API Marketing: Using customer discovery to launch a new service
Our customer discovery into API marketing
At Catchy, new ideas and business opportunities are welcomed from every team member. From time to time, our open sessions bring us the opportunity to explore possible new ventures for the agency. In one of these recent sessions, we talked about how some product marketers are struggling to generate adoption of their APIs. This conversation prompted us to take a deeper look into how developer marketing principles could help product marketers to achieve success. Truth be told, the team had conflicting views. Some of us see lots of overlaps between dev marketing and API marketing, while others strongly believe that’s not the case.
Instead of going in circles and argue ad nauseam internally we decided to get out of the building. We like to implement and live by what we preach. One of our key strategy offerings to our clients is a try-and-learn process we call DVC, Discover, Validate, Create. Building upon the techniques from DVC, as well as customer discovery practices, made famous by the Lean Startup movement, we decided to get serious about finding out more about API marketing and run a few sprints on behalf of the agency. We will go out, knock on a few doors and ask more why’s than a five years old. The focus of this initiative is to assess the current market opportunities, understand challenges and identify what marketers and product managers are doing to address these.
As we go through our discovery journey we want to document and share it with you. We’re pretty sure it’s going to be an interesting exploration, there are guaranteed to be some fails and hopefully some great insights too. Join us as we take the steps into our own customer discovery journey.
Why API marketing?
The API space has become much more saturated in recent months. To cover off the basics, an Application Programming Interface, known as an API, in super simple terms allows two applications to interact with each other. Most websites and apps have APIs and you’ve probably used hundreds without even realising. For example, if you are on a retailers website and want to find out where the nearest store is – that map uses an API to fetch geo data and other information relevant to that particular context. API marketing is a business motion chartered with helping developers, and other companies, discover and realise the value of leveraging an existing platform.
APIs are becoming much more readily available. That is because companies have realised they can leverage developers’ innovative technical skills to come up with lots of new and exciting uses and features – which ultimately will translate into business growth. In a busy and crowded space, with some of the biggest names in tech to compete with, how on earth do you attract developers to your API?
On our customer discovery, we’re going to speak to marketing and product specialists in the API space to find out what their challenges are, day-to-day considerations and anything else they want to tell us. We’ll be documenting our discovery and reporting back on all the interesting findings, both good and bad. Just to point out, we’ll be redacting personal information, such as their name and company to protect privacy.
The first steps into discovering the relatively unknown
As with any good piece of research or exploration, we’re backing ours with some methodology.
The first step towards API customer discovery is finding the right people to talk to. The most logical place to find anyone in the business world is LinkedIn, so that’s where we began our search. We knew that not everyone would want to talk to us. We’re being completely transparent about our research, who we are and what we’re up to. We wrote out a script so that everyone received similar messages:
Subject: Help with APIs
We’ve been running a Developer Marketing agency for about 10 years. We’re now exploring an opportunity to support companies looking to market their APIs but who don’t necessarily need a full developer program.
We’re looking to talk with 100 API marketing leaders for 30 mins and listen to their challenges and thoughts about API marketing. We will share a summary of the study with the participants. Please note this is not a sales pitch.
Would you be open to setting up a brief chat?
<Your job title>
The key here is to schedule face-to-face interviews. For logistic reasons, we can’t possibly meet all our participants in person, so video calling is the next best option. The reason we’re keen to have face-to-face meetings is to see the subtle (and not so subtle) nonverbal cues. The problem with phone calls is that you don’t get to see those tiny gestures, which say 1000 words without saying one. The team has also been briefed to ensure there are absolutely no leading questions, otherwise, the interviews will end up being biased and we might as well chuck it all in the bin. We’re also not recording any of the interviews, this is because people tend to act and speak differently when they know they are being recorded and the other option of not telling them is quite frankly, not our style!
The final guidance is around rewards, we’re not offering any. We want people who want to talk to us, not just talk to us and say what they think we want to hear just because there’s a shopping voucher in it for them.
Once we’ve done a few interviews we’ll need to start mapping out common themes, keywords and any technical jargon on an affinity map. These will ultimately form part of the analysis section. It’s important to make really clear notes when we’re conducting our interviews. The affinity map will help us to visually categorise and cluster the themes, keywords and technical jargon. It’s an easy way to start identifying common topics which have been discussed across multiple interviews.
The analysis will happen off the back of the affinity maps. Once all the interviews are done, all the keywords and themes will be written on little stickies and in their topic clusters. It’s time to assess which keywords are the most important and once these have been picked we’ll be having an internal debate. The debate serves a helpful purpose and is good to ensure all the details are hashed out. It’s definitely important to remember in these debates we’re trying to pick out the important themes and keywords from the eyes of the customer, not us.
The Business Model Canvas – we’re using an adaptation of this called the Lean Canvas. The Lean Canvas is a whole framework in its own right and there’s way too much information to explain in a paragraph. In a very small nutshell, it’s a way to visually map out a business plan, check out this Medium article for further info
What did we learn? The report will summarise everything from our customer discovery research into API marketing and outline the key points which can allow us to make an informed decision about whether this is a business venture we’d like to trial or if we should hang up our API marketing hat and walk away.
We’ve launched into our first week and the first step of our customer discovery. The team have been busy finding suitable participants on LinkedIn.
Here are our stats for the week:
- 71 invitations sent
- 3 people interested in participating
- 1 interview booked
- 1 interview completed
What have we learned from week 1?
It’s actually quite difficult finding the right people. We’re looking for marketers, senior but not too senior and of course they must be involved in API marketing. You’d be surprised how many people don’t make it clear on LinkedIn what they actually do and some don’t even update their profiles in between job moves.
As we’re looking for a very specific type of person to participate, the research is taking longer than we initially thought it might. We’re also slightly concerned we might run out of people to contact, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Oh and the people we do find actually have to want to talk to us.
Interestingly, the participants who have agreed to interviews are with some very big and very well known organisations – sectors include marketing software, banking and telecoms. From the one interview we’ve completed, we didn’t gain that much insight into API marketing as the person is on a similar journey as us, but we’ve got an exciting opportunity for a future bit of networking (we’ll reveal more in due course).
Are you an API marketer? Do you want to take part in our customer discovery research? If you do please book in a meeting with our Head of Strategy, Martin by using the button below.Book an interview