Why developing ‘Knowledge Article PDF’ made me a better Admin/Architect

Table of Contents


At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to release an AppExchange app. Little did I know that it leads to a full-blown business venture of mine. Two months ago, I released my first app “Knowledge Article PDF” on the AppExchange. In this post I share some of my learnings and the takeaways and how I can apply them to my Admin, Architect, and Consultant projects.

Thank you goes to Nina Rosen and Ch. Szandor Knapp for making sure I write nothing wrong.


I learn as I go and therefore this post represents my current state of knowledge. I’m sure this will change again in the future. This post represents my views and my way of doing things. Others have a different way which works for them. Learn from others but make your own mistakes.


Building AppExchange apps is not so different than doing consulting work. Building apps need a deeper understanding of the technical side of the platform, but on the business side, it’s quite similar. You have Users, you have requestes, you need to create value and you battle for adoption.

But there are enough differences that I could learn quite a lot from developing AppExchange apps which make me a better Admin, Architect, and Consultant.

In today’s post I cover the first two learnings: ‘Marketing is necessary’ and ‘High value does not need to be high effort’. The other topics will be covered in follow-up posts.

During the last two months I learned that no matter how good my product is, marketing is necessary. Without marketing, people will just know how good my product is. ‘High value does not need to be high effort’ was the main assumption I had going into app development and it has proven true. High complexity does not equal high value. On the contrary, easy to build (and use) can bring very high value for my customers and me.

There were many more learnings I’d like to write about in future posts. This depends on your feedback and if you find this article interesting.

Topics in this post:

  • Marketing is necessary
  • High value does not need to be high effort

Topics for future posts:

  • Keeping it simple is hard
  • Investing in quality pays off
  • Good enough is better than an (imaginary) perfect
  • Clearly define your personas
  • Invest 50$ in professional graphic design
  • Don’t be greedy
  • Work backward
  • Good support makes 5-star reviews

The app: Knowledge Article PDF

The app ‘Knowledge Article PDF’ is based on three different IdeaExchange ideas with a combined number of 630 votes. The app adds a button “Download PDF” to Knowledge Articles. The Admin defines the Fields in the PDF via Field Set. On the day of writing, 30.04.2021, the App has 17 Production Org installs and six 5-Star reviews. The price is a flat fee of 49$ per Org per month but since it was free for until a few weeks ago, most Users use it for free. It still has to be proven if the pricing model works out.

Make sure to check out the App: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/appxListingDetail?listingId=a0N4V00000GYddHUAT

Marketing is necessary

We tell ourselves lies that we are rational beings and not tricked by marketing. This is a huge lie, marketing works. Companies are not stupid and pour billions of dollars into marketing without it working. Going into the project I had the naïve idea that a great product speaks for itself. The App “Knowledge Article PDF” is based on three IdeaExchange Ideas with hundreds of votes, clearly, there was a need. All I need to do is post a link there and boom, money starts rolling in.

I was wrong, so wrong. The link in the IdeaExchange brings some installations, but not nearly enough. I  have to invest a lot of time into marketing. I learned that marketing is more than just banner ads, it’s market research, it’s email campaigns to get reviews, polishing the AppExchange listing, creating LinkedIn posts, and much more.

But it pays off, there’s an immediate short-term boost in installations and reviews when I do marketing. Furthermore, I start see a brand developing around ‘Admin’s Helper’ which is great.

Learning for my future projects:

Too often in the past, I was convinced putting out a great new feature and some user training should do the trick just to learn a few months later nobody is using my amazing feature. My reaction usually was, ok, the feature is not important. It never occurred to me that missing marketing might be the issue.

For my future projects, might it be as an Admin or Architect, I will make sure that I have proper marketing for individual features as for the project as a whole. I learned marketing works.

Marketing ideas for my projects:

  • Feature/functionality description similar to AppExchange listings
  • Email campaigns about new features
  • Public reviews and User feedback

High value does not need to be a high effort

I build/do something really hard, therefore it must be valuable. This is something we are taught starting early in our life. On the contrary, if something is simple or abundant it has low value. The value of gold is mostly derived from the effort needed to get it out of the ground.

Looking at the AppExchange I see many Apps tackle hard problems. I truly respect these apps and the developers behind them. My apps are different, my apps are really, really simple. ‘Knowledge Article PDF’ has about 500 lines of code. The development of the app didn’t take too long. 

In the beginning, I was really worried: Why should anyone install my app. Knowledge Article PDF has no secret sauce, no magic. Why should someone use my app, it’s so simple. Even after adding a few features, the installation manual is only 7 pages, including a lot of pictures.

To my delight, within hours of go-live of the app got a 5-star review by a very enthusiastic user, Andrew.  He even posted the link to the app all over the internet (Thanks for that!). The app solves an issue his users have been complaining about for a long time, finally, he could make his users happy. Andrew did not care that my app was simple to build for me, he just was happy that his Users finally could download Knowledge Articles as PDF, that’s it. If I look at AppExchange reviews, none ever mentions the complexity of the effort building the app. Easy to use, high value, great support, and happy users. That is what people actually care about.

Learning for my future projects: Focus on value not complexity

In my daily work as an Admin, Architect or Consultant I like to focus on the tough problems. Tough problems bring the good feeling in my tommy. That is something I’ll change going forward, promised!

I need to focus solely on the value for my Users. Yes, it brings more glory and intellectual stimulation to build an amazing Flow, but I rather first make sure I have all the right List Views for my Users in place.

Learning from my AppExchange experience I developed a “Value / Complexity” decision matrix. Every feature or App idea is placed on a matrix judging the value to the user and the complexity to build.

Apps or features which fall into the top right corner, ‘high value + easy to build’ are considered first. These are my low-hanging fruits. These ‘High value + easy to build’ is where my Users and I get the best return of investment. Only once I’ve finished all of the low-hanging fruits, I consider the ‘high value + high effort part of my decision matrix. Low-value features will never be built. It’s a rather simplistic model, but I think it can make a huge difference. Going forward I will use that matrix for communication with my project customers.