Our PM Veronica talks about building a meaningful business on Slack!

Fueling Growbot

Our path to revenue and best practices for bot builders

Justin Vandehey
Dec 13, 2016 · 8 min read

My name is Justin, and I’m the co-founder and head of customer success for Growbot — a messaging bot on a mission to build better relationships at work through more frequent team appreciation.

Growbot lets you send thanks, props and kudos to your teammates on Slack for a job well done. Since our launch, over 6,000 teams have added Growbot to Slack. We’ve spent the past 12 months learning how to make Growbot stick within our earliest cohort of customers, carefully split testing new features and re-engagement triggers to build a network effect within companies and monetize Growbot’s recognition platform.

How Growbot works in Slack

When we launched Growbot in the Slack app directory last December, it was the beginning of the bot movement. There weren’t many examples of how to make money with a bot, but the primary asset we did have was access to customer feedback, and lots of it.

This is the story of our path to revenue while building a meaningful, values-driven business on Slack.

Growth Mindset

Growth can mean a lot of things to many businesses. For Growbot, growth meant our ability to get Growbot invited into more Slack channels, and do so in a way that didn’t bug the bah-jeezus out of our champion (the person that installed Growbot) or their peers.

When we first launched Growbot, we knew very little about who would actually be willing to pay for our service.

We launched Growbot with two product tiers: Growbot Basic and Growbot Premium. Our assumption was that teams would immediately grasp the value of our Premium tier and convert through our landing page. For larger teams (>1,500 users) we’d walk them through an enterprise sales process.

This didn’t work for two reasons:

  1. Our customers didn’t have the social proof and approval they needed from their peers to convince them that Growbot was ‘there to stay’, and
  2. If their teammates didn’t accept or use Growbot, there wasn’t a reason to purchase advanced insights without any real data to measure.

We learned that for a cultural product like Growbot, we needed to grow organically within our customer base to impact the broader team before we charged them anything.

This led us to a freemium model. Slack admins could easily install Growbot, invite it to channels, and introduce the concept of team-based recognition with little overhead by executives or folks in HR. As Growbot grew, our data became increasingly valuable to the companies using it. Employee engagement was having a multiplier effect on the value of our premium product.

By focusing on employee engagement, we also established stronger relationships with more Growbot advocates. We could ask advocates direct questions like, “Who should we be speaking with about our premium product?” or, “Would you find Growbot’s data useful?”

Here are a few other things our advocates taught us:

  1. Free vs. paid features: Any feature that encouraged usage or growth within teams immediately became a free feature (i.e. leaderboards, recaps/reminders, dynamic avatars). Any feature that provided incremental value on top of this organic engagement data (employee insights, executive dashboards) became a paid feature.
  2. Price for team size, not per active seat: Companies using Growbot asked for a flat, fixed amount to pay for premium rather than paying per active user per month. Growbot is a cultural solution, and our customers’ goal is to maximize employee engagement through our bot — they didn’t want to be “penalized” for the behavior they wanted to encourage. A “per active seat” model would leave a sour taste in our customers’ mouths.
Current pricing model
  1. Clarify team size: Always help your customer clarify how many total teammates are on their Slack instance. Once a customer adds your bot, you can view how many total members exist on that customer’s Slack instance. However, we’ve seen several cases where member count doesn’t equate to actual headcount due to guest or inactive/disabled member accounts. Make sure to implement a solution or process as part of the purchase experience to improve the accuracy of your pricing quote and increase your odds of conversion.
  2. Slow and steady: We alluded to this in our previous post on Slackbot Onboarding, but this lesson applies to the entire customer lifecycle. Spamming your customers is neither a great way to establish trust nor encourage long term usage, which ultimately leads to upsell.

Data Driven

Every entrepreneur knows how critical data can be to reflect on performance. For Growbot, our data literally defined when it made sense to charge our customers.

