• Miguel Palma

Developer Marketing Cheat Sheet

Developer marketing is just marketing to developers, right? How hard can that be? Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you think. It’s not simply about capturing the attention of the developer community and making them aware of your product. Success is more than just creating a new buyer persona, then using traditional strategies and techniques to engage this audience.


Developer marketing is the collection of principles, strategies, and tactics that companies use to increase their product’s awareness, adoption, and advocacy across various technical audiences.


Below we’ll summarize developer marketing, look at why it’s important, the challenges and benefits, and how to create and measure its success.


Why is Developer Marketing Important?

There are three main reasons why you need to focus on developer marketing. Firstly, developers are controlling more and more software purchasing decisions. According to the latest Developer Nation survey, developer team leads are calling the shots, with 64% of them influencing decisions or making a suggestion.


Secondly, the developer population is increasing; now at 26.8 million developers globally with a 10% increase over the last 6 months. So if you’re marketing a product that is directly or indirectly tied to software, there’s a good chance that a developer will be part of your product’s evaluation and purchasing process.


Finally, traditional marketing methods don’t work on developers. Developers don’t want sales calls and cold demos. They want documentation, tutorials, development tools, integrations and libraries, training courses and technical support. Developers want to know and see your product’s features, and to test these for themselves in a hands-on, real-world experience.


What are the Benefits of Developer Marketing?

There are many detailed eBooks on the benefits of developer marketing, but in essence, there are five main benefits:

  1. Developer adoption: increase the number of developers who initially sign up for your product, access an API, or start building applications for a marketplace.

  2. Developer success: help your developer community become more educated with your product, API, marketplace, etc.

  3. Developer usage: increase the developer community’s ongoing usage to preserve the long-term growth and success of your product.

  4. Lowering developer support costs: pinpoint common issues being raised within the community and build product courses to address the recurring themes in support tickets.

  5. Orchestrating activities with marketing: consider how your developer marketers, traditional marketers, and sales staff communicate and engage with developers.


What are the Drivers for Business-to-Developer (B2D) Marketing Success?

There are three (3) main themes that software companies do to drive the success of their developer marketing efforts:

  1. Lower the friction for developers: reduce the amount of effort a developer has to exert to access or use your product.

  2. Educate, don’t market or sell: developers hate marketing, so aim to educate them and provide insightful information regarding the effectiveness of your product.

  3. Adopt a community-centric mindset: Your goal with developer marketing should not be to turn developers into leads or MQLs, but to demonstrate that your organization values the developers that build and use its products.


What are the Challenges?

There are five main challenges you’ll need to tackle when it comes to successfully marketing to developers. These are:

  1. Traditional marketing techniques won’t work: you need to educate developers rather than sell to them.

  2. Letting your product do the talking: don’t make assumptions about the problems developers have. If you effectively communicate the features of your product, developers will be able to determine if your product fits their needs.

  3. Ensuring ease of access: make sure your product isn’t only accessible behind a gated sales demo because this creates an unnecessary barrier between the developer and your product.

  4. Crafting the right messaging approach: you need to adopt a different mindset and tone when writing content for developers. Less fluff, more factual (even if the facts aren’t necessarily good for your product).

  5. Avoiding the early ‘sell’: don’t call developers the moment they sign-up for a product demo or trial. Developer marketing is a slow burn and your initial efforts should be focused on empowering and educating them.


Creating a Developer Outreach Program

An effective developer outreach program starts with building the right team. A dedicated team will put in the necessary effort, and have the required long-term time horizon it takes to gain the trust of developers.


Your first key hires for this team should include:

  • A technical content writer that is well-versed in the product, API, or marketplace that you’re focusing your developer marketing efforts on.

  • A community or marketing manager who will be responsible for building out the analytics and measurement framework for your developer marketing initiative.

Once you’ve assembled that team, you need to work out how you will measure the success of your developer marketing initiatives. There are four main groups of key performance indicators.


Awareness

The adoption rate analyzes how many developers are signing up for your product. This can be measured by looking at:

  • # of registrants to your developer newsletter

  • # of impressions to your developer portal or content

  • Social media subscribers (assuming you have a developer-specific channel)

  • Hackathon and developer event attendees

  • Blog article views & reads

  • Social media mentions

Adoption

Your adoption rate analyzes how many developers are signing up for your product. The following indicators play into your adoption rate:

  • How many virtual labs or developer playgrounds are being spun up

  • How many trials (attributed to your B2D efforts) are being spun-up

  • How many applications are being built or have been built

  • Number of applications per developer

  • Number of 3rd party integrations onto other platforms


Engagement

Your engagement rate analyzes how frequently developers are using your product and helps you understand whether you’ve built a product that developers use in their daily workflows. Engagement rate will require you to look at:

  • How often are developers using your product

  • How often specific features within a product are being used

  • Number of API calls (assuming your company sells or markets an API)

  • Average number of logins per developer

  • Number of developers engaging with your product 30 days after sign-up


Community

Your developer community is the foundation that your product stands on. The community metrics you should be taking note of include:

  • Monthly growth of your developer community

  • # of developer groups & # of new groups added per month

  • # of developer meetings per month

  • # of developers per group & # of total developers

  • Active developer tokens


Developer Satisfaction

You’ve attracted the right developers and engaged with them in a meaningful way, but now it’s time to consider how satisfied they are with your product. Determining your Developer Satisfaction Score will require you to look at two factors:

  • Your Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Time to First Hello World (this is a common acronym used in developer marketing circles to refer to the time it takes for developers to experience a product’s value. The lower the TTFHW, the better)


Key Takeaways

Developer marketers have a huge challenge (and opportunity) on their hands, which is why creating a developer marketing program is so important. An effective program will educate technical audiences on your product’s features, help them understand how your product can solve their problems, and increase product adoption and usage.


For additional information, consider reading these articles and reports:


  1. Appsembler's Developer Marketing Guide

  2. Global Developer Population Sizing Dashboard, SlashData Dashboards

  3. State of the Developer Nation 21st Edition, SlashData

  4. Developer Programs Benchmarking Q3 2021, SlashData

  5. Under the Hood of Developer Marketing podcast “Building a Developer Program from scratch with Luke Kilpatrick” and “Developer Education & Enablement with Shannon Bradshaw & Nate Aune

  6. 5 Benefits of Developer Marketing


About the author

Miguel Palma is a developer stuck in a marketer's body. As Head of Marketing at Appsembler, his mission is to inspire software companies to use hands-on, educational experiences to increase product adoption within technical audiences (like developers). Prior to Appsembler, he spent 8 years leading marketing teams at software and CPG companies, and several years doing business development for technology startups.