This is the first in a series of posts called “Raw Product”, sharing our experiences of building products for conversational platforms. The title captures what we are doing at GreenShoot Labs — minimum fuss, minimum fluff (most of the time) — simply focused on building useful products. For Episode 1 we share some of the early learnings of our first product release on the Slack Directory and how we doubled sign-ups with a simple change.
Prologue: launching GreenShoot Labs
We started discussing the possibility of building products with Tim Deeson around April 2017. Tim is the founder of the Deeson digital agency, and I was working there on technical strategy. We shared a common interest in product development, conversational interfaces (chatbots) and artificial intelligence; especially when these technologies are used in service of supporting teams to work better together. We joined the dots, and GreenShoot Labs was born — a product studio closely associated to Deeson and focussed on building products that make teams happier and more productive.
Over the next couple of months, as we worked out the details of how GreenShoot Labs would operate, lofty ideas were exchanged about chatbots, AI, machine learning and the future of work. Comprehensive Google docs were created to define our strategy and compliments were received from friends, colleagues and advisors on the breadth and depth of our vision.
Then we stopped messing about and started building an actual product.
Deciding on a product idea
We have several product ideas, ranging from very simple to very complex. Ideas, after all, are cheap. As a first try, however, we picked something we thought was on the simpler side of the scale. A checklist tool designed for Slack teams.
Tim wrote here about why we created TeamChecklist, why checklists are useful for teams in general and how they can be made even more useful within a conversational platform.
Following classic lean startup lessons, we started by creating a landing page and running some ad campaigns to see the amount of interest the tool would get. While we had some validation, we realised that targeting just Slack users that knew about, were interested in and were actively looking for bots as a way to enhance their Slack workspace was more of a marketing exercise than what we could reasonably handle.
In fact, the majority of Slack users we talked to had only a minimal interest in bots and most didn’t even know a Slack app directory existed!
However, we still knew that people do use bots. It is clear this is a growing market, and the danger of entering early(ish) is that you will not easily find lots of users through traditional marketing techniques.
We decided that the simplest way to do it was to put our product on the Slack marketplace shelves and see if people would pick it up.
We thought that from an engineering perspective it would be a simple enough challenge and we were rich in engineering resource. The exercise would allow us to learn the Slack API and build a SaaS platform without getting too distracted in the complexity of the tool itself (we later found out we were wrong, but that is a different post!).
Submitting TeamChecklist to the Slack Directory
Work started in earnest in October 2017, and by January 2018 we launched on the Slack directory.
The Slack submission process was smooth. We read the guidelines and set up a checklist (of course!) with all the requirements. Once we were happy that we met all of them we hit the submit button to get the application reviewed.
Slack was pleasantly reactive. We saw that someone logged in to the application and the next day we got a set of questions about the permissions we were requesting regarding how much of a Slack workspace’s data and functionality our application should access. Slack rightly pointed out that we were asking for permissions we didn’t seem to be using or need. We updated our application, re-submitted and after another review, we were good to go!
TeamChecklist was finally on the Slack Directory!
We then went to test a sign-up from the store and… it didn’t work! Doh! Turns out that there was still one place in our application where we were requesting permissions that we were not permitted to use as a live app. This is not an error that would show up in the test app. A quick patch later and we were finally good to go.
The first user signed-up a few hours after we went live. We were genuinely surprised. Our app was at the very bottom of the categories we submitted it for (Office Management, Productivity, Project Management) and we hadn’t done any marketing. How were people finding us?
Over the next few days, we saw a steady stream of user sign-ups. Our own marketing site was getting zero visits; our introductory video was getting only a fraction of views compared to sign-ups. This was all about the Slack directory. People could install straight from the directory and they didn’t look for any further information.
Our initial hypothesis of the most efficient test being that of putting the tool on the Slack directory and seeing who picked it was right.
With the tool on the directory we skipped all the marketing problems of narrowing it down to people that know about Slack bots and are motivated enough to install them. We got a clear signal regarding the specific idea with just our target market in play.
It was as simple as people looking for a checklist tool and the title of our tool — TeamChecklist — fitting that description. Users were typing “checklist” in the search box and we showed up as an option.
Iterating on the value proposition
Now, given that learning, we also realised that we had to take a closer look at our title and the short description of the tool. Initially, it was:
TeamChecklist: help your team share best practice with reusable checklists.
Our value proposition was focussed on how checklists were a great way to capture a team’s set of best practices and that TeamChecklist would allow you to then share and reuse those processes.
Analysing the actual usage of the tool we realised that users had a broader set of scenarios in mind. While some were interested in best practices most were just looking for a checklist tool that was tightly integrated with Slack. So we formulated the hypothesis that if the value proposition was less about best practices and more about the raw functionality we should get more signups. In interviews with a handful of users, they all also agreed that the value proposition “share best practices” was either too confusing or too abstract.
We changed our listing title on the store to:
TeamChecklist — Tasks and Reminders: Create checklists, assign to anyone in your team — receive automated task reminders and daily reports.
Pure focus on just what the tool did. We also tightened up the rest of the copy to be much more specific and practical.
We submitted and the next day got approved to take our updated listing live.
We saw the rate of signups double almost immediately and it has remained consistently so.
So our first set of lessons is:
- There is a large number of people interested in Slack applications — however, marketing to them through traditional means is still hard. Listing on the Slack directory may be the most efficient way to get to them.
- Most people don’t look at anything other than the actual listing — make sure it fits your users’ expectations and be willing to experiment. We could skip the website for the app, and we would still be getting signups — people are not visiting it. The listing is that much more critical for us.
- Allow people to install and try the app directly from the directory. Reduce all friction between the discovery of the app and use of the app.
We are now focussing on increasing engagement within the application. We want to get better at measuring the usefulness of the app and figure out what features that will help improve it. In the next instalment of Raw Product, I will talk about our product development process and the metrics we are putting in place to measure engagement. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Slack store submission process or what GreenShoot is working on hit me up on Twitter.
Follow TeamAssist for news about TeamChecklist and checkout the tool on the Slack Directory.