4 Advertising Strategies That Helped ClickUp Grow to 8M Users

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Abdallah Al-Hakim

How did ClickUp go from zero to 8M users in just a few years? A great product helped, but that’s only half the story. Lucky for us, we got the other half during DEMAND.

“We built a brand by punching up, being memorable, conducting a lot of experiments, and taking big bets,” shared Melissa Rosenthal, ClickUp’s former Chief Creative Officer. “We’ve experimented with new forms of storytelling to really humanize the typically stale world of enterprise sales, SaaS, and B2B.”

Here are four tactics Melissa and her team used to catapult ClickUp to stardom and go toe-to-toe against an industry giant with a head start of more than a decade. (Psst…we’re talking about Jira.)

1. Refuse to be B2B-oring

Most B2B marketers read from the same script:

LinkedIn ads with similar messaging.
Websites with the same buzzwords (supercharge, anyone?).
Blog posts targeting the same keywords.
Emails with nearly identical subject lines.

Marketers are stuck swimming in a sea of sameness, and that’s making B2B marketing oh-so-bland. The brands that stand out—like ClickUp—are the ones that consistently think outside the box by being bold, colorful, and provocative with their content.

ClickUp’s “Return to Work” campaign perfectly exemplifies this out-of-the-box mindset. Launched in August 2021, the campaign features six videos about the awkwardness and absurdity teammates put up with if they return to the office.

In B2B marketing, it pays to be different; ditch the status quo and cringy buzzwords, take calculated risks, and figure out unique ways to engage with your audience. It worked for ClickUp and can for you, too.

Pro tip: Organically join the conversation with trend-jacking

You might see a trend in ClickUp’s long list of marketing magic… actually, you’ll see several trends, because Melissa and her team perfected the art of creating content around timely sounds, topics, and events.

Here’s an example:

When everyone’s first, second, and third connections on LinkedIn were talking about Chat-GPT, Melissa and her team jumped into action by creating a video. But not just any video. A video with a script penned by…you guess it: Chat-GPT. The team even followed the GPT-generated shot list (a checklist of each shot or scene) and wrapped up filming the same day.

“Our social team is constantly creating valuable content to jump on existing conversations,” Melissa shared. “And our creative team is producing multiple videos a week that we’re leveraging on social media about different workplace trends and hot topics.”

She continued, “The key is to be responsive to what’s happening in the world around you and then to seize those opportunities when the timing is right.”

2. Be just as creative with your distribution strategy

Recreating ClickUp’s marketing magic starts by creating content that stands out, but you’ll waste your blood, sweat, and tears if you don’t deliver that content in a way that resonates with your audience.

And, no, we’re not talking about launching paid campaigns on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Search—although you definitely should, because paid advertising is still worth its weight in gold. You just can’t rely only on these channels to hit your pipeline and revenue goals.

Why? Because there’s only so much inventory available on popular channels. Melissa said it well: “When you’re utilizing brand channels, especially LinkedIn, you’re fighting with your competition for 20% of all organic reach dedicated to brand pages.”

So, what’s the alternative? Create multiple brand funnels by tapping into your executives and employees.

“Having your employees consistently share product tips, videos about your company, behind-the-scenes looks at projects they’re working on, and relevant thought leadership is the funnel that keeps giving,” she said. “You already have influencers on your team, so start using them.”

Trust us. We love a good ad campaign as much as anyone, but there’s no getting around the fact that B2B buyers unwaveringly trust their peers. Case in point: Over 90% of respondents to a 2023 Forrester survey said they completely or somewhat trust peers in their industry.

But it’s not just people on your payroll who’ve got creative chops. You likely have an entire army of superfans and champions ready to sing your praises. Find them and treat them like your firstborn.

“You can reward your champions by giving them achievements and building a brand ambassador program that enables them to shout from the rooftops about how great you are, how much they love your product, and how cool it is that you interact with them.”

3. Punch above your weight class and make your competition chase you

ClickUp raised $400M at a $4B valuation just a few years ago—but the brand wasn’t always among the top dogs. ClickUp did always have a seat at the “adult” table though, thanks mainly to the team’s ability to punch up with branding and make the competition chase them.

“Just because you have a smaller team doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart your competition,” Melissa noted. “It’s actually the opposite. With a smaller team, you can run faster, move faster, extract more value from your company, and make your competition want to follow your playbook.”

For ClickUp, that coveted playbook has historically included a hefty dose of out-of-home (OOH) ads placed in high-visibility locations where customers—and competitors—will surely see them.

Not only are these ads “in your face” in a good way, Melissa noted that they’re also one of the only forms of advertising where you don’t have to worry about ad fraud and improper placements, the former of which Forbes called the biggest threat to the advertising industry.

ClickUp isn’t stopping with OOH ads anytime soon. Melissa and her team punched up to an entirely new weight class in 2022 when they ran their first Super Bowl commercial that brought millions of viewers back to a time before the Internet.

“One of the best parts about having a small, but brilliant, in-house creative team of writers, directors, actors, and more is that we all can get into a room together and riff on ideas, dig into the ones we all love, polish them up, and then present them around to people in other departments to make sure we’re hitting the mark outside of our little incubator,” Melissa wrote in an article leading up to Super Bowl LVI.

Last thing here: ClickUp isn’t scared of its competitors. For example, when Jira mentioned ClickUp’s slogan at one of its conferences, ClickUp took that footage and created a video. Unsurprisingly, the video went viral in B2B circles.

4. Never stop experimenting

Thinking outside the box with your content and distribution strategy will undoubtedly take you sailing into uncharted waters. That’s exciting—but it’s also intimidating, especially in a down economy where you have to account for every penny of your budget.

So, here’s a trick to help you succeed: Experiment with your audiences, ads, and assets.

Test as many campaign elements as possible across channels to see which out-of-the-box tactics resonate with your audience and which ones miss the mark. Then, double down on what works and ditch what’s burning a hole in your pocket—or have Metadata do it automatically.

Remember: ClickUp’s marketing magic didn’t happen overnight.

Sure, many of Melissa’s campaigns hit big, and competitors copy her tactics now, but getting to this magical marketing point took time, a lot of experimenting, and even more failure.

“Experimentation is powerful, but it’s a process,” Melissa told us. “Chances are you’re not going to hit a home run on your first swing, but if you hit one out of every five experiments, you’re crushing it.”

She continued, “We’re always testing behind the scenes in product and advertising. What you see is best-in-class, but much of what we do doesn’t make it out in public.”

So, build a solid experimentation framework, consistently think outside the box with your content, figure out what your audience likes, and then iterate.

Make your brand your competitive advantage

Product differentiation isn’t a thing anymore, even for a company like ClickUp. It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in; you’re competing with dozens, maybe hundreds, of companies offering products that basically do the same thing.

But not all is lost. Far from it. While you can’t rely on features to stand out—at least not as much as you used to—you can build a brand that’s memorable, human, and willing to take risks.

“Your brand has the power to be your company’s key differentiator,” Melissa concluded. “Think about fun and creative ways that can help you make noise. There’s a sea of status quo, but you can stand out if you do things right.”

Those things? Think outside the box with content creation and distribution, punch way above your weight class, and never stop experimenting.

B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring—ClickUp is proof of that. So, take a leap of faith, be bold, and jump on spontaneous opportunities because you never know what will elevate your brand to the next level.

Think Metadata could help you maximize your budget and create an unforgettable brand? Schedule an intro today.

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