What does a developer evangelist do?

A developer evangelist’s goal is to increase the rate of adoption of their company’s API. A developer evangelist accomplishes this in two main ways. One way is to build awareness of their company’s API in the developer community. The second is to increase the productivity of other developers when integrating with their company’s API.

A developer evangelist builds awareness for their company’s API by being active in the developer community both online and offline. This could be accomplished offline by sponsoring hackathons, giving talks at conferences, attending meetups. This could also be accomplished online by contributing to the open-source community, sponsoring online challenges, and writing blog posts.

A developer evangelist is also focused on increasing the productivity of other developers. A developer evangelist does this by writing great documentation, developing client libraries, and writing posts about example integrations. Developer evangelists also accomplish this by being available to answer technical questions from other developers about their company’s API.

A developer evangelist’s primary metric of success is increasing the number of integrations that other developers have built with their company’s API.

Driving the API Adoption Funnel

Sourcing leads, qualifying leads as prospects, and converting prospects to customers are the main stages of the sales cycle. These stages are often visualized as a funnel to measure the effectiveness of a company’s sales process. This same funnel framework can be applied to API adoption. The stages of the API adoption funnel are outbound efforts to build awareness and get developers to sign up, optimization efforts to get developers from sign up to finishing an integration, and customer success steps to keep developers using your API after finishing an integration.

Drop-off at every step of the API adoption funnel is inevitable. For example in the funnel visualization above, let’s say 7,000 developers visit your site, but only 1,400 sign up because your API’s value proposition might not be effectively explained. Out of the 1,400 developers that did sign up and started to build an integration, only 350 developers finished an integration. This might have been due to a poor developer experience.

Now we will look at the specifics ways to drive API adoption by increasing the number of sign ups, helping developers build integrations, and nurturing tactics that will keep developers using your API.

Stage One: Tell Developers about Your API

The first stage is all outbound effort. Your goal is to tell the developer community about your API. Here are a list of ways to get the word out.

Action Items
1. Speak at events with developers including meetups and conferences.
2. Sponsor open-source projects.
3. Sponsor hackathons where you offer prizes that encourage developers to build on your API.
4. Maintain a developer blog where you write posts about cool things people built with your API.
5. Engage with developers at events, and get their contact information to send them lifecycle emails about your API.
6. Engage with developers on sites like LinkedIn, StackOverflow, Reddit, Twitter, and Hacker News.
7. Write guest blog posts on general technology websites like TechCrunch and API-specific ones like ProgrammableWeb.
8. Sponsor niche blogs.
9. Contribute to the open-source community by making code publicly-available on GitHub.
10. Run an online challenge on a platform like ChallengePost, where you offer a prize for solving a problem with your API.
11. Sponsor local meetup groups through Meetup.com.
12. Encourage the formation of local user groups for your API.
13. Have a roadshow for your API, like Twilio.

If you have an enterprise-focused API like Yodlee, then there are additional strategies to consider.

1. Build a list of potential partner companies, and reach out to them individually.
2. Go to developers conferences like Google I/O, and set up meetings with companies that will be there.
3. Get feedback from your sales team about integrations your customers are asking for, and then reach out to those companies.
4. Build out an app marketplace where an integration with your API will make that company money.

Stage Two: Get Developers to Sign Up

Once a developer comes to your site, you need to clearly and concisely explain your API’s value. Then, make it super simple to sign up.

Action Item
1. A/B test different sign up pages to see what description of your API increases sign ups.

Stage Three: Help Developers Start Building

After you give a developer API credentials, provide a quick-start tutorial.

Action Items
1. Create a quick-start tutorial written in multiple languages.
2. Send them a drip email campaign that reminds the developer to start building on your API. Highlight the key features of your API in these emails.

Stage Four: Help Developers Finish Building

If you provide a great developer experience through your API documentation and personal support, then you will make developers more productive and increase the number of integrations.

Action Items
1. Write great documentation in multiple languages.
2. Write how-to articles on your developer blog of common API integration scenarios.
3. Create screencasts where you walk through common implementation cases.
4. Engage with developers on sites like LinkedIn, StackOverflow, Reddit, Twitter, and Hacker News to answers questions about your API.
5. Have a FAQ that is based on common questions you get from developers about your API.

Stage Five: Continued Engagement with Developers

Let’s say a developer finishes building on your API, but then stops consuming it. You should have metrics to identify this to reduce your API churn rate.

Action Items
1. Parse through your API logs with a service like Splunk to see if a developer who signed up is actually using your API. If they are not using it, then reach out and ask them what is stopping them.
2. Set up a smart nurturing campaign that identifies what parts of your API a developer is not using, and then reach out to tell the developer how using it would benefit them.

Takeaways

  • Increased API adoption is a function of the number of developers who know about your API and how easy it is to build on your API.
  • Track metrics on each stage of your API adoption funnel, so you can identify and plug the leaks.
  • Track qualitative feedback in addition to quantitive metrics by asking developers what their pain points are when integrating with your API.