Developers don’t respond to traditional marketing tactics. They don’t want to be sold to; they don’t want to receive cold calls or sales brochures full of jargon and buzzwords. So what do they want? Software developers are a key part of the purchasing decision, with 57% of them having some or a great deal of influence over technology purchase decisions, but marketing to them is tricky. They are a notoriously critical audience with a very deep understanding of the specific problems they need to solve. Today, more and more software companies are asking themselves how to market to software developers. Developers are expected to consume/influence $40 billion in product purchase decisions, so it’s an important market.
And once they’re aware of your product, how do you ensure they will adapt your platform and continue to build on it? This article provides 4 actionable steps to help you overcome these barriers and achieve developer marketing success.
1. Provide Hands-On Access to Your Product to Show Its Value Quickly
Developers love learning about new software, but they don’t want to do it by watching sales demos or reading about the benefits of your product in a marketing brochure. They want to use the product themselves so they can work out if it meets their needs and solves their problems.
By giving developers direct access to your product, you show you have confidence in your product and are providing value to developers up-front (in the form of a hands-on sandbox). You also need to remove the “blank slate problem” – referring to when developers sign-up for a sandbox environment only to find that the environment is completely blank or not configured – and make it as easy as possible for developers to learn and see the value of your product. If developers spin up a trial of your product, but there’s too much effort to configure it, or they need to import sample data to see its value, they may move on to evaluate an alternative product.
Instead, you need to provide a sandbox environment that is pre-populated with relevant data and pre-configured with the appropriate settings. This will ensure that developers can quickly experience the power of your products without having to do too much heavy lifting on their end (remember, they are just performing an initial evaluation of your product, so you don’t want to ask too much from them). The pre-populated data should showcase your product’s killer features, so developers can see your product’s value and determine if it is what they are looking for.
2. Enable Frictionless Access to Your Product
Time is precious for developers, 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, as that creates an unnecessary barrier between the developer and your product.
When you add gates between developers and your product, 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. It gives developers a sense of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about your product – which are very difficult to overcome once it’s present. A gated product experience goes against the 77% of developers that want a free trial when researching products.
When developers have frictionless access to a sandbox environment of your product, they can analyze its effectiveness in its unfiltered state, which will give them the data and experience they need to build conviction for whether to recommend your product for purchasing.
Frictionless access is crucial to earning developers’ trust because even if your product isn’t perfect (no product arguably is), just giving them hands-on access to it shows that you have nothing to hide and means that developers know exactly what you are offering. There’s no guesswork involved. It also drastically improves the chance that developers will look at your product with the “home court advantage” — because they’re familiar with it.
3. Offer a Structured and Centralized Space for Developer Education
While your product’s performance is the number one factor when choosing a product, it’s also important to signal to the developer ecosystem that your company is invested and committed to their success.
Developers want to see your features in action, try your software for themselves, and access technical product documentation and code. This type of technical content may clash with your company’s main marketing website’s tone and intent, which is why you need to build a dedicated portal that speaks directly to the developer persona and addresses their specific needs. By offering a structured and centralized portal for developer education, you will show developers that your product is supported for enterprise adoption.
You also need to bring the documentation in your developer portal to life with interactive, self-paced training and hands-on sandboxes. These additions will convert your documentation into an immersive and educational experience that developers have access to at all times. This type of content should include quizzes, polls, and surveys, videos, discussion forums, hands-on sandbox environments, and FAQs.
Here are some developer portals you can get inspiration from:
4. Adopt a Community-Centric Mindset
If you want to improve product adoption, your aim should not be to turn developers into leads or MQLs but to demonstrate that your organization values the developers that build and use its products. By building a strong developer community and participating in insightful conversations, you can gain the trust of developers and build a reputation for credibility.
Developers also enjoy learning from other developers. 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 an expert developer 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 “social proof,” which improves the probability that they will adopt it, integrate it into their systems, and make it a part of their code. Building a developer community also reassures business stakeholders that they are adopting a product that won’t just disappear and is built by a mature organization.
Learning how to create community engagement is important. Here are some tips:
- Schedule regular events (in-person or virtual)
- Set up a dedicated community portal to promote community discussions
- Create message boards for developers to share ideas
Building a Developer Marketing Strategy to Enable Product Adoption
When you’re marketing to developers, you need to think long-term. Your developer marketing program is unlikely to be an overnight success. Expect it to take 12-18 months to successfully build a developer marketing program and this timeline doesn’t include the execution risk involved with developers not liking your product, or the time/effort it takes for them to see your product’s benefits.