Developer Marketing and Engagement Programs - Catchy

In the Part 4 of our Developer Marketing Guide, we discussed the importance of creating engaging and relevant content for developer audiences. We outlined the steps you need to take in order to create a first-class developer content strategy and included our developer content playbook to help get your strategy off the ground. 

In the fifth instalment of our Developer Marketing Guide, it’s time to look at marketing and engagement programs. Forming an important part of your developer marketing strategy, this segment will help you understand how these programs fit amongst your marketing mix. We’ll look at key components, such as rewards, recognition and contests, so you can understand how to leverage these to create a thriving and engaged developer community.

Marketing and engagement programs are essential

Ongoing engagement with the developer community

You’ve created a great developer platform, written engaging content and your value proposition is top draw. Great work, but you’re not alone. Trying to get developers to onboard your developer program, let alone stay faithful to you can be a taxing job. That’s why complementary, timely marketing and engagement programs are so important. Coordinated, thoughtfully designed activities will help you achieve your marketing objectives. There’s a whole host of different tactics you can employ and we’re going to cover off what we consider to be the most important, so you can prioritise as part of your developer program and developer marketing strategy.

Rewards & recognition

Let them be rewarded for their contribution

A key component of any developer marketing strategy, rewards and recognition are up there with one of the most important. If you take a look at our peers over in the B2C or B2B marketing world, you should be able to easily identify marketing efforts that reward customers for their loyalty. In the UK one of the most well known and successful reward programs is the Tesco Clubcard – buy shopping, use your card, give all this data to Tesco and get vouchers for money off. It’s a pretty simple exchange, and it works. Of course for your developer marketing efforts, we are not suggesting you try and syphon developer data and give them vouchers to get money off products. The reward exchange is different, develop for us and get rewarded with recognition (badges, points, status), hardware, software, swag (t-shirts, stickers, power bars) and more.

Reward through recognition is an easy concept to understand. If we look at to the Learning and Development sector, over the past few years there has been a change in the way learners are learning. eLearning has moved towards a gamification model – learn and get points or XP, just like playing a computer game. Recognition for developers can be as simple as gaining ‘xp’ for contributing to your developer forum and earning digital badges. Developers, in general, like to be active members of their developer communities, and providing digital recognition for their contribution is a great way to recognise their efforts.

The great thing about rewarding developers through recognition is that if you are providing opportunities to achieve more and it’s done in an engaging and fun way, you are far more likely to retain developers and keep them engaged and contributing as members to the community. If you do decide to go down the developer reward and recognition route, you will need to ensure you’ve considered the following questions:


  1. Does our developer portal support digital recognition, such as badges?
  2. How do we facilitate a rewards program?
  3. Do we have the right resources in place to support rewards and recognition?
  4. What do developers need to do in order to achieve each level of reward or recognition?
  5. Who will provide reward and recognition technical support to developers?
  6. How often will rewards or recognition be distributed or applied?
  7. How much will it cost to provide rewards, including postage and packing?
  8. Are there a maximum number of developers who are allowed to participate? 

Once you’ve understood how your developer reward and recognition program will work, the next step is to map out technical and non-technical processes, logistics and resources. It’s likely you’ll need to speak to your legal team and have terms and conditions of the program drafted. Please make sure these are written in an easy to understand way, they must be transparent, clear and developer friendly. Following this, you’ll need to create a launch plan, including marketing activities. Your developer reward and recognition program will only work if the developer community knows about it. Consider using channels the developer audience already frequent, such as your developer forum, on your developer portal, your developer social media channels, and third-party forums and sites. If you’re launching an innovative or highly interesting reward or recognition program, you may also be able to get some press coverage in technical/developer publications such as Hacker Noon or TechCrunch.

Please don’t expect to launch a developer reward or recognition program and just forget about it. You’ll need to regularly review the numbers of developers signed up and engagement levels. It’s also a good idea to refresh the types of rewards you are giving away, nobody wants to be given the same sticker and t-shirt for three months in a row. Keep communicating with your developer community, keep them engaged and keep driving your engagement program forward because ultimately it will reward your business.

