One of our clients came to us recently with a problem: their landing pages were getting sign-ups, but the prospects weren’t converting to customers. They suspected it was because the email follow-ups were too generic.
The thing was, they already had a perfect solution: they use a customer-engagement marketing platform where they can design complex rules and send much more personalized emails to their prospects.
Perfect, right? Except… the landing pages weren’t created with the marketing platform, because it didn’t give them the level of design control they needed. The landing pages had the ability to send new contacts to some services, but not the one our client used.
In short, they had all the right tools, and none of them would talk to each other.
The new business-system landscape: one-stop-shop vs. best-of-breed
There are two prevailing models for online systems and tools: one-stop-shop and best-of-breed.
One-stop-shop tools and systems attempt to provide everything you need in one handy package. If you find one that’s a good fit, it can save you a ton of time and money, particularly because all of the components work together seamlessly.
Unfortunately, finding a one-stop-shop that’s truly a great fit can be harder than it sounds. More often than not, you sign up with high hopes, and find that while there are pieces you love, there are other parts that just don’t do what you need. You have to fit your business around their tools and workflow, which can quickly become a bottleneck when it’s not a good match.
Best-of-breed tools and systems take a different approach: instead of trying to be all things to all people, or even all things to some people, they focus on providing one really excellent tool that does one thing very well, often for a relatively small market segment.
The upside is that you can often get exactly what you need—a system or tool that not only does what you want it to, but fits your way of working. The downside is that many businesses then find themselves in the same boat as our client mentioned above: with all the right tools, but fragmented workflows and disjointed information.
APIs to the rescue
Good news! (You knew there had to be good news coming, right?!) This is exactly the kind of challenge where APIs excel.
What’s an API? Good question. “API” is geek-speak for another geeky term: “application program interface.” In plain English, an API provides a way for a program to connect to a tool or system and do something with it. What “something” is depends on the tool or system, but here are some common examples:
- Create or update a record (for a user, an item, blog post, whatever the “things” are that the tool deals with)—for instance, save information in your marketing tool about a visitor to your site; or update a metrics spreadsheet with a daily KPI number
- Get information about a thing—for instance, look up a book on Amazon and see if its price is lower than a competing website; or get a list of contacts from your CRM who have birthdays coming up in the next month
- Take an action—for instance, send an SMS; or assign a task to the team member whose schedule is emptiest
What’s the big deal? You could do all of those things from your web browser or your smartphone! But here’s the big difference: with an API, you don’t have to do it. It can all happen automatically, behind the scenes, according to rules you set up.
The most beautiful part of using APIs? You can take your favorite, perfect-fit best-of-breed tools, and build them like LEGOs into your own one-stop-shop.
Connect your systems with APIs
The first question most people ask is, “What should I automate?” That’s a great question, and my short answer is, “Anything you’re tired of doing over and over, and anything that requires a human to move data around.”
If your business is running smoothly and just needs more customers, marketing automation often pays big dividends. On the other hand, if standard business activities are taking too long to make sufficient profit per customer, every minute you can shave off those laggards will make your current marketing more effective.
As for how to start, there are three general directions you can go (and none of them require you to write code!):
- Find a connecting tool that already does what you need. You’ll often discover with a quick Google search (“connect tool A and tool B“) that you’re not the first to want what you want, and even better, someone has already built a connector that you can use.
- Build a connection using a connection platform. Zapier is the most popular of these platforms, and in many cases, they’ll have examples that are almost exactly what you need, and you’ll just need to adjust them slightly. Even if you’re starting from scratch, as long as both tools you want to connect are part of their ecosystem, their fill-in-the-blanks setup is pretty straightforward.
- Contract for custom code. If you can’t find any existing or easy-to-build connections, or you don’t want to rely on an intermediary, it might be time to bring in the big guns: programmers. A talented programmer can often do the work for a fraction of the business value it will provide, and if you work with an agency like Yoko Co, you’ll also get the benefit of strategic experience with a wide variety of clients—experience that can get you to your business goal faster.
In our client’s case, we built a simple connection for them that took their landing page sign-ups and added them as new contacts in their marketing platform—along with additional details that slid the prospects right into their existing marketing workflows, and made it easy for them to develop new, perfectly tailored workflows, too.
If you’ve looked into connecting your systems and believe that custom code is the right move, we’d love the opportunity to build you the exact thing you need. Get in touch and let us know how we can help!