Effectively Using Learner Feedback with Marie Poulin

The founder of Notion Mastery, Marie Poulin, knew she had caught lightning in a bottle once she started to get messages from people telling her they would pay real money if she released a course teaching Notion.

There were a number of challenges to work through before and after that point. Growing a dedicated audience while already running a business, getting through the first iterations of the course and figuring out what people needed and the best way to teach them, figuring out what to charge for the content, and hiring new people as the business grows.

Each of these topics comes with a lot of nuance, like how do you incentivize people to actually leave you feedback instead of just never showing up again? How would you go about growing an audience? How do you know when to hire someone? And how would you make sure that they're a good fit?

All these questions and more are answered in this episode of the Badass Courses podcast. Hear from Marie Poulin how she successfully started the business and used constant iteration through learner feedback to design the course!

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Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Joel: So I'm really. Curious to talk to you about notion, mastery and notion in general, and particularly using notion as a course delivery platform, like a course on notion makes a lot of sense to me, like notions, you know, want it's a blank slate, so you can do whatever you want in it. So some sort of rails in which to write.

Learning new topics

[00:00:16] Joel: To use it as a effective platform makes a ton of sense, but a course about notion that is delivered through notion. Now that's really quite fascinating to me. First, before we dig into all that I was wanting to ask you, how do you personally approach learning new complex topics? When you sit down to learn something new, what's your general strategy or approach?

If any, maybe you don't have one.

[00:00:41] Marie Poulin: It's pure chaos

[00:00:42] Joel: I like that.

[00:00:43] Marie Poulin: chaos and obsession. I'm like, okay, who do I know that's talking about this what resources do I already have? What have I collected? That's related to this? What books do I have? I go a little nuts. Deep diving on it. And just I want to consume everything all at once.

I'll often hire at least a couple of coaches or other people, and I just immerse myself in it. And one nerdy thing I like to do is pick a couple skills to learn each quarter. So I'll be like, okay, Q1 hiring, I don't know anything about hiring and delegating and management. That's going to be my thing.

And so I'm like reading all the books and just having conversations with people to like, who knows about this stuff and what can I learn about it? So I throw myself into the deep end

[00:01:19] Joel: Do you go to Amazon and get like all the five, five star review books? Or do you have constraint in your library? Acquisitions.

[00:01:26] Marie Poulin: I actually think I'm, I lean more maybe toward personal recommendation.

You know, mastermind groups or slack groups or whatever I'm like, who has a really good recommendation in this area or sometimes Twitter. But yeah, I'd say reaching out to people that I already know that I hold in high esteem that would have some

Hiring coaches

[00:01:40] Joel: Somebody that's like already an expert or partially an expert, or has an interest in the subject matter. I also like the idea of hiring coaches and I think people often don't consider that we grew up with teachers, but like the idea of hiring a personal coach to more efficiently learn a new skill is really it's been effective for me anyway, like to get over that initial.

What is going on in a new domain.

[00:02:01] Marie Poulin: Absolutely. Yeah, I'm a huge fan of coaches, just coaches and experts like you know, I've mentioned before I've hired a instructional designer and just people that know their stuff and can shortcut that learning big time. So I'm a

huge fan of hire the experts. Speed it up.

What makes a good teacher?

[00:02:16] Joel: W what do you think makes for a good teacher?

[00:02:19] Marie Poulin: I'm sure this is going to be personal preference,

[00:02:21] Joel: Yeah. Yeah, it is totally, that's fine.

[00:02:23] Marie Poulin: I think a really good teacher is someone who can create a safe space to learn where you don't feel like an idiot, even if you're learning something really complex.

So do they leave room for exploration? Do they, you know, foster engagement, do they bring something dynamic and interesting to the content?

Cause there's lots of people teaching the same stuff online, but I think often people's delivery style can really connect with you in a different way. And I do think there's room for a lot of different types of teachers. But I do like to think about, you know, how does that teacher show up energetically? What are they bringing to the table? Are they keeping my attention? Because, you know, short attention span, especially when you've got ADHD. So I'm like,

let's get to the point. Let's go. How do we keep this? Interesting.

[00:03:01] Joel: It's always a wave too, right? Cause you have to go in depth, but also keep it interesting. So it's like the push and the pole and the cadence of a good teachers is really hard too. I think the safe space for exploration, where you're almost encouraged to fail somewhat as has been something I've seen important to where it's not just lecturing you with the answers.

It's like you go out there and. Do some stuff and figure it out also as important part of the process and a good teacher to me would know,

[00:03:28] Marie Poulin: Yes. Getting you to, think differently.

[00:03:31] Joel: yeah, exactly. Let you make your mistakes, but then examine them and the feedback cycle and that sort of thing.

[00:03:36] Marie Poulin: Absolutely.

How did Notion mastery come about?

[00:03:37] Joel: So notion mastery, isn't your first course online and you've been doing this for awhile.

What. Turn the corner and decide this is the subject matter that I want to explore for a longer period of time. When you sat down to dig into notion

[00:03:49] Marie Poulin: there was this guy, Joel, at this mastermind that

I was at

[00:03:54] Joel: it's my fault.

