Top 10 Growth Hacks That Made Slack a $4 Billion Company

Growth Hacking

Note: This article was authored by Pavan Belagatti, and edited by Syed Irfan Ajmal.

 

“Life is too short to do mediocre work, and it is definitely too short to build shitty things.” – Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder of Slack

Head over to Google trends and see the interest over time for the keyword ‘Slack’.

Slack's Growth as Depicted by Google Trends

Slack’s Growth as Depicted by Google Trends. Image Via Google Trends

It is up and growing. In such a small amount of time, how did Slack made it possible?

Let us see some amazing hacks that Slack used to grow and get till here.

This is the DAU (Daily Active Users) chart of Slack

In fact, the Slack discovery was an incidental act, Stewart Butterfield and his team were working on a games app called Glitch, when their team realized how problematic it was to communicate within the organization and what an opportunity they had to streamline it. Thus, Slack was created.

 

Steward Butterfield's Tweet

Image via Twitter

No doubt Slack made it very clear in the minds of its audience about its positioning – defining a new space and then claiming a leadership position in that space. Apart from this, there are some unique ways through which Slack hacked its growth and we are to discuss some primary ones of them today.

 

1. The Personal Branding Hack

Stewart Butterfield has been a well-known guy since long. He was the co-founder of Flickr & became even more famous after its acquisition by Yahoo. Everyone wanted to know what Stewart’s next move would be, and even before he started Slack, he has had a good follower base. Hence, it would be safe to say that when he co-founded Slack, many of his fans from his days back at Flickr followed him right to his next adventure.

Stewart Butterfield

Stewart Butterfield. This is not to say that you put a weird wig and a costume. But to be your unique self is always interesting. Image via WikiMedia

One thing to mention here, when you have a smart and famous personality as one of the founding partners, you need lesser marketing efforts to convince people to try out your product, and this is surely one factor that has helped Slack.

Editor’s Note: Also, as mentioned in a Quora discussion about the importance of personal branding for early stage startups, most of the people do personal branding wrong as they think it is about being something you are not or by becoming too glossy. However, Butterfield did it entirely differently:

“Look at Stewart Butterfield from Slack for a good example as to how to do it right. I’ve rarely seen of a founder’s personal brand shining through like his honesty and candor. He swears, he has bombast but has not changed who he is or how he looks.” – Ed Zitron

 

2. The Perfect Timing Hack

The increase in our dependence on the internet for work and everything else meant the number of emails being sent and received to make sense of the growing load of work increased big time. And of course, it didn’t help make sense of the work but rather increased our ‘inbox-phobias‘.

An example of how email inboxes of many of us look like.

 

Huge Email Inboxes

An example of how email inboxes of many of us look like. This image is an actual inbox and the owner of that inbox should remain unknown. Hint: It’s either the author of this article or the editor. 

Slack found a perfect opportunity for helping people reduce their email load and/or to find a better medium to communicate and manage projects instead of email. Their timing for pitching an alternative to email, which is quick, reliable and useful was perfect, and Slack entered the market at the most optimal time. When you enter the market with a reliable product while others are lagging, you will lead, and you will have a first mover advantage.

Editor’s Note: It is also safe to say that Slack wasn’t built to replace any project management platforms like TeamWork, Asana or Trello since it offers integrations with many of them (no integration for TeamWork as yet). This is a smart way to ensure that these other apps don’t see Slack as a competitor but rather an ‘enabler’. If Slack wasn’t built this way, then the timing to enter the market wouldn’t have been right, but then again, in that case, it would have been a very different product than what it is right now.

 

3. The UI/UX Hack

Slack has been pretty focused on ensuring that the look and feel of its website and apps ensure smooth communication between team members. Their primary motive has been to make the product so intuitive that their users can use it without any guide or a product tutorial. If you haven’t used Slack already; do give it a try. You will realize that you don’t need a detailed manual to start using it like a pro.

How did this happen?

Stewart Butterfield hired a design agency MetaLab run by Andrew Wilkinson. Andrew wrote a story on Slack’s design principles (or should we say obsession), and you can read it here Slack’s secret sauce.  

Early design iterations created by MetaLab for Slack

Some early design iterations created by MetaLab for Slack. Image via MetaLab.

 

4. Freemium Model Hack

Pricing is, no doubt, one of the most critical aspects of a SAAS organization, and thanks to today’s technology, it is easier (and more economical) to offer a free trial or any other free features to get the attention of your targeted audience.

Many customers buying things online can be risk-averse, and they want to test your product to see if this suits their requirements before actually considering to start paying for it.

Slack’s freemium model makes it super-easy and ideal for people to try without any initial payments. Their pricing policy is simple and straight.

 

Slack's pricing

Slack's pricing

Price Packages of ‘Slack for Teams’. Image via Slack.com

Editor’s Note: As you can see, the free plan is pretty feature-rich and, unlike some apps which need you to enter your credit card details even if you are using the free/trial version, one just has to download Slack and get going with it!

