There were products like Slack before Slack erupted the team communications industry. The thing that made Slack so different and unique was their brand.
Creating a new category — be first at what you're doing
Customer-first mindset — Butterfield managed to respond to all tickets and Twitter posts himself
"Every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity. If you go above and beyond the customer service side, people are much more likely to recommend you."
There was some networking effect on their product when it got used in an organization.
Prioritize the uniqueness of your product
Once they understood this, they began making changes to their product (The alpha lasted around 6 months)
Understand the difference between users vs. customers. Users are people who use your product; customers are those who pay for the product.
Slack was trying to figure out how they would sell this to companies, not individuals
As Slack's product was a "newer" product and was trying to create a new category, they needed to create content around product training and education
If you're creating a new category, you need to think about positioning your product
Slack used a bottom-up approach: get it in hands of the users and get them to become a super fan of the product
Help people understand the need of your product in users' lives. Slack did that for the first 6 months for their beta and it paid off dividends.
Focus on building a create customer service experience
"Twitter as a channel for customer feedback"
Figure out THE METRIC for your product & what conversion means
The GTM (Go-to-market) strategy is to drive the growth which is based on this metric
For Slack, it was 2,000 messages exchanged between teams. Those who exchanged 2k messages converted and stayed as customers 93% of the time!
Knowing this number will help you iterate to help your customers get to the finish line
"We don’t cut corners, and we try to focus on the few things that are most important to our product vision."
Early on, Slack focused on making a few things great instead of making it a powerhouse from day 1.
They focused on:
Searchability — files and conversations within their product was indexed which make people confident in using Slack
Synchronization — Slack made sure that you can keep up with conversations across devices and know where you left off which kept the users on top of everything going on
Simple file sharing — they focused on allowing users to easily share files through drag-and-drop interface.
You can consider these things as unique differentiators
Not call or say your product is in a beta because then people would think that the service is flaky or unreliable
Slack used personal PR for their main launch (beta)
Use your network, social media channels
You need to plan the launch 2-3 months ahead
Leverage things in your basket: popular people (Vlad), investors (Eric), friends (Justin), and people in your space (travelers, office communication)
Get an article written (TechCrunch)
On Slack's website: "Slack is in limited preview release. Sign up to get your invitation."
They created content/resources around what is Slack, how to use it, etc. for both individuals (users) and administrators (customers).
Using the launch to understand usage patterns, users' needs and addressing low hanging fruits for the users
Create an avenue to gather user feedback for your beta quickly and with fewer bottlenecks
Begged lots of companies and got 5-10 users to use their alpha
Their users were different in size so they could analyze how their product would function in organization with different sizes
Figure out a pattern from your customers and iteratively add more and more teams
Write every bit of feedback that you get your customers when you launch
"We started inviting teams in batches and watched what happened. Then we made some changes, watched what happened, made some more changes..."
Slack understood the pitfalls of their product category (team product means need to get buy-in from everyone) and tried to minimize the risks
Talk to users and understand their perspective, what tools they use, where they're coming from
This is the lever that you have to pull to convince them to buy/use your product
Slack would respond quickly via email or social channels to their users, creating an amazing customer service experience
This is about building and solidifying relationships with your customers
Focus on user feedback, but really know who the target audience is for your product and pay extra close attention as you know they will use your product successfully and troubleshoot what's wrong if that's not the case