The strategy behind Slack's launch

When the product was first coming together, Butterfield and his co-founders returned again and again to Paul Buchheit’s now-famous blog post, “If your product is Great, it doesn’t need to be Good.” Known as one of the creators of Gmail, Buchheit has a simple thesis: If you do a few things incredibly well, the rest doesn’t really matter. [...] Buchheit’s words strongly resonated with Butterfield and his team.

"We don’t cut corners, and we try to focus on the few things that are most important to our product vision."

For Slack, those three most important features are:

    • Search [...]
    • Synchronization [...]
    • Simple file-sharing [...]

These may not be checkbox features, or buzzworthy new concepts, Butterfield notes; they may not even be things that users think they’re looking for in a solution. But when it comes to a successful go-to-market strategy, perhaps the most important decision you can make is to build a product you believe is different from everything else out there, and an important change for the audience you're going after.

“We had a lot of conversations about choosing the three things we'd try to be extremely, surprisingly good at,” Butterfield says. “And ultimately we developed Slack around really valuing those three things. It can sound simple, but narrowing the field can make big challenges and big gains for your company feel manageable. Suddenly you're ahead of the game because you're the best at the things that really impact your users.”

Blue Ocean Strategy talks a lot about the need to create a differentiated value curve. It looks like that's exactly what Slack did, by focusing on a set of key things that they had to do much, much better than their competition in order to stand out from the crowd.

I would say that since this interview, a fourth pillar that emerged is the ease fo creating integrations. Being able to very simply send pieces of information and content from apps to Slack channel is a killer feature for many teams, and something that other chat products didn't really do well before.