Slack Built A Four Billion Dollar Business In Four Years — Without A Sales Team
Here’s The Story Behind How They Did It
- Timing. Slack was launched in 2012 — that was year we saw headlines like “Stop Email Overload” (Harvard Business Review) and “Be A Bitch On Email, Or Be Email’s Bitch” (TechCrunch). So it turned out to be a great time for Butterfield and co. to be working on a chat and collaboration tool that had the potential to make up for many of email’s shortcomings. Oh and mobile had just started to get everywhere.
- They were already well known. The fact that they were already well-known in the tech community from their Flickr days didn’t hurt Butterfield and his co-founders either. From the beginning, the product received tons of press that helped bolster Slack’s status as a tool that had the power to replace email. Just look at some of these headlines from 2013: “Flickr Cofounders Launch Slack, An Email Killer” (Fast Company), “Flickr founder plans to kill company e-mails with Slack” (CNET), “The Co-Founder Of Flickr Wants To Replace Email At The Office” (Business Insider).
- The product was free. Slack is part of a recent wave of companies, which also includes MailChimp and Asana, that have adopted a product-driven approach to sales and marketing. Instead of optimizing for MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) or SQLs (sales-qualified leads), these companies are optimizing for PQLs (product-qualified leads).
- Amazing brand. It’s as if the founders of Slack understood what it’s like to work in an office, on a team. So instead of blasting us with jargon, they developed a brand voice that sounds like the voice of a trusted friend or colleague — someone who’s in the trenches with us, but who isn’t afraid to crack a joke and have some fun every now and then. This playful-yet-helpful style carries over seamlessly into the product, where the colors, micro-copy, signature “knock knock” notification sound, and fun features like Slackbot all contribute to a cohesive (and lovable) brand experience. And perfecting that experience has been instrumental to Slack’s success.