“A user persona and a buyer persona are important and intrinsic to each other.” Why are personas and user journeys essential? How do you get buy-in from your org? Our experts answer these questions and more!

During our fantastic Developer Marketing Summit in July 2021, Sam Richard, VP of Growth Team at OpenView, led a panel discussion sharing experiences and insights on understanding developer personas, demographics, and segmentation with three industry experts:

  • Ankit Shah, Director of Solutions Marketing at Quickbase
  • Jayne Pooley, Director of Marketing at Keyloop
  • Martin Bakal, Global Director of Product Marketing at OpenLegacy

Check out the discussion’s highlights below.👇

What are some of the key features of the developer customer demographic and how are they different from the usual B2B audience?

Martin Bakal

I've been in different industries focused on developers over the years. Back then, it was much more about writing and generating code and tools. Over the years, as no code and low code have come in, it changed. You don't have to have "all developers".

We've seen the shift towards having people in developer marketing who aren't technical.

Jayne Pooley

It’s important to understand who we're trying to reach and which buyer personas they may be. In recent years, there's more technology and data emerging personas we need to be targeting. They're different in a sense because the traditional buyers we have today are not the same, they have different behaviors and they're easier in some ways to sell to.

When you start to get into a more technical buyer, you've got to also educate your internal teams on how to sell to them and how to market to them. Buyer personas are really helpful from that perspective because they help educate people; it also means we can better target those individuals.

It’s about reaching out to speak to those individuals and doing some deskspace research in terms of pulling together those profiles. You can pick that up from multiple sources via Google by searching job descriptions and that sort of thing.

There are lots of articles on developer challenges or Chief Technical Officers in different businesses which can be pulled through to create those buyer personas at a basic level. Talking to your customers to get a better understanding, to those at the frontline, and to the sales teams to get visibility is also essential.

The other trick I've used is, in any communications you put out to customers, ask a couple of questions about their points of view on something, include the answers in your profiles and then keep building those profiles, keeping them refreshed and up to date.

What product marketers need to know about engaging developer audiences
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far, why I believe it shouldn’t be about developer marketing but the developer experience, and how to approach each stage of your go-to-market strategy as it relates to crafting it to fit developer audiences.

How do you extend those personas to less technical users?

Ankit Shah

The platform we offer is targeted to those in the business, so we're not targeting primarily buyers in IT who have a technical background. How do you better understand somebody who doesn't have the technical background, but is building a solution on our platform to meet their needs?

Our buyers are oftentimes the head of a particular business, but we see these folks as problem-solvers and, more so, as influencers, because we'd talk to them early on, engage them, and understand the pain they have.

They’re closest to the problem so they have the willingness to solve it. We have to better understand them as influencers more so than buyers. Across our segments, sometimes, they're buyers but, most of the time, they're a very strong influence, so that's how we differentiated across our segments.

If you are separating between the buyer and the user personas, how are you incorporating these ideas into your marketing strategy?

Jayne Pooley

We not only built both buyer and user personas, but we mapped them to the product portfolio and then we grouped them accordingly. We also grouped them by industry so we can talk about their challenges and why the product solutions would be best suited for them.

We understand the buyer personas, their motivations, their goals and their challenges, but we also position them in terms of what the outcomes of our products and solutions could provide, which started to build the basis of a strong toolkit for sales.

Up until that point, sales were used to selling to one type of buyer persona and we were challenging them to speak to more people. Some of those people were more technically-orientated and this toolkit enabled them to open up the dialogue.

In some of the training and the workshops we did with them, we introduced developer personas. We gave them a persona they knew and loved and they related to the them.

Then, we gave them a scenario where they had to prepare a sales pitch talking to a customer for the first time about this product. After they put the sales pitch together, we introduced two new personas to them that they'd never come across before.

Effectively, they had to adapt how they positioned and sold using the material marketing produced.

It's a method that works well and, once the salespeople believe in those personas, buyer, user or even influencer personas, then you've got the basis of a strong methodology to address the needs of those customers and start to get feedback to constantly refine those personas as you go.

In terms of building marketing campaigns, you can be much more targeted and focused because you've got the mapping and alignment to the portfolio, and you understand their challenges and industry so you can be more specific.

Keep them hooked: effective product update strategy
Marketing to software developers can be a real chore. But, luckily for us, here’s a no-frills, all nuts and bolts guide to an effective update strategy!

How do you apply this tactically to the builders and the non-technical users?

Ankit Shah

We have three different user personas:

  • Builders: Those without a technical background, but who have the pain and want to be able to solve it. We actually talk to those folks a lot more than any of our other persona.
  • Administrators of the platform: A separate end user persona. They can also be builders. We talk to this persona as well.
  • End users: Using the application or the solution the builder has built. We don't talk to the end users at all.

In terms of marketing tactics and content, our content is very much focused on the builders and the administrators. We actually never talked to end users. We learned early on that customers didn't want us to talk to our end users but they wanted to talk with those building a solution on the platform.

Do you have the notion of a funnel switching them over from the end user to the buyer and what triggers it?

Ankit Shah

We've just started doing some specific tactics around hackathons. Depending on the size of the accounts, we bring in customers where we see a significant interest across different parts of the business.

We bring the builders in, as well as the end users, into a hackathon, where end users feel like they have a particular problem and want to be able to solve it themselves as opposed to having to rely on a builder.

We engage those folks in some of these hackathon events that help us identify those end users that may be builders.

We also do some other learning sessions within these accounts where they come in and share what they’re doing. As we see folks engaging with these kinds of events, we start identifying end users who could be builders because they want to participate in solving their own challenges instead of continuously relying on somebody else.

Jayne Pooley

Hackathons can spot so much interest. We've used them in terms of getting fresh ideas into the business from a product development perspective, and that's been successful for us.

