Editor's note: We offer our long-term sponsors the opportunity to write posts and tell their story. These posts are clearly marked as written by sponsors, but we also want them to be useful and interesting to our readers. We hope you like the posts and we encourage you to support our sponsors by trying out their products.
It's 2010 - disruption is everywhere. The pace of technology is quicker and faster than ever before. News of iTablets for touch-screen magazines alerts us that we're living in a multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-device-kinda world. So how do we keep up with innovation while being mindful of resources and cost-savings?
Any healthy business strategy in 2010 should include an API platform component in it. Establishing a platform strategy is an excellent corporate tactic to achieve faster time-to-market (TTM) results. APIs do this all while cutting unnecessary investments in time, resources and finances. The benefits of APIs are not only the revenue earned, but savings realized in development and operational costs.
Did you recently launch an API? Congratulations! You have just inherited a brand new customer base: developers. Treat your developers with the courtesy you would extend to any customer of your business. Hear their suggestions, incorporate their feedback and let them know you are listening. Ignore your new set of customers and their needs, and they'll be sure to return the favor.
Focusing on customers requires an exercise in understanding, segmenting and mapping to help you achieve broader corporate goals. Regardless of the stage of your API platform (planning, building, sustaining) this post will provide a useful look into how to plan for successful developers on your platform.
Define Success, Stay Focused
Value can't just be perceived, it has to be actual. The API platform cannot stand alone; rather it needs to be tightly integrated with business objectives in mind. A good top down approach for planning your API starts by defining what success is for the company. Supporting corporate markers for success will get you the executive buy-in you need to boost your API efforts. Mapping your success through goal setting and measurement processes keeps you cognizant of both short and long-term opportunities.
Next, align your platform strategy with your business strategy - identify company-wide goals to measure against. For example:
- double revenue for the company in five years
- increase user / consumer engagement by 12%
- reduce partner implementation costs by 30%
- increase the number of new Tier 1 partners by 10%
- increase the number of internal projects delivered by 20%
It's important that the API platform be accountable to the business strategy, by generating revenue and driving partnerships, within a sustainable platform growth model. How else will you know when you've been successful?
Developer Segmentation Strategy
You know the business goals and have analyzed the success markers. But now you need to evaluate the best approaches to achieve developer success within your API universe. Start with a classic business customer segmentation study to identify and prioritize your developer audiences. This will help you formulate a clear and effective value message to encourage more developers to consume your API.
To build your segmentation study, answer this series of strategic questions:
- Do you know who your developers are?
- Do you know what programming languages (PHP, Ruby, Python) and platforms (mobile, widget, browser) your developers are using?
- Do you know what influences or motivates your developer to build on your API? (Money, fame, fortune?)
- Do you know the proper channels to reach your developers? (Where do they live, work and play?)
- Do you know who amongst your developers are the most profitable partners?
Consider both qualitative and quantitative information to inform the decisions above. Once you've established developer segments, it becomes easier to tie opportunities back to the corporate business goals. And it's imperative to consider the available resources (time, workforce, finances) to create realistic platform goals.
Focus, focus, focus. Go after your priority segments first, given the reality of limited resources. This is an important exercise in platform planning that adds communications efficiency, and better overall potential revenue performance of your API platform.
If you've already launched an API platform and have built up a small (or large) developer network, then be sure to garner feedback directly and indirectly from them. Surveys, polls, discussion boards, comments, tweets and social buzz tell you how the community feels about your API, brand and efforts. So pay close attention, and analyze the numbers too. Look into your developer portal dashboards (or reports) to get aggregate information on popular calls, methods, search terms, coding languages and other items that relate to the health and curiosity of your API network.
In addition to the segmentation questions mentioned above, consider your top developer targets, and the resources you need to provide to help them achieve success. It can be something as simple as language considerations.
Build in Success Metrics
As mentioned earlier, the API platform needs to play a role in the revenue growth of the company. Oftentimes, champions of API platforms struggle with proving the ROI of a program since it's a relatively new channel that has many avenues of use. The simplest and most powerful way to demonstrate the impact is to assess what can be measured, such as:
- revenue attributable to API
- CTR to pages with ad revenue via API
- affiliate CTR on content using API
- number of user of mobile apps built using API
And since a robust, active and engaged API network leads to more creative developments, take note of metrics that substantiate a healthy community, such as:
- number of developers
- number of live applications
- downloads of your SDKs and toolkits
This combination of strategic thought-starters for platform planning and developer segmentation is hopefully a guide for you to get the most out of your API platform. So remember, treat your developers like customers. That's the best rule of thumb when it comes to creating a robust developer community around your API program.