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How We Took on Slack (and Lived to Tell About It)

By Jason Freely / 7 months ago

How do you compete with one of the most significant names in your industry—and with a brand new solution?

Three decades in the past, we released Chanty, a SaaS application for team chat. This was almost nothing new. 1000’s of apps are born and die each and every 12 months. There was one difference—we have been going towards Slack, the big that is the SaaS role product. Call it bold or silly, but we had our get the job done cut out for us.

Three decades later on, we’ve confronted a series of worries. We solved some of them. We’re however having difficulties with other people. Here’s that story.

Why compete with Slack?

When we first imagined about launching a SaaS in the team chat space, we had a big final decision to make. We could both grab a slice of the set up sector or carve out a new one (e.g., a team chat application for accounting companies).

A couple of elements motivated our final decision:

  1. We desired to keep bootstrapped.

We did not want to be guided by a person else. We had that luxury—we had three other lucrative companies (targeted on world wide web style and design and improvement) when we made a decision to launch Chanty. Chanty was, at its outset, a enjoyable facet undertaking.

  1. We desired to spend cash on solution improvement, not sector investigate. 

Simply because the plan of a team chat application was now validated, we had our concentrate on sector appropriate in front of us. We had a big competitor, also, but Slack had now accomplished some of the major lifting by popularizing the plan of a team chat application.

Figuring out a new sector could have taken months and a lot of cash. Instead, we saved most of that cash for solution improvement. We did do some investigate, principally between our clients and some colleagues in the SaaS earth. But our key guideline was to generate anything that labored very well for us.

We had utilised Slack—and a lot of other messaging apps—but they have been both also difficult, lacked audio and video calls, or compelled us to enhance straight away. We also desired a constructed-in, easy-to-use undertaking management functionality.

However, to make it in these kinds of a aggressive industry, we had to stand out. Even prior to we began, we continuously obtained questioned the exact same query: “How is your solution any various from Slack?”

Differentiating our solution

chanty beta invites.

In the early times of the application, we questioned a couple of thoughts for the duration of sign-up. Mostly, we desired to know if a user had switched from another team chat application and, if so, why they switched to Chanty. This gave us a plethora of very good thoughts.

We also discovered out why men and women switched from Slack, which became the first of two means we sought to differentiate our solution.

one. We solved a most important soreness level for Slack buyers.

The first way we positioned ourselves was to go immediately after the most significant soreness level for present Slack users—that 10,000 information limit in Slack’s free approach. We made a decision to have an unlimited information background in our free approach, which became a key motive why men and women switched.

chanty beta invitation.

That hasn’t been the key motive why new men and women sign up for our application, but it is been the most important way that we’ve “stolen” Slack buyers. Providing unlimited messages in the free approach obtained quick effects, and it was one of the key good reasons that we obtained our first 100 buyers in just a couple of times of our launch.

We recognized that these Slack buyers weren’t likely to convert to compensated buyers appropriate away—our free approach solved their most important soreness level. Some, of training course, figured out that an unlimited information background suggests that they can carry on employing Chanty for free for good. We have a number of teams like this, but they are the minority.

So how could we get the relaxation to enhance?

We attempted furnishing audio and video calls (and other capabilities) in the compensated variation only. But nearly no one upgraded to a compensated approach due to the fact of capabilities, which have been pleasant-to-haves, not requirements. Our application utilization information confirmed that most men and women utilised the chat operate only—and that a very good chunk of teams had much more than 50 buyers. 

We recognized that the only way to incentivize an enhance from the freemium plan—without undermining our “unlimited messages” differentiator—was a cap on the number of buyers. This fit with our app’s adoption: A more compact team would sign up and decide irrespective of whether it was worthy of upgrading for the overall company.

We settled on a limit of 10 buyers for our free approach, which has develop into the most important way we go men and women from freemium to compensated buyers.

two. We have been the affordable option.

The 2nd way we positioned ourselves was with value. Quite a few SaaS applications charge customers dependent on the number of seats, which isn’t that a great deal for a landing webpage resource (typically just a solitary user). But the expenses for that product scale swiftly for team communication apps—they get the job done only if everyone’s involved.

