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Merci Victoria Grace is a product leader who specializes in growth, engagement, and design. After graduating with a degree in fiction writing from the University of Southern California, she founded a venture-backed social games company, GameLayers. Her first game, PMOG: The Nethernet, was nominated for MMO of the Year in 2009 but lost to World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade

Merci focused on engagement and paid conversion at Couchsurfing and Gigwalk before joining the workplace collaboration company Slack in early 2015. While at Slack, she ran their Growth team as a Director of Product and took the company from 500k DAU to 5M+ DAU before leaving in late 2017. 

She founded the Women in Product community in 2015. In her spare time, she mentors women and people of color, hikes with her dog Pixels, and writes stories. 

  • MA

    Mélanie Almeida

    3 months ago #

    I love the Slack product! I am addicted. Well Done

    1) What was your main acquisition channel?

    2) What was your strategy to grow Slack when you arrived and did the strategy evolve with time?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. Invites from existing users and organic growth driven by excellent product/market fit with small technology teams were our best acquisition channels, especially in the early days. PR was also a surprisingly good channel for us.

      6 Share
      • MR

        Manu Rekhi

        3 months ago #

        What did you do to get existing users to invite other people. Specific experiments. How much of it was product vs positioning/marketing Vs. engineering. specific details will help. and could you quantify them. ex: how good was PR (% of new users attributed) and what type of messages on PR resonated.

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      Our strategy to grow Slack was:
      1. Build something great that our early core customers love. (Our early core customers at first were smallish technology teams. What hasn’t changed is that our customers are always people working in groups toward a shared goal.)
      2. Ignore the free/social use case for Slack as it will distract us from #1.
      3. Focus on providing a responsive, respectful, and loving customer experience. Slack’s incredible customer experience team is the unsung champion of our success, imho.

      3 Share
      • MR

        Manu Rekhi

        3 months ago #

        Could you share a few examples on how you got to the atomic use case of what the core customers loved. Also for new founders -- how did you go about finding the core customers. Could you share methodoly and framework that someone reading this post can internalize. thanks

      • MV

        Merci Victoria Grace

        3 months ago #

        I should add: This strategy evolved to include new customer segments and new channels (like sales) as we moved up the stack to larger teams and companies, but largely remained the same.

  • MK

    Mariana Klober

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci!

    Thank you for taking the time to do this, it's great to have you here.

    I have a few questions for you:

    1. What was the biggest challenge you encountered when working at Slack?
    2. How big was your team at the time you first got there and what were their specialties - did you consider it a good size?
    3. How was your ideation and measurement process to test growth hacks?
    4. What sort of stories do you write - and what is your favorite one?

    Thanks again!

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. My biggest challenges working at Slack were: creating a sense of urgency around growth in the midst of historical success, and running a data-informed team within a culture built on product intuition & pixel-by-pixel perfection.

      3 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      2. When I joined I was the only person working on onboarding. I built prototypes and revved them with Stewart and Brandon Velestuk to prove out the plans before I got assigned any engineers or designers. It was the right order of operations: learn, plan, and then execute. In those first six months I learned how to think like Stewart.

      2 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      3. We worked off a long list of growth experiment ideas and ranked them by: what we thought the possible impact was to our team activation metric (a compound metric made up of people joined & messages sent in new teams during their first week); engineering cost to develop; and our confidence in the experiment. The surprise hits ended up being usability improvements on our mobile apps. Those usability improvements worked very well & credit for that goes to the product manager Jules Walter and his team.

      2 Share
  • AE

    Ajay Ejantkar

    3 months ago #

    I get most of my product management information from articles and advice posted online and in social media. Is there any formal learning for product managers that you would recommend? Such as online courses, in person training etc.

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      There's no better way to learn product management than direct application. Start something from scratch (like a side project) if you don't have a live product to work on yet. Do product tear downs. Make a list of assumptions to test & figure out how to test them. Assume you're wrong.

