While working on the beta version of Sprinterbot, we faced many challenges in attracting early adopters. We reached out to bot experts and ran our own research to answer this question. Today, I’d like to share some of the data we gathered, along with insights from other Slack bot builders.
Communicate with the community
Prior to any marketing activity, your main goal should be understanding your target audience in order to serve them better. It is a topic covered thoroughly in many articles and books, but I will highlight the key points from domain experts:
Ross Simmonds, Entrepreneur at getcrate.co, says:
Start with a landing page or even a Slack group that has the goal of gathering insights about your target audience. You want to do this so you have a mini army ready to talk about your bot on the day of the launch. It’s building this pre-hype that will help you have a handful of beta users commenting on the value your bot offers the ecosystem. There are Facebook groups, Slack channels, Subreddits and Forums all dedicated to Bots. Spend time building relationships in these communities and share your bot with them upon launch.
Ernest Oppetit, Product Manager at qubit.com shares similar insights:
Get known in the community you are targeting, via reddit, Product Hunt, GrowthHackers, Hacker News, etc. Show the value of your bot easily via a free demos / trials (but be upfront about costs down the line). Let users refer their friends and professional connections, gamify / incentivize the referral program
In addition to establishing contact with your target audience, you may want to reach out to influencers and talk with them about getting their feedback, help, or just to get to know the community better. There is a great article by Robert Hopman covering this topic, which also covers other aspects of attracting customers to your Slack bot.
Create and share value
While working on your bot, don’t just think about development and deployment, be proactive and communicate your bot’s value with your target audience and the Slack community. I found this useful and exciting — while looking for insights to share, you may find something really valuable to your product. Once you prepare material and share it with others, not only do you start promoting your brand, but you build a community tied to your product.
Alyx Baldwin, cofounder and CTO at kipthis.com also advises that you start publishing:
I would suggest publishing your own Medium articles around what you’re building and the experiences you’ve had in iterating on your product so that others will share your writing and raise awareness overall. I would also figure exactly who will be using your Slack bot within each Slack team since you can apply marketing methods directly at that type of person (i.e. the developers, the sales folks, the managers, etc.) The tricky part is how you convert a slack team when the admin of the team might not be your target users within each team. So it’s best to appeal to the Slack users within your target demographic and as a call to action have those users ask the Slack administrator to add your bot to their team. Make it easy for everyone involved to understand the bot’s value add and easy for the target user to share info about the bot with the Slack admin.
While Alyx prefers Medium, we ended up hosting our blog on WordPress. I’m a big fan of Medium as well, but we like to have full control of our content and audience, and we didn’t feel Medium allowed for any customization.
I also think Slack-related content marketing can help bring visibility to your Slack bot and recruit more teams, for a few reasons. First, it helps you be seen as a thought leader in the “Slack Bot” industry, and can help generate free PR, as long as you are being useful to people. When we started out, the concept of Slack bots was at an early stage, so part of the job was evangelization around slack bots to help create the market. I created SlackStack.io as one “startup side project”, and the response was really amazing, including a feature in TheNextWeb. Helping Slack thrive through evangelization can also bring opportunities to collaborate, or even be featured by Slack. Besides this, creating thus side projects can help you drive very targeted leads to your website, through newsletters or retargeting.
Add your website to startup catalogs
Once you have your landing page, it’s time to add it to startups catalogs to get traction. I believe in the 80/20 rule, and I suppose 80 percent will come from Betalist and Product Hunt — (CrunchBase, AngelList, and https://news.ycombinator.com are must-haves, as well) — but in order to get as much attention as possible, here is the list of other catalogs:
We’re listing catalogs related to bots only. Most of them have low traffic, but they’ve very relevant and could certainly grow into a more substantial “bot store”:
Prepare for launch on Product Hunt
Product Hunt is one of top drivers of customers to your Slack bot, according to Matty Mariansky, cofounder and product designer at Meekan. We can see that the amount of traffic from Product Hunt is almost the same as from Slack directory (at the peak).
Bahaa Galal, cofounder and CTO at notify.ly, shares this advice:
What have caused the tremendous growth of Notify.ly is Product hunt campaign. So if there is a single advice I can provide you here, is to focus 100% on your product hunt campaign by doing it right at the right time. Everything should be in place before the campaign and you should focus all your efforts to make it work.
The first impression on Product Hunt is critically important — so polish your website, have a clear message about what do you do, then run product tests with the help of early adopters and make sure everything is as perfect as it can be. Notify your community, but instead of sending a direct link to your page on Product Hunt, send a link to the main page. Otherwise you`ll be dragged down, according to some useful advice on Product Hunt’s algorithm.
Strive to be listed in the Slack directory
It should be a goal for every Slack bot creator to be listed in the Slack directory (and we’re moving in that direction), so I will share our own experience later. In the meantime, here’s what other successful Slack bot builders have to say:
Matthieu Varagnat, entrepreneur and developer of smooz.io, writes about the key competitive advantage Slack bot builders get by engaging with the directory now, as opposed to when it grows bigger:
The main traffic driver is the Slack app directory, and from time to time, some press. In that regards, I don’t think Slack bots are hugely different from other apps – it’s just that the Slack Directory is not yet super-crowded and allows for some visibility, even for small players.
Being listed in Slack’s App Store (https://www.slack.com/apps/) can bring a substantive number of new teams every day. If your bot is good enough, according to Slack, you might even be featured in the “New and Noteworthy” or “Brilliant Bots” categories.
Good luck on getting new customers for your Slack bot. I hope this guide helps you. If you have any questions, I’d love to be in touch.