For years, partnership programs have opened up new marketing and revenue opportunities through collaboration and innovation between businesses with complementary offerings.
Now with the addition of APIs, developers have a simple, streamlined way to build new business relationships between technology, creating huge opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships in a variety of industries.
What used to rely on a handshake, a team of program managers and a lot of spreadsheets can now be automated and enabled through APIs.
What are Partner APIs?
Partner APIs are essential for combining the business value of processes and data with marketing, sales, and exposure opportunities from a partnership.
They are typically private APIs exposed through a business agreement. Unlike public APIs, partner APIs are not accessible outside of the organization producing the API unless granted explicit partnership access.
Why APIs for Business Partnerships?
Using APIs can make end users and customers happier by enhancing existing products and offering seamless user experiences offered between different businesses in a partnership.
Since APIs have the power to expose data, they can be used to easily, quickly, and securely connect business processes, content, and data with partners. If you were struggling to figure out how to create a stable way to share user data, for instance, an API is probably your best bet.
How Can You Prepare for an API Partnership?
Despite all of the benefits, creating one-off APIs can be costly and time-consuming; it’s important to think about your goals and deliverables when establishing an API partnership. Here are some things you should consider when creating a solid API partner program.
- Establish Goals
Like with any development project, you’ll want to set clear goals for both parties. Here are a few examples of goals that could contribute to a great partnership that you would want to design toward:
- Increased Exposure - Providing more exposure, reach, and brand recognition for partners
- Access to More Skills - Tap into development team skills and shared knowledge
- Increased Revenue - Depending on your agreement, there are many ways to drive revenue through partner APIs. This is an excellent resource on the different types of monetization options for your API.
- More Usage - API connections can create more usage and demand for your products and services
- Design First
Ask your business and your potential partner very clearly: why do you want a partner API? It could come down to more revenue opportunities or simply standing up products that you’d like to create but don’t have the resources to build yourself. Ask the following and capture the answers in your design phase:
- What will benefit you?
- What will benefit me?
- What will benefit our users?
- How will we split revenue?
- What security concerns should we address?
- What happens if there is a breaking change?
Asking these crucial questions first helps to establish the purpose of your partner offering, create a more focused roadmap, and establish key goals that benefit both sides. Just like with the creation of any type of API, designing first leads to better quality APIs faster with fewer risks than simply going straight into development.
- Focus on User Experience
As always, APIs are there to make life easier for the people using them. Whether that’s cutting down on the development time or complexity for the developers creating the partner APIs, or improving the experience of end-users in a product, it boils down to better experience. Start with understanding the users who will ultimately benefit from your partnership. Then, you can reverse engineer how to create a partner API that will best satisfy these outcomes.
- Document Well
One of the most crucial parts of a good API partner program is to have a well-documented partnership API. Stoplight, for instance, enables private developer access in order to create a secure documentation experience for your partners.
But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this excellent example of partnership documentation from Relic: https://docs.newrelic.com/docs/new-relic-partnerships/partner-integration-guide/partner-account-maintenance/partner-api/
How to Get Started with an API Partnership
API partner programs must be defined, designed, and customer-centric. Once you decide on your shared business model and your goals, take the time to design an API that will benefit you, your partner, and ultimately your end-users.
It may help to start with a private API that you 100% own. This can help you establish the right data architecture wihout the pressures of meeting the needs of any outside partners. Then, with the right architecture and processes in place, you could seek partners who can work well with you.
Find tons more examples of API Partnership types in this excellent compilation from the API Handyman: https://apievangelist.com/2020/03/04/the-building-blocks-of-api-partner-programs/