[00:03:54] Marie Poulin: Okay. So at the time I was already playing with notion. I was, you know, chatting about it, talking about it. I was getting a little obsessed about it. And I think you had said, this is a lightning in a bottle moment. You just, you need to start a YouTube channel and you need to double down on this.

And I. Experienced that tension and resistance. And I was like, do I want to be known as the notion person? Is that my legacy? Is that where I want to go right now? And I thought. Fuck it. What if I just tried it? What would I lose to just try this as a chapter? Let's double down on this for a little bit and see how it goes.

And so I think, you know, part of it was your encouragement. You just said, I think there's something here and you pointed to it and just said, do the YouTube thing. I was like, all right, screw it. I'm just going to try it. I was terrified, but I thought. What do You got to lose to just try it for a couple months?

Anyway, so I made the commitment that I would do a YouTube video on it every week for 12 weeks and right around the same time, I think I had just done like a one-off notion webinar that caught notions attention. And so ended up partnering with them during their office hours. And so basically for those 12 weeks, it was a live event for notion. A YouTube video. So I think it probably felt like my face, like I was just always out there talking about notion. And so it didn't take very long. It was like a three month stint that it felt like I went from being relatively quiet on the internet to like, oh yeah, you should talk to Marie. She's the notion girl.

So it took on a life of its own that I wasn't really expecting. And then it didn't take long before people were like, if you make a course on this, I'll give you money. Like people were actually telling me that and I thought, okay, There is something here and there's attraction that I had never experienced before with any of my other courses.

And I thought let's just let's see where this goes.

Youtube strategy

[00:05:28] Joel: You mentioned YouTube. And I'm really curious because I have a, I've struggled personally to ever really use YouTube in a way that made sense to me. And I'm wondering, you know, how did you get into that? And did you have a strategy going into YouTube other than, you know, you should really post some videos on YouTube, which, you know, maybe we all should, I don't know, but.

[00:05:45] Marie Poulin: Yeah.

[00:05:47] Joel: How did you get over that or get into that? I should say.

[00:05:51] Marie Poulin: It was very difficult. Like definitely making certainly editing videos was not a skill set that I have, but I had


[00:05:57] Joel: technical aspects.

[00:05:59] Marie Poulin: Yeah. What do I edit with what I record with? I just, I didn't really know much about it, but I thought, you just have to start somewhere. There's no way you're going to get good at something like. Try. And I had done a a a hundred day video challenge before that was me trying to get out of my shell a little bit and learn how do you actually edit it when you're just using your phone and you don't have any fancy equipment, like just use what you've got. So that was helpful for just getting over that initial hurdle. There is something scary. Of course, when you make a piece of content it's available for however many people and notions got a huge audience. So even just putting a couple of crappy videos out there, they were getting. You know, a huge amount of hits very

quickly. And people being like your hair is ratty or just making

Video ideas generated from questions in comments

[00:06:37] Marie Poulin: But it was like, oh, this is a whole new world. Like not everybody is nice on the internet and you're going to have to grow a little bit of a thick skin. And so I just. I can't even explain it, but I just thought it's more interesting to me if I want to make an impact. And if I want to teach people, I'm going to have to get comfortable doing this. And this is going to be the best way to do it. This is where notion users are looking for their answers. So get over yourself and put some crappy first draft videos up. The comments are what start feeding. The idea is oh how did you do X? And I was like, oh, actually, that's a really great question. Suddenly it feeds the content engine of, okay, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to need to teach this and you can start to see how there's just so many opportunities for content creation.

When you just put a F you know, first couple of videos out.

So there was no

Dealing with haters

[00:07:22] Joel: comment section is a double-edged sword. It sounds I there's at some point where you have to ignore the detractors and that's often easier said than done, how were you able to do that? Were you able balance the, the good versus the evil nature of the comment section?

[00:07:38] Marie Poulin: Definitely. Yeah. Like I think when you start to see that you're actually helping people to me, that's that feeds my soul. When I know that I've done a thing and someone's holy crap, thank you. And you just solved the thing. I've been banging my head against the wall. That to me is very motivating and it's way more motivating to know. I'm helping 10 people for every, or maybe even a hundred people for every one or two people that are like, this is too slow or too confusing or whatever it is. So you just learn the cadence and you start to learn how to approach things with a bit more Polish and you just get better every single time you do a new video.

[00:08:10] Joel: How do you think the YouTube channel, are you still doing that practice? Was that something that

[00:08:15] Marie Poulin: I only did six videos last year, so I.

[00:08:17] Joel: So you've found it. Download.

[00:08:19] Marie Poulin: I've toned it down mostly because I've been focused on the course and it

takes a lot more time, I think to make a polished lesson video, for example, than it is to just do a YouTube video. And maybe that's just my own my own issue with that. But it feels like a YouTube video needs to I don't even know if it takes more time necessarily, but because it feels like this evergreen piece of content. But it gets a pretty big audience. You want it to be more polished where course videos, I can switch those up easily, but it's once it's out into the ether on YouTube, it's there. So want to put more care and time and attention to make sure it's really well placed. So maybe I'm scrappier in the course that I am on YouTube.

[00:08:54] Joel: I think one of the interesting things on YouTube is to go if you look at prolific, You tubers and trace back to what they're currently doing, where they have the, you know, they have lighting behind them and plants and it's a nice set or however they approach it. But like when you trace them back and look at their early videos and watching the progression of folks on YouTube, it's really interesting because you, it generally goes from that scrappy.

