Developer marketing — Is it an oxymoron?

What does Stripe do so differently and why is it a developer favorite? Why are some brands so loved by developers? And why are businesses increasingly looking at becoming developer-oriented when it comes to their product as well as marketing (Hint: Okta acquisition of Auth0)?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vhh_GeBPOhs

Steve Ballmer was right. Yet, it’s such a hard thing to do.

Developers create stuff. They build things. They try things. And knowing how to empower them is what we all want to do especially if you’re in the software business. I’m not an expert in the term, I've only been in technology for 7+ and in products for 3. But I’ve noticed that nothing is so challenging as marketing to developers. Yet this is so important because developers happen to be the core user of the most tech and SaaS products out there. While the decision to buy the product is someone else’s, you still want the developer team to be believers in the product. While product experience itself is a part of the “marketing” strategy, a major part of getting traction to your product comes from developer marketing.

I’m often told not to sound like such a “marketing person” whenever I write a messaging document or ad copy but sometimes my favorite go-to words are “download our stuff we’re awesome than the rest please try me and did I say we’re awesome”. Also, what do I mean ad copy, devs hate that kind of thing. See, it’s tough.

But here’s what I figured about getting to the developers.

Cut through the bullshit.

If you’re building great software, you don’t have to use the most flowery words to say it. You just need to help them use it so they can do better things it and say it in the clearest way possible. Tell them how you can solve actual problems with it.

Just tell them the truth.

The truth about how you’re trying to build something. The truth about how your products work but it may require more help. Or that you have all these things listed in your roadmap and you’re trying your best to get there. Product launches and releases are often the best opportunity to recreate this experience over and over by proving the right kind of videos, blogs, and tutorials or in formats developers like so they know how to exactly use it, the benefits, and the limitations. Say it with brevity and speak the truth like you tell your friends.

Educate them.

Successful brands don't just tell you how their products work but they explain concepts. Not every developer is going to be armed with domain expertise right from the start so the brands that care would explain theories and frameworks before diving into the product capabilities. This helps you to build authority and trust in that specific domain and then introduce the product as an example. And usually the first step of building a community.

Build and empower your community

What brands like Hubspot do very successfully is ensuring they build communities so users feel included. Word of mouth advertising still takes precedence in promoting a product and your community can do this, assuming that you reward them accordingly. Some have their own in-built forums within the site to discuss various topics, some via slack or even on Twitter creating direct engagement with users. We all want to belong, and these forums help developers learn from peers and like-minded individuals and find better opportunities. Some companies go to the extent of providing tiered or “ambassador” programs and build developer relations teams so they can interact with community members, understand their pain points and improve the overall experience. These also help the community be active and help spread the word while educating themselves.

So while “marketing” to developers is challenging, it still plays a vital role in getting the traction you want for your product. Any other key ingredients I’ve missed? Let me know what other ways you market your products to developers.

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Ishara Naotunna

Ishara Naotunna

Head of Product marketing at Vetstoria. Bibliophile and loves dogs. Maynard James Keenan and Dave Grohl are my imaginary homies. Music heals.