Understand your API customer — why you should embrace early adopters

Most of us know Moore’s chasm and Diffusion of Innovations, by Everett Rogers. At least some of us know Gartner hype cycle. When those three mechanisms are combined to one picture we get the below.

As an API product owner you want to get your API to markets as fast as possible, with minimal development mistakes (eg waste resources) and make your API easy to consume (get revenue).

In API economy competition is getting tough since more and more APIs enter the markets. All of the API developers face the same problem though — the chasm between early adopters (where the knowledge is) and early majority (where the revenue is).

5 customer segments

From API development perspective it’s crucial to understand the difference between API consumer segments, which can be seen as Rogers’ 5 customer segments:

  • Innovators (focus in this post)
  • Early adopters (focus in this post)
  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • Laggards

Because of my personal interest in innovation, I’ve focused my activities for the past 10 years to work with and study early adopters in open source and 3D printing. For the past 3 years I’ve been focusing (part time) on API early adopters and more recently full-time. In the below I’ll intentionally draw rather stereotypical images of the segments for the sake of clarity. In real life individuals move from segment to another easily or reside inside multiple segments.

Role of innovators and early adopters in API development

Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, they engage to development and are forgiving. The last part is important. The forgive if your API is not perfect in the beginning. In fact they are often willing to develop the solution with you. In short, innovators:

  • embrace uncertainty and cutting edge technology
  • tolerate bugs
  • are willing to use a lot of time to overcome difficulties in onboarding to your API.
  • often introvert(-ish) and prefer to work alone (or in digital communities)

Early adopters is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. If you want your API to succeed, get in touch with opinion leaders since what ever they say (often does not matter right or wrong) matters the most. Early adopters are the gatekeepers before crossing the chasm. They are also forgiving and give feedback to you if you get them engaged to your product. Compared to innovators early adopters are a bit different “species” since they:

  • communicate a lot (blogs, social media, discussion boards etc)
  • understand the needs of the early majority
  • are experienced with development of technology
  • gatekeepers of products regarding the maturity

How to get in contact with early adopters?

When you engage innovators and early adopters around your APIs, you should not ask money from them. They contribute skills and time to your product. Monetary reward might even be pushing them away. They are not your subcontractors. They do not want to make commitments towards you or your company money-wise. Besides there people have seldom monetary issues or needs, they are highly skilled and are offered positions in different companies more than you.

In APIOps community you can find truly interested (not because you pay) innovators and early adopters to work with you. On top of that they will give you honest feedback which is crucial.

Partner with APIOps community

Since both of the segments often are comfortable in communities, share opinions, knowledge and tutoring, you should seek community way to engage them. One option is to get involved with APIOps network. It’s a technology driven API enthusiast community with hundreds of members. Network has community driven meetups in which you can introduce new API (in development/design) to community. All of the presentations are broadcasted to Youtube (and stored there for later view).

In APIOps community you can find truly interested (not because you pay) innovators and early adopters to work with you. On top of that they will give you honest feedback which is crucial. You can find existing and rampup phase groups from apiops.net. Partner packages are available in APIOps webshop.

Contact for further information

If you have questions, you can always contact APIOps Global Community Manager Nazia Hasan (nazia.hasan@apinf.io). We can be reached also from Twitter @APIOps