How Slack is taking a 'human approach' to reaching customers
- 28 May, 2018 07:09
Compelling customer experiences require “a constant stream” of customer feedback, Slack’s global vice-president of marketing, Kelly Watkins, says. It's sound advice and not overly complicated, but often, it’s difficult for companies to achieve.
“You have to have access on a constant basis to your customer, and understand what their needs are and what their challenges are - and what they’re trying to achieve,” Watkins tells CMO.
As an example of how and where Slack is able to stay in touch with the customer in real-time, she point to an integration between the collaboration platform and Twitter.
“We pipe all the tweets we receive at our main Twitter handle into our Slack workspace, and that enables anybody on the team to see at a moment’s notice what people are asking us about, where they may be stuck with the product and what ideas they might have,” Watkins explains. “It’s about how we can really help them get the most value out of Slack.”
Today, Slack boasts of more than 8 million daily active users (DAUs) across more than 500,000 organisations. This includes more than 3 million paid users and 65 per cent of companies in the Fortune 100.
Watkins, who initially studied theology in college before eventually finding her way into tech marketing at Slack in 2016, has learned a thing or two about brand strategy and reaching out to customers. She has also worked in non-profit communications and is a self-taught software developer.
Good customer experience first and foremost must focus on creating value. “We’re in a really interesting time as a discipline. We’re in a time as marketers where we’re balancing both an incredible proliferation of tools that are rising up to help us do our job, but also this focus around delivering incredible experiences for people,” Watkins says.
Increasingly, the role of B2B software is to enable people to be as productive as possible.
“This has always been critical to Slack, ever since we first started. We really wanted to make work, not only simple and more pleasant, but to also make people’s working life more productive,” she continues.
As a result, a big part of the marketing strategy revolves around enabling humans and helping them be better focused on the task at hand.
“This is why we have a platform that integrates with all of the tools people use so there’s less context routine a team has to go through in a day. It is also why we make ongoing investments in things like AI and machine learning to really augment the ways teams are working in ways that can further productivity,” Watkins says.
As part of her focus on customer, the company is keen on understanding where the customer is on their journey and making sure it pitches in a way that’s relevant to them at that time.
“This can be everything from thinking about multi-touch attribution modelling in terms of paid advertising and how do we think about the right ad that we might want to show somebody, at the right time,” she says. “It’s all the way down to when a business first starts using Slack, how do we think about the nurturing things that we’re doing, and what helps them make sense of the product and what it does.”
Asked what it’s like to be a global marketing leader for a tech firm, Watkins says the role, ironically, requires a more down-to-earth approach and one that focuses on human needs.
“I worry sometimes that as more and more technology comes into place, as a way through which we execute on the work of marketing, that we run the risk of losing that focus on the people who are on the other side. So I’m continuously trying to remind my team of that,” she says. “We are humans trying to communicate to humans. How do we not forget that?”
In that vein, as a modern marketing organisation today, Slack focuses on two core values. The first is craftsmanship.
“How do we think about marketing as this craft? How do we think about our work in a way that is really oriented around a person who is going to be receiving what we do?” Watkins asks.
The second core value is courtesy. “Because such a focus of Slack the product is on customer experience, it has got to be core to how we do marketing as well. Marketing and product experience have got to be very closely related in my mind.”
This could involve knowing the optimal way in which to communicate with consumers, or knowing how Slack can provide value and insights to a beginner customer.
Watkins says she’s always espoused the benefits of blending the marketing and product teams, a feat not always followed within organisations.
“I came to Slack originally as a product manager because I was trying to spend some time learning how product management worked. I have always had a particular vision for how I wanted my marketing team to work with the product team - a much more closely embedded partnership,” she says. “I think often times that can be a difficult thing to get going inside of a business. Marketing often ends up at the very end of a product development process rather than a partner throughout.”
Eventually, Watkins’ vision became a reality and marketing and product teams were blended in December 2016.
Asked her top priorities this year, she says she’s also on a mission to raise brand awareness, and push the message globally. “We want people to know we exist and we want to have some sense of credibility associated with Slack and I think that we do.”
In January 2017, the company launched Slack Enterprise Grid, a version targeting very large companies. It provides multiple workspaces and a lot of configuration options for optimal usage. Global customers include CapitalOne, IBM and Target.
“From a marketing perspective, we really want to tell those customer stories, and really help people see that Slack is powering the work of the largest companies in the world, all the way down to hotels and dairy farms. There is an opportunity to tell those customer stories and highlight what people are doing with Slack,” Watkins says.
The company is also ramping up its global efforts. Last year, Slack was announced in German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
“We’re staffing up teams in regions around the world to do great, local marketing efforts - and that will be an ongoing focus for us this year too,” Watkins adds.