Startups are notorious for being lean and capital efficient, which means they aren’t going to throw a huge budget and a lot of time at creating a developer education program. More established companies such as MongoDB and Snowflake have created great developer education programs, but what can startups do to compete with these heavyweights? How can they hack their way to creating educational initiatives for hard-to-reach audiences such as software developers and engineers?
This was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by Appsembler and Draft dev. Nate Aune, CEO of Appsembler, and Karl Hughes, CEO of Draft.dev discussed how startups can build lean developer education programs. Read the key takeaways below.
1. The Way We Buy Software Has Changed
Developers are becoming increasingly influential and are driving more technology purchase decisions. More than two-thirds of developers now identify needs and make technology purchasing recommendations. As a result, the software purchase process is changing from top down to bottom up.
Previously, management bought the software and developers implemented it. Now, developers test the software first and often carry out a proof of concept. They will then recommend it to the C-suite to have the budget approved if it meets their needs. Or, in some cases, developers have control over the budget and will make the purchase themselves, as 21% have specific budget authority.
2. Removing Friction is Key
Developers are busy; they don’t have time to waste on a product that isn’t immediately accessible. If they encounter friction at any stage of the process, from sign-up to implementation, to onboarding, they’ll walk away and won’t recommend your product.
There are four stages of the developer experience
- Activation (download/API key)
Education is key in all phases of the developer process, but it’s integral from activation to engagement, so it’s important to work out where friction between developers and your product is and to remove roadblocks to usage. Developers can then 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. Invest in Four Main Pillars
There are four main pillars of developer education and marketing that startups need to invest in if they want to create a successful program:
- Website – explain products and their benefits through an integrated website with a dedicated developer zone and great documentation
- Developer content – provide use-case-driven content and project-based learning to develop a storyline as to why developers should use your product
- Developer events – organize meetups and attend conferences to take the time to build meaningful relationships
- Community – engage advocates, listen to their feedback, and incorporate this into your product development processes
4. Tailor Metrics to Your Business
Developer education metrics differ from both traditional marketing metrics and overall developer marketing metrics. While the metrics normally won’t focus on purchase rate, deciding which metrics to track depends on what your goal is and what will make the most impact on your business.
Do you want to attract investors or raise funding? Do you want to generate product awareness and build your brand name? Or do you want to increase engagement?
For startups, it’s normally about activity and product engagement rather than developer monetization, which means focusing on metrics such as:
- Number of applications being built or have been built
- Number of 3rd party integrations onto other platforms
- How often specific features within a product are being used
- Number of API calls (assuming your company sells or markets an API)
- Average number of logins per developer
- Daily and monthly active users
5. Nurture Your Community to Boost Recommendations
Developers often buy based on peer recommendations, such as their coworkers or developer friends. They trust their peers’ opinions over the promises of a software company. That’s why building a community, and nurturing that community to become product advocates, accelerates product growth.
By creating a culture of learning within that community, you can improve product adoption and encourage developers to share knowledge and resources to better understand your products and overcome common challenges. As educated customers use more of your product, you can boost usage as well.
6. Developer Education Expands Your Pool of Buyers
There is a growing wave of non-traditional developers coming to the industry through different paths, such as making a career change. These developers will need different resources and more hand-holding than savvy, experienced developers. Creating content tailored to this audience will help them get started and will enable you to tap into an audience your competitors might be overlooking.
You can also expand the usage of your product by producing content that creates upsell opportunities. Write content that pushes people from the next tier, explaining premium features or why upgrading to the next tier benefits their business.
7. Make Your Business and Product Stand Out
Trying to compete against established companies isn’t easy, but there are ways you can build a developer education program to make your business and product stand out.
Providing courses with hands-on labs can make a huge difference and is something that many software companies haven’t invested in. Providing a sandbox environment and interactive product learning experiences early on in the purchase journey lets developers try out your product in real-world scenarios. They get access to a learn-by-doing environment in a way that minimizes friction around the product.
Take Hummingbot, an open source software that helps you build market-making and arbitrage bots that run on any crypto exchange, as an example. Previously, to test their software, you had to download and install it. Hummingbot wanted to remove the installation barriers and find a frictionless way for users to trial their software. At Appsembler, we built a Test Drive of that product that spins up and provides a hands-on experience in minutes. Now, people are evaluating their software who wouldn’t have otherwise.
Such immersive learning experiences are core to an effective developer marketing strategy, easily letting developers discover the value in your product in their own way. If you want to launch yours and are stuck on content development, work with Draft.dev to create the educational technical content that forms the foundation of self-paced courses and hands-on learning guides. Then, build it on Appsembler’s Developer Marketing platform.
For more advice and tips on building lean developer education programs, listen to the webinar in full.