Slack, the group communication app for business, just announced that it has hired Bill Macaitis as its first chief marketing officer.
Macaitis was most recently the CMO at Zendesk, and SVP of online marketing and operations at Salesforce.com before that.
This is Slack’s first major move since raising $US120 million at a $US1.1 billion valuation last month. At the time, Slack – which officially launched in February – said it had over 73,000 paid users, and was adding $US1 million in annual recurring revenue every four weeks, making it one of the fastest growing enterprise apps ever. On top of that, Slack’s growth has been purely organic, meaning it hasn’t spent a dime on marketing.
Today’s hiring shows Slack is serious about ramping up its sales and marketing efforts to further boost its growth. This is something Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield hinted at when he spoke to us last month after the funding, and a point he reiterated during our call this week.
“One of the reasons we wanted to raise the money was to be in a position to accelerate growth,” Butterfield told Business Insider. “We want to get as far ahead as we can before seeing any real competition, and that’s why this is the first thing we’re doing after the funding.”
Butterfield pointed out that Slack has been growing so fast that at one point he had to “try not to grow,” because otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with all the costs associated with the growth. For example, Slack stopped sending out “reactivation emails” – those notifications that remind you to come back to its service after a while – because it couldn’t handle growing any faster than it was already.
But with a fresh $US120 million in the bank, Slack can be more flexible with the way it invests in itself. That means it can start spending really aggressively on sales and marketing, if it wants to. Mentioning how other SaaS enterprise companies, like Workday, spent a lot in sales and marketing in its early years, Butterfield implied that he wouldn’t rule out really beefing up its spending in this area.
“We’ll spend as much as we can efficiently. If we can spend $US1 million a month and get a return on that, then we’ll do it. If we can spend $US10 million a month and get a return on that, then we’ll do it, too,” he said.
Macaitis says he’s looking to build upon the “customer evangelism” Slack has been seeing – remember, its growth has been purely word-of-mouth – through different kinds of advertising and marketing campaigns. That includes building a global marketing team and content team, as well as creating sophisticated ad targeting technologies. With a more structured and proactive marketing approach, Slack hopes to really add fuel to its growth.
“Our growth has been very good. But so far, it’s been happening to us, as opposed to us doing it in a deliberate way. But now we get to do it in a deliberate way,” Butterfield said.
But Butterfield noted that it could take another year before Slack goes after the really big enterprise clients. So far, most of its clients have been smaller teams within large companies. But to get those big contracts of large organisations, Slack will need to start offering consolidated billing and administration packages, with better HR and IT analytics, which Butterfield says he’s working on.
Nonetheless, with a new CMO and a bigger marketing budget, there’s no question Slack is ready to be the next big thing in enterprise tech. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to really reshape the landscape,” Macaitis said. “And in all honesty, I think it could be bigger than Salesforce or Zendesk. It just has unlimited opportunity.”
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