Slack is more than just a chat app; it’s an ecosystem to build a solid business on.
While Slack prepares for the IPO, its App Ecosystem keeps evolving becoming a place to build a business on. Standuply, a Slack-first App, reached $80k in revenue in February 2019.
I’m Alex Kistenev, CEO and co-founder of Standuply and in charge of marketing. This post is about my experience of growing a Slack App to $80k per month.
The product competition
If you search for ‘standup’ in the Slack App Directory, you’ll find Standuply at the 1st place with 30 other competing apps left behind. Here’s how we did that.
There are Slack apps made by web development studios. They felt the pain, had resources and eventually built the initial product. But it was just a beginning.
Compare two teams working in the same niche.
Team A has clients, other work to do, their marketing resources are limited. Team B went all in with their savings, and all efforts are focused towards one product.
It’s evident that Team B has better chances if both teams’ resources are comparable.
Key Takeaway: when narrowing the focus the chances are you’ll beat others who spread their resources.
Artem (Head of Product at Standuply) has ten years of experience in Project Management. It helped him to witness the problems in Agile teams.
Artem knew what processes need to be automated and envisioned how to do that via Slack API. It took us months to implement the automation of Agile processes as no-one does (i.e, backlog grooming, planning poker).
Standuply is one of the more clever workflow tools I’ve seen in Slack. — Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt.
Key takeaway: A niche experience plays a huge role in understanding what needs to be built.
A perfect product
Today many startup folks are obsessed with perfectionism (me too). However, it could be tricky if you’re on to build an ideal product.
The road to startup graveyard is paved with making features for a handful of users instead of building core features for the majority.
We’re always prioritizing the value over minor features and fancy stuff. Yes, sometimes users are unhappy about it, some even left because of that.
But, over the years we managed to build a valuable product and at the same time squeezed some improvements that weren’t that important.
Key takeaway: don’t fall into the trap of building a perfect product; strive for the value first.
Marketing a Slack App
Here’s how we approach marketing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Inspired by Groove’s Blog, we decided to follow their path and share insights on how we run our business.
I prepared a dozen articles, spent tons of my time doing influencer outreach and tried to publish a new blog post every week. But it didn’t work.
Most of our posts received 1–2k readers with only a few leads coming in. The promotion part was a challenge — we couldn’t build a constant readers stream.
Then we started experimenting with SEO and got decent results — thousands of readers a month to newly created articles.
However, only a few articles brought leads, readers of others were just passing by. The posts where Standuply is an essential part of the story drive leads.
Key takeaway: Content Marketing works when you combine great content partially about your product and also start with the SEO in mind.
We’re building features according to our vision. However, sometimes we find things that not only add value but create buzz around Standuply.
We published these features on Product Hunt and spread the word on the Interwebs. Product Hunt is a great source of spreading the news about major updates in your product.
Key takeaway: use catchy features as a marketing way to spread the news about your product.
We learned the same things work as with content marketing: relevancy, high value, SEO focus.
Unrelevant materials (Blockchain Conferences) didn’t bring any leads despite the massive traffic. In contrast, Slack Communities brought us not only recognition in the Slack Ecosystem, but also hundreds of leads.
AppSumo is the largest software deals website on the Internet with 1 million people userbase. We were featured at AppSumo, and it brought us over $45,000 in sales.
Want to sell your software product to all of them? Here’s how it works.
- Get an introduction. It increases the chance of getting featured.
- Be ready to sell a lifetime deal for a fixed (really low) price.
- Make sure your support team is ready to handle a massive stream of newbies who will ask many questions.
Now Sit back and relax, AppSumo will bring you lots of new sales.
Some of your current customers may switch from a recurring subscription to the lifetime deal. But in our case, there were only a few of those.
Key takeaway: AppSumo is a great source of initial funding for a startup by selling lots of LTD deals.
Building a business first
We are lucky to be profitable without any outside investments. So we’re free from investors’ expectations of our growth and company size.
I witnessed numerous troubles in startups because of growth obsession and wrong expectations. You have to be careful with growth, don’t overdose.
We don’t rush with hiring and marketing spendings and choose the pace which increases our chances to stay alive focusing on building a stable business.
Key takeaway: Growth matters a lot, but think twice to go all-in to take it or leave the game.
A billion-dollar business
How can we build a billion-dollar business? We’ve been thinking a lot about it with no answer found.
Last fall I met Esther Dyson over a coffee to ask for her advice. I was sure she could reveal a pearl of wisdom how a Slack-first company can become a unicorn one day.
But here’s what she told me.
Not every company should become a billion-dollar company. Embrace your path and follow it without being distracted by others. — Esther Dyson, Founder of Wellville.
Later I realized what smart advice it was. We, as a team, care about building a type of business where we enjoy our work, grow as professionals and have control of our freedom.
Key takeaway: it’s okay to think about how you can become a unicorn, but don’t be distracted if you don’t have an answer (yet).
The result: $80k/mo
It all contributed to our revenue growth. See the data below confirmed by ProfitWell.
February 2018: $7,131 in credit card sales.
- $40,490 in credit card sales;
- $33,807 in sales via AppSumo.
Add up several annual contracts we closed in February and it all totals to $80k in revenue. It’s worth mentioning that the overall marketing budget was about $10k for the past year.
Key takeaway: understanding your authentic way could be a great investment. Not everything what experts say applies to your business. Only you know what’s good for you.
Images credit: Unsplash.