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A Marketer’s Guide to APIs & API-First Design

Kristin Janeiro | Content Marketing Specialist

November 1, 2017

What is the key to great marketing today? If you guessed ‘agility’ give yourself a pat on the back.

Customer expectations are changing as new technologies, interfaces, and touch points emerge allowing customers to engage with your brand in new ways. But development of new digital marketing tools and assets takes time. It’s a race to get your personalized nurture campaign deployed to all channels, offer your customers voice assistant technology, and integrate new tools and tech before your competition does.

How can you set your digital platforms and your team up to be agile and flexible when it comes to providing and integrating new technologies and touchpoints? With APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), of course!

So, what the Heck is an API?

Think about the user interface on your phone or computer. You open up your favorite app or website and you are able to understand, translate, and absorb the information within the interface.

An API is like a user interface for machines. APIs allow your website, software, or application to access data from a third party system and translate it to your own.

There are restrictions on the types and amount of data that can be accessed through APIs. A virtual contract is always in place between an API consumer and the API provider, the terms and parameters of which cannot be broken.

Many, many large companies that you as a marketer probably interact with on a daily basis have public APIs that you can access and take advantage of. This includes Google, Twitter, Amazon, Salesforce, Hubspot, and many more.

Okay, I get it. What sort of things can I achieve with APIs?

APIs allow you to take advantage of the functionality and data from outside companies or services. So, say your marketing team needs spin up a chatbot, pull CRM data in order to serve dynamic personalized content on your website, or embed a web form or survey. There are companies and services with public APIs that allow your developers to access data and pull code to quickly build third party features and tools into your own digital ecosystem.

New York state’s largest health provider, Northwell Health, recently leveraged the Amazon API to build an Alexa Skill that pulls data from their Drupal platform to inform their patients via voice technology about the closest emergency center locations and appointment wait times.

Listen to Northwell Health discuss the project and their new Alexa Skill in Phase2’s ‘Digital Innovators’ podcast here.

These are just a few examples of what you can achieve with APIs. The API ecosystem is rapidly growing, which means there are constantly new capabilities and tools that you can integrate and take advantage of in your agile marketing strategy.

Consider An API-First Digital Strategy

While taking advantage of third-party APIs is a savvy move for marketers right now, it’s important to look towards the future. There are many compelling business reasons to adopt an API-first design strategy for your own digital ecosystem.

If your company is like most, then you have many intertwined systems that your development teams work on, such as your website, your app, your internal communications network, your user community, etc.

Eventually all of these systems form a big, tangled ball of twine. Make a snip one place and the string unravels in two other places. This makes it extremely difficult to practice agile marketing. How can you move quickly if every slight alteration your development team makes could impact user functionality across the whole system?

Forward-thinking companies are throwing away their system of tangled string and opting for an API-first system design strategy. This means that every system is decoupled and built with an API in place that provides a set of rules for interacting with other systems throughout the organization.

With an API first structure you are able to interlock your systems and build a strong block that is easily updated and modified as future technologies and customer needs emerge. Some companies opt to keep their APIs internal, while others open them up to the public.

If you haven’t ever considered APIs for your own company, now’s the time to do it. You don’t have to be a developer to understand the benefits of an API-first structure. In fact, it’s probably more important for marketers to champion APIs within their companies. Otherwise you’ll find yourself falling behind as your competitors who embrace APIs are able to implement and integrate with new technologies and offer an enhanced customer experience faster than you.

Marketing agility is achieved with the right digital marketing strategy and the right technology platform stack. Our experts can help you with both. Contact a Phase2 expert today.

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