I'm editing this on my phone into now I use Adobe premier and, you know, I have practical lighting and set design and that sort of thing. I think it's fascinating to look at that progression. I'm also curious, like with YouTube and the course, how did that practice or the content even that you're making feed or fuel the course?

Was it almost beta or research for the, what eventually became the course or is there less of a distinct relationship?

Relationship between youtube and course

[00:09:43] Marie Poulin: I think I started the YouTube stuff in late August. And I think I had launched the pilot of my chorus by late October.

And I didn't have, I didn't have course content ready, but I said, Hey, I'm going to make a course on this. We're going to do live calls every week, if you're interested, join here. And I pre-sold it.

Using live instruction as testing grounds for content

[00:09:59] Marie Poulin: So I didn't, and I was very honest about the fact that I didn't have content created, but you are going to co-create this with me. Like I'm going to build it based on your needs when you show up in. And the calls, I'm a big fan of doing live first, that then you turn into the polished lessons. So any chance where you get to interact with people and just see where that confusion is, I think is incredible. So I'm a big fan of doing those pilot live work, like workshops,

something first, you know, do a webinar first and then you can go feed it into the course and Polish it. I think I was probably getting most of my traction, maybe on Twitter. Definitely a little bit of YouTube. And then by the time I launched the course it made about 10,000 in the first week of not having a very big audience, just Hey, if I made this course, would you be interested? So when it sold with no email funnel, no, like hardly anything I thought, okay. There's something here with very little effort. I was able to make $10,000. Okay. What if I took this a little bit more seriously? And so it took, I'd say it probably took five months to go from. Complete beta non-existent course to like having a course that I could remove beta from and actually sell it. So I definitely took some time and the whole, while I'm still making YouTube videos too. So the YouTube videos and comments were feeding into the course and stuff like that. But when I look at my intake form of people joining the course, it was like 80% found me through YouTube. So it was definitely a huge driver to the core Salesforce.

[00:11:17] Joel: Yeah, that makes sense. How did you launch the first course? You did the workshops and I'm assuming that was I don't know if that was webinars or how did you sell tickets and how did you get people actually to come and show up? What's your approach for that? Cause I think people use different systems for that sort of thing from just PayPal me or, you know, like Venmo me the cash or, you know, are you using a platform to, to achieve that?

Or what were you using

Initial launch services

[00:11:41] Marie Poulin: the first time it was just Gumroad it was just a, yeah, it was just a Gumroad. Check out here. And then I invited them manually into my notion workspace into my own like personal notion workspace, which is hilarious looking back. And I think we did that for the first hundred people.

And I was like, okay, this is not sustainable.

Like I'm literally manually inviting people in. And so it would be like, hold on, you know, like you sort of feel like you're always on call with your notifications. It's not really a great user experience. It was fine for the beginning while it was just testing the waters. I was like, okay, we need to figure out a way to better automate this and moved over to thrive cart.

And then got an enterprise account with notion which allowed me to be able to give people a team login code. So they actually become a member of the space as soon as

they click on that link. So that was. Th one of the technical moves that we made to make that process a little bit easier. But there was no

launching or there was no formal strategy.

There was no like funnel or anything like that.

[00:12:34] Joel: Just just in time finding what you need and applying it based on maybe recommendations or just even looking around. I did that recently and just asked what people would use and we're using tally for forms

[00:12:46] Marie Poulin: Yeah. Tallies on.

[00:12:47] Joel: Your recommendation. And I think that's a great way to do it.

Cause it feels I don't know, especially with a new product, if you aren't launching. On a monthly or semi-annual basis, which I don't think most of us generally are like, there's always something new, right? Like the state of the art is always different. So you have people in there coming into your notion space and it's your personal notion space.

This is where your journals are. And you know, like I've seen you use notion in a very kind of robust way that I think is.

[00:13:13] Marie Poulin: Yeah. Yeah. There was like a course page that lived in my space. And so suddenly even when you're adding names to other pages on your space, every possible guest comes up. So I was like, okay, this is a bit untenable to have these folks in my personal space. So we definitely had to make the move and get a, an official notion space.

That was an enterprise account. That's separate from my own personal business account and had to switch that over. So there were. Anyone who joined in the beginning, cause probably seen a hilarious number of iterations. So it's oh, now we're on this thing. Oh, now they're using tally. Oh, now they do feedback forms every week.

Oh, now they're doing live workshops. Like we've definitely continued to evolve it. And I have to say it doesn't really feel like. Oh, there was like a point like course finished and now we're moving onto to next phase. I think I can't help myself. Like I want to make it better. So we're always revamping I'm sure.

For some people that probably feels quite frustrating. They're like, oh, like it's never the same, what I log in, but that's the nature of the beast with also notion changes their features really frequently. And

it just kinda is what it is. So we're always trying to figure out like, how can we make this process smoother for people to move through it and get what they need.

Paying for the Notion space

[00:14:18] Joel: So I think it's interesting that you use the enterprise approach versus like something like member spaces. I think that is it member spaces or other approaches and what was the, was it cost or features or what had you think about notion enterprise in terms of. Approach.