      5 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    3 months ago #

    Merci Merci for doing this AMA.

    Here are a few questions for you:

    1) Do you think B2B SaaS products can use a lot of the B2C techniques to grow although the buyer personas are generally more complex (several decisions makers vs. single most of the time)?

    2) Would you share examples coming from your past growth experiences?

    3) Is your first name related to French culture somehow?

    :)

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. B2B SaaS products can use many B2C techniques to grow IF the company has a self-service option. Self-service is an awesome way to bypass committee decision paralysis and let individuals try (and fall in love with) your product. Sneak past the guards. ;-)

      4 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      2. Anyone can create a Slack team, and that fact is key to its growth. Remove barriers to entry and don't be afraid to give away things for free.

      3 Share
  • EC

    Emília Chagas

    3 months ago #

    Hi, Merci! Thanks for being here. It's great to learn from people like you. I have three questions:
    1. What are the projects or tests you ran at Slack back in 2015 when they had 500k DAU that you are most proud of (I'm curious about the most successful ones here)?
    2. Which early projects/tests proved to be big mistakes (also early on)?
    3. Tell us more about Women in Product, please? How's the community, what one should do to be part, do you host events?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. In 2015 we developed a totally new onboarding experience that vastly out-performed our previous one. It has yet to be replaced but has been applied to mobile somewhat and optimized throughout 2016.

      5 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      2. My biggest mistake in rolling out the new onboarding in 2015 was removing invites from the team creation flow. I was responding to consistent responses from user testing in which people didn't feel comfortable sending invites during team creation. This point consistently came up during user testing and we ended up always ignoring it. Keep invites in account creation regardless of what people tell you. High intent users will make up the difference; low intent people would skip it anyway.

      3 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      3. You can apply to join Women in Product today! Our community mostly talks on Slack and we do host events all over the world.

      3 Share
  • EM

    Elton Miranda

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci, although Slack has an outstanding growth track record, it was not the first move player. I know there's no such thing as "the one hack," but if you'd to choose, what were the main experiments you think were vital to achieving this kind of growth? (Positioning? Viral strategies?)

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      What we ended up realizing is that Slack "just works". The early team of ~12 people were just astonishingly good at polishing the right edges of the product and very very hard on themselves with regard to both product quality and customer experience quality. The team included technology press in their beta group, which was an inspired and genius choice to create a compelling launch. Competitors also made unforced errors, largely around performance. Hipchat went down quite a lot in 2015, and they lost users to us as a direct result. Performance matters.

      4 Share
  • AF

    Alex Fleetwood

    3 months ago #

    1) How are you viewing voice as a new growth channel?
    2) What do you think are effective patterns for customer acquisition for smart speaker skills?

  • MR

    Manu Rekhi

    3 months ago #

    Merci,
    Love your background in gaming and bringing that to bear at a Saas/communication company. love to hear...
    1. what tools, experience and background you were able to apply.
    2. What worked and didn't work
    3. how did you discover the atomic use case and what other false positives you had to get through to find the holy grail

    manu

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      2. What we thought would work but never really took off was showing people an existing Slack. It's just too much context to understand for a new user. What always works is showing new users the core value of your product in less than 4 steps. It's also important to work with a strong UI writer/designer very early in the product development process. I was lucky to hire and work with Sarah Park, who took our wireframes and product plans and made them so so much better. Language matters.

      4 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. Game design is an incredible way to get deep inside the human mind because games are built to provoke a specific response from the player. A regular person knows that it's fun to play Duck Hunt. A game designer knows that your brain loves to look for and find a specific object and will do that almost infinitely. Game design also gave me a great foundation in looking for and learning to anticipate the response that players will have to the game. When I worked at EA, for instance, we play-tested our games every single week. The games industry really pioneered usability testing.

      3 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      3. The false positive for Slack was our consistently strong adoption of the product for the social/consumer use case. Responding to that emergent behavior would have killed us, and a lesser product thinker/CEO than Stewart would be have been tempted to respond to it. Instead, he stuffed our ears with wax and we tied him to the mast.

