6 Ways To Improve Your Developer Education
If you want to run successful developer marketing programs, then you need to educate developers, not try to sell to them. Developers don’t like traditional marketing techniques, such as sales demos and cold calls.
So instead of marketing to them, you need to engage developers with an educational developer marketing initiative that helps them learn about your product.
Below we’ll discuss the current state of developer education and provide tips on how you can improve it.
Developer Education Status Quo
Current developer education initiatives often lean on copious amounts of documentation with ongoing “nurture” campaigns that follow traditional marketing techniques. This includes providing static fact sheets that talk about the product’s benefits, email workflows telling developers about the product, or videos that walk developers through the product’s high-level benefits.
Developers want to know about your product’s features, as they enjoy learning about technology, but they want to do that by trying the product out, not by reading about it or watching a video. That’s why you need to provide a more interactive, hands-on approach.
1. Provide Access to Sandbox Environments
Providing hands-on software experiences is key, as developers will often arrive at your product wanting a deeperwith a limited understanding of its features and how it works. And developers want to know what your product does and how it does it before they will recommend it for purchase.
With that background, a hands-on sandbox environment of your product is an excellent complement to your static documentation. This “documentation+sandbox” combination will raise both developer awareness and education for your product (without developers having to speak with your sales team, which they are reluctant to do). Hands-on product sandboxes will also ensure that they get a learn-by-doing environment that lets them analyze your product to determine if it solves the problem they’re working on, or delights them enough to justify purchasing a license.
2. Lower the Friction Between Developers and the Product
Time is precious within the developer community, which means you need to make it as frictionless as possible for developers to reach a live experience of your product. Make sure your product isn’t only accessible behind a gated sales demo because frictionless access is crucial to earning developers’ trust.
When you add gates to your product, you’re creating an unnecessary barrier between the developer and your offerings. At best, this deters them from learning more about what you have to offer — and at worst, it creates the speculation that your product needs to “hide” behind a sanitized sales demo for it to perform well.
When developers have frictionless access to a sandbox environment, they can analyze your product’s effectiveness in its raw and unfiltered state, which is the environment they need to build conviction for their purchasing recommendation.
3. Add Interactive Elements to Your Documentation
To educate themselves about your product, developers need to read copious amounts of uninterrupted, continuous documentation. To that end, consider making your documentation more engaging by adding interactive content such as:
- Quizzes, polls, and surveys
- Discussion forums
- Hands-on sandbox environments
- Sample code
In addition to this interactivity, consider creating a dedicated “developer zone” on your website that contains all of your developer-first, technical product content. This is important because your corporate website will have a different tone (and likely caters to a different audience), so having a dedicated developer page will allow you to present technical product content in the tone and detail that developers expect.
4. Create Self-Paced Courses
The aim of educational developer marketing is different from traditional marketing. You need to forget about selling your product and instead lower the friction between developers and your product.
This could be in the form of self-paced courses with hands-on sandbox environments that are tailored to different developer roles, personas, and seniority levels. For example, you could create separate courses intended for experienced and junior developers, or developers in different roles, such as DevOps or management.
5. Adopt a Community-Centric Mindset
Developers enjoy learning from other developers. They sometimes trust their peers (who have 1st hand experience using the product) more than the company who built the product. That’s why building a community that can spread the word about your product, help other developers understand how to use it, explain its benefits (and shortcomings), share best practices, answer support questions, and hire experts is so important.
Having a large community of developers backing your product shows that developers have confidence in your product. Other technical buyers will sense this “community confidence,” which improves the probability that they will adopt it, integrate it into their systems, and make it a part of their code.
6. Use Relevant Metrics
If you want to understand how well your developer education is performing, then you need metrics that can show you where you’re succeeding and which areas you need to work on. Traditional marketing metrics don’t cut it here.
While developer marketing metrics are still in flux, here are some you should consider:
- # of registrants to your developer newsletter
- # of impressions to your developer portal or content
- How many product sandboxes or developer playgrounds spun-up
- How many trials are spun-up
- How many applications are being built or have been built
- How often specific features within a product are being used
Product Education is Crucial to Developer Adoption
Providing developers with product education means they are more likely to feel fully educated on your product’s capabilities, potential, and (perhaps more importantly) its limitations.
While developers can educate themselves by reading marketing materials, you can accelerate their purchasing decision by providing product sandboxes and interactive educational materials, setting up self-paced tailored courses, creating a supportive community, and lowering the friction between developers and your product.