DRIVING THE API ADOPTION FUNNEL
by Murtza Manzur
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. Let's say 10,000 developers visit your site, but only 1,000 sign up because your value of your API might not be effectively explained. Out of the 1,000 developers that did sign up and started to build an integration, only 200 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.
- Speak at events with developers including meetups and conferences.
- Sponsor open-source projects.
- Sponsor hackathons and offer prizes that encourage developers to build on your API.
- Maintain a developer blog where you write posts about cool things people built with your API.
- Engage with developers at events, and get their contact information to send them lifecycle emails about your API.
- Engage with developers on sites like LinkedIn, StackOverflow, Reddit, Twitter, and Hacker News.
- Write guest blog posts on general technology websites like TechCrunch and API-specific ones like ProgrammableWeb.
- Sponsor niche blogs.
- Contribute to the open-source community by making code publicly-available on GitHub.
- Run an online challenge on a platform like ChallengePost or Topcoder, where you offer a prize for solving a problem with your API.
- Sponsor local meetup groups through Meetup.com.
- Encourage the formation of local user groups for your API. Docker is an example that does a good job at this.
- Have a roadshow for your API like Twilio or Twitter.
- Establish and certify a community of independent experts around your API like Google Developers Experts.
- Exchange free access to paid-tiers of your API for evangelism activities on behalf of your company like PubNub's program.
- Buy advertising on websites that your audience visits. For example, New Relic buys advertising on programming-related subreddits on Reddit.
If you have an enterprise-focused API like Yodlee, then there are additional strategies to consider.
- Build a list of potential partner companies, and reach out to them individually.
- Go to developer conferences like Google I/O, and set up meetings with companies that will be there.
- Get feedback from your sales team about integrations your customers are asking for, and then reach out to those companies.
- Build out an app marketplace where an integration with your API will make that company money.
- Set up a developer fund like Mad Mimi to help incentivize companies to build specific strategic integrations.
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. To increase the sign up rate, A/B test different sign up pages to see what works best.
Stage Three: Help Developers Start Building
After you give a developer API credentials, provide a quick-start tutorial. Also 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.
- Write great documentation in multiple languages.
- Write how-to articles on your developer blog of common API integration scenarios.
- Create screencasts where you walk through common implementation cases.
- Engage with developers on sites like LinkedIn, StackOverflow, Reddit, Twitter, and Hacker News to answers questions about your API.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.