When Slack tweaked its product to make it more user-friendly, it became one of the most viral B2B businesses in start-up history.

Be creative focus on the product Marketing lessons from two successful startups
Atom Marketing Saturday, December 23, 2017 - 12:05

Dropbox spent very little on marketing when they were fresh out of the box. In fact, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston struggled immensely when launching his new startup. Nobody would use it, and that was its biggest drawback. Whenever Drew would talk about the company, nobody was interested in listening to him.

But nothing stopped Drew as he wanted to learn on the job, how to become a better CEO.

"No one is born a CEO. This is an acquired skill set and furthermore, it's one that you learn on the job. So, everyone is a first-time CEO by definition at some point. Just about everything is learnable."

And, so began Dropbox’s journey of disrupting the file storage market and becoming a $10+Billion company in less than 5 years. How did they manage to do it? By becoming creative.

Keep it simple

They knew that they had a small group of techies that loved their product, but weren’t willing to pay for it. All they had to do is to differentiate their services and offer a better solution to the marketplace. So, they created a starter video and launched it on their website, and to the hundreds of users who were using the app for free. Within days they had more than 70,000 users on the platform.

By keeping their website simple and focused on CTA, they created growth that was unheard of.

Another interesting point to note, was that they kept their signup process fairly simple. They got rid of all form filling elements that weren’t needed and made their signup process seamless and problem free. While most other websites were asking a massive amount of data upfront, Dropbox presented a cleaner interface and a better signup experience.

Their best strategy so far, was probably their referral signup strategy. This helped launch their brand to more than 60% growth within a few weeks. It was so simple, yet ingenious. All the users had to do was to refer the product to a friend and they could get free Dropbox space. The CEO, Drew Houston, had already purchased massive storage space anyways and could give it away for free. However, being creative paid off as this strategy became a marketing case study for generations to come.

Focus on your product: Lessons from Slack

Group messaging app Slack has been a start-up darling for years now, but it wasn’t always the case. CEO Stewart Butterfield was not happy with the fact that numbers weren’t being met with, while the design and UX was working with smaller numbers. That’s when they shifted perspective. They focused completely on their customers and made the product better. They didn’t think that is was a bad product, at first, but after a few trial runs and tests they wanted to make it more user-friendly.

The moment they made the switch, Slack took off. Stewart, who had seen multiple failures with previous iterations didn’t realize the core demand of this kind of product.

“We didn’t think about dentists using it, or police detectives using it, we didn’t think about people using it in the context of restaurants or a million other things. [..] I think [the opportunity for B2B collaboration software] is at the same scale as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft or Google”

CMO Bill Macaitis wanted to focus on getting to know the customer more and focus on “word of mouth” rather than spending massive budgets on customer acquisition.

“Marketing teams need to understand their role is not simply to get customers to the front door, but rather to stay with them for their entire lifecycle. Content can play an extremely significant role in that lifecycle and marketing plays a key part in distributing that content throughout their lifecycle. Content should be genuine and helpful, not crappy brochure-ware.”

Shifting product mindset

This mindset-shift to creating more consumer-friendly features, design and expanding the product to fit many needs into one – made the app more usable by many people. Everyone was talking about it, to the extent that the product reached 4 Million daily active users by 2016. The best part was that around 1 Million of these visitors were paying for premium features, meaning that Slack was making money as well.

The tweak to making the product more user-friendly made it one of the most viral B2B businesses in start-up history. When Slack stared taking off further, it focused on organic sources of traffic generation like SEO, social media and community development, which meant that this growth could be fuelled further as time went by.

As the brand of Slack was gaining leverage, one point is interesting to note. It wasn’t the first start-up to create a chat application for B2B enterprises. But it was the first start-up to create one that was better to use than the rest. That’s what made them grow the way they did. 

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