Part 5: Developer Marketing and Engagement Programs Are Essential

In Part 4 of our Developer Marketing Guide, we discussed the importance of creating engaging and relevant content for developer audiences. We outlined the steps to create a developer content strategy and included our developer content playbook to help you get started. 

Now we can look at marketing and engagement programs. This segment will help you understand how these programs fit your developer marketing strategy. As we explore key components, such as rewards, recognition, and contests, we'll help you learn how to leverage them to create a thriving developer community.

Your developer marketing strategy must include marketing programs

You will fall behind your competitors without programs.

You have developed an excellent developer program platform, defined your value proposition, and written engaging content. Congratulations, but you are not alone. Getting developers to sign up for your developer program can be difficult; how do you keep them engaged? We have highlighted essential marketing programs you can use for your developer marketing strategy so that you can prioritize them.

Performance Marketing and Paid Media

Don't completely avoid paid media, but use it carefully.

We know that some of the more traditional consumer marketing tactics, such as 'buy one, get one free,' aren't effective in marketing to developers. Most developer marketers will be more successful with well-timed and targeted advertising that informs, educates, or even entertains developers. 

Developer performance marketing may include paid media on developer or industry-specific websites, paid social media for reach, or syndicated content in targeted publications. Don't use 'engagement' as your key metric in organic social media. Social platform companies who want you to ‘pay to play’ influence these numbers. Organic engagement is not correlated with developer marketing efforts.

Develop a campaign with a clear creative direction and be sure what action you want developers to take: download an article, register for an event, sign up for a trial, etc. Run a separate campaign for each objective, complete with its own channel plan, creative assets, and messaging framework. Developer marketing is similar to traditional marketing but more strategic and targeted.

How do developer relations and developer marketing differ?

Developer Relations is a subset of Developer Marketing.

Catchy believes DevRel is a subset of Developer Marketing. This does not mean that DevRel teams should always be part of the marketing organization. We’ve seen it work well on product or engineering teams. However, we think that many of the functions performed by DevRel teams are highly relevant to marketing objectives, and the two should work closely together. 

Developer Relations can be viewed as the 'last mile' of your product delivery. Your DevRel teams are likely the only ones in your organization who speak to developers trying to use and build with your products, outside of the occasional product or marketing surveys. Find ways to incorporate what they learn into everything you do, including obvious areas like product development and support, as well as marketing. How are developers reacting to your product? What can you incorporate into your messaging? 

We'd like to see the distinction between developer marketing and developer relations evolve and become more widely accepted. Both functions have a significant role in the success of any developer program.

Where do Influencers fit?

Evangelists, advocates, heroes, oh my!

Influencers are another topic on which there isn't broad agreement among industry experts. To Catchy, Evangelists and Advocates are often employed by the company and are job roles used in Developer Relations. A Hero or Champion is a non-employee who is a deep user of your product, attends meetups, writes articles, etc., but is from outside of the organization with little or no reward other than a t-shirt or an invitation to an event. Influencers are guns for hire. They have large technical audiences and will more or less distribute what you want if the price is right.

As you can tell from the tone of the above paragraph, Catchy is a fan of DevRel Evangelists and external Champions and Heroes. We are more apprehensive about out and out Influencers due to the possibility of a lack of authenticity. 

With a network of Product Heroes, the impact of your DevRel team can be multiplied exponentially at a fraction of the cost of hiring the same number of people.

Developer rewards and recognition

Show developers you appreciate their contributions.

Any developer marketing strategy should include rewards and recognition. You can easily spot marketing efforts that reward loyal customers in either the B2C or B2B world. Just think of any airline or credit card. But developer rewards are different. Build for us, and you'll receive recognition (badges, points, status), hardware, software, or swag (t-shirts, stickers, power bars).

It is easy to grasp the concept of rewarding through recognition. Recognition for developers can be as simple as gaining XP to contribute to your developer forum and earn digital badges. Providing digital awards for developer contributions is a great way to recognize their efforts. Developers who are motivated are generally active in their developer communities.

You may not even need to create a full-blown program like this. A 'Developer of the Month' initiative or a Spotlight section on one of your projects' use cases may be enough to motivate developers and encourage others to participate. Even getting your forum moderator to thank a contributor on Stack or Reddit will go a long way.

    Inspire your developer community with contests

    Help developers learn, build, and win.

    Catchy is a fan of developer contests. You can use them to attract, engage, and inspire your developer community. Contests are a great way to gain developer attention because they are different from the same old 'try our platform' messages they see endlessly. In contests, developers can practically apply their skills and win great prizes.

    Contests don't need to cost a fortune, but they require a lot of thought, planning, and resources. The first step is to set clear goals for your developer contest. Depending on your goal, you'll need to decide whether you want to build awareness in the developer community, engage your current developer population, or attract new developers.

    Contests that are hyper-targeted to a particular developer segment are the most effective. You need to identify specific developer types and develop contest messaging that resonates with that audience. If you’re Google Play, encouraging independent Games Developers to build games for your store, this is relatively straightforward. It gets more complex in broader use cases, but the focus is crucial. 

    Why should your chosen developer audience care about your contest? Contests are typically time-consuming for developers, so the payoff must be worth the effort. While there is no hard and fast rule about what kind of reward or incentive you should offer developers who enter your contests, typically, it may include:

    • Prizes: Money, hardware, software, tickets to your next event, or swag
    • Knowledge: Devs use contests to learn new skills 
    • Recognition: Can winning this contest help expand their personal brand

    Whatever it is, the juice is worth the squeeze. Don’t expect weeks of work from a developer to enter your contest for the chance to win a t-shirt.

    Developer contests should be in your marketing mix. When carefully planned and not overused, they can be powerful tools.

    Closing thoughts

    Beyond hello world.

    These marketing programs can drive new developers to your program and further engage those already signed up. Marketing is not a top-of-funnel-only activity. Plan a complete lifecycle of activities to attract and engage your developer audience.