What is Technical Marketing?
Technical marketing is the process of increasing a product’s awareness to audiences that have a deeper, technical understanding of how a product works.
Rather than focusing on the benefits of your product, technical marketing focuses on the key specifications and features of a product. Technical marketing is about product details.
Below we’ll explain why it’s important, the responsibilities of a technical marketer, the difference between technical marketing and product marketing, and how software companies use hands-on courses to support their technical marketing efforts.
Why is Technical Marketing Important (Especially for Developer Marketing)?
Any kind of marketing is all about understanding your audience’s needs and pain points and finding a solution. With technical marketing, you will need a more product-focused approach to suit your audience, which will often be largely made up of developers, software engineers, data analysts, or DevOps. But why is marketing to a technical and developer audience so important?
The developer population is increasing in size and SlashData, the leading analyst firm for the developer industry, expects it will grow to 45 million worldwide by 2030. Developers are typically the ones who implement or integrate a purchased product with their company’s internal systems.
This is why they are getting more and more involved in the buying process to ensure that they choose the right product. Today, more than half of developers now exert a great deal of influence on technology purchases and 60% of developers approve or reject technology purchases.
Technical and developer-first marketing works. Take Atlassian. The company sold $320 million of software in 2015 using a low-touch sales model focused on marketing to a technical audience, rather than a high-touch, high-cost traditional sales model that focused on business buyers. Chef Software, Stripe, Synk, Redis, and MongoDB are also all companies that have succeeded by using technical marketing with developers as their core audience.
Developers often understand the problem better than a salesperson, are the persona that the marketing team is speaking to, and will ultimately work with the product more than anyone else on the team making the purchase decision. Down the line, they will also likely have to train their coworkers and act as the first line of support when a problem arises related to the product. So for developers, not only do they arrive at a product trial with an extremely in-depth understanding of the problem (and perhaps even your product), but the stakes are high for them to find a solution that works. That’s why using technical marketing, one that focuses on education instead of marketing, to gain their trust is key.
What Does Technical Marketing Involve?
Technical marketing often requires a longer-term strategy than traditional marketing; your marketing initiatives and programs won’t achieve results overnight. If your audience is unaware of your product, it will take time to engage them and encourage them to try your product. It’s also critical to get executive buy-in so you have the long-term support needed to build a successful technical marketing foundation (team, content, channels, and results).
Understand your audience and gain their trust
Technical marketers need to understand their audience and what makes them tick, as well as have a decent understanding of programming languages, tools, and forums to connect with developers and software engineers. A technical marketer needs to know how to best share and explain the company’s product roadmap and source code with hands-on tutorials and product sandboxes. They also need to be the point of contact for developer feedback, feature requests, bugs, and difficulties – with the ability to communicate and articulate the developer community’s feedback to the product and engineering teams.
Hiring a technical marketer who thinks and talks like a developer is one way to facilitate this trust. Another way to build this trust is to give developers the ability to ask each other questions about your product. Peer-to-peer discussions create transparency about your product’s capabilities and limitations. They are an effective way of building trust because developers have higher confidence in their peers’ first-hand experience with your product than what your marketing collateral is saying about your product.
Building technical communities
Technical marketers need to create, develop, and nurture a product-focused developer community. If your company takes part in technical conversations (wherever your product’s developers are having them) and adds value as product experts and thought-leaders, you can gain the trust of developers and build a reputation for prioritizing your developers’ needs.
Building a developer community is important for two reasons:
- It gives developers a place where they can seek help regarding your product
- It ensures business stakeholders that they are adopting a product that won’t just disappear, has a large talent pool from which they can hire, and is built by a mature organization.
To build this community, you need to run and promote product events and meetups (either online or in-person) aimed at technical audiences. If possible, you should also represent the company and speak at 3rd party, technical-oriented events, set up a dedicated community portal to promote community discussions, create message boards for developers to share ideas, and provide educational opportunities for developers to learn about your product’s benefits and shortcomings.
If you want to engage your technical audience, you need to create educational marketing initiatives that help them learn about new technologies. Your aim is not to sell your product, but to lower the friction between your audience and your product.
Providing developers with product education means they are more likely to feel fully educated on your product’s capabilities, potential, and limitations. Create self-paced courses with hands-on sandbox environments that are tailored to different developer roles, personas, seniority levels, and problems. For example, you could create separate self-paced courses for junior developers to learn the fundamentals of your product vs. self-paced courses for senior developers who are building customized projects using your product’s more advanced features.
Create a page dedicated to your technical audiences
If you want to educate your technical audience, you need a space where they can access all your educational materials and exercises. Instead of creating a marketing-focused developer page potentially full of jargon and vague benefits, technical marketers need to create a dedicated and educational zone that speaks the language of developers, software engineers, etc. that includes all of the content useful for this audience.
Technical audiences want to try your product for themselves, see your features in action, and access your product documentation and code. This is their preferred evaluation journey and is critical to their process of deciding if your product is right for them.