      3 Share
      • MR

        Manu Rekhi

        3 months ago #

        Merci, I would love to dig more into this point. Specific examples always help to elucidate this further. Love to get your opinion on the Slack 3rd party platform. Only a handful of apps have succeeded and from what I can tell even Slack employees barely use the apps. how does Slack win the platform game in enterprise communication

  • BM

    Bilal Munir

    3 months ago #

    Hello Merci,

    Thanks for doing this AMA. I wanted to ask few questions:

    1. I want to know your journey on increasing DAU users?
    2. How did you compete with the existing app in your industry?
    3. What do you suggest to follow growth hackers which are the skill they need to excel in this career ?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      The key skill you need to successfully work in growth is the ability to understand others, because that will help you predict what your customers will respond to. Nothing matters more than listening to your customers. The not-obvious bonus of becoming a better, more empathetic listener is that it will also improve your ability to work with your team. I have a longer article on building product intuition that you may enjoy as well.

      3 Share
  • TO

    Tiago Otani

    3 months ago #

    Another question: Slack market share is being targeted by Facebook, Google and other tech powerhouses. How do you see these tools evolving? What are the next boundaries? Voice, AR, AI... where are we heading to?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      In the next few years I think that group collaboration tools will get much better at parsing signal from noise with the application of NLP & machine learning.

      3 Share
  • BS

    Barada Sahu

    3 months ago #

    1) What was the typical window for running a growth experiment and did you have clearly well-defined metrics around measuring it?
    2) How large was the team and typically what channels yielded the best results?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci, great to have you on for an AMA. Your presentation was amazing at the GrowthHackers conference.
    Do you have much insight into the pricing decisions at Slack and the gates to upgrade?
    You guys really nailed it so I’m curious if it required some experimentation or someone just had really good pricing intuition.

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      Stewart has incredible product & pricing intuition. We set those prices and people bought Slack. It was amazing. In late 2016 I added paid conversion to the Growth team's goals and hired Fareed Mosavat to run that team. He started experimenting with pricing & paid conversion in early 2017 and identified and executed on a great strategy focused on awareness and education. He's still at it with a crack team. He knows much more about this than I do and I'll be first in line to buy his book in a few years. :-)

      2 Share
  • TO

    Tiago Otani

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci, your professional path has been just amazing, congrats!
    About the "Women in Product" project, are you planning to come to Brazil or Latin America? An online event, maybe?
    Here at Contentools we have a small but engaged team and I believe our product girls would love to get involved!

  • CO

    carlo occhiena

    3 months ago #

    Hi Grace! amazing to have you here.

    if you would name JUST ONE game-changer decision during your time @slack, which one would be?

    thanks!

    Carlo

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      Ignoring the social/consumer adoption of Slack was the game changing decision. The founders' and early team's conviction that Slack was a paid product for teams enabled every one who came after them to focus on what really mattered. And most people who joined Slack came in with the assumption that we should accommodate that use case, including building v0 social/consumer features like the ability to block other users. Capitulating to that view & building features like blocking would have been a catastrophic mistake.

  • KB

    Katie Beaton

    3 months ago #

    What gives you the most confidence to put forward a change or feature request for growth?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      Confidence in the outcome of a growth experiment is a trap. Confidence that you've constrained the experiment to only test one clear hypothesis is what you should look for.

      2 Share
  • GP

    Gabriel Pule

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci, thanks for doing this AMA!

    Since you worked in the game industry and tech industry, what are the similarities and differences between those 2 fields on the daily basis? And what did you applied from your game dev experience on slack?

