Standing on the shoulders of giants: six APIs for instant SaaS success

Running a software as a service (SaaS) business is hard: you need to develop and evolve a stellar software product, that elegantly and intuitively, dare I say 'auto-magically' solves pressing problems for your customers. You need to attract new customers, bring them onboard and hook them for life, you need to address support issues.

And while we are at it, in a SaaS model it is you who is running the software and customers expect you to keep their data secure, your application fast and available, because if you don’t, customers will turn to a competitor of yours. And if you are successful, you’ll be doing all of this at internet scale. 

The good news is, there are many technologies out there to help you. Many of these are offered “as a service” too, ready to be integrated through application programming interfaces (APIs) in your own offering.  

Here are six APIs and services that every SaaS business sooner or later will want to look at. 

Detailed analytics

Since your whole product is digital and it’s running under your supervision (contrary to on-premise software), you can instrument your application so that you know exactly who is doing what within your application. With simple Javascript snippets in your application, you can start sending events and metrics to services like MixPanel or KISSmetrics. 

Life cycle marketing

The success of your SaaS business relies heavily on how long users stay with your product and how well you can serve them throughout the entire relationship you have with them. Modern SaaS companies do not stop communicating with customers once they are onboard. On the contrary, they continue helping and informing users on how to become better in what they are doing, preferably in sync with how the individual customer is using the software. Services like intercom.io or customer.io can help you set up communications with your customers, triggered by actions the customer does on your SaaS product. Examples of this are a welcome emails containing a link to a film, sent 24 hours after the user signed in, or a friendly “we missed you” email when you haven’t used the product for a while. 

Transactional email

Email is one of the best ways to catch your users' attention. Somebody commented on your shared document? Make sure an email is sent with a link to the conversation! A task was assigned to you? An email should arrive in your mailbox, telling you all about it. Often you can simply reply to the email and your input will 'automagically' appear in the SaaS. Sending and receiving tons of emails like that quickly becomes hard. You will find out that incoming and outgoing mail servers don’t necessary scale up that well to thousands of emails per day, not to mention circumventing spam filters and the fact that you have a reputation to keep. Services like Mandrill and Mail Gun are just an API call away to solve all this. They even track analytics for you too. 

Automated billing

If you have five customers, you know the amount they are indebted to you, but if you have 5,000 customers, things become a bit tricky. Collecting the payments on a monthly basis, keeping track of who being on which plan, who enjoying discounts, quickly becomes unmanageable… Unless you use specialized services such as Stripe or Paymill.  In just a few API calls, you will be able to bill users on a monthly basis and be notified whenever a user changes plans. 

Server and application monitoring

The last thing you want, is users telling you your system is down (or slow, or broken). Server and application monitoring tools keep track of a gazillion metrics for you, and alert you whenever something on your site is not going smoothly. This is a crowded space, with players, such as New Relic and Pingdom, all of them ready to help you out. 

Feedback, helpdesk and ticketing

You cannot avoid the fact that now and then, customers will want to talk to you, to ask for information, to complain, etc. To help you with this, you can seamlessly integrate online helpdesks into your application, so that not a single question must be left unattended.  

There is plenty of other tools and features out there for you to integrate into your SaaS. The things mentioned here are just a starting point. 
I am curious to hear from you which APIs and services you are using to help you reach SaaS heaven! 

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