The Startuper’s Guide to the Integrations, Part 1

TrackDuck Team 2 weeks ago

Looking to extend your app’s functionality, find potential partners or reach out to new potential user base? Connecting your software to other products present startups all these possibilities. As well as challenges – integrations sometimes create unexpected competition and higher expectations from users. This is the 1st introductory blog post about integrations, APIs, SDKs, integration partnerships and marketing from our startup TrackDuck perspective. That means, we will be mostly using as examples TrackDuck integrations, like integration with Pivotal Tracker.

Why blog about integrations?

Nowadays APIs that help to connect applications are everywhere. ProgrammableWeb’s API directory is nearing 17,000 entries. Cloud, SaaS, mobile applications, big data, Internet of Things trends are driving the growth. According to SmartBear Software survey State of the API 2016:

54.1% of API providers say mobile is the technology that will drive the most growth in the API industry over the new two years. (63.4% of API providers already support mobile.)

44.4% of respondents say IoT will drive the most API growth in the next two years. (20.6% of API providers already support IoT.)

Integrations are the #2 technology challenge teams want to see solved; 39% of respondents say easier integration between tools is the biggest technology challenge they hope to see solved.

Loss of customers is the #1 potential risk of poor API quality; 43% of API providers believe that a potential loss of customers is the greatest potential risk. Damaging company/brand reputation is the #2 biggest risk, according to 35.5% of respondents.

In a nutshell, if you’re at least not considering connecting your app to 3rd party applications, you’re missing out of ever connected web benefits.

In our startup TrackDuck we have built over 25 integrations so far. Plugins, add-ons, browser extensions, enterprise software integrations… We have done it all in the past 4 years. Looking back, we could have used someone’s advice and avoided number of mistakes. Sharing our experience in this series of blog posts we hope that it will help fellow startup entrepreneurs to make right decision if they are just starting out with their first integration. On other hand, if you’re advanced in this topic – we would love to learn from your experience in the comments below.

Integrations for TrackDuck

Some background info before we dive into building/marketing integrations. As you might know, TrackDuck provides visual feedback tools for web development and design. Most our clients are software development / outsourcing companies, digital agencies or freelancers. In a nutshell, with TrackDuck you can communicate faster with dev team and clients (here is a quick 1min explanation video). Comment straight on the open design files, web prototypes or live websites. TrackDuck records screenshots, technical details (browser version, OS, screen resolutions, links). This way every remark becomes an actionable task or bug report.

TrackDuck is great for capturing such feedback for designers or engineers. But it is not a full featured bug tracking or project management platform. Our team is small and like most startups we chose to prioritise on our key features. E.g. capturing screenshots on user’s side, so you could see how some web issue looked on their device.

Our customers collect dozens of comments per page, sometimes thousands. Managing all this information becomes a serious challenge. Especially if you have a large remote team or complicated workflows. We were getting a lot of requests and tried to accommodate customer needs with new features. But we soon learned it was impossible to cover every project management or quality assurance process. Another option was building integrations with tools that our customers were already using.

We started from Basecamp integration, when TrackDuck just launched, it was the most request integration. After positive response from our users, number of shares and likes we started building new integrations with other most popular project management tools.

Does it make sense to integrate?

Now more than two-thirds of TrackDuck paying customers are using integrations. We noticed that with new integrations:

  • We get less user complaints, and especially if during onboarding new user sets up integration, conversion chances increase by around 25%,
  • Churn rate went down, and even other usage metrics improved – TrackDuck tasks synced with PM tool would act as education for team members who haven’t used TrackDuck before or reminders to close / reply to a task in TrackDuck for existing users.

By enabling users to take their data to other products, we got happier and more engaged customers. This is not unusual and becoming a standard for B2B SaaS apps. Zapier & Typeform case study claims that customers with integrations churn 66% less.

Integrations as User Acquisition Channel

Every new integration that you build expands your network in one way or another. Most often it will actually depend on how much time you will put in promoting the integration itself. Remember, your integration extends the functionality of both apps that you pair together. The value is usually greater for the 2nd party that you will be integrating too, so you should ask for their support.

My first recommendation is to get in touch with ALL the people in the integration partner company who are connected to your integration in any way. Not only the ones responsible connected for the partnerships. Of course always respect your first point of contact and see if they can introduce you to other interested parties. You might get help and advice from partner’s dev or support teams. Your integration might be of value to the product owners in planning their app’s roadmap. Marketing may be willing to spend time and resources on your integration’s promotion. Sales might keep your integration in mind and put it in front of potential customers during demos. Ask about cross-promotion possibilities, and try to get as the most value for the work you put in building the integration. Partnership marketing is a huge opportunity for software providers and asking never hurts.

Marketplaces can be great for user acquisition. Marketplace Suggestions and search can connect you to new users – right when they need you. Great examples are Atlassian JIRA, Slack, Asana and Trello. However, we’re just scratching the surface here and these topics requires a separate blog posts themselves.

Cons of Building Non Core Functionality

Yet, if you are not getting constant user requests, make sure there is marketing potential. Do research if this is not waste of time, ask customers if it will add value. Integrations need maintenance, so this will not be one time investment.

Here is a checklist of questions to go through before starting to work on a new integration:

  1. Do your users really need it? Are you getting a lot of requests for it?
  2. Won’t it confuse existing customers, make your app harder to use?
  3. Do you have enough time and resources to build it?  It is often hard to predict how much time will be needed to develop an integration because of poor quality documentation or lack of experience.
  4. Will we have time and resources to maintain it? Be assured, there will be bugs and updates that you will need to take care of.
  5. Will we have marketing and sales resources to promote/sell the integration to users? Just build it and they will come usually does not work.
  6. Can competition easily make the same integration?
  7. How distracting it will be of building this integration? Will you loose focus from your main vision and product roadmap?
  8. Do we have all the information needed to build the integration? Are you sure the product your planning to integrate with is growing and has proper support?
  9. Does the other party know that you want to integrate with their app? Are they willing promote the integration?
  10. Is everyone onboard from your team and stakeholders?

The cover picture for this blog post is from TrackDuck integration we built with Dragdis, a visual bookmarking tool. It’s probably the best example how to not go about building integrations. We never got a single request to build an integration with Dragdis from our users. Dragdis startup team was about to split up and they did not have any motivation to do anything new. However, our investors asked us to explore if anything can be done with a partnership integration between our tools and we agreed. Needles to say, after lots of time spent of development, TrackDuck and Dragdis integration was never used by more than a dozen of users and was a complete failure.

To be continued

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TrackDuck is a visual bug-tracking tool for web projects saving up to 80% of time spent on remote communication. It integrates with Basecamp, GitHub, Trello and all other major project management tools.