[00:14:35] Marie Poulin: one as an ambassador that does a lot of. Events for notion and that sort of thing. It doesn't cost me anything to have an enterprise account

where it would like most, it's not really tenable. I think for most people to actually run


[00:14:47] Joel: it's not too bad. It's two 40 a year or something. So if you're priced accordingly, I think you could probably pull it

[00:14:52] Marie Poulin: but it's per member,

[00:14:53] Joel: remember, but I if your course was priced, you know, I was wondering actually, I, that I was curious mostly because I, you know, you charge $750 for your course and if you're paying $250 per seat, and that would be, you know, cost prohibitive, but as a perk of your ambassadorship they allow that.

And I think that's fantastic. And one, you know, you're out there really doing a lot of work for them. So it's well-deserved right. Yeah. It's not like some sort of special it's like you're actually out there. I work in and spread the word about their products. So that's a good business sense on their part too.

[00:15:21] Marie Poulin: Yeah, in terms of choosing that, I think partly it was. If I'm teaching a course about mastering notion. I w I want to show, I want the actual experience of taking the course to be part of the education itself to

see. Oh, shit. I didn't know. You could do that with notion. Oh, whoa. That's interesting.

I thought actually, how far can I push the platform in terms of what can we do in terms of online teaching and. Having a forum, like we used to have a forum that was actually built a notion before we moved to circle. So there's things like that, that, okay. What is notion good at? Where is it limited that, you know, it evolves over time, but I think it's just a really interesting, there's no difference in the interface between an admin and a student.

Like we're all looking at the same page. I think that makes content updates really easy. The linking system, just being able to add, mention other things really easily it's easier to manage then a tool like member space, for example with just the sheer scale of lessons and content and resources that we have with member space, there was an element of locking and setting up links.

That was just that extra beat. It just took a lot more time to set these kinds of things up. We still have lots of clients that use member space for smaller resource libraries and things like that. I think it's really great, but I just really wanted to see if people actually taking the course could be a little surprised. How easy or how beautiful it could be to create these interesting experiences.

[00:16:42] Joel: I think it's also really cool because I think one of the, one of the challenges in teaching anything is the separation of the educational material with the environment in which you learn, right? Like even, you know, like where you have to have stuff on one monitor and another, where if you're learning notion in notion, it's like, there's the practical aspect of being able to be right in the environment where you're learning.

About the environment that you're currently learning about. I'm a big fan of metal spirals. Like I

[00:17:07] Marie Poulin: Yeah. I love

[00:17:08] Joel: Eat themselves. It's pretty fantastic.

[00:17:10] Marie Poulin: Yeah. And I one of the weird things too, we had to figure out what as well they're like reading about it and learning about it, but then they also have their own workspace. And so we did, one of the things we did in the new version two is encourage people to have those new windows, have your own notion workspace open in one window, have the other space open.

Here's how to switch quickly between the two and just encouraging people to build a long as they're watching. So don't just, you know, watch passively actually have your own workspace open and make some time for it. Yeah. There's all sorts of quirks about it, but I do think it's just an interesting approach. I think I think there's other people doing courses on notion. I don't think most of them are actually hosted in notion. So I think that's interesting.

[00:17:47] Joel: Yeah. I've only seen a couple of different courses, period that are hosted in notion whether they're about notion or not and shift to nudge. I don't know if you've ever seen that. Matt D Smith. He does it, his in notion, and that was the first time I personally experienced it. And I was like, this is really fantastic, actually.

Like it just removed, it just removes a bunch of technical hats. With the platform of the delivery platform for a course. And I don't know that it's appropriate for everything. And it does lack features, like you mentioned, you ended up needing to go to circle the community platform for forums or whatever for that sort of communication.

And it's interesting to me because you've in the past, you've participated in and built and ran a company that was a learning platform,

[00:18:28] Marie Poulin: Yes.

[00:18:28] Joel: in that.

[00:18:30] Marie Poulin: there, done that.

Rolling your own platform

[00:18:31] Joel: What's a good reason to build your own bespoke full-stack course delivery platform. If there is one that is there, I don't think that was really your goal. Cause you weren't, you did not build that platform necessarily to deliver your own courses. Is that correct? That was

[00:18:45] Marie Poulin: we were, it was to help us with client work

because most of our clients were people that were running platforms and none of the platforms were meeting the needs at the time. I think so many other platforms have come out even since we first launched Okey back in the day. But at some point I think we realized. One that, oh my gosh, the customer support for a $29 a month product is infinitely bigger than for a thousand dollar training program. It's just such a different experience as a creator. I don't know how Ben handled those customer support and just people being rude where it's, it could be an error on their end where like my Zapier's not working.

I hate you. This company is terrible. And I'm like for $29, I just, my little heart can take


[00:19:29] Joel: pretty good.

[00:19:32] Marie Poulin: Your whole business runs on this platform and it's making you money. And so anyway, there were parts of that, just it wasn't super fulfilling to be on the software side of it. I'm sure there's lots of reasons why it would be a really great idea.