 

 

5. The Minimalism Hack

Since the beginning, Slack didn’t focus on too many features, and they just wanted to be the best in what they were building with one or two main benefits.

If you are a part of any channel/group on Slack, you want to know what’s happening within the team and the general status of things immediately. You can tag any of your colleagues and direct your message to him/her, and for some reason, the notifications on a Slack create a sense of urgency which is harder to ignore as compared to incoming emails.

 

6. Word of Mouth Marketing Hack

Editor’s Note: While it is easy to be lost in the maze of online marketing technologies, it is interesting that Slack has proven the fact that word of mouth marketing still works. People still believe something that other people (such as their friends or colleagues) tell them.

Butterfield himself used to share a lot of articles and news about Slack on social media channels as well as with his immediate friend so as to know what they think. Some of his friends were entrepreneurs, and hence startups started trying out Slack, and word of mouth helped Slack. As a result, the number of startups using Slack started growing immediately. Many influential companies started using Slack and spreading the word about it and this boosted others to try Slack.

This tweet was posted by Slack investor Marc Andreessen in August 2014 about Slack’s word of mouth growth.

Slack user growth chart by Marc Andreessen via Twitter

Slack user growth chart by Marc Andreessen via Twitter. Image via Quartz

 

7. User Feedback Hack

Slack gave importance to pull marketing rather than a push marketing strategy. It started becoming too serious about its early customer comments, feedbacks and hence did a lot of A/B testing, focus group surveys, and this helped Slack to build what people wanted.

Slack is one company that carefully listens to what their customers are saying about their product, making active listening the core competency, they try to solve every problem their customers encounter, and this process is in place even now.

 

8. Twitter Hack

Twitter is one social network Slack is heavily dependent on to interact with its customers and fans. You can see that in action by reviewing the incredible number of tweets and replies by Slack. Slack in its early stage knew the importance of customer engagement and brilliantly started using Twitter as one of their social channels other than YouTube to share stories of people and companies using Slack.

Joined in March 2013, Slack interacts with its audience in numerous ways. Slack has an incredibly huge follower base of 297k with 147k total tweets as of now (at the time when this article was being written in April 2017). While Slack has always believed in word of mouth marketing, 2015 it took it up a notch when it created another twitter account for showcasing tweets from the people who like and tweet to Slack showing their appreciation for the service. It’s an excellent way that Slack uses to create a huge buzz.

 

Slack's other twitter account showcasing tweets of its fans.

Slack’s other twitter account showcasing tweets of its fans. Image via Twitter.

 

9. Referral Loop Hack

One thing that differentiates Slack is its referral hack; anybody can create their community around their interest and invite people around the world. While, many other services give you this opportunity, But you need to follow a particular set of rules and regulations to create your community, and most of the times it will not be free. Slack has an advantage here, to build a community for free and refer anyone without any harder rules to follow. Every company now is shifting from their home built communication channel to Slack because of it’s easy to invite and chat option.

Different avatars, Image via Slack.com

Different avatars, Image via Slack

As mentioned in TNW, not only does Slack has communities around different interests (such as startups, music, design) but communities based elsewhere are moving to Slack. For instance, WordPress.org, the community behind WordPress’ open-source software, abandoned its IRC channel and shifted to Slack, citing that IRC is complicated and unfriendly. An easy referral process is one thing that has helped Slack to grow its user base.

 

10. API Integrations Hack

Slack makes it easy for companies to integrate other tools and apps with it. Since most of the users of Slack and startups and tech companies, the tools that one can integrate to are the ones that such companies use often. 

Hence these companies find Slack a very useful tool in terms of streamlining their communication within the organization without leaving the core set of tools that they already use. 

There are so many categories of apps you can integrate with Slack such as Analytics, Sales, Customer service, Developer tools, HR, Marketing, Social Media, etc

Slack integrations

Slack integrations. Image via Slack

 

Slack is also one of the most important tools to do DevOps (a software development practice) since it can be integrated well with any developer tool and it helps increase the organization’s productivity through collaboration.

App integrations can become one of the best growth hacking strategies for companies when carried out properly. For example, you can integrate Slack with Asana, an application designed to help teams track their work and with this integration, you can quickly receive updates in Slack when a task is created, completed, or commented and this helps you can easily track the progress of any project in your organization.

Slack is not your another boring chat tool. It has got SWAG! 

That’s it. Which of these hacks do you find to be the most interesting and useful? Do you know any others which are useful? Comment below and let us know.

Featured Image via Pexels

Article written by: Pavan Belagatti

One of the youngest growth hackers from Asia. Google certified digital marketer and a growth hacker. Guest blogger on various websites on the topics related to digital marketing, growth hacking, and software development. He blogs at: http://www.growthhacky.com
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