Devon Biondi | VP, Strategy Services
July 16, 2013

The Importance of An Audience for your API


In our “APIs As Product” blog series, we have outlined some reasons why it’s important to treat your API as a product and how to price your API accordingly. When analyzing any product it is important to ask: Who is this product intended for? Who is the consumer? 

In order to succeed and sell, a company must consider its product’s audience; who those potential customers are, the type of information customers want, the value they might find in the data you provide and at what cost. Companies need to do the same for their API products.

Why? Your success is directly correlated to the success of the achieved by your audience. When developers embed your API into their apps, they take you on as a stakeholder in their success. And while its vital to ensure that these internal, partner and third party developers can access your information conveniently, the actual components of your API are equally (if not more) important. 

The content of your API influences your larger, collective audience: the developers who create new services or improve existing ones using your API-product, and the people who consume your product via your API. Its important to listen to this audience, whether they’re internal developers, partners, or third party developers and end consumers.  Packaging your APIs accordingly and making the necessary improvements is paramount. This way, audience profitability will help fuel  your own profits.

To enable this mutual profitability, see if your various audiences are getting what they need out of your API. Determine if you can answer the following questions and if you cannot answer them you must establish benchmarks in pursuit of these goals:

  • Are your developer employees privy to all the information they need to ensure your internal processes run as smoothly as possible?
  • Can your partner developers improve their own product offering with the data you’re providing them?
  • Is the value of your business clearly presented to third party developers via your API so that they continue to use it throughout their apps?
  • Finally, are your end customers happy about what they can do with the apps that your API powers?  

To accomplish these goals you must refine the audience in to categories to see who fits in and where. Most companies have employees, partners and end customers. Regarding API strategy, this translates as follows:

You have internal developers who use your API for productivity and process-improvement. A great example of a company who takes advantage of this is Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), which used a supply chain API to ensure that every beverage vendor at the 2012 London Olympics was always fully stocked with Coca-Cola beverages. Since APIs allow you to spread information easily and quickly, you might determine that a strategy like CCE’s is great way to expedite these once-cumbersome processes.

You may have partners who use your API to share information and services in pursuit of your mutual objectives. Data such as commerce transactions and customer information is of fundamental importance to your company, and useful to these partners as well. Specifically, Cisco’s strategy represents an excellent use case of a company who listened to their partner audience. Partners wanted the information in email updates Cisco was providing, but did not want the format dictated to them.  So Cisco created an API for and with its partners, fostering their success. Consequently, they were rewarded with an increased “stickiness” of their partners. You may find that taking a closer look at how and when your partners use your information is a great tactic. (And then reap the benefits of stickier, happier partners too!)

Lastly, you have data in your API intended for the public: third party developers using your company’s offering to build products and services for their (and by extension your) end consumers. This information would obviously not include your “secret-sauce,” but would still set your company apart, draw people to you, and keep them coming back. Twilio best exemplifies this. From their respective API docs, they make it easy for developers to not only seamlessly integrate their APIs, but to understand what each API does and the value it provides to consumers. Twilio’s developer audience in turn uses this valuable data and unique functionality to create Twilio-powered apps that consumers love.  As a result, Twilio became the main mechanism by which developers integrate phone calls and text messaging into their web and mobile apps. You might also choose to select the data third parties find most useful and package it accordingly.

The companies in the examples above have ensured their APIs contain the data that is needed in each tiers.  Are your audiences using your APIs to their full potential? Can information be included, extracted, or refactored in a way that makes them and you more successful? An awesome tool to accomplish this refactoring is an API Packager.  Mashery’s Packager allows business-side teams to create, manage and package APIs by determining which services, endpoints and methods they want in each API product. 

Regarding internal audiences, listening and acting fueled Coca-Cola’s sales and success. Partner and external audiences have embedded Cisco and Twilio’s useful APIs into their processes and become “sticky” as a result. The audiences’ success fuels the success of the company whose data and services they love. Follow their lead. If constructed with your audience in mind, your API can really drive and change business.  Those using your API will not only come to depend on you but will love you for it.