Slack’s marketing strategy is brilliant. I’ll show you why.
Slack is a digital platform that has completely changed how people communicate at work. They made something that seems boring, like workplace communication, really exciting by putting the community first. How did this young SaaS startup change the way over 750,000 organizations worldwide communicate in just a few years?
One of the main reasons Slack grew so fast is their content marketing. In this case study, I want to break down Slack’s marketing strategy. I’ll give you a complete overview of how they became such a valuable tool in the modern workplace.
Together, we’ll look at the different types of content Slack uses to get customers at each stage of growth.
You can use this as inspiration to create your own marketing strategy.
Let’s roll 👇
Want to delve deeper into Slack’s marketing strategies and apply them to your own business? Look no further! I’ve created a free Notion template, a comprehensive content strategy roadmap inspired by Slack’s best practices. Get your free template at the end of the article.
SLACK: Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge
Slack, created by the talented team behind Flickr, is a powerful platform that helps organizations manage all their workplace communications. After completing beta testing in 2013, Slack was launched in February 2014.
In an incredibly short time, Slack achieved remarkable success. Within just eight months, it secured $1.12 billion in fundraising, making it a unicorn in the industry.
Since its humble beginnings, Slack has experienced extraordinary growth. From a small team at the start, it has grown into a thriving workforce of thousands by the early 2020s.
Slack has been the hammer that has helped us tear down the walls of silos. It has enabled us to position Slack as the operating system of collaboration across 194 countries and 171 offices, pulling us together like nothing else has.
– Jeff Dow, Executive Vice President at Fox Corporation
The acquisition of Slack by Salesforce in December 2020 for a staggering $27.7 billion solidified its position as a major player in the tech industry.
Slack has become the go-to tool for businesses, offering a searchable log of all conversations and knowledge, making communication and collaboration more efficient than ever before.
Slack’s Marketing Strategy
Slack’s marketing strategy uses content to get people talking. They cleverly use media, product promotion, industry insights, and publicity to make their customers comfortable and show they know what they’re doing.
In a fascinating interview on the Inside Intercom podcast, Rachel Hepworth, the former Head of Growth at Slack (now at Notion), revealed the key elements of Slack’s marketing strategy and its remarkable success.
Listening to Rachel’s interview, I realized how much effort was put into aligning marketing and sales at Slack.
Here’s a breakdown of their approach:
- Starting and Scaling Growth Marketing at Slack: Slack initially focused on leveraging its strong organic user base. They developed features like shared channels to encourage collaboration with external organizations, boosting the product’s viral spread. Effective email and invitation flows were also built to promote these features and attract new teams.
- Capturing and Converting Paying Users, not Just Free Teams: Slack shifted its focus from sheer team numbers to identifying and creating work teams with potential to become paying users. They honed in on “early-activated work teams” that invited others and engaged in messaging. Rachel stressed the significance of quality over quantity and emphasized the need for MVP testing before allocating significant resources.
- Bringing a Sales Team into the Equation: Slack’s growth marketing and sales teams worked together closely. Their approach involved creating healthy work teams that the sales team could prospect, rather than nurturing individual leads. They implemented a scoring model to prioritize teams based on activity level and firmographic data.
- Role of Brand in Growth Marketing: Protecting the Slack brand was a priority, ensuring long-term sustainability. Rachel emphasized avoiding tactics that might yield short-term gains but harm the brand. This principle guided their growth strategy.
- Future Growth Opportunities for Slack: Rachel highlighted several growth opportunities for Slack, such as enhancing the website, exploring integrations and partnerships, and optimizing the transition between free and paying users.
In this marketing approach, the focus is on creating and distributing the right content to the right audience at the right time, improving the acquisition process.
Slack’s marketing team aim to attract more qualified leads, while the sales team promptly convert these leads into customers. Retaining customers and transforming them into enthusiastic brand advocates is also a top priority for the company.
In Slack’s marketing approach, different types of content are used at each stage of the customer journey.
It starts from:
- engaging visitors (TOFU: top of funnel),
- then nurturing prospects (MOFU: middle of funnel),
- and finally converting them into customers (BOFU: bottom of funnel).
Effective communication and collaboration between the marketing and sales teams play a crucial role in the entire process, from attracting qualified visitors to closing sales.
To ensure that unqualified leads are not passed to the sales team and to seize the opportunity of converting hot leads into customers, lead scoring becomes vital.
Let’s take a closer look at Slack’s lead scoring process, managed by the Growth team.
The Growth team’s lead scoring
Rachel didn’t provide a lot of details about the scoring model used by Slack to evaluate user teams, but she shed light on its purpose and factors considered.
Slack’s scoring model identifies and prioritizes active user teams that are more likely to convert into paying customers. By focusing on these valuable leads, Slack can allocate sales efforts more effectively.
The scoring model we’re implementing right now will account for the activity level of the team. How much value is this team getting out of Slack? Do they have a lot of people on it? Are they very active every day? Are they using integrations?” – Rachel Hepworth, Former Head of Growth at Slack
Here are the key factors considered in Slack’s scoring model for user teams:
- Activity Level: The model evaluates how active a user team is on Slack’s platform. Higher activity levels indicate that the user team is finding value in the product and may have a greater chance of converting to a paid version. Metrics such as frequency of platform usage, team size, message exchange frequency, and feature usage are considered.
- Integration Usage: The scoring model takes into account whether a user team is utilizing integrations. Integrations allow user teams to use external tools and services within Slack, indicating a higher level of investment in the platform and potentially increasing the likelihood of converting to a paid version.
