Marketing APIs to Developers

Published on June 2, 2011

The last post I summed up an Introduction to API Business. This post, I am summing up another whitepaper by Apigee on attracting developers to your API.

1. Marketing is not a term for developers

First and foremost, marketing does not appeal to developers.

Developers are cynical about marketing. Statistically, they are the least likely people to be attracted to billboards or online ads. To them, “marketing” is an oxymoron term.

So instead of saying it is marketing, say that you are building a developer community. Instead of doing traditional marketing, it is about you fostering a good developer community.

Always be respectful to developer and bear in mind your work is to help the developers, in all ways (not just only your APIs).


2. Address developers’ motivations

Help them, and address their motivations, usually in one of these ways:

  • Build their skills
    They are looking to build on the latest or widely adopted platforms. They want the skills to be useful in the future, either in their current work or on resume.
  • **Raise visibility
    ** They want real impact in the work they do. They want as many people to use and know about what they have created. Providing them some form of distribution, or free marketing, would make them very happy.
  • **Tools to solve their problems
    ** They are looking for tools to solve problems. Provide SDKs on top of your APIs, debugging tools and anything that makes life simple for them. Developers are very practical people.
  • To get paid $$
    Ultimately, they want to create a business and get paid. Help them achieve this goal.


3. Segment your approach

Be clear about your segments.

They could be segmented by particular programming languages – Java, Python, C++, Ruby, .NET, etc.. They could be further segmented by the platform – web, mobile, flash, desktop software, etc..

Instead of saying “I’m going to reach every developer”, it is more better to say “I’m going to reach twitter devs building mobile apps” or “I’m going to reach web devs with communication needs”.


4. Foster a good developer community

This is where you need to create a place for all developers to communicate with you, or among themselves. Provide them with support, ask for suggestions and share ideas in a forum.

Not anyone can be a community manager, in fact it is actually a rare breed. You will need to recruit the right person, usually with the personality of an extroverted geek (ahem, coincidentally that is my twitter bio).


5. Reach out to developers

Reach out to them via

  • relevant blogs
  • forums and groups
  • StackOverflow, ProgrammableWeb, MSDN
  • twitter, linkedin
  • SEO (google search for eg. “SMS API”)
  • be the pretzel next to the beer – this means put your API beside someone else’s great API


6. Free and Easy

Developers, especially individual/independent/hobbyist developers, will avoid your API like plague if it’s not free and easy to use.


7. Top 10 Developer Adoption Drivers

A list of 10 adoption driving factors:

  1. Cool API – most important
  2. Gather three metrics and stick with them
  3. Get your content out
  4. Good content engine (sample code,  SDK, marketplace)
  5. Internal hack day
  6. Look alive
  7. Focus on segments
  8. Scale and leverage
  9. Track your devs
  10.   Offline activities (contest, conference, or beer session)