If you’ve heard of Slack then you know that the centralized group chat platform led by Stewart Butterfield is doing extremely well. After a recent $2.8 billion valuation, Slack has stolen everyone’s attention and is showing us that not all enterprise communication apps are boring. With all of this Slack buzz going around we started to wonder what really is their recipe for success? So with a little bit of research and some first hand experience using the app in our office, we’ve put together a list of 5 Reasons Why Slack is Dominating.
1) They capitalized on their beta
Stewart Butterfield, co founder and current CEO of Slack, has been quoted many times in the past year saying that his app’s success comes directly from customer feedback. Since the app was first developed back in late 2012, their team has made a considerable amount of improvements based on initial feedback. After using it themselves as the first beta testers, the Slack team started reaching out to friends at other companies, begging them to test the platform with their teams. A handful of companies agreed and started providing the first round of insights. Slack quickly realized they had more work to do, specifically making the app more useful to larger teams. By August 2013 Slack was ready for their official beta release, but instead of calling it a “beta” they decided to position themselves differently. “We didn’t want to call it a beta because then people would think that the service would be flaky or unreliable,” said Butterfield and instead they welcomed users to request an invitation to try Slack as if it were a privilege. And it worked. 8,000 people requested invitations on the first day and two weeks later that number jumped to 15,000. This was an impressive PR initiative that paid off big for Slack and set the foundation for their initial success.
2) The platform is simple and powerful
Slack and other similar enterprise apps are trying to solve the issue of internal business communication. Long have emails overcrowded our inboxes and professionals everywhere are looking for a better option. Slack was inspired early on in its development by the first Internet chat services to ever hit the web, which allowed messages to be addressed to a channel, not just individuals, and channels could be public or private. Then they brought this concept to the social media age and turned their channels into hashtags which allow users to follow conversations on certain topics. For the average up-to-date tech user, Slack is a breeze. It takes maybe twenty minutes to figure out the whole platform and the longer you spend time with it, the more valuable it becomes to your day-to-day office communications. The look is simple, engaging and most actions on the platform are extremely intuitive. In short, Slack is able to somehow turn office messaging into a fun experience that actually encourages collaboration, which is a powerful quality for a simple messaging app.
3) They focused on 3 key features
With more than a few competitors in the enterprise messaging app landscape, Slack was only going to be successful if they focused on what made them different. Always putting the core product first, Butterfield and his team decided to focus on three key features that would distinguish themselves in the market. The first was having an easy search function. One of the primary pain points in using email, is that it can be hard to search for specific parts within a conversation without labeling or sorting. Being able to locate a specific word within pages of conversations is a feature everyone can appreciate. The second core feature incorporated into Slack’s platform is synchronization. Butterfield felt that other apps lacked the ability to work across multiple devices. Slack’s platform automatically updates conversations across all devices and even knows where a person in a conversation left off and will sync to their cursor position in real time, which makes catching up much easier. Finally, the third core benefit Slack offers is effortless file-sharing. Quick pasting functions and the ease of dragging and dropping files into any conversation dramatically cuts down time spent sharing information with team members. These features might not seem revolutionary, but for Slack they’re what make them special.
4) Scaling at the appropriate rate
For most companies, the concept of scaling is straightforward. Do it. But scaling too fast can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal for startups. Slack had a clear vision of when to scale and that included, at times, to purposefully not grow. They even stopped sending reactivation reminder emails to slow down sign ups. This way they could focus on other internal improvements without having to deal with hosting more users. Slack also kept their size down by holding off on large marketing initiatives. It took almost a whole year after their launch to hire a CMO and most of their original marketing came from word of mouth, PR, and some social media. Instead of spending lots of money and energy in developing an initial awareness campaign, they decided to focus on the product and let the users create the buzz. By utilizing this strategy, Slack was able to learn a lot about their platform as well as who they should be focusing on. Most people would think of the individual user and that any marketing efforts should be targeted to them. However Slack learned that their target was more than just the individual; it was the entire team. The app is only useful if an entire team is using it, and focusing on capturing a whole team’s interest is very different than targeting one person. So far Slack has prided themselves on not using ads, and instead relying on word of mouth, but at some point they’ll have to give in. The tech world, us included, will be keeping a lookout for what marketing initiative they go for next and how it translates to the market. Slack has done an excellent job of pacing themselves and now they have a solid foundation, supported by loyal users and a high-quality platform, to really start scaling.
5) Jared Leto says so
If you get a celebrity like Jared Leto to interrupt a live interview with Bloomberg Business just to say how great your app is, then you know you’re sitting on something special (video below). People don’t just like Slack, they love it enough to make public endorsements. Just look at their Twitter profile, if you don’t believe me. Obviously there are multiple factors that play a role in the success of a company/product launch, and there are plenty more reasons why Slack is dominating. But there’s no denying that they’re doing something right.