2 min read

If You Build an API Product, Will The Customers Come?

Learn how to maximize the success of your Enterprise API product launch by identifying your first customer before you write a single line of code.
If You Build an API Product, Will The Customers Come?

How to find the first customer for your new API product

As you are building out the business plan for your first Enterprise/B2B API-based product, one of the early key questions is always “How will I find & attract my first customers?”  

When launching Enterprise API-based products, the marketing plan is typically far different than when working with B2C products (in which customer acquisition is heavily dependent on large-scale marketing spending to attract an early group of customers).  So if large-scale marketing is not the answer, what is?

First, let’s start by answering the question in the title.  “Build it and they will come” was a line in a great movie, but it is not the path to follow here.

Instead, the most repeatable path to success with minimal initial marketing spend is to build & launch your first API-based product with and for a partner who has an existing use case for the integration.

The best example of this practice in action goes all the way back to the launch of the first iPhone that included the Apple App Store. (fun fact: the original iPhone did not include the App Store or any 3rd party apps)

When Steve Jobs made one of his famous speeches announcing the 2nd generation iPhone, he did not hold up a phone with an empty home screen announcing the ability for 3rd party developers to write applications for the mobile OS.  Instead, he unveiled a phone with over 500 available 3rd party applications like maps, AT&T visual voicemail, eBay, and many more.  In addition, he worked with a number of partners ahead of the launch to ensure that at the moment of launch, these partners were ready to back the product and publicly tell the stories of their successes working on Apple’s new platform.

This is one of many partner testimonials shared by Apple (from eBay) during the launch of the iPhone 3G.  …

“We couldn’t deliver such a complete and easy-to-use eBay experience on any other mobile device and iPhone users can download {our iOS app} free from the new App Store.”

So what key lessons can we apply from the iPhone 3G launch to an API-based product?  

  1. Don’t develop and launch an API-product FOR your first customers, instead, develop and launch an API-product WITH your first customers.  This ensures that the product you build is relevant to your target market and that your first customers are signed up before your launch.
  2. Enlist your partners to join you in the marketing surrounding your product launch explaining how using your product has benefited their business (like the eBay example above).  A marketing message with a built in testimonial and success story is monumentally more powerful than your own press release talking about how great your new product is.
  3. Get help from your partners to work out the kinks with your application prior to public launch.  This less obvious effect of Apple’s strategy to attract partners prior to launch is that problems in the platform were identified and eliminated prior to large-scale public usage, which you can benefit from as well by building together with one or more partners.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to identify the best use case for your first API-based product, it may be helpful to start here (Enterprise API Monetization Quick Start Guide).

Building and launching API-based products with our clients is all we do every day at HyperCurrent.  If you’d like help reviewing your plan or understanding how our platform can help make your launch a turnkey experience for your customers, please reach out on LinkedIn.  We’d be happy to help.