Slack Connect will fundamentally reshape business communication

It’s time to say goodbye to email

Earlier this week, Slack announced the launch of Slack Connect DMs.

Here’s how it works:

Any Slack user will now be able to direct message any other Slack user. The new system is called Connect DMs, and works a bit like the messaging apps and buddy lists of old: Users send an invite to anyone via their work email address, and if the recipient accepts, their new contact is added to their Slack sidebar. Connect DMs turns Slack from an app for chatting with co-workers into an app for chatting with anyone.

This is a massive shift for Slack’s product vision and strategy. They want to fundamentally change the way we communicate at work.

Traditionally, Slack could only be used for internal communication; chatting with your co-workers. That meant any time you needed to communicate with external people, such as customers, partners, or vendors, it had to take place over email.

And for teams whose primary job is to work with external people; Sales, Customer Support, Business Development — even if their companies used Slack, they ended up spending most of their days in email.

So for those employees, Slack was less valuable, and they spent less time using it.

All of that changes now. Here’s why I believe Slack Connect is going to fundamentally reshape business communication:

  • It streamlines external communication
  • It adds personalized context
  • It creates the enterprise social network

Streamlined external communication

With the launch of Connect, employees who use Slack can now do all of their communication from one place.

Not only does this make the employees more productive, but it also makes the communication itself more efficient. How?

Instant messages have a substantially higher open rate than email, and a faster response time. Why?

Email always feels like a burden to respond to, but messaging doesn’t suffer from that same problem.

The problem with email is it’s become a dumpster ground for everything; your inbox isn’t just where your conversations live, but also your notifications, reports, newsletters, invoices, bookmarks, ads & promotions, etc.

The average email user has hundreds or thousands of unread emails, resulting in a cluttered inbox. That meant more time context switching and digging for the right information; a huge loss of productivity.

Now, Slack is employees’ single hub to communicate with everyone: their co-workers, customers, partners, vendors, and so on.

Key takeaway: higher open rates and quicker response times mean more work gets done, faster.

Personalized context

One of the problems with email, especially with external contacts, is that it feels impersonal. Fundamentally, it’s just a block of text with no human feel.

Think about the last time you received a cold email — say from a partner, a recruiter, or a professional contact.

You probably went to LinkedIn and looked up:

  • What the person’s job is (title + company)
  • Where they’re located
  • What they look like

Email signatures are the only solution to this today (besides add-ons like Rapportive), but they’re constrained to HTML text, and aren’t distinguished enough from the email itself.

Now, with Slack Connect, business communication will be augmented by rich user profiles and metadata, powered by Slack’s acquisition of Rimeto.

Rimeto is a modern corporate directory that lists all the key information about a company’s employees, and Slack will be integrating it into Connect DMs.

Specific job functions that I could see this being huge for are: Sales reps, Recruiters, and Customer Success.

Sales reps could easily grab a prospect’s phone number, Recruiters could see a candidate’s past work history, and a Customer Success Manager could read a customer’s bio to establish camaraderie in their conversation.

Now imagine you received a DM on Slack from one of your longtime professional contacts. Right in the conversation, you’d see their:

  • Profile picture
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Contact info
  • Bio
  • Location

These make conversations feel more personal. Especially on cold emails where you don’t know the person. And business communication is all about relationship building.

Key takeaway: personalizing the context will foster trust and comfort when communicating externally.

The enterprise social network

As Ben Thompson wrote in his blog, Stratechery:

The more companies that take advantage of Slack Connect, the more of a moat Slack has. That’s the thing about social networks: their best feature is whether or not your friends are on it, or, in this case, whether or not the companies you’re working with are using Slack.

Network effects are the concept of how a product increases in value as more people use it.

For example, with TikTok or Instagram, more users mean more content, which means more engagement.

But as Slack shows us, this theory isn’t limited to just consumer social networks.

By focusing on building a network across companies, rather than within…

Slack has now built the enterprise social network.

The more companies that use Slack, the more people you can communicate with on Slack — which makes Slack more valuable.

There are some incredible downstream effects of this. When faced with the choice, companies will be more inclined to work with partners or vendors that use Slack, because they’ll know it’s a more efficient way to work together.

And this creates an incredible flywheel for Slack: more companies will want to use Slack, because their external contacts are using it, too.

Network effects wise, once some of your external communication begins taking place via Slack, eventually you’ll want all of it to. It’s just like how, as a consumer, you want all of your messaging to be from one app.

And when all of your communication — internal and external — is now taking place via Slack, the switching costs to leave Slack become extremely high.

In theory, that means Slack’s customers will be less likely to churn, and have higher levels of retention. This increases the LTV (lifetime value) of their customers.

Key takeaway: more companies will want to use Slack, which makes Slack more useful for all its customers.

In summary, here’s why I believe Slack Connect DMs is going to fundamentally reshape business communication:

  • It will make external communication more efficient, through higher open rates and faster response times.
  • It adds a rich layer of context to conversations, which personalizes cold outreach.
  • It drives network effects, which creates a flywheel of demand for Slack.

This is a series of blog posts on the tech industry and product management. I’m on Twitter at @samir_javer if you want to say hello! 👋

Product @Grammarly. Ex: @GoClio, @Thumbtack, @DoMeetings.