On a macro level, we began looking at patterns of engagement on a team-by-team basis. We measured the number of props given and received, per engaged teammates per team. Upon doing so, we could establish an engagement “threshold” that allowed us to group customers into categories that had a higher likelihood of converting to a paid plan. Once they crossed that engagement threshold, the buyer that we identified received both an email notification and direction message (more on this later..) in Slack about Growbot Premium.

On a micro-level, we identified Growbot’s “Atomic Use Case,” the optimal pattern of behavior that would ensure teammates would continue to engage with Growbot eight months after their first touchpoint.

We found that if we could encourage an employee to engage with Growbot four times in the first month of install, that same employee would continue to engage with Growbot eight months later.

All of our feature development and prioritization has been centered on helping customers achieve that atomic use case while encouraging more of their peers to do the same. Without a systematic way to measure healthy engagement cohorts and our atomic use case, we’d have very little visibility into how to acquire fuel (aka revenue) for Growbot.

Build the engine

Once we identified how to successfully grow within teams and how to use that data to uncover prospects for our premium product, we could focus our product development, support, and monetization efforts accordingly.

Here’s what our customers experienced.

Discovering Premium

When an account hit our engagement threshold, the Growbot champion at that company received both an email and a DM from Growbot with additional info about our premium features.

We leveraged our self-built customer support command, “Operator”, to deliver that message to our champions.

We also made it easy for customers to request additional information by chatting with us directly in Slack via that same Operator support command…

….and get in touch with us within the web version of our product.

Assigning Premium Plans

When we first launched our premium product, we implemented a “white glove” approach to assign plans to understand our optimal price point and how to optimize the conversion funnel.

To start, our team would read the total member count to manually assign a pricing tier and plan for each account. Once we landed on a price for that team’s size, we partnered with Stripe to handle all of the customer-facing transactional aspects of upsell.

Stripe was super flexible, which enabled us to integrate directly with Slack. In fact, we built a command through that integration that allowed us to assign premium plans, add company admins, and cancel orders all within Slack.

Below is a sample of the code we used to make that happen:

Customer Upgrades

We built an entirely self-service model for customers to manage their account settings with us. All of our account management features can be accessed through the Growbot dashboard (and soon from within Slack).

When a state change occurs (i.e customer adds credit card, customer converts to premium, trial period is almost up, customer card fails), our team receives a notification from Stripe in Slack.

Customer Downgrades

Our hope is that a paying customer stays with us forever. However, if a customer isn’t happy with their premium experience, we make it just as easy for them to cancel or downgrade from within the Growbot dashboard.

Our primary focus and goal is employee engagement, so we don’t make it impossible or a pain for customers to downgrade.

If things don’t work out with premium, at a minimum we strive to make that customer a happy and free user of Growbot. Upon downgrading, we always present the option to switch back to our free bot before changing their subscription status.

This automatically places a permanent hold on that customer’s billing cycle. Customers can also access their billing information from this tab and add/remove their credit card at any point.

So, what’s next?

We have a much clearer understanding of “what comes next” now that we’ve had some time to reflect on our own values, identify what healthy growth looks like, and to understand how to use our data to repeat that pattern of employee engagement.

Based on the insights we’ve gathered, we’re launching our new website with clearly defined pricing tiers that support our monetization strategy.

We’re also thrilled to announce that Growbot has partnered with Uber to launch “Growbot Rewards,” the first bot-based employee rewards platform built exclusively on Slack.

How will it work? With Growbot Rewards, both Free and Premium customers can reward their peers and teammates for their awesomeness with Uber rides in Slack! We couldn’t be more excited to launch Growbot Rewards in partnership with Uber.

As Slack continues to grow, we’re excited to evolve alongside them and share our experiences with the innovators and builders who will help shape and define this movement!

Growbot Rewards is coming soon! Click here to join the waitlist so you can be one of the first to give one of your deserving coworkers a free ride home :)

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Thanks to Jeremy Vandehey.

Justin Vandehey

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