And if you're building it to deliver your own custom materials, and that was your primary motivation, cause you're like none of the platforms out there are solving this unique need that I have. Great. But I think. I'm not a programmer, so I don't have, I don't have the skillset to be like, oh, it's worth doing that build. But I, I saw the time and effort and energy that goes into that, building it, maintaining it. And it's hard for me to justify that it would be worth customizing your own unless your company is a training company. Like I could see if that's your core a core piece of what you deliver then maybe that makes sense.

But who has a lot of work,

[00:20:15] Joel: Yeah, I've spent almost a decade on it. Of course delivery platform as my primary job. And I'm always like, if people, I don't want to build my own platform and I'm like, if you really want to, I think that's a great thing and you should pursue that. But maybe just make sure that's something you really want to do because

[00:20:28] Marie Poulin: Or, you know what you're

[00:20:29] Joel: to let yeah.

It's often easier just to use a service, right? Which is why they exist. Though, I can understand also why people wouldn't be satisfied with the current, and I think that's what you did is more, it's more bespoke too, because you're taking things that exist and combining them in new and interesting ways.

And then, you know, like dealing with the access and that kind of stuff. So there's like you lose some of the bespoke onus of it, but it's a constraint at the end of the day for the design of your community and your delivery and all that fun stuff. Probably not the most important, I don't know.

It's all important at the end of the day. In the beginning, you were the instructional designer, the, just the designer and chief, of all the things, wearing all the different hats for how your approach to that. And how has that contrast? Cause now you collaborate with instructional designers and have built a team versus that solo thing that you were doing upfront.

How has that changed? How you think about notion mastery?

Having a team

[00:21:22] Marie Poulin: I'm so grateful for my team. Yeah.

I've been working by myself for 10 years. I've been know. Proprietor, mostly even when Ben and I worked together, we're pretty much working on our own projects. We're

very independent people with our own creative whims. And just, where does my energy today take me?

And it was very chaotic and creative and amazing, but then. Key things don't get done or, you know, balls get dropped and that sort of things like I'm not the details person. I know I'm more of the creative visionary. So I knew like ops was somebody like I needed an operations person as my first hire for sure.

And so even in that first selling the course I think I hired Georgia pretty quickly on contract to help me cause I'm like, oh, I need someone who can invite the guests in manually. And there's just all these moving parts and pieces. And I very quickly saw, okay, I'm able to get by with this right now, but this is not going to be scalable for me.

There's just no way. And the part that's fun of course, is making the notion content or like showing people what's possible. But if I'm busy, you know, answering customer support and just connecting up zaps and like that, you know, that's your soul leaving your body there. To have Georgia on hand and for her to handle stuff so much more quickly, I can't even describe the relief that I felt when even just bringing her on part-time. And so I think it took us. Maybe a year of working together on contract and every month I was like, how about more hours? How about more? Would you give up your other clients? And just getting more and more of her time and building more trust. And just last year it's been. Been almost exactly a year that George has been my full-time ops person. You know, she's the ops person for Okie dokie. But really the majority of her work and time spent is notion mastery related stuff. So it's really around our signature product. And then husband left his full-time job just a month or two ago. And so he's back at the company. And then just today we hired our first. I guess we're calling her, our chief learning officer. So she's going to be responsible for designing trainings. So it's definitely evolved over time as we're just noticing the needs as okay, what, where are these sticky points? Like, where am I feeling really stressed or where what's fun. What's not fun.

And I think it's been a big priority of our tiny little company that everybody is working. With their best skillset, like the stuff that Georgia loves doing, she gets to do and can't believe she's getting paid for it. And same here. I'm like, I can't believe I got to make content about this and get to connect with these incredible people around the world.

This is a ridiculous job. I can't believe I made this job for myself. That's how I want it to feel or optimized for, of course, there's always going to be stuff that we don't want to do. But so in, in figuring that out, it was like looking at the stuff that where am I dragging my feet? Where am I, you know, resisting stuff like what's being difficult. In the redesign of the course and knowing that there were gaps and I was leaving people behind, it was going too fast or, you know, moving too quickly. I was like, I'm actually not the best person to teach beginners. Like I'm so advanced. I love pushing the boundaries of it. That it's really hard to be like, click here to add a new entry to like, this is not

And I'm a very, I'm a very patient person and I love helping people, but I knew that in the material, I was just leaving so many of those gaps. And so whenever I just noticed there's a gap where I'm like, this is not excellent. I know that I'm leaving people in the dust. I. Figure out, who do I need to hire to get that help with?

And that's where I was like, okay, this has been too difficult to put what feels like this massive nebulous, so many moving parts, so many pieces of content. How do you distill this down into a course? When you know, you're going to have teams of 10 joining one person, that's like a lawyer, like literally people from all over the world, every background and every intention, do I need to niche more like there were lots of questions. I'm like, how do I distill this down into something that's digestible? So working with an instructional designer you know, the first thing they do is they force you to get back to who is your ideal student? Who's the best

[00:25:09] Joel: Yeah, they started asking that question.

[00:25:11] Marie Poulin: It's every time you always go back to who's the person that you're trying to serve. And that is still difficult because there are so many different people in ages. And I love that. Interesting patterns emerge and you start to develop for those patterns and even noticing there's a gigantic percentage of people with ADHD in the course.

And I was like, oh, that's funny. So many people in the course of ADHD, I didn't know I had ADHD at the time, but I was like, oh, that actually makes a lot of sense because people are watching my YouTube videos and being like, she thinks the way I do.

