developer marketing strategies

Some developer marketing strategies and tips for you in a nutshell

The phenomenal increase in Internet of Things, Big Data and related security technologies are made possible primarily because of DEVELOPERS!

They play a major role in influencing which technology or platform will rule in a particular segment, leading to widespread adoption of that tech/platform in due course.

I went through the developer ecosystem, and have compiled and condensed some key insights on how you may go about implementing effective business-to-developer (B2D) marketing strategies for your organization. If you’re familiar with B2B product marketing strategies, this should be quite straightforward to you. The only difference is, it’s just harder to market to developers than to regular customers. So, let’s get started…

Who’re these developers and how to get to them – Understanding the persona

In broader terms, developers (software engineer, architect, programmer, evangelist, startup, technical product manager, etc) help in creating products or services for their end customers.

Their thought process

When they see an ad or get an email about your product, a typical developer’s thought process could be one or all of these:

  • How does this help? Will this solve my issue?
  • Is this free? Can I create something similar instead of getting to this platform? Will there be too much learning to do?
  • How much disruption will this create – will it fit my current workflow/architecture
  • Where will I find more on this? Will the documentation help me get to it quickly?

Right from messaging to on-boarding – everything in-between must be considered.

At a broad level, a typical marketing-sales loop may be like this:

Get their attention → Get them to try the software and get their buy-in → Aid buying with simplified docs/on-boarding → Incentivize them to spread it to their clan → Repeat

Segment and market to them – No ‘one size fits all’

Developers are a bit averse to conventional marketing techniques. Care should be taken to not bombard them with emails, phone calls. They’ve to buy-in to the brand name and the product/platform, and marketing has to project the value – that the developer will succeed using the platform.


Start with segmenting the developers – For marketing effectiveness

  • Typical developer audience
    • Students/hobbyists
    • Startups
    • Engineers
    • Product managers
    • Software architects
  • Broader segments
    • Innovators
    • Enthusiasts
    • Influencers

Where do they hangout?

LinkedIn, Reddit, Elance, StackExchange, developer summits, Toptal, coding competition portals (TopCoder), GitHub, CodePlex, CodeProject, GIDS

Getting to them…[generic]

Advertisements: Targeted ads at the right places – where those devs hangout + Adwords
Email: Product announcements, product features, value props, upcoming events, case study links
Identifying and rewarding influencers: Make heroes out of the existing developer clan, and ‘refer’ them in press releases and other marketing content. Developers trust other developer’s testimonials and experiences
Regional meet-ups and hackathons
Content: Blogs, whitepapers, case studies, PRs/announcements, early adopter stories, quick-start/how-to guides (very brief), videos.

How’s the tech industry doing developer marketing?

Google does DevFests in different cities, and is starting with an initiative to work with IT firms retrain their developer workforce with the latest technology stack.

DigitalOcean focuses on creating simple tools and building its own developer community. They organize Campus Champ contests for student devs and budding entrepreneurs in universities.

Microsoft Azure releases new tools to empower their developer base with their AI-powered platform ‘Azure Databricks’. They utilize their existing developer base to launch new tools and then create the buzz in the market to attract other developers into their ecosystem.

Amazon empowers developers by simplifying the adoption of the platform, providing the value proposition so that they can deploy their apps, products, services quickly and effectively. Amazon’s Alexa platform is in itself presents a symbiotic opportunity between Amazon and the developers. The more the developers create Alexa skills, the more versatile Alexa becomes. Analysts have estimated that Alexa revenue will be $10 billion in 2020 with 500 million active customers worldwide (source: CNBC). And, Alexa development will be closely tied to Amazon’s eCommerce and AWS businesses, enabling revenue for AWS and eComm as well.

So, what’s the common messaging?

“We help developers develop new apps, collaborate easily, deploy quickly and manage efficiently.”

Other important marketing strategies…

Utilizing marketing agencies to fast-forward developer marketing activities

Developer marketing agencies can help accelerate the ‘outreach’ to several developers in different regions. Agencies will have a set of best practices that work for a specific region/audience, database and regional presence.

Some key items to consider when engaging with agencies to drive marketing programs :

  1. The agency’s credibility – past campaigns, results, case studies, brands they’ve worked with
  2. Developer database with available segmentation
  3. Percentage of influencers
  4. Percentage of innovators
  5. Basic insights on the type of developers
  6. Typical cost per acquisition
  7. Engagement metrics
  8. ROI

Considering hackathons for developer marketing – with 3rd party developers

Hackathons need a lot of planning and consume a lot of resources. If it’s done for recruitment purposes, the end result will be generally good – you will end up with a great programmer you will hire.

When hackathons are designed with a larger purpose – to help solve a bigger issue, the developer community gets excited. They would want to contribute, not just for winning prizes, but for solving a bigger challenge and getting recognized. For the company hosting the hackathon, it will be thousands of new users trying out their product/API or platform. Win-win!


Things to consider:

  • Pre-hackathon plan
    • Overarching goal – Product adoption, fodder for product marketing, etc
    • Target audience – what programming skills, experience
    • Theme – what problem should the hackathon participants solve
  • Post-hackathon plan
    • Rewarding winners (monetary, certifications, awards)
    • Making heroes out of winners – making them the influencers
    • Engaging with participants – nurture
    • If the hackathon helps solve an industry problem, capitalize on it – greater buzz that attracts more to the product/company/landing page

Utilizing User Groups

When a bunch of developers using your product get together, they will discuss how better to use the product. They will exchange problem solving ideas and will enjoy networking, at the same time providing new ways of using the product or a feature and some hacks. User Groups can provide a low-cost medium for tech platform vendors to feel the pulse of the developers, which can be fed to the product teams to change/improve the software.

Also, there’s a chance of identifying influencers in the group who can be recognized, rewarded and made popular.

Localized (by region/state) User Groups tend to be more effective as the frequency of meetings will increase, and might also result in better outcomes.

In a nutshell

There are two goals for an effective developer marketing strategy.

Goal 1: Getting the fundamentals right – what does your platform/product solve, and who might be benefited by it.

What’s needed for this goal: Product knowledge and messaging, audience segmentation (understanding them) and buying process, identifying content types and marketing channels.

Goal 2: Sell better – Improve conversions and movement through the pipeline.

What’s needed for this goal: Metrics – defining targets (traffic, downloads, signups, ARPU, ROI), nurture programs (drips, newsletters) for devs stuck in the pipeline, events (dev relations, influencers, rewards and recognition framework).

Go get your developers!

Your thoughts?