Marie Poulin, digital strategy expert and founder of the popular Notion Mastery course, joined Foster’s Stew Fortier to discuss how she productizes her expertise. Below we’ve compiled some of the key takeaways.
For more interviews and insights like this, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Marie confides that it’s surprising how many people get caught up in projects that aren’t a good fit for them. She shared a personal anecdote about the software she and her husband developed together:
“We'd been putting so much time and energy into building a software that was $29 a month. It took up the most of our time and attention, was the least exciting, took a crap ton of energy, and it wasn't giving back to our business.
So, it actually helped inspire the question, ‘Is this the best place for us to be putting our time, energy, and attention?’ It got me thinking about products and services a little bit differently. ‘Where is my time best spent? Where are our strengths?’ Just because we can doesn't mean we should. Just because there was an opportunity at the time we built this thing doesn't mean that's the best use of both of our time.”
Marie is no stranger to imposter syndrome. It’s easy to feel like you have to master something to teach others, but she always likes to remind fellow creators that deep expertise is not a requisite for success.
“You have to remember that there's always someone who's even a half-step behind you. I think people forget that you do not have to teach at an expert level. You can actually teach beginners. You can teach intermediate. You can teach a whole spectrum in between. You don't have to be the world's foremost expert on a topic. You can be halfway there, and help the beginners get to where you're at.”
One of Marie’s favorite pieces of advice for creators who are just starting to build their product is to share their professional skills far and wide. It may feel counterintuitive to give away your expertise for free, but the benefits outweigh the risks.
“For about two years, I shared ridiculously generously in Facebook groups. I was like, ‘Here's a proposal template that might help you.’ I was sharing everything behind the scenes, with clients' permission, too. I'm like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I share the proposal that I gave to you, with actual pricing, with the language that I used?’ So, people were surprised by how generous I was to share specific details, and how I would respond to a client in scripts, and things like that. I just kept sharing and sharing. Finally, when I was ready to launch my own first course, which was Digital Strategy School (that was basically a mentorship program for designers), I just put it out there.
“I recommend being ridiculously generous with your knowledge, your expertise, and your value. I think there's no shortcutting that piece of it. Of course, you get to decide the medium and the channel. So, whether it's sharing YouTube videos, your writing, or how you do things, you should be learning and building in public. The more that you can do that, and the more that people can see your thinking, the better. It gives people insight into how you think. Strategic generosity... surprises and delights people. It makes their day. They remember you. It's shipping, constantly.”
Marie really took her time in the beginning to understand her audience before scaling her product, and it hasn’t slowed her down one bit.
“I’m a big proponent of doing things that don't scale in the beginning, while you're finding that traction and finding that fit. Worry about scale and leverage later, but make sure that the idea is solid. I've had people say, ‘Your sales page is so amazing,’ and I'm like, ‘My customers literally wrote it for me,’ because I'm always listening to what they're saying.”
“I'm just a big believer that the more you can have those initial conversations, while you're in discovery mode and build mode, then those ideas can write themselves, if you're listening carefully enough.”
Unlike other skill-sharing courses with a set curriculum, Marie actually builds and customizes her content along with her cohorts.
“In the beginning, I was very honest about the fact that I was creating the content with them. I just had an outline but did not have the content itself created. I actually created it in lock step with them, which really freaks some people out. But I actually think it's better. Your material is going to be way more in tune with where people are at if you co-create it with your cohort. Of course, you do need some kind of medium to communicate with people, some sort of community aspect. You need some place where you've got that touch point, where you can understand what people are doing.”
When Marie launched Notion Mastery she worried that she was pigeonholing herself professionally by associating herself with one product. Over time, she’s realized that this fear was completely unfounded.
“I was really nervous in the beginning working with Notion. I asked myself, ‘Do I want to be associated with software?’ To me, it felt like a risk. ‘Do I want to be known as the Notion Girl? Where does this go?’ But then I thought, ‘What's the worst that can happen?’ This is a chapter of my life. I can also infuse my approaches to workflow and other things I’ve learned along the way.
“I see my career as a series of chapters. These are just projects that I take on. When you think of things in terms of projects, it makes it a little bit more digestible. This particular chapter has given me so much leverage that I can explore other things. I think of it as products to add to your portfolio. Nothing is permanent. You have to remember that, in general, other people are not paying as much attention to your career as you are.”
Foster is a community of writers who edit each other’s work. Apply here!