So that was a really interesting insight. And being aware of that then allows me to fill those gaps and say, okay, what if I brought in cat, who has a background in adult learning? To actually deliver the beginner office hours, then she. She just knows better how to meet someone at that beginner level and can pace herself in a way that is a little less chaotic. It's been a process to figure out what's, You know, who are the best people to make this up, but night and day, like there's no way I would have been able to like triple, triple our revenue, as soon as you bring on one team member okay, wow. What a difference it makes when I have someone handling ops and it's not up to me, like I'm not that person that's not where I should be spending my inner.

[00:26:18] Joel: You mentioned that you took a quarter off or one of your learning goals for a quarter was hiring. And I think that's interesting because hiring is a challenge. And it's something that when you don't get it right can be like a huge crush on you and then you're affecting people's lives. And how do you approach hiring and finding people to fill these gaps in your.

Hiring criteria

[00:26:38] Marie Poulin: This is such an interesting question because I, I don't, even though I learned about this stuff, And there's all of the rules that you should follow around. It are best practices. I know at the end of the day I still go rogue and I, this person just feels

energetically like the right fit, right? Yeah.

Like I just, I, when I connect deeply with someone and I see a skill set and I do think that's, that is a strength of mine is seeing other people's gifts and seeing where we can plug in and where there's potential. I, what I know now is I need to vet that by Ben. I need to vet that by Georgia. It needs to be a team decision.

Now it's not just like Marine passively has fallen in love with this person because I always fall in love with people. And I just want to bring them in and be their best friends. And,

you know, that's my tendency. I need to take a beat hold on a second. Let's vet this person and make sure do we have enough work for this person? You know, can we make a role for them? So usually I start with the person first, but there are, of course oh, marketing is a gap right now. So I'm keeping my eyes peeled for someone that could fill that gap for me. So it's a combination of just who am I network is showing up or who in the course is shining as this amazing contributor.

And I'm like, Ooh, like Kat has a way with the way she speaks, just participating on office hours. I was like, I want to collaborate with her.

[00:27:50] Joel: Oh, so cat was hired directly from, as a student to a collaborator. I think that's wonderful. That's one of my favorite ways to see somebody that's actively doing the thing that you need and then being able to lift them into the role. And

[00:28:03] Marie Poulin: And she shared a course of hers in the forum. It was it was called elevate your elevate, your online presentations or something like that. So how to be more engaging on zoom, how to present, how to speak. I was like, oh, this woman that whenever she speaks, it there's so much clarity. She doesn't use filler words.

She just has a way in a confidence on camera that I was like, I don't know. Could I Take some of that from you. It's amazing the way that you, that she shows up. And I thought I want notion masks. Training and even our videos to have that level of quality. What could that look like? If I brought her into co-deliver training or to even just actually deliver training on my behalf, maybe I don't even need to be there for all of those trainings.

What would that look like? So just keeping an open mind and just tuning into where have I been wanting to up the quality. Okay. See somebody showing up in that way. Let's bring them into the fold. Let's collaborate first and then slowly harass them continuously until they agree to take on a full-time job.

[00:28:56] Joel: I follow that playbook in the past. Actually, I think it's a pretty good way. I'm not, you know, and I agree in like now when I can ask somebody and bring other people in, because I get very enthusiastic very quickly. And, you know, I know in my heart that sometimes my enthusiasm wanes also, so like I have to balance that and having like other trusted collaborators that you can go to and get feedback and curb your enthusiasm a bit,

[00:29:18] Marie Poulin: which sucks because you're like, no, you don't understand. This is the most exciting thing. And they're like, hold on, simmer down. And I'm like, it's difficult,

[00:29:26] Joel: Yeah, hiring people. Can't be a hobby. I think that's the that's the key takeaway for me is that you can't, that isn't a hobby. It has it's, you're affecting other people. So it's unlike other things that you do it's something that you have to take back a

[00:29:36] Marie Poulin: What can I ask you? Based on, there's obviously been some similarity in our experience there, but are there some takeaways that you've learned? Okay. Now I know this about hiring. This is something that I always do every time, or are there any sort of just general lessons learned that you

[00:29:49] Joel: The bigger, the ambition, the harder it is and the harder it is, it's like anything, right? Like it's like this iterative approach. And if we don't take the contracts to higher approach where we work together for a period of time and make sure that it works it almost has never worked out.

Everything that's worked out best for me has been. Okay let's do this project. It's going to be fairly small scale and lately my, for the last couple of years, it's the, I pay people to do. Discovery engagements, which is if you're a consultant it's recommended that you do paid discovery engagements, and I've taken like full classes on how to convince your clients to pay you for discovery engagements.

And I take the opposite approach. I'm like, if that's a good idea on that side, like it's probably a good idea just to pay people to do discovery engagement. So I will literally hire them and pay their consulting rate to come in and do hourly stuff and see how that works out. And then at the end of that, we get a deliverable.

So when. Whatever that is their best suggestions and the, you know, or, you know, we fixed things along the way. And if that works out, then it's let's do this. And if it doesn't, it's like nobody. Nobody loses. Like you haven't, if it just doesn't work out or you just quietly part ways, which has happened more than a few times that's fine.

