Web Marketing for Developers: Acquiring Your First Users

So you’ve done it at last – your code is clean, you’ve debugged it, your product is ready. You’re just moments away from publishing on Github – but what to do after that?

Having mapped the AARRR funnel of customer behaviour, it’s time to take the first step – which often can seem like the hardest one. You have a shiny new API all ready to go – but how can you go about convincing the first person to step forward and say “I’ll try that”?

To make the practical application a bit clearer, we’ll be using a theoretical API that allows apps to provide a weather forecast in the North Pole (why, you ask? Because we can) in real time. Let’s call it the Chilly API – we’ll refer to this product through the Web Marketing series.

What is Acquisition?

The Acquisition stage of the AARRR funnel allows you to understand where valuable traffic comes from. This can be from ad networks, widgets, campaigns, affiliates or other channels.

What this means is up to you to a certain extent: to be able to “rank” these channels, you need to define an event that counts as an ‘acquired’ user. In the simplest definition of the term this could just mean counting the total number of visitors to your site from a channel. More complicated measures can include other events like clicking on a ‘try now’ button or interacting with a demo.

Tracking Acquisition with Visitor Numbers

Any metrics tracking system you use will present a near-overwhelming amount of information; it’s important not to get swept away by them. Remember that tracking metrics is only useful if you act on them: it’s better to get started with one metric for Acquisition and devoting all your effort to improving that.

To keep things simple, lets say that we’ll rank the performance of each channel based on how much visitors they bring in.

Growing the Audience

You want more people to know about and use your product – so how can you go about acquiring more users through your marketing efforts? We’ve compiled several effective and cheap methods that can get you started in a short amount of time:

Content Marketing

Content in a general sense refers to any resources that you may produce that’s not part of the core product, but still provides value to users.

  • Long term. Thanks to organic search, content will stick around for a long time through the ‘long tail’ advantage. You’ll find that people may still stumble upon your content months or years after it’s produced.

  • Costs less. When launching a product, you’ll usually have more time than money. Producing text content in particular costs little while resulting in potentially significant returns.

  • Improves search engine ranking. A side-effect of producing content is that search engines will pick it up, bringing organic traffic as people search for similar terms.

As mentioned earlier, content refers to resources separate from your product and can take various forms. With a limited budget, several ‘quick wins’ are possible without spending an excessive amount of time or money:

  • Tutorials. How-to’s are always helpful, especially for beginners who need guidance on setting up and using your product.

  • Blogging. The most common form of content marketing, maintaining a blog can be a good way to establish your authority. Blogging also addresses your audience’s interests in a way that your product itself may not be able to do. An example of a successful blog for dev tools belongs to Codeship, which frequently runs how-to’s, developer best practices and more.

Paid Advertising

Acquisition Traffic Sources Pusher

Compared to content, advertising is different in various ways. Ads can be a good way to acquire large numbers of well-targeted users, particularly if you take care to advertise on platforms which your users are active on. We can imagine ads on Twitter may perform far better than Facebook, which traditionally has a less active developer audience. In the graph above you can see the impact that various advertising campaigns have had on our total number of visitors.

You’re also in control of both the amount you spend and the duration which you want to run ads for. Ads are a reasonably predictable way of increasing traffic to your product.

You’ll often get the chance to run “self served” ads on Twitter, Adwords and others for as little as $25. In any event, advertising is an important step to improve acquisition and move users further down the funnel. Always remember to keep the quality of traffic in mind though!


Despite all this, it’s still no easy task to build an audience all by yourself – so why not make use of audiences that others have built?

This is, fortunately, not as unscrupulous as it sounds. ‘Partnering’ with other brands, while evidently promoting your own product, will likely be welcome as long as you’re able to provide value to other audiences through your efforts.

Integrating your product with other popular platforms that compliment your product can fast-track you to larger audiences of established brands and make your product more attractive to others.

With our hypothetical API, we might add it to Heroku’s add-on marketplace. This puts us in a better position to ask for promotional support, such as by getting in newsletters or featuring on social media.

Community Building

If you aren’t already, you should be active and engaged in various developer communities such as Stackoverflow, Google+ Circles and even subreddits.

Being engaged and active in communities helps build social trust, and may even encourage new visitors to see what you’re doing. This is a good source of encouraging visitors to your site, and will have further advantages later on in the AARRR funnel – we’ll be covering those in later blog posts.

Next Steps

In this post we’ve covered the fundamental requirements to acquire the first users of your product. It may seem like a difficult task, but with the right metric to track and the right measures to move it you’ll get traffic flowing to your site in no time.

Our next post will move on to the next stage of the funnel, Activation. To prepare for that, you might want to start thinking about ways to encourage the acquired audience to start using your product:

  • What incentives can I provide visitors to use my product?
  • How can my acquisition efforts link to activation?
  • What might prevent or discourage visitors from activating?

As usual, do follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay up to date with this series!

Onwards and upwards! The third post in this Web Marketing for Developers series on Activation can be found here.

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