This type of technical, no-jargon content may clash with your company’s main marketing website, which is why you need to build a dedicated space aimed at your technical audiences. Here are some dedicated, technical marketing “zones” you can get inspiration from:
Technical Marketing vs Product Marketing
While technical marketing and product marketing may sound like similar concepts, they differ in quite a few ways. Technical marketing is the process of increasing a product’s awareness and adoption designed to appeal to audiences with a technical understanding of how a product works. Product marketing involves building a go-to-market strategy to bring a new product to market. This comprises:
- Positioning the product in the market
- Creating messaging and marketing materials to communicate the product to the market.
- Launching the product
- Training salespeople to sell the product to the audience
Product marketing can also help shape the direction of the product by understanding the audience through the creation of buyer personas. Product marketers understand the pain points of their audience and communicate that to the product team of engineers and developers.
- Product marketing can encompass technical marketing depending on the audience. For example, if a company is launching a developer-led product where the focus will be on marketing to developers, then product marketers will use technical marketing principles to create their marketing campaigns, documentation, and strategies.
What tools support technical marketing?
If you want to succeed at technical marketing, you’ll need certain tools and technologies to enable you to create the strategies and deliver the experience that your users are looking for.
A hands-on learning experience
Providing hands-on software experiences is key, as your audience will often arrive at your product with a limited understanding of its features and how it works. They need interactive learning experiences that include a live, hands-on, and frictionless version of your product.
A hands-on learning experience enables your users to quickly understand how your product helps them and provides validation that the product does what your website says it does. As it is a sandbox environment, they can manipulate the environment to see how your product performs and whether it will help them solve the problem or use case they are working on.
A virtual IT lab — such as Appsembler Virtual Labs — provides a frictionless environment (i.e. no installation, pre-configured, and pre-populated with data) for developers to have a hands-on experience with your product. Using these labs, you can create a personalized, cloud-based learning environment that launches with the click of a button. And since these environments are highly customizable, you can personalize them according to developers’ seniority, the type of problem they’re working on, or around a feature you want to highlight.
Hands-on learning in action: Kong
Kong, a cloud connectivity company for API and microservice management, was evaluating and revamping its educational program for Kong HQ Administrators, which comprised technical audiences like developers and DevOps engineers.
Kong’s courses included a hands-on component where learners could use Kong’s software in a sandbox environment, but they had short runtimes, lacked persistence capabilities, and were poorly integrated into their LMS. These problems led to a rough user experience, inadequate reporting, and a shortfall in Kong University’s contribution to improving product awareness and product adoption amongst developers and DevOps engineers.
By implementing Appsembler Virtual Labs, Kong could offer hands-on product sandboxes to enhance the learner experience and drive product adoption. After moving to Appsembler, the number of course registrations and launched sandboxes was setting records. Kong also increased the number of courses that learners completed.
Self-paced courses provide your audience with the ability to learn about your product and see if it’s the right solution for the problems they’re trying to solve. Self-paced training will also convert your documentation into an immersive and educational experience that developers have access to at all times.
To make sure your documentation is engaging, you should provide learning content that includes interactivity features like:
- Quizzes, polls, and surveys
- Discussion forums
- Hands-on sandbox environments
Over time, as your users become well-educated in how to use your product, their high comfort level will encourage them to share your product with their community, and act as an active participant in helping other developers learn and adopt your product.
Self-paced courses in action: Redis
Real-time data platform Redis was looking for a way to more effectively reach and educate its technical audience and acquire new users. Redis selected Appsembler to host and deliver their hands-on, self-paced courses.
Using Appsembler, Redis quickly built courses that covered basic principles of databases, advanced concepts, and theories, in addition to courses that covered specific features within Redis’ products. The courses were available 24/7 to any student in the world. Within 12 months of launching, Redis University had 5,500+ registered learners and 8,500+ course enrollments.
As well as expanding their products’ reach and educating the world on their open-source software. Redis also provided their users with an easy way to complete hands-on, software exercises during online training and removed the friction between their learners and their products.
A developer marketing platform
You need a platform to create the hands-on, educational experience that developers need to adopt your product. By leveraging a developer marketing platform, you gain the ability to offer a unique experience that will drive developer product awareness and product adoption.
A developer marketing platform offers the ability to create hands-on, self-paced courses that help technical audiences to learn and adopt your product, with the ability to add product sandboxes, videos, quizzes, and discussion threads.
It also gives technical marketing teams crucial insight into what your audience likes about your product. For example, you can see which features users are learning most about, which features they’re completely ignoring, and which skill sets they are interested in building. All of this data improves your company’s understanding of how developers benefit from your product.
Appsembler for Developer Marketing lets you build frictionless developer experiences easily and uses a learn-by-doing approach that includes hands-on sandboxes with self-paced courses. This combination gives developers the educational learning experience they need to decide whether to adopt your product or not.