It's not a bad outcome and there's no major trauma in anybody's life. When we do it that way and everybody gets paid and, you know, we get to collaborate for a period of time and I like that. Yeah. Otherwise we, I kinda also, cause I've got up and down in the amount of folks that we are collaborating with and trying to find the equilibrium and you know, it's like you said, I can't do, is there enough work?

Is there enough of this kind of work? Can they actually be happy here? Can we support them? You know, like when you're talking about long-term collaborator, it really gets more and more complex, I think too. So that's been a challenge for sure. His notion mastery going to be like your flagship going forward, or do you have plans to break that down?

Cause you talked about niching and I'm wondering, you know, like at what point it's here's the course, that's the UN you know, and this isn't a drag on you, but often mastering is in, in a course title. And it's what does that actually mean? To do that. And then the niches are different.

There's different verticals and domains and different skill levels. And are you going to divide that up as multiple products or you. Expand outside of notion for your and what you teach or

Branching into new products

[00:31:58] Marie Poulin: there will probably be like, Ben for example, is working on more of the team-based content because just inherently using notion as. Versus using it as a small business where your whole life and businesses integrated are very different use

cases, even from first principles, like how would you set up your databases and that sort of thing.

So we are definitely in the process of separating that out a little bit and figuring out what is notion for teams or notion network? What does that look like? And then cat is probably going to be developing our train, the trainer programs. How do we actually make people who can go to a company. And train a company together because we worked together like I'm sure you've you can probably get this. We've had people hire us to build their spaces for them. And it's very difficult to get buy-in if we do the build. So if the person is not participating in the build, they get freaked out and their team members are afraid to break stuff and they just don't use it or they use it wrong or they don't watch the train.

Like it's a heavy lift to get a full team on board, unless those members are all like super excited and stuff. If they're getting dragged in to learn this new thing, like, why wouldn't we just use Google docs? It's really hard to get buy-in. So what we're finding or what our sort of strong opinion is, do not outsource your build, get someone internally, or get a trainer to actually take the time to train up your team.

This is a process. It shouldn't be just a weekend thing and set up your space and you're good to go. It's a process to get your team onto

notion and using it really effectively. So that's, there's a big opportunity there too, that we're like, okay, could that look like.

[00:33:26] Joel: I think the team dynamics, almost everything we do lately, it's like, how does this affect teams? Because I think most of us are trying to work on teams in one way or the other, and there's exceptions to that. But I think we're, you know, we're in a very team oriented society as far as our work goes and.

You're so absolutely right. Like the CEO edict. Okay. We're using notion now stop using Google docs, get into notion on Monday, Maria, set it up for you. So just use it. Okay. That doesn't work. Nobody will do that. It lasts a week and then they're back in Google docs or wherever. And there's no it's so important at a.

Organizational level to get in like the grassroots campaign, what's in it for you. Like why should I bother? What is this? You know, Google docs works fine. Here's how we can set up your space. Here's how we can set up your workflows and like identifying the kind of same workflows that work for everybody and how they communicate.

And that kind of thing is that's huge. And frankly, I think a lot of modern knowledge management is always, it's always framed in the person. And there's this organizational knowledge management. And there's probably been a lot of, that's why we have so many bad products. There's when Microsoft teams and JIRA and you know, like the full Atlassian suite and Salesforce and all these kinds of tools that are built at these monstrous tools for orgs that are like every, everything for everybody, all the time kind of situation.

I dunno, I think there's something better for teams out there. I think notion actually works really great for us as a team. So that makes sense.

[00:34:47] Marie Poulin: Yeah,

I was always impressed by your sort of shared, like how transparent you were with the team and sort of felt like you guys were growing this shared knowledge hub together. And I thought it was more transparent that I think a lot of companies are willing to be for some reason.

[00:35:01] Joel: I keeping stuff stashed. Yeah.

[00:35:03] Marie Poulin: Or locked. Yeah,

God forbid, should our other team members have access to those notes or something like that.

[00:35:08] Joel: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't even have any personal everything I have is pretty much open to Mike, my team. I don't open it to the world, but I'll open it to my team like that sort of situation. So how has how has the actual people taking your course affected the course over time?

How have they driven change and feedback from them? It sounds like a lot considering you're hiring folks out of your course to actually help continue the course, but.

How has feedback shaped your course?

[00:35:33] Marie Poulin: Yeah. And I've hired, you know, three, four people in different ways contract and otherwise, for sure. So I've had people go in and edit. I've had people come up with solid ideas and stuff like that. So hugely for sure. And I think part of that is partly being a people pleaser, maybe a bit of a perfectionist, just like I'm a quick start.

Like I launched stuff really quickly, but I also do have this, I do want this to be a super high quality product. I care because also when you have. There's 1700 people in there, like that. That's the biggest product, the biggest audience I've had for a product that I've made in terms of you know, online courses and stuff to some people, it might not be that big a deal, but.

I'm like, holy crap.

That's 1700 people that paid me that money for that. I need to show up. I need to make sure that they feel like they got what they paid for. And so it really matters to me. So people are stuck and they're filling out stuff that says, Hey, I was really confused by X or You know, I feel like this was missing X I'm like, Ooh, okay better go back.