So, if you have 300 employees, the variation amongst $7 per user per thirty day period and $3 per user per thirty day period suggests shelling out $two,100 per thirty day period as an alternative of $900 (or much more than $13,000 per 12 months).

Our investigate discovered that it is primarily new buyers who are attracted to the value (i.e. all those who have in no way utilised a team chat application prior to). Customers from Slack (and other apps) hardly ever switch to our application due to the fact of the more compact value tag.

So, we made a decision to have the most affordable approach out there, at $3 per user per thirty day period. The very low value level became the way for us to differentiate our solution for new buyers who have been much less willing to make a economical dedication on a new method of communication.

chanty pricing webpage.

Likely immediately after new-to-chat buyers also meant that we needed to be incredibly user-helpful. For newbie buyers, Slack (and other team chat apps) can be daunting. We created our sign-up approach and onboarding as uncomplicated as possible—you can get an account with an electronic mail, invite colleagues by including their e-mail, and do just about everything in a couple of clicks.

Our positioning break up our user base nearly evenly amongst men and women who arrived from competitor apps and all those who had in no way utilised a team chat application. That is additional a challenge: Our marketing—and solution development—have had to address both of those concentrate on markets.

Making and scaling a marketing approach

Our present world wide web style and design and improvement businesses had gotten most of our clients through term of mouth. When it arrived time to sector our SaaS solution, we had zero understanding of other channels.

Receiving through the first couple of months was definitely difficult—we have been primarily developers and designers.

The first (and failed) try

We began with some clumsy PR—badgering our clients to point out us in their content in trade for some free get the job done on their internet websites. Pointless to say, all those endeavours sucked. A good deal of clients disregarded us.

As we viewed as other solutions, we ran into roadblocks:

  • We did not have a huge budget to snag Slack’s customers through compensated advertising and marketing.
  • Email marketing was not an option since we did not have a huge mailing listing.

Website positioning and natural acquisition became the reasonable selection.

A uncomplicated natural approach, with a twist

Our approach was easy:

  1. Use content to get readers.
  2. Change readers into application sign-ups.

There was one wrinkle: We desired men and women to convert specifically from examining our content as an alternative of capturing their e-mail and showering them with drip campaigns until finally they transformed. We did not want to be identified as a pushy, troublesome brand—we desired enthusiastic buyers, not hesitant types.

That wish motivated our content (past the regular inbound marketing mantra of “be helpful”). We understood we’d will need to go much more base-of-funnel with our keyword investigate.

We wrote a large amount of article content evaluating team chat apps (Slack, Flock, Fleep, Microsoft Teams). We utilised each and every resource prior to we wrote about it and, in our opinions, highlighted potent and weak points.

Simply because we had no stake in, say, irrespective of whether Slack was improved than Flock, we printed some of the most unbiased application opinions in the category. (There was an additional reward: We obtained to do competitor investigate at the exact same time.)

The final decision to concentrate on branded competitor keywords and phrases hasn’t transformed to this working day. Organic traffic is our prime resource of new qualified prospects and customers, and the most important motive why Chanty has 10,000 active buyers today.

That claimed, having new buyers via natural traffic took quite a when to pay out off it was at the very least six months prior to we began seeing effects. But all those effects have been the most important catalyst of user expansion.

organic traffic to chanty.

The most precious subject we’ve strike on so considerably? “Slack choice.” It has thousands of month-to-month searches and higher intent. We’ve doubled down on posts like these:

  • Skype solutions
  • Discord vs Slack
  • Slack competitors
  • Microsoft Teams vs Slack.

We also discovered a way to make our content much more aggressive in search: Visitor running a blog to create backlinks to article content with the greatest potential for conversion. 

Visitor posts to make content much more aggressive

In the beginning, we had abysmal effects with outreach. Sending out e-mail en masse and just transforming the recipient name and company did not get the job done. The moment we made a decision to publish personalised e-mail one by one, we obtained dramatically improved effects.