We’ve also used the customers themselves to be part of a hackathon to come up with the ideas or the solution; in many cases, it's been the solution.

What are some tactics you've used in the past to get a cohesive usage across the board and ensure you're not in a silo?

Martin Bakal

You can be in a silo on your own sometimes, if you're not careful. First of all, show it to the salespeople and have regular meetings with them. I've been doing that a lot specifically for some of the new hires.

Whenever we’re building a marketing campaign, I emphasize we should go after a specific persona. It's okay if we choose a different one on a different campaign if we're targeting a couple of different groups.

DevRelations and DevMarketing: what do they have in common?
Is developer relations just another term for developer advocates? How can dev relations and dev marketing work together for the greater good of the community?

By the way, it's not just personas in terms of roles people play, but also their industries. I try to build personas into the marketing campaigns so people know about them. We train people on it, particularly sales and marketing, and then it germinates from there.

I talk to product all the time. For instance, a new product is going to shift, and we need to think about which type of developer personas we do as part of it. The product team is in tune with this and we have discussions around what we're changing, whether we're thinking about personas as we build our product, and also the content we work on together.

Ankit Shah

A couple of years ago, we were going through some transformation within our org and we started having a much better point of view on our buyer persona, which was a change that came at the leadership level; so, it started with alignment between sales, marketing and product.

We were refining our buyer personas and thought about how we'd activate what we learned from that, since we're not gonna go in front of sales and tell them, “here’s the buyer persona”, but activating that information in seller tools we're building for them.

You want at least the CEO, the Chief Revenue Officer, or a VP of sales to know how we will translate the insights we’re developing for those buyer personas into actual tools the sales reps are going to use.

Oftentimes, buyer personas are very theoretical to sellers, but they want to know how they can operationalize all of this information you shared with them.

There's a process we use when refining our buyer personas. Once we develop those personas, we creat a seller's toolkit, a toolkit for product, and a toolkit for marketing, and we operationalize and activate that.

Jayne Pooley

Introducing a persona they knew well was a good way to get buy-in before introducing the broader personas. There is a bit of confusion between a user persona and a buyer persona, so we've got to do a little bit of education there and why they're so important and intrinsic to each other.

You can't have a user persona with no buyers because you can build something great for a user but, if you've got no buyer attached to it, you're not going to sell anything.

Have you worked with the product teams to create specific user journeys?

Jayne Pooley

Something that always resonated with me is taking customers through a journey in terms of how they learn about your brand, as well as the experiments, the interactions, and the different touch points from each buyer or user persona.

The important element when going through this buyer journey is to make their leave experience really good. When they go somewhere else, they'll come back because they know if the leave experience is good, then the onboarding experience will be better.

Understanding the journey helps with lots of multiple boxes in terms of getting the right traction support and sale for the product.

Martin Bakal

There are a couple of distinct parts to what we do.

We have a loop where we acquire assets from the legacy system in an automated way, and that's a different user because, a lot of times, that may be a mainframe developer or an integration person who knows the couple of files they can add in (and we automatically parse them).

Then the other part is the designer persona. That's the one where we have a flow engine where you can build something and then choose whether you want no code/low code, or even full code, which may depend on slightly different user personas as we understand the needs in different ways.

We also think about how our users are going to do it through a partner, because some of them just want to acquire the assets, then plug into a Boomi and do all their flows within their tool.

We try to think through what a partner expects us to map vs. what our different types of users vs. people working with the legacy itself expect.

Do you feel like personas are iterative? If so, how often do you iterate?

Jayne Pooley

All the time! Any form of communication or interaction with customers, or whether you have some golden questions that you want to ask, go for it. This will continuously help refine those personas.

Buyer personas and their behaviors have changed. Their own perceptions, the way they work, their goals and the challenges have shifted, so the description I had of those personas two years ago doesn't stand now.

You have to move with the times, keep an eye on the industry your customers live, breathe and work in, particularly if it's B2B customers. Also, see if those shifts relate and have a knock on impact on the success of your products and solutions.

Sam Richard

We're in the stage of innovation and we have to keep experimenting. Gone are the days of just bringing your toolbox and being able to apply it at multiple organizations.

Ankit Shah

Everybody here is on the same page. What I often find is that it's important to educate the rest of the org about the fact that personas are constantly evolving.

You should have the mindset of, "what we know about this persona at this given time, based on the market conditions, might change in the next three to six months, and we should be okay to adapt to those.

"If we don't, we're not going to survive. We have to do a much better job of educating the rest of the org around it."

The rise of developer marketing
B2B and B2B are established marketing terms, but what about B2D? How did the B2D niche come in to fill the gaps and figure out the challenges from the traditional B2B market?

Key takeaways

  • Bring personas to life. Make them as realistic as possible. If you have to go to the extreme of creating user persona rooms in your office so that people can walk into the room and feel the persona, then do it. Whatever you can do to make them feel real.
  • Sales and marketing, and marketing and product alignment are essential in developing these personas. There has to be a strong handshake that needs to happen upfront.
  • Don’t be too theoretical; make sure people understand how they will use those personas. It’s extremely important.
  • Remember there are multiple personas. For each one, we came up with the love language for what they care about. Some of them care about simplifying certain things and bringing in new technology. Some of them care more about usability of the product, and others care more about the financial. Simplify it down to a few words for each one of the different personas you need.

If you're not part of our Slack community, join today to connect with peers, ask questions, find job opportunities, and so much more.

Join the community | Developer Marketing Alliance
The Developer Marketing Community Slack community is the perfect place to connect with like-minded marketers across the globe. You’ll be able to learn and grow alongside your peers, ask questions, find job opportunities, see the latest content, and much more.