Developer contests

Learn, build, win

Developer contests are a Catchy favorite. They can be a great way to attract, engage and inspire your developer community. The reason contests can be a great way to gain developer attention is that they are different from the same old ‘try our platform’ messages they see day in and day out. Contests enable developers to apply their skills in a practical way, with the opportunity to win great prizes. It’s also a real community event, and if it’s done properly it means that developers will be able to connect with their peers.

Contests don’t have to costs the earth, but they do require a lot of thought, planning and resources. The first step in creating your developer contest is setting clear objectives. You’ll need to understand what your goal is – build awareness in the developer community, engage your existing developer population, or spark interest with new developers and get them to onboard.

The best contests are hyper-targeted to a specific developer segment. We’ve said time and time again that in your developer marketing strategy you should not just broad brush targeting a developer audience. When you’re thinking about which developer audience you want to engage in your contest, you’ll want to target the most valuable to help you reach your objectives. You might think, ‘we’ll target everyone then we’ll know which are the most valuable’ – don’t. You need to identify specific developer types and create a thoughtful contest messaging framework that will resonate with that specific population.


So why should your chosen developer audience care about your contest? A contest is typically time-consuming for a developer to participate in, so the payoff has to be worth the effort. There’s no hard and fast rule about what type of reward or incentive you should offer to developers for entering your contests, but typically it would include:


  • Prizes: Money, hardware, software, tickets to your next event or swag
  • Promotion: Winners finalists, and runners-up should all get a bit of free PR from you. Typically this would be on social media or through influencers
  • Recognition: If they win is this going to make them look great? It should
  • Personal challenge: If your competition is too easy developers will get bored. You want to set the bar so that for your chosen developer audience it’s a bit of challenge and they are inspired to get creative
  • Community connection: From reading part 3 of this guide, you’ll know how important peer-to-peer interaction is for developers. Your contest should give them a platform to interact with others also competing

Next, you’ll want to define your contest rules such as:

  • Who can enter?
  • What is expected?
  • When is the deadline?
  • How will entries be judged and by who?

Make sure these are really clearly described, completely transparent and visible. If you don’t get this bit right you’ll jeopardize your contest and possibly alienate your developer entrants. News spreads fast in the developer community, so it’s really important to nail it the first time. Alongside your contest rules, internally you and your team need to define the contest targets and measures of success. You’ll want to consider how many entrants you’re aiming for and other key metrics that you can all work towards, otherwise how do you know whether you’re celebrating or commiserating at the end of your contest?

Don’t underestimate the importance of project management for this contest. You should have a clear understanding of:

  • The contest timeline
  • Promotion and communication schedule
  • Contest closure and associated activities
  • When and how winners, finalists, and runners-up will be announced
  • what internal resources you’ll need to run the contest (and make sure you’ve secured them for the time you need them)

To ensure your contest runs without a hitch, pay close attention to the finer details prior to even launching. Considering the following will help you:

  • Submissions – how will this be captured? Do you need to build a microsite for the contest?
  • Judging – who will be the judge or judges? How will they shortlist entries? Who makes the final call about the winner?
  • Support – if your entrants run into problems who will be their technical support? What about general queries, will you have someone on hand to answer developers?
  • Prizes – who will arrange the prizes? How will these be dispatched to the winner and/or runner-ups?
  • Legal – do you need to run this past your legal team (probably)? What are the terms and conditions of the contest? Who is writing those?

Ok, that’s a lot of legwork done but it’s really worth the effort to ensure your contest runs smoothly. Whether it’s your 1st or your 50th, the pre-work is critical for success. You’ll now want to spend some time planning the outreach, marketing and promotional efforts. Spend some time thinking about which channels will be most effective to promote the contest and if you will use paid media. You may also want to consider using influencers to help get the contest in front of the right developers. Don’t rely on just one communication method though, whatever you choose there should be a mix in your contest promotion. Give some thought about how you’ll track progress and how you’ll measure effective and ineffective communication methods. This is important so you can adapt and improve your communication plan throughout the contest window. 

Once it’s time for the contest to go live it’s not a time for you to go quiet. You’ll need to have your team on hand to support developers through the entry process, answer any questions they have and get them over the line and submitting their entry. It’s absolutely no use to you if you have 1000 half finished entries or poor quality submissions. You must act as your developers’ cheerleader, remind them of the wonderful entries you’ve already received and how fantastic the prizes are. Be sure to monitor any incoming questions and add frequent queries and answers to an FAQ section on your contest page. This will reduce developer frustration and also make life a bit less repetitive for your team.

