15
16 Comments

How We Got 1,000 Users by Engaging Developers

The Secret: Focus on Docs, Problems, and Packages

When we began building our SaaS product Ayrshare, an API that connects to social networks for posting, we strongly felt that we would not be able to tap into our core target market if we only focused on the traditional marketing and engagement route. You know, the same Google ads, general SEO, and blog posts.

Ads, SEO, and “Top 10” posts* have a place in every marketing strategy, but we are developers ourselves. We know how important it is for a developer to research and evaluate a new product. And like most developers, we also usually skip over the fluffy marketing pages and go right to the technical meat.

If you have a SaaS product, API, platform, or tool that is primarily used by developers, then you need to take a different approach to target those developers. Whether or not they have direct purchasing power, they are your users, often are hugely influential in the purchasing decision, and where you need to direct your attention.

By focusing on engaging the developer API community, in 6 months we had 1,000 new users.

So how did we effectively engage with a technical/developers audience?

We looked at where we as developers spend our time:

  • Reading documentation.
  • Looking for solutions to their programming problems.
  • Evaluating tools and downloading packages.

*We admittedly have some “Top 10” posts

Docs

Documentation is one of the most powerful engagement and marketing tools at your disposal. Forget your marketing homepage, fancy images, or business-world cliches. Developers want the nitty-gritty details and those can be found in your documents. API, tech specs, and integration docs are what they are looking for and what will ultimately win them over.

For example, in our API Docs we get as technically detailed as possible on how the system works, features and capabilities, and what the integration effort takes. And since we know that these docs will be read by prospective customers, we write them in such a way that puts the reader at ease since we have already thought through many of the technical questions.

So what makes good docs? Think of what you would like to see: integration guides, code examples in multiple languages, API details, and technical FAQs. If you take the time and care in your docs, it can be your biggest selling opportunity.

Stripe has some great API Docs. They are detailed with live examples:

Stripe API

If you stop reading now and just focus on amazing docs, you’ll be good to go.

Solutions to Problems

If you program and need help, what sites do you visit? I bet StackOverflow is at the top of the list.

Now, you should never, ever, and I mean never, post promotional info about your app on StackOverflow. In fact, I recommend never mentioning your product.

What you should do is help people with questions in your area of expertise, especially if that topic relates to your business. For example if you had a Stripe-like product, answer every question you can on StackOverflow on payments, API calls, and credit card processing.

Stackoverflow

If you build up a reputation in that area, developers will look to you and your business for help.

Packages & Modules

My choice of tech stacks is React and Node.js, so whenever I need to solve a problem, I head over to NPM, Node Package Manager, to see if someone has already built a solution. The same goes when I delve into Python, I go to PyPI. The breath of packages you can find is amazing and will save you hours of work and maintenance.

Having your own package available in these directories can be a fantastic way for developers to discover your product. You’ll also understand what languages your users build in. For example, we got several requests for a PHP package because potential users saw our package, but didn’t see a PHP one.

How much of a difference can these packages make? About 30% of our traffic comes from our NPM and Python packages or Bubble.io or Airtable Plugin (no-code tools).

NPM

And beyond just engagement and marketing, packages give your users the tools they need to more easily integrate your product, making happy users.

Food For Thought

Of course these aren’t the only avenues for reaching your technical and developer users, and likely there are unique ones for your business. However, this should give you some food-for-thought on different engagement opportunities.

Original Post at Ayrshare

  1. 2

    Good documentation is so often overlooked. I bet that hundreds of great tools failed because of bad documentation. Great read!

    1. 2

      I fully agree with you. That's why we put a bigger focus on docs in our current project. But good documentation might not only help to get new customers, but also simplify things for your team if your project grow.

      1. 1

        I have the same opinion too. Everytime i read things in nuxtjs or vuejs docs, I tell mysellf that is how I will do in eventbunker docs. Can't say i ever liked python docs page for example :)

  2. 2

    Thanks for sharing this post @gbourne! It got me thinking if I can do something for my product ruttl as well.

    One of my my target segments is web developers as well. Do you think the idea of docs would suit my product too? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. 2

      First, ruttl looks great - a wonderful use case. Half the time feed back from internal teams is on the live site and you just get screenshots (if lucky).

      As for doc, absolutely! When I first went to your site I was interested, and being a developer I was looking how hard the integration was. If you make a "Docs" page on the integration, trouble shooting, etc. I bet you'll get a lot of view. I would suggest putting the link in the top header.

      1. 2

        Haha thanks for your feedback! It means a lot 💯

        I will make sure to add this to my development cycle, excited to see how that goes! Thanks again for this idea mate!

        1. 1

          https://docusaurus.io/ is also good if you like react
          or https://content.nuxtjs.org/themes/docs if you are a vuejs guy like me :)

          1. 1

            Thanks for sharing haha!

        2. 1

          Welcome. And we use https://gitbook.com

          Has a few issues, but overall really happy with it.

  3. 1

    Interesting post. I tried to make a similar product years ago, but it was too boring for me :D

    I'm curious: is it still a pain to fill all the forms and whatnot for every single social media to authorize your app?

    For stackoverflow: my advice is to target highly asked question. My badges, point and whatnot are all from one question I answered there :D

    1. 1

      Totally agree on Stackoverflow. Focusing on questions in your, or your company's, area of expertise will help make you known.

      Getting approval for social networks has gotten worse where now many require videos of how your app functions, meet their specific branding requirements, and and break their API (so need to maintain). Also you need a rules verification system before sending posts that adhere's to each networks (un)written rules - or you risk getting banned.

      1. 2

        This is insane. Well done to integrate so many of them in your service!

        1. 1

          Thank you - next up is Google My Business and TikTok

  4. 1

    Do you have any data for your StackOverflow help? What have your posts led to?

    1. 1

      We see many clicks coming from Stackoverflow - use use Plausible to track. In order of most to least clicks: NPM, PyPI, API sites (Rapid), Bubble.io, and Stackoverflow. Stackoverflow seems to be the least (about 30 to 1), but that is also because someone has to click on our profile and then click our link since we never post our link in answers. I really think of Stackoverflow as a slower burn that over time builds up your reputation, and thus your companies rep.

      Every user that we speak with we ask how did you hear about us. We often hear, the Bubble.io forum, NPM or PyPI sites, or Stackoverflow.

Trending on Indie Hackers
Looking for Indie Hackers on Twitter, drop your handle 👇 57 comments List of places to submit your startup (for free!) 19 comments I'm 20 years old and launched an app that went #1 on the App Store. AMA. 18 comments Unpopular opinion: I don't like AI content generator tools 16 comments 💔 Y-Combinator rejection to new SAAS launch 🚀 5 comments I'm bootstrapping a Relationship Management platform, currently at $600/MRR. AMA. 5 comments