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Remember who you’re building for – Slack’s human focus

Technology & Data

Remember who you’re building for – Slack’s human focus


As the marketing stack grows taller, developers need to be careful not to lose sight of their audience – Marketing speaks with Kelly Watkins, VP of global marketing at Slack about balancing innovation with connection.

In an industry constantly updated by new technology, campaign coordination is becoming more complicated everyday and marketers are having to work longer because of it. Kelly Watkins is VP of global marketing at Slack, a technology platform aimed at simplifying the marketer’s workflow. Watkins describes Slack as a ‘companies collaboration hub’, centralising internal and external communication into one place. Slack integrates with household marketing softwares – Marketo, Hubspot, etc – in an attempt at unifying the marketing stack.

Marketing speaks with Watkins to discuss how marketers can get the most out of Slack, her favourite app on the platform and what’s coming next for the company.


Marketing: How does Slack use Slack?kelly_watkins 150 BW

Kelly Watkins: Well as you can imagine, we use Slack to build and market Slack – it’s very meta. For my team it’s central to the way that we work. Marketing at Slack is a very disciplinary team, we have folks working on everything from events and field marketing to brand advertising campaigns, product marketing, content and customer marketing. I’m a huge believer in an integrated marketing effort. So rather than individual teams executing our own roadmaps in a silo, I really look at how we can take all of these tactics and bring them together to really provide a great experience for our customers.

Slack enables that to be such an easy thing for us to do. Firstly, It provides incredible transparency and visibility for everybody on the team. So while we’re running multiple projects and efforts simultaneously, anybody in the organisation can have access to the information whenever and wherever they need it. Secondly, whenever we’re working with our other partners and stakeholders – whether it’s our sales team, our product team or the variety of agencies that we work with – Slack enables us to coordinate easily with all of these groups and get information to them.

As a leader in the organisation, I’m really able to observe and keep my finger on the pulse of how things are moving forward. I have a much easier time understanding if things are on track, projects are blocked or where people might need my help. The visibility from my perspective is just so fantastic.


What has Slack been up to marketing-wise lately?

Last year we launched ‘Frontiers’ in San Francisco, which is our flagship user conference for Slack – it was the first year we had done it. You can imagine, an effort like that just takes such a village to pull off, not only all of our internal teams – marketing, product, sales, executives – but also a variety of external partners that we work with.

This year we decided to do Frontiers in a much more global fashion, so we’ll not only be having it again in San Francisco, but also bringing it to New York and London as well. My team is heavily utilising Slack as the means through which we are planning the conference, and the benefit that I’ve seen is because it’s such a global effort. The ability for everyone to have the most up to date information that they need really prevents drag on the project and its helping us move things forward much more quickly and in a much more streamlined fashion.


How can marketers get the most out of Slack?

I think there’s two things that make a huge difference for marketers. The first is practicing really good channel management. The benefit of channels is that you can use them for anything – specific projects, specific campaigns or even social activities inside of the team. Making great use of channels and really setting them up in a way that directs people and connects to the right information is essential.

The second piece is that last year at Frontiers we launched a new feature called ‘external shared channels’, these channels enable you to connect your Slack workspace with other Slack workspaces and for marketers who are often working with external agencies, this is just invaluable. We make heavy use of this at Slack, we’re connected to all of our agency partners through shared channels, which just makes it so much easier for them to have the information they need and for us to move projects forward really quickly. I know that for many of our customers it’s also driving how they work. So shared channels are a major element to how they’re working with an agency, with their clients and customers as well.


What is the best way for marketers to use Slack as a part of their technology stack?

The biggest thing is figuring out how to effectively set up the integration. So, not only having a set of channels, but knowing what tools you’re using and how to make sure they are effectively integrated with Slack. For example, Hubspot has a really solid integrated integration with Slack called Growbot, that enables you to query data in a really fascinating way. With growbot a team can easily get answers to questions like, ‘how much website traffic did we have today?’, or ‘what sorts of outcomes are we seeing from the work that we’re doing?’

I think that the more people have access to the right information through Slack, the greater benefit that provides the company. When you think about the integrations and the way you can connect Slack with other tools, the amount of information that enables people to have access to just becomes so rich and incredibly useful to a team.


What is your favourite app on Slack?

I think Donut is one of my favourites. It’s an an app that connects you with people in your company that you might not already know, so you can grab coffee and get to know your coworkers better. For a person like myself who’s running a very quickly growing global organisation, just being able to have something like that connecting me with people inside the marketing organisation and across the broader company on a frequent basis is such a nice way to get to know people.


How do you see technology changing workplace communication and collaboration in the coming years?

I think there’s a couple of things. One of the pieces that has motivated us from the very beginning and how we’re building Slack is: while technology is enabling more and more of our communications, you’re still a human at work. We’ve worked really hard to really build software for humans, in the way that humans communicate – everything down to how channels work, being able to react to stuff with emoji and express yourself through method based formats. The future of work for me is really about, ‘how do we think about augmenting and enabling the way humans connect, while keeping tight on that human focus?’ That will be really critical.

The other piece is the consolidation of all of the systems and tools that we use. You can imagine a business today using thousands upon thousands of pieces of software to really power work across a variety of teams – because Slack integrates with all major software products available today, we’re continuously adding new integration on a monthly basis. That ability for people inside of the organisation to easily access other pieces of software and to be able to get the data and answers that they need in one place; it just really streamlines productivity and enables people to not be wasting as much time searching for information.


What is next for Slack in terms of technology and direction?

We’re just continuing to focus as a business on furthering communication and collaboration among teams. We have seen incredible growth in the past four years. We now have eight million daily global users on Slack and we’ve been around for just over four years which is incredible growth for us to see. To really solving that core problem of ‘how do teams collaborate and work together?’ is going to be a focus for us. As well, we really want Slack to useful for everybody around the world, we’re continuing to invest in localisation and making Slack available for people no matter where they’re working. Last year, we localised Slack in four initial languages – French, German, Spanish and Japanese – and we’ll continue to focus on that. Finally, we really deeply care that Slack works effectively with all the other softwares that we use today, so we’ll continue to invest in our platform. Not only in terms of the various businesses and the softwares that we integrate with, but also building out more features that enable you to take action from Slack.






 Image copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

Josh Loh

Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au

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