We're all aware of b-to-b and b-to-c marketing practices, but as technology and digital marketing permeate all types of businesses, marketers are now faced with understanding and executing on b-to-d strategies. B-to-d, or business-to-developer marketing, focuses on companies looking to attract computer programmers (web, desktop or mobile developers) to their open application programming interfaces (APIs) to build software and tools that harness their proprietary/internal data.
APIs are important for business because they allow programmers to build unique tools that access a company's data or digitally focused product. Apple and its iOS is a great example of a hugely successful program aimed at developers looking to create apps that run on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Apple has done a great job of documenting and marketing its APIs and seeing that the app store is continually populated with applications that help to improve our everyday lives, have fun and promote brands in unique ways and make us all a little more productive.
So what are some best practices for getting to know APIs and reaching out to a developer/programmer audience? Here are a few tips to get you started in the world of b-to-d and API marketing.
1. Understand the basic ins and outs of APIs
While most large brands will have in-house programmers that understand how APIs work, smaller to medium sized businesses may not have as much experience. If APIs are not your bailiwick, the site Code Academy offers lessons that show people how to use APIs to create their own applications.
These tools will make you a little smarter, but your best option when looking to create an API is to work with an experienced programmer or larger organization such as MuleSoft, which can help you understand your goals and help build tools to connect your customers with your technology and data.
2. Make sure your tools are a fit for the target audience
The tools that programmers use to access your API should be a match to the developer audience you are reaching out to. Apple provides educational tools for its iOS APIs that offer a gentle introduction to building an app for a less-experienced audience. The modules include the tools needed and the major concepts and best practices to help in development. Apple has built simple tools so that anyone interested in building an app can easily access and understand what they need to do to create an application that meets their requirements. They've also created documentation for more advanced audiences who likely need less hand-holding.
3. Make it accessible and easy to understand
Accessibility is key. If your audience can't find your API, then you have a problem on your hands. Build a site and other tools that house the documentation and technology needed for programmers to get started. You will also need to announce/launch your API, which can be done through press announcements, social media and by working with a few "evangelist developers" that can work to help evangelize your API within their networks.
Also, just like we do in b-to-b and b-to-c marketing programs, getting to know your audience and messaging development are also important parts of the b-to-d marketing process. A more advanced audience will be able to understand technical details, so focusing on language that speaks to their expertise is important. If your objective is to attract a wider range of web developers and programmers that may not have advanced technical skills, your messaging will need to have a different tone and lead with more educational messages.
4. Create innovation opportunities and rewards for participation
More and more companies are looking for developers anywhere and everywhere to help innovate and create new products from the APIs they develop. Giving these individuals opportunities to work side-by-side with their peers is a great way to get them thinking about new and unique ways to harness your API. This can be done through hackathons, online programming events, startup competitions or any environment that provides people with access to an API and the ability to submit an idea for review.
Rewards also help, and of course money is a big driver for participation in these programs, but financial reward beyond being the winner of an API competition can also help drive developers to use your API. For example, Forbes reported in January that "New Year's Day 2015 marked the single biggest day ever in App Store sales history... and developers reaped a cool $10 billion. This is an especially striking number when you consider that the total of developer earning for the first five years of the App Stores' history is $15 billion." Money talks, so get on the revenue-sharing bandwagon and start seeing that API work magic for your brand.