Part 2: Building a Compelling Value Proposition
In the first part of our Guide to Developer Marketing, we defined a developer program as a set of aligned content, programs, support and developer marketing activities brought together with the intention of attracting and engaging developers to use your product.
We also introduced our eight-stage developer marketing model, which provides an ideal structure for creating new developer programs or augmenting an existing one.
If you’ve yet to read Part 1 of our guide to developer marketing, be sure to do so – it’s a great primer on understanding your target audience(s) with useful insights on developer engagement strategies. The Catchy Guide to Developer Marketing series will give you the tools to create a compelling developer marketing strategy. Today, we’ll dive into the detail with a discussion on the first, vital step of the developer marketing journey: building a compelling value proposition.
Defining the Benefit of a Developer Value Proposition
A value proposition is a succinct and powerful statement that defines the value of your product or service for your target customer. We know that developers are an audience keenly attuned to marketing fluff and time wasting. Therefore it must express:
- Why your product or service exists
- Who it’s for
- Why it succeeds
Creating a value proposition may sound like an easy task, but creating a compelling value proposition requires some thought, testing, and iterating. Summarizing the essence of a product or service in one or two sentences can be tricky, but the time invested in creating a clear and focused value proposition statement pays back on a daily basis.
Not only is it a vital element in what you communicate – internally, to your team, as well externally to partners and customers – it can also serve as a powerful bellwether for product or service development. Once defined, you should evaluate your development roadmap against the value proposition. Ask yourself, “Does feature X strengthen or dilute our value proposition?” Sometimes, the simplest questions can cut through hours of debate on resource allocation and investment cases.
To illustrate the point, let’s look at a few examples from the world of developer marketing. These partner-facing statements may not be articulated exactly the same as they are internally within their respective organizations, but they’re a great starting point.
The Pinterest community revolves around the discovery, collation and sharing of ideas, trends and products through images and videos. The company’s developer portal explains its purpose through a succinct value proposition statement, that also serves as an empowering, unifying mission : “Help millions of people discover, save and do things they love”. Importantly, the statement communicates the scale of the business and the passion inherent in the user base.
The proposition clearly articulates that Pinterest isn’t a passive, “scrapbooking” tool. “Discover” and “save” are two essential platform features, but “do things they love” offers significant opportunity for developers to empower Pinterest users to more actively engage with their interests.
Enterprise cloud storage vendor, Box, sticks to simplicity at its developer portal. “Cloud Content Management APIs for Developers” may not seem like the most creative value proposition, but it does a fine job of articulating what it is (i.e. the product, “Cloud Content Management APIs”) and who is it for (i.e. “for Developers”).
Box provides additional details on the developer proposition in an explanatory sentence below the headline. “Box provides APIs and SDKs to securely upload, store, view, annotate, search and comment on nearly any type of file in your apps. Designed for the enterprise.”
You could argue that Box could do more to articulate the benefits of their service, or how it’s different – focus on the “why” as well as the “what”, but overall, the proposition is clear.
Concur Developer Center
Concur is a leading provider of travel and expense management solutions for business. Like Pinterest, the company’s developer value proposition, “A robust platform that can help you reach 25 million business travelers” focuses on the scale of opportunity available through platform adoption. Again, Concur’s user base (‘business travelers”) is clear, but the company also communicates the value of a “robust platform” in a statement designed to promote confidence in their technology.
The headline itself doesn’t do a great job of actually communicating what the platform actually delivers and so Concur’s marketers add context in a “Why Concur?” statement, lower down the page. It’s here that developers gain clarity that the platform “enables businesses to manage everything from travel bookings to expenses and compliance requirements”.
Creating Your Value Proposition
What’s clear is that there’s no single rule for creating a dazzling value proposition, but there are guidelines.
Here’s one path you could follow:
Step 1: Identify Your Benefits
List the major benefits your product or service delivers – or will deliver, when it’s built and test early with loyal customers. You could also run small campaigns as qualitative tests where you can compare multiple statements and measure how they perform within a chosen audience. There’s no need to boil the ocean – less can be more. Focus on the core benefits that really matter to your customers and/or partners. Pro tip, if you already have developers using your product then ask them. You will learn so much from the people who actually use your product and it will help your team hone the value proposition statement in a way that resonates with your target audience.
Step 2: Identify the Value You Create
Your product or service delivers developers some benefits. But why should anyone care? What’s the intrinsic value you bring to the developer world? Do you make or save developers time or money? Do you offer something truly innovative? Do you simply give developers a chance to forget about their worries and laugh out loud once in awhile? From the outside, some value propositions might seem dull or lacking humanity. It is important to understand that even highly technical and complex propositions carry emotional equity for their intended audience. Remain disciplined and find ways to communicate value in ways that resonates with partners, customers and internal teams.
If you struggle to identify the need for your product or service, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has provided simple inspiration to many marketers.
Step 3: Identify Your Audience
Clearly define who your product or service is for. “For developers” is a common first response, but rarely translates into a well-defined, clearly-articulated value proposition. If you know who you’re talking to, it’s far easier to figure out how to communicate with them. That’s an important step for building your value proposition, but equally important when it’s time to take your developer program out into the world.
Step 4: Identify Your Difference
Why you? In the words of the song, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results”. Your product and service may not seem “sexy” or “hip” l; it may be functional and valuable to its users (Concur is a great example). But the way in which you deliver that service could really help you stand out. What do you do differently that makes you stand out from the crowd?
Step 5: Craft the Value Proposition Statement
Start to build a statement that summarizes your thinking. Tip: You probably won’t nail it in one. Try different words or expressions to clarify your purpose, or communicate your value with personality.
You can find some excellent templates available online that can help structure your developer value proposition, but don’t be constrained. Write many versions and try them out before settling on the one that works best.
Evaluating Your Value Proposition
So, you’ve thought deeply and have crafted your value proposition. How do you know if it’s compelling? Sometimes, there’s no better test than trying multiple iterations out across different mediums to gather both qualitative as well as quantitative input to refine it. . Share your value proposition to a few trusted confidants and gauge their response. Remember, the statement should be compelling for a range of audiences – developers, partners, employees, perhaps even shareholders.
Evaluate your value proposition against the following criteria:
Is the statement clear about what you do, who it’s for, and how it is different than the competition?
The statement must be clear as it is the basis for engaging your developer audience. Is your description of your product or service meaningful? Does it sound like it will make a difference to people’s lives? When people hear the value proposition, does your product sound valuable to them?
Being clear about your developer target audience, their needs, and how you respond to those needs should provide clear direction to your business. An unambiguous value proposition will help you save time and money in developing features, products or other services that are irrelevant to your target customers.
With clarity and direction comes confidence. Your value proposition should be positive – a galvanizing statement that aligns the business to focus on the right developers with the right products or services.
With a compelling value proposition in your pocket, you’re ready to take the next step in building your developer program: Content. In the next part of our Guide to Developer Marketing, we’ll share more about building engaging technical and marketing content that brings your value proposition to life with an ongoing narrative that helps developers understand, appreciate, test, and use your technology and become advocates of your brand.