APIs: Do marketers need to know about them? If you’ve been working in marketing for a while you must have had times where you would like tool A to talk to B? This is very often achieved via the use of APIs.
Maybe you’d like your marketing platform to talk to a useful source of data such as your website analytics, your mobile app or your call centre systems. There are many possibilities you might have considered, only to find you are told (or already know) its great idea but its just too hard or costly.
Now API’s are not a magic bullet; they do not make any of these things just happen, but they do remove large portions of the effort and therefore the costs. APIs can make the ROI on a project justified and worthwhile doing.
Without trying to sound too over the top, they can help your pipedream ideas become a much more attainable reality. They allow you to have better access to the hard to reach data about your contacts, or reach your contacts in new, more personalised ways.
What is an API?
Application Programming Interface. Please do not glaze over, I will try to keep this light.
Before API’s if you wanted to link two programs or tools together that had no previous links, you would have to have both changed or rewritten to understand each other’s messages. Then when you brought a third or a fourth into the mix, the effort (and your costs) sky rocketed. This meant most connections you had a pipedream of building, would never happen.
So how does an API get around this? Most of the time, when considering the functionality in a tool that you would want to allow to be triggered from another tool, you will find you have only a finite list of things. So the developers of tools that offer API’s have created Endpoints to the functions they want to make available over API.
What’s an API Endpoint?
Sorry, this getting a bit techie speak now so I will step back and give you a real-world analogy. Let’s say you want to take a loan out from your bank to buy a sports car. To do so you will need to fill out a personal loan form. This form has rules; things you must tell the bank so they have enough information to reject the loan application or lend you that money to buy your dream car.
So you fill out the form and send it in and they process it and say yes or no. Now if Joe Bloggs down the street wants a loan for his new kitchen, he does not need different personal loan form to you. As far as the bank is concerned he is making the same request as you, a loan to buy something for himself, so they will still use the same form, or in API talk – the same endpoint.
An API call is much like a bank loan form. First, you must prove who you are, which is called authorisation. Then you must fill out the required information for the endpoint’s type of request. Then that tool will validate your request and either process it and provide you results or reject it. You have no need to understand what happens behind the request.
How does an API improve marketing efforts?
The marketing automation world has seen the huge benefits of API’s. Some of the key areas they help marketers in are content delivery and data access. Stay tuned for part two of this blog for more details on each of those areas. Martech leaders including Unica, Salesforce, Acoustic and Adobe have all been steadily increasing their API endpoints and capabilities.
In some cases you will find you have API’s available that already do exactly what you need. Other times they might be used in combination, and scripts or code built out to manage a combination of calls. There are also more and more cases where the API integration you want is so common place, the tool providers each side have already done the development work for you and you just need support configuring the interfaces.
With proper support from specialists in APIs in marketing automation and your market specific knowledge of your sector, business, and customer base, you can use the power of API’s to turn your ideas into reality.