Layer

Designing our growth tooling

At Layer we believe great developer relationships can be cultivated logically and respectfully alongside brilliant engineering. We recognize that our success is directly tied to our customers’ success. We’re implementing systems, tools, and processes to ensure every app creator that tries Layer has a great experience and is effectively and fully supported.

We’ve designed our growth tooling to be consistent with Layer’s values:

The growth machine we’ve built at Layer enables us to engage, measure, and support customer relationships. We’re building a product for all app creators, from one girl in a garage to the Fortune 500.

Getting to know you

Before we can properly address a customer’s needs, we invest heavily in understanding who they are and what they’re trying to build. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of inbound interest at Layer after winning TechCrunch Disrupt. At that time the team announced an intention to open 50 slots in a beta program and more than 13,000 app creators signed up on layer.com to request access. Clearly we were onto something!

To handle this scale with a small team, we’ve needed efficient ways to collect data, understand individual needs and requirements, and engage in an authentic way — at scale. When someone indicates an interest in Layer and signs up for access on Layer.com, that information is fed first into Salesforce for tracking, reporting, and quick followup. Salesforce is flexible and easily customizable even without code or a professional admin, and we’ve found it exceptionally useful in ensuring new users get quick attention.

We’ve adapted Salesforce to meet our needs and data requirements so that we can be there for each of our users from day one. We’ve done a tremendous amount of outreach to our users, crafting personal and authentic messages, learning about, and listening to our potential customers. We knew many developers had originally been attracted by our mobile-first product, but we were eager to know what they wanted next. Throughout our beta, we used GetFeedback to run Salesforce-aware surveys, asking new users share more detail about their requirements. With a 24% response rate, consistent patterns emerged in this customer feedback that informed our product roadmap and prioritization.

One request we heard loud and clear was a desire for UI components to help developers get a high quality chat experience up and running fast. In response, we launched Atlas, a fully featured, high performance, 100% customizable UI kit. Atlas is helping thousands of Layer developers implement great communications experiences in their apps much more quickly. Detailed and meaningful feedback from our customers played a big role in the launch of Atlas and many products to come.

We have struggled with an age-old discovery challenge for all developer products — developers love to sign up with their gmail addresses and little else. The Layer signup experience is clean and quick. However, the lack of information makes it more difficult for our team to ensure we can effectively support our users’ needs and deliver the tools and value they expect. Understanding the geographical distribution of our user base has provided many insights we’ve used to up our game in serving international customers, with many more optimizations on our roadmap to address this need.

For better insight into who are users are and where they’re coming from we’ve leveraged Clearbit, a business intelligence API, to uncover helpful information about new users immediately. We access this information via Clearbit’s Salesforce plugin, enabling us to quickly understand our users without a bunch of googling. This a big win for our customers, who only need to provide minimal info at sign-up. At the same time, we’re empowered to more quickly and effectively get exactly what our users need into their hands.

Developer engagement & the feedback loop

Our team has craved deeper engagement with our developers than email can provide. Late last year we implemented Intercom for prospect and customer communication, and the results have been spectacular.

We use Intercom first to better understand customer needs and requirements. On a new user’s first login, they are greeted by a message right inside the dashboard from Alex on our Growth team, asking how we can help. When developers indicate interest in a platform we don’t yet support, they receive a message in real-time from Drew, one of our Product Managers, asking more about their use case. The insights gained through these conversations have transformed our ability to understand how customers are using Layer, and what we can do to make it even better and more useful.

We tag customers in Intercom based on feature requests, both to inform our roadmap and so that we can let them know when we ship their requested features. We segment customers in Intercom based on demographic details, but also by target segment. We also use Intercom to identify larger opportunities, and reach out to offer a more hands-on experience and support. We’ve created events tied to nearly every action on layer.com and in our dashboard, enabling great insights into user interests and requirements.

One example of the benefit we’ve seen in these interactions led to a meaningful recent change in our commercial offering. When a user checks out our pricing page, we can reach out to answer any questions they may have about pricing in real-time right in the sidebar. These interactions provided another key insight: our initial $99/month price point was prohibitive for some startups just launching and for customers in territories where this price point represents an extremely significant investment. Layer is a premium platform and service, but as a team we share the core value that it should be accessible to everyone, everywhere. To address this need we created a much more accessible Startup package at only $25/month, making the decision to get started even easier.

The white glove experience

We’re focused on providing a responsive, high-touch experience for larger customers. Our team understands that the decision to use a core building block for communications is a big decision, with major implications for our customers’ products and companies. We also understand that larger organizations need clear points of contact to manage complex provisioning processes and technical due diligence.

Our team is built to meet these needs. We offer enterprise pricing that works at scale, as Layer was designed from the ground up to be a commercial-grade distributed system for high volume communication — not just a starter platform. We bring technical resources to bear from day one, starting with our Partner Engineering team to support integration. Our Special Projects team even builds fully functional prototypes and proof-of-concepts for larger customers. And of course we offer world-class 24×7 support for large organizations around the world, leveraging Zendesk for our Standard & Enterprise Support ticketing queues.

Communication is a critical part of the high touch experience. We use Slack for internal communication, and we’ve also created external, customer-facing Slack channels so large customers can have direct access to our core team. The customer interaction that happens in Slack is much more real-time than email and less formal than a call. These channels give our customers a place to get to know Layer and ask questions they otherwise may not, helping them feel like an extended part of the Layer family, which we love. This human connection with our partners has tremendous value to both sides in facilitating communication and iterating to create high quality communications experiences on Layer.

Elegant self-onboarding

We know that many developers prefer to self-onboard, and we aim to meet this need with slick self-service tools. Developers ask us for clear and concise documentation, easy access to support, and a way to go live without having to get on the phone and talk to someone. In February, we launched a full self-service experience, enabling any developer to sign up, build out a Layer integration, subscribe to a service plan, and go live on Layer without assistance. Of course our team is always on-call for support if our customers need or want it along the way.

Another value we share at Layer is that our business model should be linked to the value we provide to our customers. Our pricing reflects this, and is built on a fee for unlimited messaging for Monthly Active Users. A fraction of a cent buys unlimited messaging for an active user — and we only charge for users that send or receive messages via Layer. Unlimited messaging for a MAU on Layer is cheaper than sending a single SMS, and it’s a better user experience, too. To support this usage-based model in a scalable way we implemented Zuora — a fully featured billing and subscriptions platform, integrated with Salesforce and our own internal tools.

Core values that drive our process

At Layer we aim to build a team that provides real value, answers developer questions with substance, advises on communications best practices from experience. We are building our integrated toolset to ensure that in addition to our full stack communications building block, we also have information to share, perspectives on the market and best practices, and lessons to teach that bring additional value to our customers. Developers are extremely busy and our goal is to help them get what they need, as quickly and directly as possible.

In partnership with our engineering and product teams, our customer-facing team is gathering valuable product feedback that informs our roadmap and decisions. Our team recognizes that our internal relationships are every bit as important as our customer relationships. Our customer-facing team advocates for our customers internally, and also works to ensure that every part of the Layer organization understands we’re seeing in market and what we’re hearing from our customers.

Layer is a communications building block, and communication is a fundamental and core service for our developers. We understand and respect that the decision to use our platform is a complex and serious one. We’re building an organization around tools that make us more accessible to our customers and tear down the barriers between companies and the people who make them work.

We’re looking forward to putting these tools and processes to work to support you in creating a great communications experience. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build!