APIs: The Marketo tool you probably don’t use enough

As marketers, we sometimes shy away from the technical side of software. It’s easy to dismiss these tools and leave them to the dark caves where the brilliant minds of Software Developers seem to thrive, but that would be a mistake. One such area are the incredible APIs Marketo provides. Let’s tease out exactly what it is, along with why and how we can be utilizing it.

What is an API?

API is an acronym for Application Program Interface. By definition it is a collection of routines, protocols and tools for software applications. This allows us to extend the use of the main piece of software by providing the appropriate tools for doing so. We aren’t going to dig into those today, because as Marketers, Managers, and general forward thinkers, we are most interested in the big question…

How Do I Know if an API Integration with Marketo Can Save Me Money?

APIs are one of those things that are sometimes hard to quantify their value. To understand how they will affect your bottom line, there are a few things to ask yourself.

  1. How much time do you currently spend doing this process?
  2. How much time would the new automated process take?
  3. How long would it take for either you or a dev team to build?
  4. How long/how many uses would it take before this tool would become profitable?

Now that we know what to consider, let’s look at some quick and easy solutions Marketo already provides to us.

Out-of-the-Box APIs

Due to the technical nature of APIs, you may not have realized some solutions already use them. This is helpful because those of us who aren’t very technical can still utilize the power of APIs.

CRM and Salesforce

One of the most common API integrations with Marketo is the CRM integration. Odds are, you’ve already made this one a reality, but if you haven’t, you should. Arguably the most common of the two is the Salesforce sync, which allows you to sync your Marketo instance with your Salesforce instance.

The CRM integration gives you the power to transfer, update, create, and delete leads and assets between the two services. You can read more about it here.

If Salesforce isn’t your thing, Marketo also supports Microsoft Dynamics and has some great documentation for it as well.

If you are utilizing a CRM, being able to sync it with Marketo automatically can not only be a great time saver — it also dramatically reduces human error.

In addition to those two integrations, there is another one you probably use already.

Munchkin Code

Marketo users everywhere use this magical chunk of code to sync their website traffic with Marketo. Munchkin falls into the JavaScript API category of the Marketo Documentation. Munchkin code allows you to track various aspects of the leads interaction on your page, which empowers you as a marketer to implement intelligent lead scoring, progressive profiling, and even anonymous lead activity tracking.

Other Out-of-the-Box APIs

Another great use of Marketo that utilizes an API behind the scene is the ever-popular Embedded Forms, along with Real-Time Personalization which are both incredibly powerful additions to your Marketo Instance.

Your Very Own Marketo API

As previously mentioned, APIs allow us to extend the use of a software application by giving us the building blocks of said application. Think of them like Lego blocks. This is “your own version” of Marketo because when we look at an API as building blocks, it allows us to pick apart the pieces of Marketo we like and use them how we want. Usually this means automation of some task that is either big or repetitive, you wouldn’t want to do, or couldn’t do manually. Which is to say, not needing to click on the same stuff over and over, but letting the application essentially click those buttons for us.

Let’s say you have a routine that takes up a portion of your day and you want to start analyzing it with your automation hat on. A great place to start is with the endpoint reference on the main Marketo documentation site (it’s a pretty technical resource, so don’t worry if it is a little overwhelming). If an API is like the Lego pieces that make up the software application, think of the API endpoint reference as a Lego catalog. You might not need to know how to build the Lego toy, but you know you need the green pieces.

For instance if our process is dealing with leads. Just like opening the Lego catalog and looking for green pieces, by simply going to the endpoint reference, you can see right at the top there is a Lead Database guide. Since this is listed right at the top, it’s safe to move on to the next step of figuring out if it would even be worth pursuing an automation solution.

NOTE: If this resource is just too overwhelming, it could be easier to just ask your technical staff. Odds are, they have spent quite a bit of time in this area of the Marketo documentation and can quickly answer your questions about whether it is even possible.

Don’t have a technical staff? We would love to help!

Once you know if Marketo has given you the right building blocks we’re ready to move on.

Is Building a Custom API Really Worth It?

Sometimes just because it’s possible to integrate an API, it might not really be worth the time and money to build it out.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios and run them through the questions we asked earlier.

Scenario 1

As a Marketer, you are assigned to update a group of programs that all need a tag added to them due to a protocol change.

Let’s answer our questions listed above.

  1. How much time do you currently spend doing this process?
    1. To add a tag to the new programs, you simply need to open the admin panel and view the tags. From there you find the existing tag, open the programs that use it, and add the new tag. This process takes 1-2 minutes per program.
  2. How much time would the new automated process take?
    1. An API driven program could easily find and edit all the programs that contain the first tag, and update those programs to include your second tag. This could be done in seconds, perhaps milliseconds.
  3. How long would it take for either you or a dev team to build?
    1. A simple API call like this could take an experienced Developer an hour or less to build.
  4. How long/how many uses would it take before this tool would become profitable?
    1. With a program that cuts your processing time from a minute or two, to seconds, some simple math can give us the answer. If updating a program takes a minute, and building the tool that does the job virtually instantly takes 60 minutes, you would need to be updating at least 60 programs for this build to be profitable.

Given this math, we know it would be marginally beneficial to build the tool if we had 60 programs to update. But what if we had 10,000 programs to update? It would be safe to say, if you need to update 10,000 programs, it would certainly be worth sending the job out to your developer to script out.

Scenario 2

As a Marketer, one of your re-occurring duties is to import key contacts from an offline database. This import must be done every other week.

Again, lets answer our list of questions.

  1. How much time do you currently spend doing this process?
    1. Each time the import is needed, it takes you 15 minutes to access the database, export to a CSV, go into Marketo and import that file. You also take some time to double check the content to make sure the import was successful.
  2. How much time would the new automated process take?
    1. A database sync via API could be scheduled and requires zero time or human input once it is setup.
  3. How long would it take for either you or a dev team to build?
    1. Database syncing is a common task for a developer to implement. There are a multitude of variables involved but for this purpose, let’s assume that the program you are importing from is set up well and it only takes your developer a few hours to build. Let’s say 2 hours total.
  4. How long/how many uses would it take before this tool would become profitable?
    1. Since this type of a job gives you 100% of your time back, to get those 2 hours of dev time reimbursed, it would take 8 imports (15 minutes for manual process divided by 2 hours of dev time) for this automation to pay off.

If this process of importing is needed to be done monthly, it would take 8 months for the tool to pay off.

But what if you had to do this weekly? Or Daily? This quickly becomes extremely valuable to your team as it can pay itself off in a matter of days or weeks.

Try It for Yourself

For some of us, the idea of automation is a thought at the top of our minds, but sometimes we forget to apply it to our daily jobs. Take a moment to analyze your own processes to find areas where automation with APIs could save you valuable time and money, and consider how making it a reality would benefit you.

Have questions about whether your idea is worth building out? Solomon Solution can help identify where you can save your valuable time. Just drop us a line.