Slack’s Growth Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your Small Business

By Emily Moore October 17, 2021

Since its launch in 2013, Slack has gone on to become possibly the biggest workplace communication network provider around.

It has gained praise for providing workers with a flexible, effective tool for staying in touch while at work.

And unsurprisingly, the pandemic has further boosted its popularity, providing employers and employees with a virtual workplace.

His dynamic approach from the very beginning brought Slack to where it is now.

With over 8 billion customers and a worth of $5.1 billion, Slack is a true success story.

We’re going to look at a few of the growth strategy factors that set Slack apart from the competitors and made it the company it is today.

1. Market and User Definition

Slack is by no means the first program developed and used for workplace networks.

A quick look at the biography of Slack founder Stewart Butterfield makes it clear how pivotal he was in the success of the company.

Skype, HipChat, and others all played similar roles at various points. But Slack was able to succeed by defining its market and users.

By market definition, what we’re referring to is the way that Slack was able to create a new market all its own.

Founder Stewart Butterfield stated that workplace chat solutions were never a big enough market to bother with.

What was needed was the definition of a new market, one which would be receptive to his pitch of technological innovation rather than simply the product itself.

This came not just from innovation.

Butterfield was able to present his product as a stress reliever and a driver of productivity.

These values went far beyond simply marketable software and made Slack a product that individuals sought out for themselves.

Butterfield’s approach is a key growth strategy for small businesses.

He demonstrated that you could create a new pool of valuable customers and expand your business accordingly by defining your own market.

2. Guaranteeing High Quality

Butterfield understood from the beginning that Slack needed to guarantee both high quality and high usability.

These were the two aspects of the program that made it desirable. They’re also the two features that are most commented upon by users.

By focusing on high quality throughout the development process, Butterfield was able to develop and deliver a product that people enjoyed using.

He always emphasized Slack being accessible to first-time users, with a straightforward setup process that anyone could complete.

It also allows for high levels of customization, letting users tweak it depending on their needs.

Slack’s evident high quality is one of the features that has made it so popular today.

By ensuring, from the very first steps in development, that the app would be reliable, Butterfield and his team ended up with a finished product that almost sold itself.

And by putting himself in the shoes of a new user, he was able to predict exactly what was needed from the app.

3. Stay Focused on Important Features

A blog post from Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail, was to inspire Butterfield’s approach when developing Slack.

In the post, Buchheit states that ‘if your product is GREAT, it doesn’t need to be GOOD’. This attitude was a guiding light when developing Slack.

In his simple words, what Buchheit is explaining is the fact that software that is able to excel at a handful of key tasks doesn’t need to worry about providing users with too much extra.

Butterfield has stated that, in the early stages of development, there were a lot of conversations on the three things they would need to be very good at.

This is a really effective lesson to be taken from the development of Slack.

While it became a solid, well-rounded program, in its early days, the focus was on delivering a handful of features to the best of their ability.

Once these features were established, there was plenty of time to polish the rest in further iterations.

These are ideas that can be applied by just about any business. If you’re starting out, it’s worth asking yourself which three things you and your growth strategy partners want your product or service to do better than anyone else.

And if you’re already established, it’s still worth considering what it is that makes your business tick.

4. Growth Strategy through Online Networks

Slack was an early success story for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, they were able to put themselves in a position where, upon launch, they already had a solid fanbase looking to get involved.

This is thanks to the online networks they leveraged during the design process, as well as the use of tools such as an outreach email template to connect with potential customers.

First and foremost, the brains behind Slack were able to make use of networks of friends and colleagues to ensure there was a big enough buzz around Slack when it launched.

They did this by pressing friends in other companies to try Slack, succeeding in getting it into a number of workplaces.

Not only did it let the team iron out any minor issues, but it also meant that Slack was being talked about on social media long before the beta version came out.

The beta version has its own story. Rather than promoting it as beta, Butterfield simply put it out as a new app.

He dodged the stigma that tends to surround beta versions instead of letting people get to grips with an exciting new app.

On the day of their launch, Slack was inundated with 8000 user requests, a number that doubled in a fortnight.

By successfully getting Slack talked about in their own networks, the developers were able to ensure Slack was in demand on launch.

The lesson here for small business owners is that there is such a thing as free advertising.

If you’re active in your industry’s online presence, you can put your product or service out there.

With the right strategy, after time, online sharing will result in genuine conversions to your business.

5. Benefiting from User Feedback

Butterfield has, quite rightly, stated that ‘every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity.

