In The Guide to Developer Marketing, we’ll go back to basics to help you understand the ins and outs of building a developer or partner program. Later editions in this series will look at the rules for marketing and selling to developers. Part 1 is an introduction to developer programs and developer marketing. Whether you are planning a developer program from scratch, or you are managing an established business that needs a fresh approach, building an incisive, long-term developer marketing strategy can seem like a daunting prospect.
We’ll take you behind the scenes of some the world’s best programs, so you can learn from the best. We’ll also answer the basic questions that will help you shape and target your own developer strategy: what is a developer? What is developer marketing? What are “developer programs” and why are they so important?
Once you’ve read the guide, we hope you’ll feel better prepared to take your next steps in marketing to developers.
Why do Developer Programs matter?
The need to prioritize Developer Programs in your marketing plan.
Developers are a growing, highly valuable audience. The rapid proliferation of technology in modern society means their skills have never been more in demand. As set out by Slash Data (VisionMobile) in their State of the Developer Nation survey, “Software skills are generally scarce and good developers are highly coveted”. Accelerating competition, targeting a limited developer population, means that building engagement and advocacy is critical to the adoption of tools and platforms. Put simply, if your competitors are building or operating a developer program and you aren’t, then your business faces a significant, potentially critical, adoption challenge.
No area of commerce is unaffected by the influence of software and technology, so the good news is that there are significant rewards to be secured across the industry. But the disruptive power of technology means that for every platform or technology that gains traction, there are many that fail. While your own engineers build leading-edge solutions, technical marketers need to build engagement strategies that ensure this limited audience of developers rush to your platform rather than your competitors’. As we’ll see, addressing the diverse needs that influence key decision makers is no easy task.
We firmly believe that winning the hearts and minds of developers is a journey. A long and loyal developer relationship is far more rewarding than a quick transaction. But maintaining that relationship takes insight, ideas and continued energy – be prepared to have to convince your advocates over and over again. You don’t have to have the best technology – strong support, great communications and first-class engagement can be a winning formula.
What is a Developer?
Trust us, this is not a rhetorical question.
Before we dive deeper into the world of developer programs, we should ask a fundamental question: what is a developer? You possibly have an image in your mind already, but we think about “developers” in quite broad terms. A developer can be a programmer or technical engineer of any kind, but we think of a developer as anyone involved in the selection of tools and products used to create software or devices. Indeed, we speak of developers as both individuals and organizations.
Think, for a moment, about the range of people who could influence the selection of technology within a business – large or small. Obviously, a coder or designer has a say – whether they’re working in a huge corporation or a student starting out in their mom’s garage. What about sysadmins, finance managers or the sales force?
Because the organizations, individuals and decision-making processes involved in creating software and devices are diverse, our definition of “a developer” must also be diverse. When thinking about your developer relations strategy – or any strategy, for that matter – you’ll need to identify your audience. They’ll vary by business and even by product or project, but here are a few people to consider:
Sometimes known as a “bedroom coder” or “community developer”, this population can be hugely influential and vitally important to the growth of a technology. They select, adopt and evangelize technology because they care about it. Passion is infectious. We like people that care.
Startups and growing businesses
Small businesses often with tiny budgets and huge dreams. Only the best will survive, but your tools and technologies could be the foundations on which they build the next Twitter, Tesla or Nest Labs.
Obviously, the developers that work directly with your products and services are vitally important. For most businesses we support, they’re the primary audience. Perhaps they’re the hobbyists and students of yesteryear – perhaps they’re still hobbyists on the side, working on community projects in their spare time.
Business & Finance Managers
Someone’s got to pay the bills, right? Whether it’s a developer finance manager evaluating a BOM (bill of materials) sheet, a supply chain analyst seeking to shave percentages off annual costs or the finance director accountable for the company’s balance sheet, if you’re not engaging the money guys with stories of how you’re helping their bottom line, then there’s always a risk someone else will.
