API Product Pitch for Everybody
Product vision is one thing, another thing is the execution of developing the API product. Specifically, the quality of the API product and the details that make the difference might rely mostly on engineers’ decisions. Furthermore, inspiring your smart engineers with a product vision, a reason or rather a Why, motivates them to perform extraordinarily. Giving a reason might even transform engineers into customer ambassadors because engineers are not brainless code monkeys. People want (and like) to make an impact. Hence, it is paramount that everybody, especially engineers, understand the value proposition of a particular API product. And there is no better way to achieve that than with an API product pitch.
Daily API Product Pitch
We introduced in our team a daily exercise, which we call: The Daily Pitch. Thus, after each daily SCRUM meeting, engineers have to pitch an API product of their choice in front of the team. This is a great and important exercise because it helps engineers to make the right decisions when doing the API interface design, implementation, and testing. Afterwards, the team provides valuable feedback for improvement.
The team of engineers and product manager soon builds a common understanding of the API product when pitching it. Actually, when a team shares their individual ideas and perspectives, it becomes clear what the customer segments or personas are, what the problems are, and what the value of a particular API product is. In our team, we even realized that one API product is in fact two products because we weren’t able to pitch it as a whole.
As a result, after two weeks of practice, everybody was able do a concise elevator pitch to explain what customer problems it solves and what value it provides. We used a camera to record the API product pitches because you cannot imagine how much more stress it generates. When I had to speak in front of the camera, I was paralysed for two minutes, if not more. A mobile phone’s camera is more than sufficient and fulfils greatly the purpose.
Check out this video, which shows the transformation of engineers into API product pitching beasts.
How to Pitch an API Product?
First, you don’t pitch the API! You rather pitch the value proposition that your API brings. For that reason, it is crucial that you understand your API product as an interface to a value proposition. So, to prepare for your pitch, answer first the following three key questions:
- Who is the customer?
- What is the job that the customers has to get done?
- What value do you propose to help the customer?
Please note that the API is the solution to how you deliver the value proposition. Most importantly, the solution, if at all, comes last. When you’ve answered these three questions, then you are ready for working on your API product pitch.
Example of an (API) Product Pitch
Let me show you a pitch I’ve delivered in whichI proposed “notR: notarized smart contracts for the blockchain”. Next, let’s break it down into its component. Unfortunately, it’s in German or rather Swiss German. However, the pictures and slides express the message well enough.
0:00–0:03 (3s) Branding. Show the brand that they have to remember. Furthermore, this is the perfect time in the pitch to tell your mantra. A mantra is a slogan, consists of very few words, and express your motivation. This is especially important if the audience will see many pitches. Then they need something to remember.
0:04–0:38 (34s) Convince the audience that you can do it. Present yourself, your skills, experience, and passion for the topic. For that reason, I talked about my background, experience, skills, and what I’m currently working on. Especially relevant, limit yourself to what is related to the product.
0:38–0:45 (7s) Claim. Present a claim or use your value proposition or rather your vision. Preferably, use pictures to have it remembered better by the audience. As a side note: the flames on Judge Dredd’s visor were animated to make it more dramatic because emotions are remembered better than information.
0:48–0:58 (10s) As-Is State. Show the world or situation as it is today. For instance, use customer expectations, how a job gets done, or pain points.
0:58–1:23 (25s) Desired State. Show how the world or situation could be. In other words, present a vision or a desired state a customers wants to be in. More precisely, don’t show Super Mario and the Fire Flower. Show Super Mario who can through fire balls that kill enemies from the distance. I hope you understand what I mean.
1:23–1:43 (20s) Strategy. Present the gap and the strategy to get from the “as-is” state to the “desired” state.
1:43–2:06 (23s) Problem. Show the problems that have to be solved to make the strategy work.
2:06–2:21 (15s) Gap Opening. Create tension by opening a gap. In this case, I showed a problem on the one side and relevant assets and capabilities of the company on the other side.
2:21–2:38 (17s) Gap Closing. Present your value proposition and how it closes the gap. In this case, I claim to use the relevant assets to solve the problem, i.e., I apply existing capabilities to solve a problem. The solution consists of the glue to make the capabilities work in the new problem context.
2:38–3:42 (1m4s) Solution. Now it’s time to talk about the solution and how you deliver the value proposition. Make it as concrete as necessary. For instance, I presented a mock of a user interface to create a notarized smart contract.
3:42–5:51 (2m9s) Present the business model. Show customers how the product works and for what they have to pay how much. In an enterprise context, for example, show the stakeholders why and how the product will create revenue and benefits.
5:51–6:26: (35s) The Asking. Propose the customers how to proceed with a call-to-action. Tell the stakeholders/investors what you want to achieve and what you need from them, particularly in an enterprise context.
6:26–6:30 (4s) Branding. Repeat your product and value proposition. It’s probably the only thing they’ll remember. So, make it count!
Effective Structures for an API Product Pitch
Pitching becomes easy when you understand your product and also can apply a simple structure to tell it. In the following, we present five basic structures for an API product pitch. You can use them for doing a quick daily pitch. Most noteworthy, this is an exercise to understand the value of the API product. Hence, you gain most out of it if you iterate through various pitch structure to tell the same things differently and gain different perspectives.
- Analysis (Question/Problem)
- Side A
- Side B
- Gab between side A and side B
- Initial position
- Solution approach