Tracking a Developer’s Journey From Documentation Visit and Sign Up to First API Call
If your business model involves selling to developers, you probably have already realized that much of the traditional processes and metrics applicable to traditional enterprise sales or consumer marketing don’t work. Specifically, selling to developers usually means attracting them to your platform and helping them succeed in building something, whether that’s a new app, integration, or automating an internal process. Getting developers to adopt your platform can be daunting and requires investment in product, onboarding and developer experience, and documentation. However, there are few tools product managers and developer relations leaders can leverage to measure and improve that experience.
Web and mobile analytics tools like Mixpanel and Amplitude can only measure activity on the website itself, yet most developer platforms price on what happens with the API, not via website activity. On the other hand, most API monitoring tools can only track infrastructure metrics like requests per minute and CPU utilization without any context of the user. To accurately measure your adoption and conversion funnel, you need to track usage across your entire platform from initial ad click and sign up, to what a new developer does with your API.
What is the developer-first marketing strategy
Most developer-first platforms have a B2D (business2developer) go to market strategy which is uniquely different from B2C companies which drive consumer adoption, but also different from B2B companies who maintain large sales forces to push their solution to other businesses. In reality, B2D sits somewhere in the middle between B2B and B2C.
B2D is like B2C in that:
- Self-service signups and credit card payments takes priority over sales demos and contract negotiation
- Low-cost acquisition channels like SEO-optimized content, SEM, and partnerships are prioritized over large and expensive sales development teams sending emails.
- Because almost everything is self-serve and online, you can be very data-driven in terms of product metrics focused over just focusing on 1:1 relationships.
B2D is also like B2B in that:
- The developer still works at a company who is buying to solve a pain rather than an individual looking for the latest gadget or online hangout spot.
- Sales processes can still be complex involving multiple stakeholders and require technical validation.
- Developers are still humans implementing a complex solution and may need high-touch dedicated support vs B2C where support is super transactional handling password resets and returns.
Building a cross-platform funnel across web and API
API product managers can focus on any number of initiatives at any given time, whether that’s API features, pricing and packaging, or top of the funnel acquisition. In order to know which area to focus, you should map out your _entire_funnel from very first ad click to a fully activated customer paying and referring other customers. The beginning of your funnel might start on your website as a visitor signs up to use your API. However, once they created an API key, much of the magic happens on the API side rather than the web side. Many developer platforms build their business model around usage-based pricing, which means your revenue is correlated to API usage, not website usage.
|Funnel Stage||Source||Description||What to look for|
|Signed Up||Website||The first step a developer makes is to show interest in your platform. For developer tools, this usually means signing up and generating an API key.||Your analytics solution should be tracking which channel the user came from using UTM parameters, referrer tracking, etc along with which page drove the signup.|
|Made first API Call||API||This is a huge milestone as many signups never reach this stage. The developer was able to understand your API and give it a spin.||Monitor TTFHW (Time to First Hello World) and conversion rate. You should continue looking at which channels drive the most activations.|
|Made over 100 API Calls||API||After a 100 or so API calls, you could consider the developer “active”, in that they built a real integration rather than just testing with Postman or Curl||A low conversion rate from the last step could imply difficulties with your SDK or unclear integration steps.|
|Approaching Free Limits||API||Most API products are priced on usage. In order to become a paying customer, they need to exceed some limit.||If very few long-term “active” developers exceed their limits,then you may need to optimize your packaging and pricing.|
|Converted to Paying||Website||Congrats! You now have paying customers.||Most developers have more than one value metric they price on. Keep an eye on which ones are driving paid conversions.|
|Evangelized your API||Website||Are developers sharing and discussing your platform online?||By adding a mechanism to track referrals, you can see which channels and mediums are performing the best. A complete analytics platform can track UTM parameters and things like referring domain. With a mechanism to generate unique links pere customer, you can also track which types of customers share the most.|
Linking web with API activity for users and companies
Business2developer go to market models have elements of both B2C and B2B and involve both individual developers and also companies or accounts. It also involves cross-platform tracking across web and APIs. This can complicate accurate funnel and conversion reporting. Do you track an individual user sign up funnel or do you track companies who integrated and use the API? What happens if a developer clicks on an AdWord and signs up using his or her GitHub account but doesn’t do anything. If the person invited a colleague to do integration, then that person may only be attributed to “direct traffic” or “invite referral” depending on your marketing attribution. We need to still attribute the successful integration to an AdWord click.
One way to solve this is mapping out a 4x4 grid to track:
|Developers active on API||Companies active on API|
|Developers active on website||Companies active on website|
Not all API platforms will follow this model and may fill some boxes with a don’t care. For example, many APIs don’t care or track which developer is accessing the API, yet it’s important to understand which company is using the API. In this case, we want to track the following:
|Not Applicable||Companies active on API|
|Developers active on website||Companies active on website|
Solving the cross-platform tracking
In order to solve this, analytics platforms like Moesif link everything through user ids and company ids regardless of the sessions. Your API and website should use the same identities regardless of the platform for accurate reporting. By modeling companies as groups of users, the linking can be simplified. This provides flexibility in picking and choosing whether to track usage only at the user-level, only at the company-level, or both for the API and website separately.
While having permanent identifiers are great, sometimes we don’t have all information available when the API call or user action is logged. To solve for these cases, we leverage the website session token or API key to uniquely identify the person and company. An alias table that links both session tokens to user/company ids and also API keys to user/company ids enable end to end funnel tracking.
Tracking usage and retention accurately is critical in 2020 as leadership shifts from a growth at all costs to efficient growth driven from product optimizations. You can no longer just measure vanity metrics like pageviews and signups. Instead, you should be measuring the entire funnel and understand the inputs that impact each stage. How does changes to your pricing and packaging modify your conversion rates from active developer to converted paying customer.