The anatomy of a great developer marketing plan

What is developer marketing?

It’s the software developers of various consumer and enterprise-level apps you would like to target. Because they are the ones who need a ready to use messaging solution that they can simply integrate in their own tech products. The marketing tactics you’ll use to effectively market those APIs are what you’d do if you are a developer marketing guy or girl.

The most straightforward definition of developer marketing is that it is a form of marketing intended to target and capture software developers’ attention. Easier said than done, though. The community of developers is so fragmented and so private that marketing to them is altogether a different animal. The usual ways of marketing that otherwise work well in B2B or even B2C do not work here.

A new term had to be coined to address this form of marketing, commonly known as B2D marketing or business to developers marketing.

A sales team will reach out to executives in a B2B setup or consumers directly in a typical B2C business. In the case of B2D marketing, however, the focus of interaction shifts to developers who use API based platforms to power their software products at scale. It is not that developers are not consumers, they certainly are, but they behave entirely differently from your average customer.

Expect them to be far more apprehensive and analytical. Most of them tend to be relatively reserved and dislike the general idea of being marketed and absolutely loathe the pushiness of traditional sales models and advertising.

Developer marketing means thinking and being like developers. Most developers are always researching and learning about the latest approaches and techniques. Chances are, they already have a pretty good understanding of what’s out there, what is working out well, and what’s not. It is common for them to test and use new technology, identify problem areas, work around them, and share results later within their dev communities. They need to see the latest tech innovations in action and play with them in low-risk environments before installing them in their core stacks.

What is developer relations?

Dev relations is not precisely developer marketing. It is the means to an end. The objective is to obviously market a tech product eventually to the developers by establishing a thriving community.

The developer relations department has two distinct workflows. The critical component of their duty is evangelism: meaning spreading the company’s message to outside developers. You can find them describing what features of their product are available and what are not yet.

The other aspect of their work is advocacy: articulating users’ opinions back to the development team. Dev relations guys can often be seen defending or even arguing with the development team with unique feature requests. The requests that come directly from their target user base.

It’s a significant responsibility and requires a delicate balancing act. You will be promoting the product on behalf of the business and evangelizing the product to developers.

They are responsible for creating relationships, then stepping back and letting others do their work. For instance, they might bring a community member to their recruiter or introduce a super active and skillful community member to the marketing department to write a blog piece. The developer relations’ work is not tangible in terms of revenue, promotions, or conventional industry metrics.

Why is developer marketing so challenging?

Developers are not your only audience. One of the mistakes dev marketers commit when engaging with developers is not entirely understanding the developers is just one part of the marketing riddle. Although developers are end-users of your APIs, they are generally only one function in a multidisciplinary team. Marketing and messaging meant for a developer will not be ideal for a sourcing or project director, or vice versa.

The developer community is super fragmented. There is no single platform that you can find them all in one place (so that you can conveniently start a targeted campaign). There are micro-communities like subreddits, discord channels, quora, stack overflow, etc where you can find them. And all these platforms have their own sets of cultures (read hurdles) to deal with.

Unlike traditional markets, users here prefer to access content all at once (or maybe none at all), like Netflix binge-watching. That means drip emails turn out to be not that effective if not done correctly.

The developer marketing plan that works

The who, what and why?

We can’t stress enough how important it is to answer the question “Who’s the target audience” as descriptive and as vividly as possible. There could be not just one but a variety of distinct user personas that you should be targeting. There’s a world of decision-makers you are not familiar with. Remember, even though it’s software developers who you might be targeting as they are going to be the end-users. They are not, however, the actual decision-makers. They are in the loop to take the decision to go ahead with a new tech along with a slew of sales and marketing executives. Keep a note of that. While you are building a great community of developers who are raving about your product’s awesomeness, make sure to educate them well about the potential business benefits of going with the product. So they can advocate it so that they can champion for your product in their respective companies’ committees.

A documented survey is a perfect way to refine the audiences and then interviews are useful. I see a ton of marketing professionals who don’t find the need to speak with a real customer.

Coming back to the question of issues your product fixes. The problems you tackle now may not be the problem you plan to fix for your business or customers in the future. While marketing your product, think long term. Think for the long haul. How do you build that narrative? How do you construct the path of issues and solutions? Are you going to develop the messaging around the solution, or should you instead focus on highlighting the problem first? Today you could solve just one distinct unique challenge, but be ready with a plan AND a story to deal with a multitude of such challenges.

Newsletters and drip campaigns

Check out these neat looking open-source HTML email templates.

Test your emails thoroughly. Have people from your team or other teams read the email copy. And always do A/B testing on your campaigns so that you know what is working and what is not. Use a variety of subject lines, pictures, or mailing times to figure out what’s effective for the audience.

If your email copies don’t do well, use the insights to do better the next time. Look at your successful email campaigns and extend those lessons to other marketing activities.

If you are looking for some ideas, check out these onboarding email templates.

And last but not least, please do not send a ton of emails. Send only when you have something worthwhile to share or when it’s an onboarding or transactional email. You don’t want your emails to land up in spam folders. Avoid these spam trigger words. Don’t forget to authenticate your domain by setting up DKIM, SPF, and DMARC.

Open-source APIs and SDKs with rich documentation

Slack is lauded for its developer-friendly, functional and open API. If you can’t make the API’s public, consider making it super easy to use. Rich, vivid documentation is a step in the right direction.

What to blog

Many businesses showcase a gallery on their website to demonstrate their integrations and collaborations with other major 3rd party products. You can consider writing some content about how your customers personalized the platform or developed integrations.

One evergreen tip we can offer is to create comparison articles. Articles comparing different products or technology often do very well. Writing this type of content is pretty simple too. The trick here is to look for those products that support integration with your product’s APIs so that you can then add a line or two about how easy it is to integrate X or Y with your product.

We at DataDab use this tool called AnswerThePublic for generating our content ideas. This tool taps into autocomplete data from search engines like Google, and instantly provides all relevant terms and phrases people inquire with your keyword. It’s a treasure trove of consumer insight that you can use to create fresh, useful content; the type customers are themselves looking for.

Use content marketing as a tool to assist prospects learn more about your product. The same content will eventually pave the way to your pricing page.

On an average your target audience takes seven different messages/interactions to respond to your message finally. Those seven interactions could come from your Tweets, emails, videos, webinars, or old trade shows. To increase these odds of getting a response, we suggest repurposing your content. One article may be repurposed into numerous tweets, presentations, on-stage lectures, audio, or video clips, documents, ebooks, etc. Each content format allows us to leverage an altogether different platform.

Get help from the Devs themselves

Another way to win confidence from developer-to-developer is to seek ad collaborations with developer-trusted sites. Such niche platforms also offer ad impressions for less than Google Adwords and other advertising platforms and are more tailor-made for your requirements.

Product Discovery Platforms

By adding your product on these sites, you make it easy for developers who are actively seeking new tools like yours. Listing on an independent website with relevant feedback from your customers is a robust way of winning trust from prospects. Plus, a free back-link will always help you in SEO.

Case studies

The C Suite and the Execs just want to know if the product has already been implemented in a similar kind of environment, preferably in similar types of organizations, and what was the business outcome of doing that implementation, quantitatively speaking?

So invest some time in creating case studies covering customers from all the major industries and business segments that generate revenue for your company. Focus on making it balanced. It is not a whitepaper. Technical and business aspects both should be there. If possible, try to add a tangible business outcome in the case studies.

Let us know what is your approach towards developer marketing!

Originally published at on August 10, 2020.

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