And either add that or rethink that. And that's really important to me. So getting good at accepting feedback, I think when you're a teacher and get a good getting good at discerning, is this just this one person? Weird edge case, or is this actually a problem on a bigger scale? Because not everybody that has a problem with your content is telling you as well.

So discerning that as a whole process too. And then how do you incentivize people to give you feedback and not just, oh, be disappointed and then peace out. It really does matter to us. So in the beginning, I didn't have any followup sequences through email. There was nothing that was sort of, Systemized in that way to collect that feedback.

So it took a while to get all the processes in place. And that's what having Georgia you know, my ops person in place to do. That was huge. So now we have even just a simple check-in form. I think that goes out after six weeks. That's Hey, what? What's challenging you with the course right now, how can we make your experience better?

Just anything goes, and then what's a win that you had this week. It doesn't even have to be course related. Just how can we celebrate with you?

And strangely enough, those simple questions have been a gold mine for even just, oh, Okay. I ideas for improving content realizing where there's gaps in that sort of thing.

So that's, it's super important to me that the course does deliver on its promise and that it feels like an industry standard course. I don't think it's there yet, but that's where I want to move with it and make

it fricking excellent.


[00:37:40] Joel: my last question is pricing. And what's your decision-making in terms of pricing. And I think one of the interesting things with. Chorus pricing is when it's priced. I think you've you know, it's not inexpensive and it's not cost prohibitive and it really depends on how you're using it if it's worth it to you.

So I think that the pricing it gives a good amount of buy-in, but then you also don't make a, it's not like a buy once, get it forever. And it's also not a subscription, which I thought was interesting. And I don't think I've seen that happen a lot where it's like a non-recurring annual fee to, to participate.

[00:38:13] Marie Poulin: I think part of that too. The course still feels like it's in progress. Like we're still evolving and iterating on this new version. So we've never actually expired anyone. So even though it's buy the course, get it for 12 months, we've actually never kicked anybody out. So anyone who even signed up two years ago is still has access to all the new materials.

And some of the early people wouldn't have even had office hours. So the fact that, you know, some people would have paid 300 bucks for the course and two years later, I think we did 128 live events last year. So even though it's technically a self study,

there are so many different live events that we put on to, to make sure that people can get what they need. So in the beginning it was what, 2, 2 97. I didn't know, just through, through a random number out there. I'm like, are people willing to pay this? And I think after a hundred people, I was like, okay, let's increase it to 300. Okay. There was no change in people signing up. Okay. Let's add another a hundred bucks, no change at all.

In the number of people that were signing up, I thought, okay it was clearly underpriced at some point

and we're also making improvements, right? So to me, it's, you know, certainly an art to know how to price things and even comparing to similar quality of courses. You know, what is another X week? Number of sessions and the type of delivery model and just sort of comparing what are people used to paying in these different industries for software, that sort of thing. It feels like a. Okay, intuitive, chaotic guests.

I've had people tell me I can't afford this it's way too overpriced.

And I've had people be like, this is ridiculous value. And you definitely need to increase the price. You know, to some people it's going to be under-priced to some people it's I'm not quite there. So I'm sure once the new curriculum is finished, we'll probably change up our pricing model again.

[00:39:48] Joel: Yeah, it's always a good time to reevaluate to when you have a major update and see what the, what the market will bear. I also think that there's the idea that you can provide discounts. You can always provide discounts, but it's hard to charge people more. You know what I mean? If you, you have a course and it's X dollars, you can't be like, for you it's going to be several hundred dollars more than that.

[00:40:05] Marie Poulin: right.

[00:40:05] Joel: Where the other ways is people will generally appreciate it and you can have systems like we do purchase power parody to

[00:40:11] Marie Poulin: yeah, parody.

[00:40:12] Joel: yeah. We're, you know, globally. We know we don't use anything sensible, like parody bar. We built a bespoke system just for us. I don't think parody bar existed when we made it, but it's great.

Like it, it just picks up where you are and gives you a discount based on global purchasing power. And I think that kind of thing is great and, you know, like student programs and all that, and you can always do that. But we've tried, you know, it's if you're an enterprise, we're gonna charge you more.

And you know, if you want team features to then, and I've seen that around and I've never been very happy with it. And pricing is very difficult. It's it's

[00:40:40] Marie Poulin: I like that you brought it the parody thing too, because I've always sort of had this, that charge enough to be generous. Being generous is an important part. Like I love being able to for someone who's been saving for a while and, you know, sends a really lovely reply to an email newsletter, I've been like, Hey, I know that you've been, this is you've had your eye on it and money's tight and here's. Copy of the course or whatever. Like I've definitely given the course out for free to people or to, you know, giving out scholarships and parody pricing. So that's important, but that also means we still need to keep the lights on and pay the team. So finding that balance that you can build that generosity into your pricing, I think is pretty, pretty cool.

[00:41:15] Joel: Yeah. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your course on a material level. Cause it's helped us. And we, as an organization had been using it to just up our own game. And so that's a lot of fun and I know it's helping a lot of people manage the chaos that our lives are in this digital age.

[00:41:32] Marie Poulin: Appreciate it.

[00:41:33] Joel: yeah. Thank you so much for hanging out and chatting with me.

[00:41:36] Marie Poulin: Thank you for great questions. Cheers.

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