How Education Helps Developers Reach Purchasing Decisions and Product Adoption
One of the trends that we’ve seen in recent years, is not only the continuing growth of the developer population but also an increase in their decision-making power and influence in purchasing decisions.
For this reason, software companies can no longer focus their efforts on attracting the attention of the C-suite and educating them about their product. They need to work out how to reach developers. Spoiler alert: the same marketing tactics don’t work on the developer population.
With this in mind, Nate Aune, CEO of Appsembler recently led a session at the DevRelX Summit 2022 with Konstantinos Korakitis, Director of Research at SlashData, on how education helps developers reach purchasing decisions and product adoption. Yes, that’s right. The critical marketing tactic you need to focus on is not marketing, it’s education.
If you missed the session, or if you need a reminder of the important points we discussed, we’ve summarised the key takeaways below. The data we cite below is from SlashData’s latest Developer Nation survey. The State of the Developer Nation report is available to everyone and shares insights and trends on what matters most to developers.
More Developers Are Decision Makers Than Ever Before
While not all developers make the final tool buying decisions (many do), many influence purchase decisions and that number continues to grow. 41% of developers influence purchase decisions while 26% are decision makers. But who are these developers?
Developers are influencers and decision makers in companies of all sizes, particularly so in medium-sized businesses of 51 to 1,000 employees. In medium-sized businesses, 59% of developers influence purchase decisions (compared to 51% in large enterprises and 49% in small businesses) while 41% are decision makers (compared to 28% in large enterprises and 32% in small businesses).
One of the reasons behind this is that developers are likely to have a say in product and tooling decisions in these companies. In large enterprises, where we see the smallest proportion of decision makers, there is a sense that software purchasing decisions are made higher up in the hierarchy, or by centralised purchase departments.
Experience Levels Affect Level of Influence
The level of experience in software development is one of the strongest predictors of the amount of influence that developers have on tool purchasing decisions. Those developers holding leadership positions have the highest level of influence on decision making.
This isn’t surprising as these developers have accumulated expertise and knowledge over the years, meaning that their opinion matters. It's also due to the nature of their roles and the responsibilities that they gain as they progress in their careers.
Developers with highly technical roles also exert a lot of influence over purchasing decisions. More than half of technical specialists affect or influence buyers or make the final decision when it comes to choosing tools. For example, the vast majority of DevOps engineers are involved in the tool purchasing decision process. Similarly, more than three-quarters of architects, system administrators, and hardware engineers have some form of decision-making power.
This is likely linked to the nature of the specialised nature of development tools they use and the experience they have. For example, nearly 80% of architects have six or more years of experience in software development compared to only 54% of frontline coders.
Developers Expect You to Offer Educational Resources
Understanding what these developers expect from vendors is important because these expectations are likely to affect their decisions. SlashData's research has consistently found that three features come out top of developers’ wishlists and expectations from tool vendors. These are:
Documentation and sample code
Tutorials and how-to videos
Development tools, integrations, and libraries
These resources should be the starting point for every developer marketing program. Alongside these core resources, more than a quarter of developers say that tool vendors should offer technical support, training courses, and hands-on labs. In total, 40% of developers expect software companies to offer educational resources, including training courses and interactive learning environments. Investing in high-quality training resources is time and money well spent for developer program managers.
Developer Education is Crucial to Getting in Front of Decision Makers
Developer buy-in is becoming critically important for companies that are selling software to developers. More than a third of sales opportunities are lost because the seller failed to get developer buy-in.
This is happening because developers are evaluating the product early in the sales cycle and the buyer is getting involved at a much later stage. Software purchasing is happening from the bottom up. Developers are getting an API key, downloading an SDK, and playing around with the software; they only bring in the decision maker after they have checked that the solution is right for them.
If you're a software company and you're not onboarding developers quickly and helping them get to that aha moment, then they probably won’t ever introduce the buyer to your solution. That’s why it’s critical to think about how to onboard, to educate, and get developers up to speed quickly and easily.
Hands-On, Interactive, and Frictionless Training Environments are Key
Developers want to dig in and understand how your software works rather than watching someone explain it or read a brochure. Developers also want to get their hands on the software as soon as possible. They don't want to have to talk to sales or jump through hoops to access your product or have to spend a long time installing software on their computer and dealing with compatibility issues.
The faster you can give a developer access to your product, the better, and the quicker they will get to the stage where they recommend it to decision makers.
Create an Ongoing Developer Education Program
What are successful developer marketers doing to convert developers into paying customers? We know that developer-oriented software requires more education and training before a developer recommends the product. That means you need to help the developer move through the journey with relevant resources and content to ensure they don’t fall out of the funnel.
Think of education resources as stepping stones. The goal is to get the developer hooked on your product and to reach that aha moment. A developer might start with low-commitment resources, such as a five-minute teaser video that explains what the product is, who it's for, and what problems it solves. Then they might watch a 15-minute tutorial before digging into the documentation.
Next, they’ll take a self-paced course or live workshop that helps them to build sample apps or try out an integration. The culmination could be a multi-day proof of concept where they can try things out in a sandbox environment. It’s only at this point that they will bring in the decision maker.
All of these steps are designed to help the developer get familiar with the product at their own pace and to help them validate that the solution is going to work for them. You need to create a compelling and unified learning journey that you can track and see where the issues and blockers are and where you can make improvements.
Developer Education in Action
To bring it all together, we talked about software companies that are already using developer education to boost product adoption. Here are some examples to get inspiration from.
Chef Software, a DevOps automation tools company, wanted to be able to introduce developers not only to Chef products but also to the foundational skills that developers would need to be successful with Chef. They created the Learn Chef site, which provides these courses and also offers the ability to spin up sandbox environments. Within seconds, users can start using Chef software and learn how it saves time and solves their problems. It’s also a way to grow their audience and onboard and train new customers.
The Learn Chef site also acts as a marketing engine to draw developers in who may not even know about or be interested in Chef. Chef tracks user activity such as who is taking courses, what stage they are at, and what courses are they enrolling in, in Marketo. They use this data to send personalised emails to developers according to where they are in their learning journey. These nudge emails keep developers engaged and remind them that they enrolled in a course.
Chef can make personalised recommendations, such as enrolling in advanced courses once they have completed initial courses. The sales team can gauge buying intent and marketing can improve messaging, as they know which products to highlight.
Millions of people were downloading real-time data platform Redis, but they had no idea who they were. To solve this problem, they created the Redis University where, in exchange for getting free courses on databases and related technology, developers needed to register and provide an email address.
Redis found that the people who went through these six-week courses were highly qualified leads as they had spent so much time engaging with the company and product. Between 15 and 20% of people who took the online courses ended up becoming Redis customers.
Check out the 40-minute session recording to get the full story.