  • JL

    Jason Leo

    3 months ago #

    Hello! Jason Leo Carvalho from Finaeo.com here! We are wondering what the relationship between product and your growth team is & how do you keep up to date with new methods of #hacking?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      Our Growth team was a product team. We later added a performance marketing team which collaborated with the core Growth team, but nearly all the people working on Growth were part of cross-functional product development pods. I don't hack and I do not endorse hacking. Be thoughtful, be deliberate, don't take shortcuts.

      3 Share
      • SJ

        Suraj Jain

        3 months ago #

        How did the the various product teams interact with each other? What was the overlap like with engineering and design teams?

  • VM

    Vinicius Mello

    3 months ago #

    Hello Merci, thank you for your time.

    1. How did you conducted the Growth Meetings at Slack?

    2. What is your favorite mothodology to run projects? What were the frequency of the experiments?

  • MC

    Max Carrillo

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci! We are currently working on a Go-To-Market Workplace for small business. Our goal is to change how they see their value and look for new clients by adopting a new process. What would be 3 key actions that you feel they should prioritize in order to refocus towards a more growth approach?

  • SA

    Srijan Agarwal

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci,

    Thanks for doing this AMA.

    Here are my questions:

    1. What has been your biggest win from a growth experiment? What were your takeaways?
    2. Which was the last book you read? Some recommendations for a fellow growth hacker?

    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      2. I read a lot, but one of the best recent books I read was Why We Sleep. It's a good reminder that you'll be smarter after resting, and make much better decisions than if you try to power through with coffee. Another great recent book that's very relevant to the work of product design/understanding others is The Undoing Project.

      4 Share
    • MV

      Merci Victoria Grace

      3 months ago #

      1. Our biggest win came from a wholly new onboarding, following by usability improvements to invites on our mobile apps. My overall takeaway from this is that nothing matters more than allowing your customers to experience the core loop of your product as quickly and easily as possible.

      3 Share
  • CL

    Carol Luong

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci! What were some of the few things that worked within your content marketing strategy? Which channels or partnerships proved the best ROI for you? Thanks!

  • SJ

    Suraj Jain

    3 months ago #

    Hi! I'm curious how you structured your growth + product teams as you scaled!
    1) How were the product teams organized? Were they by customer problems or use cases?
    2) Did each team have dedicated cross-functional team members?
    3) How many different product teams did you manage?

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    3 months ago #

    Hi Merci,

    Awesome to have you on for an AMA.

    1. If you could tell any woman getting started in product or growth 3 things, what would they be?
    2. What are your top recommendations for building empathy for the customer within an organization?

    Looking forward to learning from you.

    Best,
    Dani

  • JV

    jeremy vandehey

    3 months ago #

    Thanks Merci!

    For apps building on Slack (or any contained network), how did you think about growing within that network to a point where you knew it would stick? And then how did you think about growing outside that network before/during/after the "a-ha" moment?

  • LV

    Larize Villarroel

    3 months ago #

    Hi, Merci. Thanks for your contribution!

    I just started working as a ~~growth hacker~~, so I have two questions about this:

    - What are the 3 most common mistakes I can not make at all?

    - What were the cleverest things you've ever done?

    Thanks in advance!

  • CP

    Charles Postiaux

    3 months ago #

    You did / are doing so many cool things!

    1) Where/How did you learn what allowed you to get so much growth and success? Is it from mentors, practices, books/articles?

    2) By reading your answers, it feels like you had a very precised vision on where you wanted to go and each step you had to take in order to reach these goals. Do you think that this attitude, and being in general very focused / precised makes someone a great leader or a company successful? I'd love to have your opinion on that!

    Thank you!

  • YY

    Yeesheen Yang

    3 months ago #

    Hi Mercy! Your work is an inspiration. Slack's onboarding is beautiful. It's so simple, polished, shows the core value of the product, and well-integrated into the product as a whole. (If it's not obvious, I build onboardings and am a fan.) My questions:

    - What inputs were the most important to you when you built that onboarding?
    - What signals or measurements were the most important to you, in measuring the success of that onboarding?
    - Biggest mistakes that people make in onboarding?

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