Why did Canva become successful?

I was introduced to Canva recently by a fellow blogger. in summary, I love it. For those of you who are new to this tool, Canva is an online design start-up that allows anyone to design everything from greeting cards, PowerPoint presentations to posters, and websites to calendars. It boasts people in 190 countries using the platform that offers services in over 100 languages. The company is currently valued at $US2.5 billion and on track to be the default tool for the workplace and empower the modern workforce.

But how did they get so successful? The main reason is that it is a product which solves a problem people care about.  That’s a lesson for all startups. You want to make sure that the solution you create, solves a problem that people care about. Find something that is truly significant. Find a problem faced by lots of people.

While studying at the University of Western Australia, Melanie Perkins was teaching students how to use mainstream design software like InDesign and Photoshop, programs that people found hard to learn and even harder to use. She became aware she had just stumbled upon a business opportunity — the market needed a much simpler design tool and she was going to develop it. Melanie took her boyfriend Cliff Obrecht onboard and together started Fusion Books, an online design tool that made it easier for students and teachers to create their own yearbook.

Fusion Books was a success, but Melanie and Cliff realised that the technology they had developed could be used much more broadly. They recruited Cameron Adams, Canva’s tech co-founder and the three of them began building Canva.

In addition, Canva never used paid advertising to tell prospects about its tool at the start. The team developing Canva chose a different approach to grow the company.

1. Word of mouth advertising and social currency
The 50,000 subscribers to Canva’s waiting list talked first about this amazing online design tool; they attracted early adopters, the first 150,000 people using Canva tools.
These early adopters became Canva’s advertising engine by sharing their designs with their friends. Canva grew at a fast pace all through word of mouth and social proof.
Social currency in the sense of our community has always been incredibly valuable for them. More than 10 million people use Canva in 179 countries, and much of that growth has come through word of mouth and our users sharing about the platform. It obviously worked because that’s how I learnt about it.

2. Developing a great product, listening to user feedback and testing over and over again
Melanie and her team developed a good product but they postponed Canva’s launch to the public until they had a great product. After many months of continually refining, improving and testing the tools, they realised it’s not all about the digital tools, but also about empowering the users.

It became quickly apparent that it was not just the tools themselves that were preventing people from creating great designs, but also people’s own belief that they can’t design.
In order for Canva to take off — they had to get every person who came into our product to have a great experience in a couple of minutes.They needed to get the customers to explore and play in Canva. No short order! So they spent months perfecting the onboarding experience paying particular attention to users’ emotional journey. And they provided the product at a freemium model to get the users to try, use and love it before convincing them to pay more for added functionality.

3. Influencer Advocacy
Guy Kawasaki learned about Canva through one member of his social media team who was using Canva to create graphics for his posts. When the people at Canva noticed Guy’s social media graphics were designed with their tools, they contacted him and so he became Chief Evangelist of Canva. The reason Guy was attracted to Canva was that it “could democratise design just as Apple democratised computers and Google democratised information”. Guy Kawasaki coming to Canva and supporting it helped the online design platform double its users’ numbers.

4. Empowering content
Besides developing cool digital tools to support users craft wonderful graphics, Canva also empowers its users by helping them improve their designing skills. Design School is Canva’s knowledge blog, the place where beginners and professionals come for design tips and inspiration. The blog is rich in resources such as tutorials and articles on how to design a brand, how to be more creative, what are the best resume or email templates etc.

5. Brilliant subsequent marketing strategy

Canva launches two types of campaigns, goal and solution.

A goal campaign strategy is perfect for Canva because it positions the product as a means for the user to accomplish their goals, or a way to solve their problems — which is fundamental to any purchase decision.

Targeting keywords higher up in the funnel is also a great way to lower CPC costs:

Solution: Business card marker

Goal: how to make business cards

Goal-related campaigns are often too high up in the funnel for a lot of businesses to target via Google Ads. That’s not because they’re ineffective – they can be very effective – but because they require a more comprehensive funnel, resulting in needing more resources to build them.

When someone searches for a term like “How to create a business card”, this dictates that they haven’t found a lot of tools that can do it for them. They’re likely looking for information around how to accomplish that goal, which presents opportunities for tactics designed to guide people through the buyer’s journey, such as a lead-magnet and email sequence, a long-form sales page, or an advertorial that shows you how to create a business card inside of Canva.

Yet, Canva doesn’t take this approach. Having a simple product, with a freemium acquisition model, they can get away with sending people to a short, product-focused landing page and still experience very high conversion rates.

For a solution campaign, Canva targets high-intent users with their solution campaigns. These campaigns target people who know what they want to accomplish, and have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to accomplish it: with software.

These are high-value campaigns that focus on keywords that relate to a specific solution — often by adding nouns such as software, platform, tool, maker.

For instance: Flyer Maker

Headline 1 — Online Flyer Maker

Explicitly mentions my core search term to ensure it’s relevant to me. They mention that it’s online, which also tells me about the mechanism of how I’ll make my flyer – through an online platform – to calm any concerns I may have regarding how I’ll make it.

Headline 2 — Make a flyer in minutes

This is great because it highlights that I can accomplish a lengthy and complex job in minutes. The key benefit here is saving time while aligning itself to the company vision.

Description — Pick A Template, Edit With More Tools And Photos & Download Easily. Try Free For 30 Days!

This description walks me through how easy it is to create a flyer (template, edit, download). This messaging appears throughout their website and on their ads for other campaigns.

Once you click on the ad, you get taken to a very simple landing page that showcases their flyer templates. The landing page is good for the purpose it serves — driving visitors into the product by showing off the flyer templates.

Though there is a lot they could have done to improve this campaign: they haven’t matched a lot of the messages from the ad onto the landing page. You don’t see any mention of designing a flyer in minutes, nor any mention of the 3 steps it takes to design a flyer. But overall, a a great strategy.

Finally remember. You can design anything, easily. Great tool so check it out!

Check out my related post: Have you tried Juul?

Interesting reads:














  1. Eu… am impresia că prindeti muste… Asta este o expresie cu sens in l. română… Dar este interesant …
    Oricum in viată exista multe optiuni dar si ”tu ai dreptate” vorba rabinului… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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