By Matt Harris, Co-Founder of Dyspatch
Are you one of over 6 million Slack users? Slack, the business communication and collaboration platform, is one of the biggest startup success stories in recent years, reaching a $1 billion valuation in just two years and quadrupling that just two years later.
Do you remember how you first heard about Slack? Chances are it wasn’t through an ad, because Slack didn’t do much traditional advertising. Instead, the company’s growth came largely from word-of-mouth, fueled by invitations to join Slack groups. From there, an easy sign-up experience, a near-instant perception of usefulness, and product development based largely on customer feedback, all combined to deliver exponential growth.
I’ve seen the same phenomenon play out with other products as well. This kind of hyper-adoption — a term coined by Forrester Research Analyst James McQuivey in 2015 — is still possible by taking a few factors into account, outlined below. Of course, success isn’t guaranteed, but if you aim for the following, your odds will be a lot higher:
Impact your user’s day-to-day life. Often, the best gifts are those that the recipient uses on a daily basis. If something makes your life easier, more pleasant, or more efficient, you’re more likely to evangelize on its behalf.
People share for all sorts of reasons — social currency, to appear smart, or to strengthen bonds, to name just a few. But we primarily share things for the reasons that Seth Godin outlines in his book, Purple Cow — because they are remarkable in significantly useful ways. Ensuring your product delivers undeniable value by making a positive, meaningful impact on your customers’ lives is to ensure its remarkability, making hyper-adoption much more likely.
Sharing needs to be key to seeing value. Collaborative platforms have a natural advantage in the workplace because coworkers can not only recommend them but they can also invite colleagues to try them out for themselves. But it’s easy to think outside that particular box if your product is not workplace-specific — social networks make it easy for you to invite your friends and colleagues by importing your ‘Contacts’, while apps make sharing easy by allowing you to connect to, and send invitations via, those same networks. You could even go old-school — think 1996, when Hotmail included a plea to, “Get your free email at Hotmail,” at the bottom of every message. Simple but effective.
Make onboarding easy — and beautiful. Another crucial step to hyper-adoption is making the sign-up process as easy and as straightforward as possible. It takes under five minutes, for instance, to go from being a non-user to having a Slack workspace set up and ready to use. There are no hoops to jump through, no mandatory how-to videos or minimum number of email addresses required, to set up a workspace. If yours is a freemium or free trial model, you might also consider eliminating the barrier of requiring a credit card up-front.
But more than that, make onboarding beautiful. A big part of Slack’s early success was the fact that it was both easier and prettier — it was easy to sign up and add integrations and its user interface looked better than all existing alternatives.
Don’t harass your users. If you’re offering a freemium product, it’s tempting to try to monetize it as quickly as possible. Ideally, though, you should give users enough in the free version that they’ll fall in love with the product before they’re asked to step up for a premium version. Don’t keep throwing ads at them to tell them what they’re missing and don’t go crazy with reminder emails. Instead, let them encounter a natural barrier to usage that makes premium not just the next logical step but the most desireable step.
Be obsessive about soliciting feedback. And use it. Slack launched with a minimum viable product and then paid close attention to how people were using the platform. The company eliminated buggy features that users complained about and addressed shortcomings in the experience. To ensure the product’s remarkability, the team eventually focused on search, synchronization, and file sharing as the key features to excel at. They found what their users needed and became extremely good at providing it.
Do some strategic marketing. These days, products that meet a genuine need really can sell themselves, but a little nudge here or there can help move things along. Some 85 percent of your product’s success may be because of the inherent value it brings to your users, but another 15 percent can come from smart marketing, like strategic media coverage or an awareness-building podcast sponsorship. Hit up your contacts and leverage your network to help you spread the word.
There are other options to help fuel the hyper-adoption of a new product, like social media, SEO, and even a smattering of traditional advertising. But no matter how much effort (or money) you throw at them, none of these channels will launch a product that no one wants. The key to hyper-adoption is to meet a real need and meet it exceptionally well. Do that and your users will will be clamouring for your product before your first release — then they’ll do most of your marketing for you.
An edited version of this article originally appeared at CustomerThink.