Not just another buzzword, an API is something that all marketing and sales people should have an understanding of. Breaking it down for newcomers and amateurs alike, we dive into what this interesting term is and why and how you should be using it.
An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of functions that allows applications to access data and interact with external software components, operating systems, or microservices. To simplify, an API delivers a user response to a system and sends the system's response back to a user.
But, How Do I Use An API For Sales And Marketing?
Computers make a lot of things easier, especially tasks that involve collecting and sorting through tons of data. Let’s say you wanted to know how many times a particular business partner submitted invoices to your company. You could feasibly go into your company’s invoice records, scan the “from” data input, and print each invoice individually for your audit.
On the other hand, if all invoices were uploaded to a central database, you could write a simple program that accesses that database and finds all the instances of the partner’s name. This would take much less time and be much more accurate. With this in mind it is important to understand that an APIs consist of three parts:
- User: the person who makes a request
- Client: the computer that sends the request to the server
- Server: the computer that responds to the request
One of the first questions many marketers ask is: Why do all of these businesses share their data openly, for free Normally, the answer is: scale. As software companies grow, the staff within those companies quickly realize they have more ideas than they have time and resources to develop them.
By creating APIs, companies let third-party developers create applications that can improve usage and adoption of the main platform. In that way, a business can build an ecosystem that becomes dependent on the data from their API — a dynamic that often leads to additional revenue opportunities.
APIs as a Marketing Platform
Marketing in an inbound world is about companies developing useful applications and services to sustain customer retention. Brands will need to move away from intermittently dropping in advertisements to become conduits of consumer communications.
In that process, APIs facilitate the data needed to provide solutions to customer problems.
Understanding what information is available through an API will help your determine if it is worth working with a developer to pursue the project further. Here are two examples.
If you wanted to show tweets on your website that included mentions on Twitter to articles from your blog, you'd need to understand if you could request tweets with only specific URLs from the Twitter API.
YouTube Video Embedding
When you right-click a YouTube video on youtube.com, and select "Copy Embed Code," you're essentially requesting to use YouTube's API on your website. YouTube makes it easy for the public to embed YouTube videos to play directly on other websites.
The Future of APIs in Business
Developing on the APIs of existing web services is only the beginning. We live in a world that now expects open and available content for all — the natural progression of this is for publishers themselves to release their own APIs, so that their customers can develop applications as a result.
API sharing applies to all businesses — not just those that are web-based, but rather anyone who has a web-based tool or component of their organisation. Obviously, this concept could cause hurdles for some organisations, especially from the legal department. It's up to you to find out which APIs are most valuable and how you can lawfully and sustainably use them.