Once the contest closes it’s time to pick a winner – there are lots of different ways this can be done. A few options for you to consider – a live judging panel at an event you host, online via live video or a public vote. Once you’ve picked and announced your winner you’ll need to wrap up the contest. Although in your eyes the contest is over, don’t make the mistake of annoying or upsetting all of your other entrants, be sure to thank everyone who participated. The contest will have also produced some valuable, great content for you to share with your developer community – the result of the contest, pictures, entrant stories and more. Don’t sit on it and be quick to get your post-contest messaging out there.

Developer Journey & Nurture

Beyond hello world

Getting developers to do more with your product or service is one of the hardest challenges in developer marketing. This is true for new products as well as new features. At Catchy, we see the role of dev marketing as an extension of the product’s usability. Having a clear view of the developer journey, and its friction points is key to create a guided developer experience that focuses on helping developers to do more.

It is not uncommon to get a big volume of developers to sign up to only build a hello world. There are many reasons for this behavior. Way too many.  But there are also plenty of opportunities we can realize from a marketing perspective. As always, we strongly suggest to start small and iterate up. In collaboration with the product team, developer marketers must understand the trigger points to specific user actions. These actions become the steps towards achieving a desired usage or consumption threshold that represents stickiness and signals a path to loyalty. Having these paths clearly defined and understood opens the door for nurture marketing tactics to do what they do best. Help people do what’s next.

Telemetry data tends to be of great value to inform triggers and actions. Identifying the behaviors of different cohorts based on real product usage data is the way to go. No survey will match the fidelity and veracity of the insights you collect from telemetry. “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do”. With this quantitative and qualitative baseline understanding, middle of the funnel campaigns can be built to guide developers to the next key step to achieve product adoption. This tactic works well when the nurture flows identify, and to an extent predicts, when a speed bump is about to interrupt the developer experience. Knowing when a developer who looks like x,y or z is most likely to bounce off will be used as a trigger to generate a touchpoint that helps them overcome whatever product challenge is about to surface. Another way developer marketing can help developers discover and implement the product capabilities is by introducing features with contextual value. Product roadmaps are complex. Developers are trying to find the best way to build their use cases. Understanding what the use case is, will help introduce the next relevant component of the platform. The same way we advocate against feature selling in traditional B2B marketing, we don’t suggest feature dumps during the adoption process. The goal is the help developers drop bits to production using the right subset of features, that are relevant for them to build high quality and functioning software.

This drip approach is strong. While developers will eventually figure out the product, they will be more likely to stick and become advocates of those services that enhanced their work with the least disruption possible. This is not to negate the natural learning curve of complex technologies. Quite the contrary. This paradigm is based on the acceptance of the challenges associated with building with a given tool or data model. Recognizing this reality will allow for the creation of a support system to make sure competent developers can realize the value of your product as soon as possible.

Catchy’s top tips for marketing program success

  1. Identify your target developer audience(s). Segment your audience into different types of developers to more accurately communicate with them.
  2. Create bespoke messaging which engages and resonates with them. Your messaging for each developer segment should be unique to the audience you are communicating with and the problem they are trying to solve
  3. Be consistent in your marketing program efforts. Don’t expect to only do one type of engagement campaign with a specific audience every year and then go quiet. There must be follow-up communication and engagement
  4. Reward and recognition can be a great way to engage with your developer community. Be sure to be clear about how developers can achieve or unlock certain rewards and communicate regularly
  5. Consider a developer contest, but give yourself time to plan and get resources ready.  Don’t forget pre-planning is a crucial part of a successful contest.
  6. Provide use cases so developers can understand what they can build with your product or platform and how this can be implemented in real-life scenarios

Closing thoughts

Marketing and engagement programs are an important part of your overall developer marketing strategy and should be used to complement other strategic efforts, such as your developer program. Whichever mix of engagement programs and campaigns you decide to use, you must ensure you are making regular, timely, engaging and relevant communication with your developer community. It’s never going to be enough to invite developers to participate in a contest and then they don’t hear from you again until the following year.  Think about what follow-up engagement activities are going to be, be clear, transparent and honest and you are much more likely to create a loyal community.