Any chance Slack has to interact with a customer counts as an opportunity for them to improve their product and show their customers that they can be relied on.

Slack has always been focused on benefiting from customer feedback as opposed to growth strategy consulting firms.

During its launch, and before it had reached its current heights of popularity, the company was already employing three people dedicated simply to customer support.

Today, they’ve expanded to a team of 18, with 6 keeping Twitter support running 24/7.

Your support team is often your direct link to your customers. They’re the first point of contact customers have with your business, and they’re valuable as more than just problem solvers.

By listening to your support team, you can develop your company in line with customer feedback.

As a result, you can not only improve your business and product; you can also gain a reputation as a company that cares about its customers and listens to their problems.

6. Development and Growing Your Company

We’ve already mentioned the massive benefits that Slack had from spreading through pre-existing networks.

On their launch, they were already at the forefront of their users’ minds.

This approach has remained an effective means of them constantly growing and developing.

Slack’s approach has always depended on word of mouth rather than a growth strategy agency and the value of personal promotion.

Their first ‘in’ in this respect came by getting contacts at large companies to start using Slack.

Soon enough, the platform would spread from department to department, eventually being used by the entire business.

This is a lesson to anyone looking for a way to spread their business.

If you can get a foothold within a company, all it takes is a matter of time before news of your business spreads from mouth to mouth.

From here, as more and more users convert to your product, you will grow exponentially.

This is true not just of workplace networks. Slack also benefited massively from a large amount of buzz on Twitter.

Again, this is a great example of what can happen when you cultivate a dedicated user base who don’t hesitate to sing your praises.

7. The Magic Number

Magic numbers, in the world of growth strategy marketing, are a strange mix of science and gut instinct.

The idea that if you hit a certain number with a customer, you’ll be able to rely on their business is an attractive one. But there’s also a certain amount of science behind it.

The magic number growth strategy template was used by Facebook, with the idea that someone who added ten friends a week would be far more likely to remain a user of the platform.

For Slack, they’ve estimated that someone who sends 2000 messages a week is far more likely to stick with the platform and eventually become a paid user.

What can a magic number mean for your business?

It’s really up to you.

The concept of the magic number depends on business owners analyzing their customers and determining what makes the difference between a loyal and effective customer and one who will not be with your business in a fortnight.

It’s worth taking some time to analyze your customer base and put some thought into what might constitute your magic number.

Even if you’re not able to settle on a specific number, the analytical approach to your business can uncover some hidden gems.

8. Hooks

Like many online platforms, Slack developed its own perceived cycle the average user goes through – a four-step ‘hook’ that encourages user engagement.

The four steps in its growth strategy framework are the trigger, action, reward, and investment.

By designing this cycle into Slack, its designers were able to create a program that encourages users to engage with the platform and eventually become loyal customers.

What do hooks mean for a small business owner?

Obviously, your cycle of customer interaction may not leave space for the clear-cut steps that Slack was able to introduce.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t gain anything from these ideas.

As we’ve said before, small business owners can benefit from analyzing their business and customers in detail.

By doing so, you can work out your own ‘hooks’ – the steps your customers go through when they interact with your product or service.

By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of the entire process and benefit from improved conversion rates.

9. Great Accessibility

‘Onboarding’ has always been a point of pride for the Slack team.

It refers to the process by which new users come on board and familiarize themselves with the platform.

It’s the first step towards conversion into a paying customer.

Slack benefits from a sign-up system that requires the bare minimum of personal information.

All it takes is an email address, and you can start chatting almost immediately. But what does this mean for the average small business?

The lesson learned from this is that simplicity and accessibility are valuable assets for a business.

If you make yourself as accessible as possible to potential customers, you can massively boost your chance of a successful conversion.

How do you do that?

An effective online presence is crucial, as this is probably your first point of contact with most potential customers.

On top of that, you should ensure that your communication system means that it takes as little time as possible for your customers to get through to you.

Conclusion

Slack has come a long way in eight years and is probably the most dynamic workplace messaging platform available at the moment.

The above growth strategy examples go a long way to explain their success. But they’re also things that can be emulated by any small business.

What are the 9 growth strategies most valuable to the success of Slack?

Well, you can find them all above.

You can learn and benefit from the success of Slack and its founder Stewart Butterfield.

Apply these points to your small business, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly they start making a difference.

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Emily Moore

Emily Moore is an English & programming teacher with a passion for space and blogging. She believes that current exploration should be focused on preserving our planet’s resources. With satellites circling the orbit, it is easier to get relevant data on any environmental changes. This, in turn, should help people quickly address any challenges.

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