- Firmographic Data: Characteristics of the user team’s company, such as size and industry, are also factored in. Certain types of companies may have a higher likelihood of requiring the features offered by Slack’s paid version, leading to prioritization in the scoring model.
This scoring model aligns with Slack’s focus on Product Qualified Leads (PQL). Slack prioritizes leads who are already using and deriving value from the product, rather than solely relying on expressed interest as in a traditional Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) model.
Here’s an example of a three-tier prospect segmentation for users:
- Tier 1: Companies that are similar to existing customers. These prospects are handled by dedicated salespeople. They’re at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
- Tier 2: Companies that need to go through the Growth team first. They’re in the middle of our funnel (MOFU).
- Tier 3: Companies that Slack isn’t targeting. They’re at the top of the funnel (TOFU) – or even outside.
As a result of segmenting existing customers, Slack’s Growth team has learned what pain points certain types of companies face (e.g. industrial SMEs, B2B SaaS start-ups). After that, it’s much easier to explain to Tier 2 companies how Slack’s solution can help their user teams.
I assume that personalized emails are sent to these prospects too. These emails help prospects think more clearly. The Growth team tracks metrics (email open rates, LinkedIn connections, click-through rates, resource downloads, etc.) to make sure it’s working.
These KPIs affect the lead score of user teams. Then it’s up to the Sales team at Slack.
Slack’s editorial line
Slack uses content marketing to move leads along the conversion funnel. Whether it’s articles, white papers, webinars, case studies, or newsletters, all these contents play a role in turning visitors into leads.
Blog posts are mostly about answering your audience’s questions. This is where they start.If readers are interested, they will need decision-making content.
Here’s how it works:
- In-depth white papers for personas wanting specific data or methods.
- Webinars on a single topic of high interest to CFOs.
- Social proof with customer testimonials (more below).
Another thing to note is that Slack converts many prospects into customers through webinars. Content that convinces prospects and turns them into revenue.
I also found it interesting that Slack organizes webinars with partners. Both brands will be visible to each other’s audiences, which is a good thing.
Content pyramids are another best practice marketing teams use. It’s easy to recycle webinars into blog posts or white papers, which can then be shared on social media. It’s endless! Here’s my LinkedIn post about it.
When prospects are convinced of Slack’s value proposition after reading articles, newsletters, or white papers, one last piece of content will help them decide: customer stories.
Here’s the last mile. Testimonials (or customer cases) let prospects identify with their peers (this is called social proof). Customers show off how Slack solved their problems and helped them grow. Customer cases can easily convert prospects when done right.
A customer case is also something that sales people can push during a cold call. Or by the Growth team in a personalized email sequence. Could this be the perfect content?
Slack and social media
Slack’s strategic use of social media is a prime example of effective marketing today. As tech-savvy consumers spend more and more time online, B2B brands must establish a strong social media presence.
Slack embodies the three qualities every brand should possess: sincerity, competence, and excitement. It effectively conveys its message through its vibrant, engaging, and intriguing social media presence.
Slack uses multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
- Slack’s Instagram strategy focuses on brevity and clarity and uses Instagram Reels to promote recent updates. With this platform, the brand can engage users with eye-catching visuals, humor, and a variety of content types.
- On the other hand, Twitter is used to build excitement for upcoming events and interact with the audience. Even when the product or service isn’t promoted directly,
- Facebook highlights a brand’s mission statement and engages users.
- Video content is posted weekly on YouTube.
- Lastly, LinkedIn connects professionals, shares company blogs, and promotes inclusivity and diversity.
B2B businesses can learn a lot from Slack’s social media strategy:
- Create a dynamic social media presence by incorporating polls, videos, and carousels.
- Make sure your content and message fit the platform, so you reach your audience effectively across multiple channels.
- Use platforms for more than product promotion, like behind-the-scenes content and discussions on other topics. It makes a brand more relatable and engaging.
The Slack example shows that a thoughtful and creative social media strategy can boost brand visibility and customer engagement.
💡 You can read more about Slack’s use of LinkedIn for brand awareness in my LinkedIn post.
Slack’s Marketing Strategy: what we can learn
Slack’s customer acquisition roadmap looks like this:
- Analyzing customer types (buyer personas and ICP)
- Constructing the buyer’s journey
- Defining the editorial line
- Creating a calendar
- Choosing content types
- Distributing content
- Monitoring performance
- Refreshing content
Slack’s marketing best practices
Here are some Slack’s marketing best practices:
- Encourage collaboration between the Marketing and Sales teams to implement a collaborative marketing dynamic.
- Establish a well-calibrated marketing automation (based on the lead scoring and lead nurturing duo).
- Create an editorial line based on your corporate culture and your typical customer’s interests.
- Build a strong community (different from the brand).
- Create a simple and efficient publication calendar.
- Recycle existing content (content refreshing).
- Content pyramid: transforming content into microcontent.
- Follow KPIs to analyze your content’s performance and improve it continuously.
- Gather as much data as possible from your customers or sales representatives on the ground.
- Make sure you distribute your content (and rely on SEM – Search Engine Marketing).
- Boost visibility by collaborating with partners.
I hope you’ve found inspiration and actionable tips in this case study.
It took a lot of work from me (active listening to podcasts, website and social media analysis, writing, visuals, and integration…).
But wait, there’s more!
I’ve taken it a step further by providing you with a free Notion template—a roadmap for a great content strategy 👇