Making the Complex Simple: How to Market an API
Kristina Proffitt

The first thing you need to do when promoting a product is ensure that your audience understands what you’re talking about. Potential customers need to understand how they can benefit from a product before they even consider buying it.

That’s why it can be so difficult to market an API. And that’s why it can’t be marketed like a physical product. Especially if, like with Cronofy, your target audience isn’t only comprised of software developers.

Before jumping into technical explanations about your API, you need to know who you’re talking to and tailor your messaging around what they understand and what they don’t.

When you start telling prospects what you sell and that your API can solve their challenges, you usually get one of two reactions. They either get it straight away because they have a technical background and have worked with APIs before, or they don’t understand and you have to try to explain what an API is. Doing so can often get confusing, but this guide usually helps.

Visitors from both these categories land on our website hundreds of time every day. They land on our homepage or see our ads and we need to make it easy for them to get to the content that’s relevant to them.

These are just some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:

Know your API’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Before you start creating marketing content, make sure you and your team understand what your API’s USP is. Your USP may vary depending on who you’re talking to.

Explain how your API differs from others – especially if you operate in a competitive market – and give people reasons to start using your API by addressing potential objections before they even mention them.

For example, if you’re targeting developers, they may be wary of the quality of your Sample Apps, which can help them create their first application in minutes. If you’re talking to a Product Manager you might want to mention around the clock support or SLAs.

We’ve found that building basic user personas helps us articulate our marketing messages and communicate our USPs better regardless of the context or channel.

Build your website around your audience, not your product

It’s tempting to structure a website around product features. However, when your product is an API, this can confuse your non-technical audience, especially if you start talking about your RESTful Web API and SDKs.

As mentioned before, knowing who you’re talking to is key. Your website is no exception to this rule.

If visitors can’t find the information they’re looking for, they’re likely to give up and leave. Don’t be afraid to make it abundantly clear to your visitors where they should go next.

You can create a developer section to host all your technical guides and tutorials, and direct developers to that part of the site directly from the homepage. They’ll appreciate you saving them time rather than sending them to your marketing landing pages.

Tailored content is impactful content

API customers are no different from other customers in many aspects. They want to be reassured on your expertise. They’re looking for inspiration on how to use your products. They want to know that you understand their challenges.

This is where a blog comes in. Blogging will help you to build a community, attract traffic to your website, and showcase your industry knowledge.

If you aren’t sure what to write about, ask your users directly and talk to your sales team to learn what questions they get asked regularly. You can also focus on creating content to boost traffic by targeting specific keywords. Once a blog post is published you will reap the benefits for years to come.

Take your time writing and distributing your content. It’s hard work, but it all helps you to build a better relationship with your users and attract new clients.

Distributing your content is as key as creating it. Update and maintain your database so you can use your blog posts as marketing assets. For example, send new features updates to the prospects who didn’t convert because it was previously missing.

Focus on what your API does, not how it works

It’s only natural to want to explain everything your API can do and why it’s amazing to everyone. It’s your product. You built it and want to share its technical greatness with the world.

But keep in mind that developers can easily understand technical prowess when they see it. Other prospects will want to know what they can achieve with your API, not so much how it works.

Show, don’t tell, can be a tired expression but we find it rings true when marketing our API. Write use cases and case studies, create demo videos focusing on specific industry needs, and utilise client testimonials. These will help educate your audience and fast track the sales conversation.

Create a separate strategy for developer marketing

Developers might not be the ones making the decision to buy your API, but they will be the ones using it. They’ll also often be the people advocating for a specific API to address a business challenge, which is why brand awareness is so important.

Spend time designing a marketing strategy that addresses developers specifically. If your API is public, you can sponsor hackathons and have developers use your APIs in challenges. This gives them a first-hand opportunity to try your API and means you’ll be there to answer any questions.

If you can send a developer evangelist to events that will help you to further build a strong network in the developer community.

At Cronofy, our developers are really involved in our marketing efforts. They are active on forums, answer questions on StackOverflow and GitHub, and share content on social media.

They also write blog posts talking about how they built our latest feature or what coding tools they like to use. That’s the kind of content that can be distributed to developers and generate qualified traffic.

If you can, get your developers to chip into your marketing efforts. After all, who’s more qualified to talk to developers about developing?

Pick your calls to action carefully

You can craft the most inspiring content, but if you don’t use a call to action that will resonate with your audience, your conversion rate will fall flat.

Make sure that you use different call to actions based on who you’re talking to and what you want your audience to do after reading your landing page or ads.

For example, using a ‘Try our API now’ button on a developer page works well. Developers will expect to get to a developer dashboard and see code. They’ll want to get started and hopefully create their first application quickly. That button can scare away or confuse a non-technical visitor though.

You want non-developers to call your sales team or sign-up for a demo or webinar instead. That way, you can show them exactly what your API can do.

Keep this in mind when you decide what calls to action to use online and always A/B test your landing pages and call to action buttons to optimize your conversions.

Conclusion

The API industry moves fast, meaning that you should always be experimenting with new marketing channels. This might include things like attending developer conferences, monitoring your user satisfaction, setting up a referral scheme, adding chat onto your website, or conducting usability tests.

The key is to always keep your user in mind no matter what channel or support you use. Focus on benefits that really mean something to your audience and only use technical jargon when it’s really necessary.