An API Value Generation Funnel With Metrics

I’ve had several folks asking me to articulate my vision of an API centric “sales” funnel, which technically is out of my wheelhouse in the sales and marketing area, but since I do have lots opinions on what a funnel should look like for an API platform, I thought I’d take a crack at it. To help articulate what is in my head I wanted to craft a narrative, as well as a visual to accompany how I like to imagine a value generation funnel for any API platform.

I envision a API-driven value generation funnel that can be tipped upside down, over and over, like an hour glass, generating value is it repeatedly pushes API activity through center, driven by a healthy ecosystem of developers, applications, and end-users putting applications to work / use. Providing a way to generate awareness and engagement with any API platform, while also ensuring a safe, reliable, and secure ecosystem of applications that encourage end-user adoption, engagement, and loyalty–further expanding on the potential for developers to continue developing new applications, and enhancing their applications to better serve end-users.

I am seeing things in ten separate layers right now, something I’ll keep shifting and adjusting in future iterations, but I just wanted to get a draft funnel out the door:

  • Layer One - Getting folks in the top of the funnel.
    • Awareness - Making people aware of the APIs that are available.
    • Engagement - Getting people engaged with the platform in some way.
    • Conversation - Encouraging folks to be part of the conversation.
    • Participation - Getting developers participating on regular basis.
  • Layer Two
    • Developers - Getting developers signing up and creating accounts.
    • Applications - Getting developers signing up and creating applications.
  • Layer Three
    • Sandbox Activity - Developers being active within the sandbox environment.
  • Layer Four
    • Certifed Developers - Certifying developers in some way to know who they are.
    • Certified Application - Certifying applications in some way to ensure quality.
  • Layer Five
    • Production Activity - Incentivizing production applications to be as active as possible.
  • Layer Six
    • Value Generation (IN / OUT) - Driving the intended behavior from all applications.
  • Layer Seven
    • Operational Activity - Doing what it takes internally to properly support applications.
  • Layer Eight
    • Audit Developers - Make sure there is always a known developer behind the application.
    • Audit Applications - Ensure the quality of each application with regular audits.
  • Layer Nine
    • Showcase Developers - Showcase developers as part of your wider partner strategy.
    • Showcase Applications - Showcase and push for application usage across an organization.
  • Layer Ten
    • Loyalty - Develop loyal users by delivering the applications that user are needing.
    • End-Users - Drive end-user growth by providing the applications end-users need.
    • Engagement - Push for deeper engagement with end-users, and the applications they use.
    • End-Usage - Incentivize the publishing and consumption of all platform resources.

I’m envisioning a funnel that you can turn on its head over and over and generate momentum, and kinetic energy, with the right amount of investment–the narrative for this will work in either direction. Resulting in a two-sided funnel both working in concert to generate value in the middle of the two-sided funnel.

To go along with this API value generation funnel, I’m picturing the following metrics being applied to quantify what is going on across the platform, and the eleven layers:

  • Layer One - Unique visitors, page views, RSS subscribers, blog comments, tweets, GitHub follows, forks, and likes.
  • Layer Two - New developers who are signing up, and adding new applications to the platform.
  • Layer Three - API calls on sandbox API resources, and overall activity in the development environment.
  • Layer Four - New certified developers and applications that have been reviewed and given production access.
  • Layer Five - API calls for production API resources, understanding the overall activity across the platform.
  • Layer Six - GET, POST, PUT, DELETE on different types of resources, in different types of service plans, at different rates.
  • Layer Seven - Support requests, communication, and other new resources that have occurred in support of operations.
  • Layer Eight - Number of developers and applications audited on a regular basis ensuring quality of application catalog.
  • Layer Nine - Number of new and existing developers and applications being showcased as part of platform operations.
  • Layer Ten - Number of end-users, sessions, page views, and other activity across the applications being delivered.

Providing a stack of metrics you can use to understand how well you are doing within each layer, understanding not just the metrics for a single area of your operations, but how well you are doing at building momentum, and increasing value generation. I hesitate to call this a sales funnel, because sales isn’t my jam. It is also because I do not see APIs as something you always sell–sometimes you want people contributing data and content into a platform, and not always just consuming resources. A well balanced API platform is generating value, not just selling API calls.

I am not entirely happy with this API value generation funnel outline and diagram, but it is a good start, and gets me closer to what I’m seeing in my head. I’ll let it simmer for a few weeks, engage in some conversations with folks, and then take another pass at refining it. Along the way I’ll think about how I would apply to my own API platform, and actually take some actions in each area, and begin fleshing out my own funnel. I’m also going to be working on a version of it with the CMO at, and a handful of other groups I’m working with on their API strategy. The more input I can get from a variety of API platforms, the more refined I can make this outline and visual of my suggested API value generation funnel.