December 1, 2012
The following post is sponsored by Constant Contact and written by Kevin O'Brien, Senior Director of their AppConnect Program.
Small businesses represent a tremendous opportunity for app developers who are looking to tap into a market that includes nearly 30 million small organizations and nonprofits. As a result, integrations with small business platforms are a great way for app developers to increase exposure and drive sales for their tool or service. Many established software providers in the space are opening their doors through APIs to make it easier for app developers to access their functionality, and potentially access their installed customer base. However, finding the right integration partner can often times be a challenge for developers, especially those that are marketing a brand new product.
With scores of small business platforms and hundreds of products that offer open APIs, it can be challenging for developers to determine the best choice for an integration partner. It’s also important to consider that it takes time and resources to learn a product’s integration capabilities and stay up to date with their new releases. As a result, it is imperative that developers choose a platform that helps them balance time invested for the potential for business reward. As a result, developers have many factors to consider when choosing the right integration partner.
So where do developers start? Consider these questions while determining the right integration partner:
- How big is the potential audience using or needing this product?
- Will this functionality add significant value to my product?
- How open is the platform and how quickly can I get up to speed?
- How committed is the software provider to promoting and providing a marketplace or app store for their customers to find the solution?
By answering these important questions, developers can better understand the difference between an integration that let’s your app thrive versus an integration that is a waste of time and resources.
Another Revenue Stream
Any developer looking to integrate with an existing small business platform is, first and foremost, looking grow their business. This occurs by expanding the level of functionality in their product, or making their product more desireable for new customers who are already using an existing service, or as a new front door to generate leads. While growth opportunities exist in different forms, many developers look at exposure to a large base of prospective customers as a main driver. However, it is necessary to look into the type of small business audience to determine if that exposure will ultimately lead to purchases of your solution.
For example, if the goal of an integration is to open new doors by joining their marketplace, or app store, a key point to consider is the alignment of pricing models. If the service that you are integrating with charges $30/month, and your service is $300/month, then you are likely not aligned with the value that their customers place on software. Conversely, if they charge $300 and you charge $10, you may be leaving money on the table. What works well is when an app in a marketplace offers a free version with an upgrade path, where the upgrade path does not exceed the monthly fees they are already paying for the service. They will spend up to, but not more than, the initial service.
APIs Make a Difference
As a developer, you often times don’t have extra time or resources to navigate complexities that can be associated with APIs. For example, every app seems to handle contact information differently. How many different integration solutions can you reasonably manage? This challenge is amplified when an integration partner doesn’t offer code samples, clear documentation, or SDKs in multiple languages. For these reasons, it is important to work with an integration partner that offers access to multiple, easy-to-use APIs and top-notch development tools for an easy integration.
Developers should also consider what API functionality is available before working with an organization that provides access to a large market of small business owners. Does the API allow you to pull data out of the system as well as put it in? The most impactful integrations occur when you are able to combine data from multiple sources to generate an outcome that is time consuming to do manually. Often times this means you will want access to pull data both in and out of a system. Some of the best integrations overlay campaign analytics with other sources such as websites or pay-per-click campaigns that deliver a level of insight the customer could not easily achieve.
Take Advantage of Partner Resources
A small business owner is constantly looking for easy and unique ways to enhance their marketing efforts to generate additional sales and attract new customers. As a result, developers have a major opportunity to tap into this growing market. Integrations with established players can be a great channel for the new startups. When choosing an integration partner, this is something that developers should not overlook. Asking the partner about access to marketing channels for their integrations and apps will help determine how your app will be presented to perspective buyers. This helps developers reach an audience eager for new tools that will ultimately drive sales for the app.
Deciding which integration partner offers a platform to reach the small business market is not an easy decision. However, with the right decision comes with tremendous revenue opportunities by tapping into a market that is eager for new apps to help add value to their small business. All of these elements factor into the decision process for the developer so they are making the most out of their integration while also adding value to the existing small business marketing platform.
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