Marketing has become a dirty word in some startup circles, with the name of the day now being “growth hacking.” And frustrations over traditional marketing’s failures to adapt to a new hyper-connected, hyper-communicative world are valid. But demand generation is as important as ever. Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr and founder of Slack, understands this and has made public a letter to his company that’s worth a read.
Even though I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the hyperbole coming out of Slack for what is essentially a nicely done chat system, I also completely get why they are doing it. Stewart understands a few things:
- people rarely go looking for a technology (in this case a group chat system); instead they have goals and problems they want to solve
- product market fit does not remove the need to educate your market
- marketing and product are intertwined, and everyone on the team is responsible for creating something that a customer or prospect understands is valuable
- Slack’s competition is not other chat vendors. His real competition, like most startups, is people not buying anything at all.
The last point is very important. We have used Hipchat for a while, but we’ve taken close looks at Flowdock and Slack over the last few years. The differences/benefits of the latter two haven’t been worth a switch, but Slack knows they aren’t in a battle over an existing market with those two players. That would be a distraction.
Instead, the hype and ambitious positioning of Slack, helped by Stewart’s history and the Silicon Valley buzz he has wrapped around his new company, is helping them break into new circles and expand the market. This should help both Hipchat and Flowdock too, but I’m not sure how much room there is for a healthy business beyond the top two players.