The number one rule of marketing to software developers is not to market to software developers. There is even a book called Developer Marketing Does Not Exist. Yet developers are becoming more and more influential in the software purchasing process. They have budget influence or authority and are testing the product first and then making a recommendation to management. Or, in some cases, they have the authority to make the purchase themselves
So, if you can’t market to developers, how do you attract their attention and get them to start using your product? You can’t use the same approach when targeting software developers as you do with your regular audience. It won’t work.
To successfully engage developers and get them interested in your product, you need to stop cold calling or trying to convince them to sit through a static sales demo where they watch you using the product rather than getting to play around with it themselves. We’ve put together seven tips that will enable you to successfully attract and retain developers’ attention without marketing to them.
1. Understand Your Audience
We’ve already covered the fact that software developers won’t be receptive to the traditional marketing approach. That’s true for all developers. But not all developers are the same. Some developers have computer science degrees. Others are self-taught. Some are just fresh out of college while others have two years of experience. Then you have front-end and back-end developers who work with different programming languages. You need to tailor your approach according to your audience.
To understand who you’re targeting and what they need, you need to create developer personas. To create these profiles, use surveys to understand developer demographics and build content with them in mind, and tap into social media analytics platforms that help you understand what they talk about, the language they use, where they hang out, and what they read.
You need to think about who the developer is, including their:
- Skill level
Once you have built your persona (or personas), you need to segment your audience to create developer marketing initiatives that are highly tailored and personalized to your audience.
2. Speak Their Language
You need to think and talk like a developer if you want to make them sit up and take notice. This means understanding developers’ mindsets, how they think, what kind of approach they need, and what kind of material they are receptive to.
From creating your buyer personas, you should already have an idea of what kind of language and platforms they use. You need to tailor your content to speak their language. Remove jargon and fluff, be concise and maintain a straightforward tone. This will help your content to resonate with your technical audience and increase their trust in your content’s genuine intent to help them along their purchasing journey.
3. Employ Developer Advocates to Build Trust With Your Audience
If you want to build trust with developers you need to show that you are not trying to directly sell a product or even market to your audience. Consider employing developer advocates who can act as the bridge between the end-users and the product development team. They should listen and empathize with developers’ problems, as well as represent the developers’ voices in your organization.
Developer advocates also humanize your brand and product to developers by giving them a point of contact to communicate with, ask in-depth questions, explain projects, and make feature recommendations. They make sure developers’ voices are heard, that their problems are being noted, and that they have a good experience with your software.
4. Engage Your Community
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 and nurturing that community to become product advocates is a great way of indirectly marketing to developers.
To start creating a sense of community, you can host events and webinars or attend these events. Go to places where developers hang out (online or in-person) and answer questions or offer advice. Listen to what developers are saying about and doing with your product.
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.
5. Take an Educational Approach
Education is the bread and butter of developer marketing. Developers like to learn new things. They also want to figure out your product and use it in real-life situations that they’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis.
A developer education program ensures developers know how your product works and can use all of the features to build things. But learning about your product is not a one-time event; it’s a continuous journey. You have to get developers hooked and make the product sticky so that they want to continue using it, learning more, and going deeper with your product. You want to encourage them to use more advanced features or to share your product with their coworkers.
Instead, engage your audience with an educational marketing initiative that helps them learn about your product. Your aim is not to generate sales, but to lower the friction between them and your product. To provide this educational product experience, the top five items you need are:
- Product documentation
- Sample code
- Tutorials and how-to videos
- Self-paced courses
- Software sandboxes
6. Host Content in a Dedicated Developer Zone
Providing all the above items in one place will simplify the developer experience and create a good first impression when users land on your website. They can quickly see if your product might fit their needs and that they can easily access it with minimal friction.
This type of no-nonsense content may clash with your company’s main marketing website, which is why you need to build a space that speaks directly to your technical persona and addresses their specific needs.
Here are some dedicated, technical marketing zones you can get inspiration from:
7. Focus on Helping Developers, Not Selling to Them
While it might be tempting to focus solely on your product, if you want to gain trust and show that your company cares about developers, then you need to give back. You need to create useful content that doesn’t involve your product. This will build credibility, demonstrate your expertise in and knowledge of the space, and introduce developers to your product at the same time. It can also generate leads by bringing people to your website.
Chef Software, a DevOps automation tools company, is a good example of this approach. They found that creating general DevOps courses about peripheral technologies helped improve their brand’s recognition with developers. With Chef’s DevOps courses, developers got the sense that Chef was a developer-friendly company that understood what developers wanted.