Over time, we perfected our pitch, which assisted us graduate from having posts on very good weblogs to great types. (At one level, we recognized that we had accomplished much more than 100 guest posts in a solitary 12 months.) We finished up having showcased on web pages like Hubspot, Entrepreneur, Marketo, and lots of other people.

referring domains to chanty.com

A couple of tips that labored for us:

  • We attained out only to weblogs that protected matters closely relevant to our solution: SaaS, marketing, productiveness, team communication, etc.
  • The weblogs we attained out to had to have a Area Authority (DA) of at the very least 40. As our very own DA increased, we upped the lower limit. 
  • We checked the website’s traffic prior to we despatched a pitch. A web site with a huge DA and tiny to no traffic smells like a website link-creating plan.

We did all of this with two men and women. One was an outreach and website link-creating supervisor, whose task was to create a databases of relevant weblogs and get in touch with their editors.

The 2nd was a focused author who had a organization grasp on a range of matters. (If we had scaled this approach, we would’ve needed to seek the services of another author first. We often had much more pitches recognized than we could entire.)

Sometimes—as takes place to everyone—our guest posts obtained rejected. It was hardly ever due to the fact the post was flat-out poor the editors just did not like it for one motive or another. In nearly every circumstance, we obtained the post printed on another weblog with minimal adjustments.

(One be aware: If you notify the concentrate on website’s editor that you now have a completed post, they’ll see appropriate through it.)

Scaling the model 

Visitor posts also opened the door to extend an original partnership. For case in point, with each and every new guest post, we had an prospect to cite earlier partners’ content.

We questioned all those associate CMOs and content heads if they would include things like us in their impending articles—and enable them know that we would do the exact same. As a end result, we multiplied our endeavours, just by reaching out to a couple of associates.

The hazard of relying on a solitary channel

Additional not too long ago, we’ve once more analyzed other ways, these kinds of as compensated adverts, but the ROI hasn’t been virtually as very good. That is a liability. When SEO is a big component of your direct generation approach, one algorithm update can undo decades of get the job done.

An algorithm update that rolled out at the beginning of November 2019 cost us 20% of our general traffic—including a drop in rankings for a couple of definitely crucial pages.

rankings drop.

We’ve also attempted to diversify our endeavours with our Facebook group. We keep in touch with latest and potential customers and respond to their thoughts. We also use it to motivate discussion about team communication, to announce new capabilities and releases, and, in the end, to have some enjoyable. 

The Facebook group currently has a tiny more than 600 customers. We ship out the website link to the Facebook group as component of our onboarding electronic mail sequence, so it is comprised principally of active buyers. Making the group was reasonably effortless, but keeping it active usually takes a couple of several hours every thirty day period.

chanty facebook group

At last, we’ve additional a uncomplicated pop-up for visitors to join our e-newsletter and, more than time, developed a series of ebooks, each and every with its very own decide-in sort.

That is assisted us go immediately after new buyers. 

A new challenge: going immediately after a market that isn’t hunting for us

Publishing solution comparisons has labored very well to bring in buyers now hunting for an application. But we also desired to bring in and convert all those who had in no way viewed as a team chat app—small businesses, companies, non-gains, etc.

We needed to persuade them to give team chat apps a try—and to use Chanty first. This generally was less complicated than taking Slack’s customers.

This gave us a two-tiered content marketing approach:

  1. Articles to convert men and women actively hunting for an choice to anything they are employing.
  2. Content to attractiveness to men and women who have been issue- but not answer-informed.

To seize the consideration of the 2nd tier, we publish about the relevance of communication, collaboration, get the job done-everyday living balance, productiveness, and very similar matters.

These items have assisted condition the Chanty weblog into what it is today. 


Our journey is now three decades in the building. We not too long ago attained 10,000 active customers, but it feels like we began just yesterday.

Even though there are however big breakthroughs to make, having 10,000 men and women to pick us in a sector heavily dominated by one company now feels like a big victory.

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