helped sees the win and naturally wants to do more with email to get more wins. And then a different team notices, and they also want to do email and get wins for their team. And this loop goes on. If you don’t get ahead of it, your team can’t do the work they set out to do, and you’re left running a request or service center.

The more you can “scale yourself” by enabling other teams to follow your processes and inject your learnings and ethos into how they work, the better chance you have at a scenario where everyone…wins.

Share more user insights back to the business

My take on Lifecycle Marketing is if you’re doing this job right, you’re running a high-quality, high-velocity experimentation engine. And with every experiment comes learning. But learning is meaningless in a vacuum.

To combat this, one of the highest leverage things you can do is synthesize all your learnings from proving or disproving your hypotheses and broadcast them back to stakeholders who would benefit from knowing your users’ psychology better. AKA, everyone. This creates insights flywheels within your company, where you’re helping other teams build and market the product more precisely and scaling your impact far beyond what one Lifecycle team can do with any given experiment result.

Bonus. Work with Scalero:

No, seriously. The only way we’ve been able to do all the things above and more is because of our partnership with the Scalero team. We throw them really complex things we want to enable, and they don’t bat an eye. And it’s because they’re like an extension of our team and know our setup, team, and goals. They’ve supercharged Notion’s Lifecycle Marketing team.

What should the world know about Jon Brenner?

I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. The liberal arts education in me loves the mix of art/science and quant/qual that comes with this type of work. Feel free to reach out if any of this resonates and you want to chat or learn more!

This is part of Scalero’s exclusive Q&A series with industry leaders. Please contact us if you or your company would like to be featured.

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