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9 underrated marketing tips that turned Slack into a software giant

Capiche is a secret society for SaaS power users, building a new community of people who care about software to make the SaaS industry more transparent, together. Matthew Guay is Capiche‘s founding editor and former senior writer at Zapier.

It wasn’t the next big thing we were expecting when Slack came into the world in late 2013. Team chat was already everywhere if you wanted it. HipChat had built a growing business around team chat, as had the Basecamp team’s Campfire. There were chat apps galore on mobile, thanks to Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook’s Messenger apps. And for geeks, IRC still worked.

But here came Slack, promising to help you “Be less busy.” with “an infinite brain for your whole team.

It wasn’t just a team chat app. Slack positioned itself as a new way to work. And that, among other marketing tips that former Slack head of growth Merci Victoria Grace shared in her Capiche AMA, is what turned Slack into a new software giant.

Great copy sells

The first thing you notice when you use Slack—especially if you first used it a few years back—is its copy. It has a voice and tone that’s all its own—a burst of whimsy in the boring workday.

“Hi, Slackbot here!” “Please enjoy Slack responsibly.” “What a day! What cannot be accomplished on such a splendid day?”

“Each piece of copy is seen as an opportunity to be playful,” wrote the design team behind Slack’s initial design and branding, Metalab. “From the loading screen to the error message, Slackbot acts as your wise-cracking robot sidekick, providing injections of fun on those boring days.”

Slack’s copywriting didn’t simply tell you how to use the product or help if you got stuck. It instead is as crucial to Slack as a script is to a movie. It sets the stage for your work.

“High quality product writing is the packaging,” explained Merci. “Even companies with great traction are always leaving money on the table with unclear writing. Hire writers who have good design taste.”

Copy tells potential customers what they’re buying, makes them want to buy it, and helps them use the product once they dive in. “Usability drives funnel conversion,” says Merci. “Constantly improve the product writing and usability of onboarding, invites,” and more.

When founder Stewart Butterfield wrote his vision for Slack in a memo to his team shortly before it launched, copy was the first thing he mentioned when discussing how to help people understand Slack’s value: “We do it with copy accompanying signup forms, with fast-loading pages, with good welcome emails…”. Copy matters—one of the many things Slack got right on its way to becoming a unicorn.

Build something for tech journalists

Want people to write about your product and market it for you? Build something they’ll use and love, and PR might not be so hard after all.

“Keep in mind that tech journalists are knowledge workers too,” advised Merci when asked about underrated user acquisition methods. “If relevant, build the product with them in mind as important early adopters and invite them to your beta.”

Or, get people journalists follow using your product. “In a similar vein, getting the popular kids to use your product is also underrated, though maybe not for long,” said Merci.

At the very least, see if you can get to know some tech writers. “Get them on your side early and thoughtfully,” said Merci, “which starts by reading their work, following them on Twitter, and understanding what they care about.”

After all, “A handful of real relationships are much better than emailing dozens of reporters when you’ve decided you want to do a PR launch.”

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