While computer science and engineering students are learning their trade, they’re experimenting with a wide variety of tools and platforms (among other things), the best of which they’ll stick with throughout their careers. Not only are they a great audience to influence, close-proximity to other students and word of mouth ensures your buzz will spread quickly.
Depending on your technology, creative teams can be influential developer advocates within a business. The working lives of industrial designers, materials experts, graphic artists, UX and interactive designers can all be influenced by the features and benefits of your tools and platforms – positively and negatively. Working closely with product management and engineering teams, they’re a great audience to have on your side.
While they may not be hands on with your technologies, product managers have a vested interest in what’s developed using them. So, not only do they need a strong and positive understanding of your product, they need the confidence that their engineering team have the right tools to deliver against a business or customer need. Accountable for bringing a product or product feature to market, they’re an important audience to engage.
Of course, this is just a few examples of diverse audiences that can influence product selection. Each of these audiences can be further niched and targeted as required, but for many of the businesses we support, engineers are the number one priority. They too can be segmented into an assortment of categories – traditionally by discipline. For example, take a look at Stack Overflow’s 2017 global hiring landscape report. Here, developers are clustered by an area of specialism:
- Web Developer
- Desktop Application Developer
- Mobile Developer
- Database Administrator
- Developer with a statistics or maths background
- Systems Administrator
- DevOps Specialist
- Embedded Applications/Devices
- Data Scientist
- Graphics Programmer
- Machine Learning Specialist
- Quality assurance engineer
But today coders can be defined in many different ways, perhaps referring more broadly to their focus:
- Front End Developer
- Game Developer
- Full Stack Developer
- Back End Developer
- Enterprise Developer
- Systems Developer
- IoT Software Developer
- IoT Hardware Developer
- Industrial IoT Developer
The overarching point here is to define, understand and target those you wish to engage. However you choose to segment and prioritise your audience, be sure to build an understanding of their needs and address those needs in your actions. You may find one approach that works for all, but it’s more likely that a variety of developer marketing tactics are required to serve the varying needs of influencers.
Our relationship with developers – for our own business and on behalf of our clients – takes many subtly different forms. We might be the first point of contact between an organisation and a prospective individual developer. We might take a consultative role, advising a client on a product created to solve a problem for developers. We provide analysis and develop marketing strategy for some of the planet’s biggest tech companies, helping to serve their existing developer communities more effectively. We also provide logistical and practical support at developer events.
But whatever the activity, our approach is grounded in a thorough understanding of customer need. How our clients’ goals and technical solutions meet developer and business objectives. Put simply, if you want to have a great conversation, it pays to know who you’re talking to and why they’d be interested in what you have to say.
What is Developer Marketing?
A new business challenge that requires fresh and innovative thinking.
Catchy defines Developer Marketing as a set of aligned marketing initiatives brought together to attract, connect and incentivize developers to build using your product or service.
Experience has taught us that leading developer programs typically harness these eight interlocking components. They combine to support a developer’s journey from first impressions through to becoming an experienced, enthusiastic advocate. While each of these elements are important to the success of the program, the best programs are more than the sum of its parts. Just look at FAMGA (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon) and you will see five world class developer programs integral to business ecosystems worth billions of dollars.
Let’s drill down into each of the eight elements to understand what they are and why they matter:
While it may seem like a huge amount of work, defining the right strategy to build and execute on each of these eight components is critical to the success of a developer program. But it’s extremely rare for any organization to plan and launch all eight elements in full, simultaneously. As you can see from the infographic, each of the eight elements have their own strands. Some of the strands are essential for launching a program, while others can be built as your program scales.
Now that you know the eight components of a developer program, you can spend time with your team figuring assess your developer marketing maturity.
Grow your developer program
The Catchy Developer Program Framework helps you identify and measure the areas for growth in your developer program. Use the eight components to prioritize your developer marketing mix and maximize the ROI of your developer program.