In May 2018 Standuply reached $25k in monthly revenue. At that time it seemed like an extraordinary milestone for a Slack App.
While Slack prepares for the IPO, its App Ecosystem keeps evolving becoming a place to build a business on. Look, Standuply, a Slack-first App, reached $80k in revenue in February 2019.
Experts say it’s all about the great product. But I think it’s about the combination of a great product and great marketing. Two years straight there were better products than Standuply, but today, it’s the #1.
This post is about our experience of growing a Slack-first App to $80k per month from product and marketing perspectives.
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.
Artem Borodin (our Head of Product) has broad experience in Project Management. He knows every aspect of what makes excellent team management and feels the pains every manager has at the workplace. Also, we have considerable experience in building a remote team.
That’s why we’re building not just a standup app, but a full-fledged Digital Scrum Master for Slack. Standuply automates most of the Agile processes so that managers can focus on the bigger picture.
It took us months to plan and implement the automation of other Agile processes as no-one does. Standuply can run backlog grooming, planning poker by connecting to JIRA and asking team members questions about specific tasks.
That’s a huge differentiator compared to other Slack apps that do basic surveys and have no integrations.
Letting go of a perfect product
Today many startup folks are obsessed with perfectionism (me too). However, it could be tricky if you’re on to build a perfect 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 overall 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.
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 influencers 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 bring leads, readers of others are just passing by. The posts where Standuply is an essential part of the story drive leads.
We’re building features that add up to our vision of a Digital Scrum Master. Some of them not only add value but sounds cool and create buzz around our Standuply.
That’s how we built voice and video messages in Slack. So you can add voice/video answers to your Standuply reports and send video messages to your team members inside Slack.
We published these features on Product Hunt and spread the word on the Interwebs. As a result, we are getting a dozen of leads a day coming only for them.
Also, we added a Slack poll option in Standuply and also shipped it on Product Hunt. It’s not the core feature, but it expands our functionality without losing focus.
Product Hunt is a great tool for spreading the news about your major updates.
Side projects may also attract attention to your product. However, the principles from the content marketing journey apply: relevancy, high value, SEO focus.
During the last 12 months we built these side projects:
— The largest list of AI conferences in 2018.
— The largest list of Blockchain conferences in 2018.
— The list of 2000 Slack communities.
— The Ebook “How to Use Slack”.
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 over 1 million members. 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.
1. Get an introduction. It increases the chance of getting featured.
2. Be ready to sell a lifetime deal for a fixed (really low) price.
3. 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 loads of new sales.
However, 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.
Building a business first
In addition to product and marketing activities, there were some strategical decisions in our team that worth mentioning.
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.
That’s why we don’t rush with hiring and marketing expenses. We choose the pace which will increase our chances to stay alive focusing on building a stable business.
Building a billion-dollar business
So how will you build a billion dollar business, you may ask. 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 on that question. With vast experience, I was sure she could reveal a pearl of wisdom how a Slack-first company can become a unicorn one day.
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.
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.
The result — $80k/mo
All of the activities and decisions I described above contributed to our revenue growth from $7k in February 2018 to $80k in February 2019. See the data below confirmed by ProfitWell.
Credit card sales in Feb 2018: $7,131
Credit card sales in Feb 2019: $40,490
AppSumo in February: $33,807
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.
The final thoughts
The final things I’d like to wrap up this post with are authenticity and patience.
We often read about overnight success in the press, however, it turns out everything great takes time. Once the decision is made be ready for years to bring it to life.
Following your unique way could be one of the best strategic moves. Not everything what experts say applies to your business. Only you know what’s good for you.
Image credits: Unsplash.