Advertising can be a polarizing subject, especially when it comes to targeting developers. Some view it as an intrusion that disrupts their workflow, while others see it as an opportunity to learn about new tools and services that can help them in their job.

Developers are often seen as a difficult audience to reach, with many marketers struggling to effectively target this demographic. However, advertising to developers can be an effective strategy if done the right way.

In this article, we'll explore the key considerations for a successful advertising campaign for developers that I’ve learned working closely with DevTool companies and how to do it in a way that provides value to both developers and businesses.

From the importance of targeting and personalization to best practices such as using data to inform advertising decisions, leveraging influencers, and providing valuable resources, I'll cover everything you need to know to advertise to developers in a practical and non-intrusive way.

Let’s have a look at some factors that one should consider before targeting developers. 👇

Characteristics of the target audience

Developers are a highly skilled and knowledgeable group of individuals. They are often experienced in a specific programming language or platform, and they are always looking for new ways to improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field.

This means that they are often highly engaged with the technology community, both online and in person, and they are highly likely to be early adopters of new products and services.

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Advertising to developers should be focused on providing them with relevant, high-quality information that is tailored to their needs and interests.

Understanding the characteristics of the target audience and providing them with what they value will result in a more effective and impactful advertising campaign.

Habits and preferences of developers

When it comes to consuming content, developers have specific habits and preferences that marketers should be aware of to effectively reach them through advertising.

Developers tend to prefer online channels, such as social media, online communities, and websites that cater to their needs and interests.

They also value content that is informative, practical, and relevant to their work. This is why content marketing and thought leadership-style advertising campaigns tend to be highly effective in reaching developers.

By creating and sharing valuable resources, businesses can build trust and credibility with their target audience and establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry.

Developers are highly discerning, and they are only interested in content that is relevant, informative, and useful. They are often more likely to engage with content that provides practical tips, tools, and resources that they can use to improve their skills, and they are less likely to engage with content that is simply trying to sell them a product.

Additionally, businesses can tailor their advertising efforts to meet the specific needs and preferences of developers by providing content in the formats they prefer, such as video tutorials, whitepapers, and webinars.

Identify the key pain points of developers

One of the key challenges that developers face is finding the time and resources to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field.

They are often working on tight deadlines and with limited resources, and they need to be able to quickly and easily access information that will help them improve their skills and stay ahead of the curve.

By addressing these challenges, advertising can play a crucial role in helping developers to be more productive and successful in their work. For example, by offering educational resources such as product docs and providing access to the latest tools and technologies, advertising can help developers to stay up-to-date and improve their skills.

In turn, this can benefit businesses by attracting more talented developers, which can result in higher-quality products and more efficient development processes. Overall, by focusing on the needs of developers, advertising can create a win-win scenario for both the developer community and businesses.

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Look beyond ad blockers, the arch-enemy of marketers

Advertising to developers has its own set of challenges, one of the biggest being ad blockers that hinder the reach of ads to the target audience.

But, with the right approach, it's possible to reach beyond the ad blocker and effectively advertise to developers. One of the most effective ways is to focus on content marketing, creating educational and valuable resources that developers are interested in.

Another strategy is to leverage influencer marketing, where a trusted third-party endorses your product, making it more appealing to developers.

Additionally, event sponsorships and attendances can also help build brand awareness and credibility among the developer community. For example, sponsoring a hackathon or participating in a tech conference can demonstrate your commitment to the industry and provide opportunities for face-to-face interaction with developers.

By taking these approaches, businesses can effectively advertise to developers, even in the face of ad blockers.

Identify the undeniable role of creative

The role of creativity can’t be overstated when it comes to advertising to developers. While developers may have a reputation for being tech-focused, they are still people with emotions and desires, just like any other consumer.

Effective advertising to developers requires a balance of technical knowledge and creative storytelling. For example, a humorous and relatable ad campaign can help developers see a product in a new light while showcasing its technical capabilities.

In addition, the use of eye-catching graphics and memorable taglines can make an advertisement more impactful and memorable, which can translate into better engagement and conversions.

The key is to find a unique and engaging way to communicate the value of your product to developers, while also capturing their attention in a cluttered and often ad-blocker-filled digital world.

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Practicality is the key

Advertising to developers requires a different approach compared to other target audiences. It is important to keep the practicality of the message at the forefront of any advertising campaign.

  • Show, don't tell: Developers value hands-on demonstrations and examples over abstract concepts.
  • Address specific pain points: Developers face unique challenges, and your advertising campaign should aim to solve these problems.
  • Use technical language: Developers appreciate language that is concise and specific to their field.
  • Highlight the benefits: A campaign that clearly explains the benefits to developers and how your product can make their lives easier will be more effective.

Advertising to developers: best practices

Given these challenges, advertisers need to understand the unique needs and preferences of this audience to effectively target them.

  • Relevant & useful content: One of the key strategies is to develop content that is highly relevant, informative, and useful. This might include developing articles and other resources that provide practical tips and resources that developers can use to improve their skills and stay ahead of the curve.
  • Leverage social media: Developers are highly active on social media and technology-focused websites, and they are often looking for information and resources that will help them improve their skills. By leveraging these channels, advertisers can reach this audience with relevant and informative content that is designed to meet their specific needs and preferences.
  • Targeting and personalization: Use data to segment your audience and create highly targeted and personalized advertisements that resonate with your target audience.
  • Utilizing data-driven insights: Gather data on your target audience, such as their behaviors and preferences, to inform your advertising decisions and drive better results.
  • Leveraging influencers: Partnering with thought leaders and influencers in the developer community can help increase the visibility and credibility of your brand or product.
  • Providing valuable resources: Offer educational resources, such as webinars, tutorials, and whitepapers, that help developers solve common challenges.
  • Creatively engaging with developers: Use engaging content formats like video, interactive ads, and gamification to grab the attention of developers and hold it.
  • Focus on user experience: Ensure that your advertisements are delivered in a user-friendly and engaging format, so as not to disrupt the user experience.
  • Measuring ad performance: Regularly monitor and analyze the performance of your advertisements to identify areas of improvement and maximize return on investment.
  • Building trust with developers: Foster trust with the developer community by being transparent and delivering value through relevant and informative advertisements.
  • Utilizing technology to your advantage: Take advantage of advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enhance your advertising efforts and reach your target audience more effectively.

Examples of successful advertising campaigns

There are many examples of successful campaigns that have effectively reached developers, and by learning from these examples, we can create successful advertising efforts.

Let’s take a look at DigitalOcean and others who have nailed advertising and overall marketing for the developer audience.

DigitalOcean is a cloud hosting provider that provides simple and affordable cloud hosting for developers. The Ad for this product is visually appealing and showcases the benefits of using DigitalOcean for developers, including fast and reliable performance, simplicity, and affordability.

Although being visually appealing can’t win you battles, especially with the developers.

Here’s what makes them win:

  • Understand the situation: A developer will search for something once they are stuck with a problem. DigitalOcean has tutorials, and guides for every problem in the cloud and sysadmin space.
  • Patience: No eagerness to convert the customer by reading one blog. CTAs are not very loud.
  • Simple and pleasing interface: it’s cake walk to navigate and binge read all the tutorials once you’re on the blog website.
  • Location: Imagine seeing an ad once you’re reading about a problem on stackoverflow or reddit. That's when it’s gonna matter. They know where and when to show the ad.

DigitalOcean targeted advertising examples:

DigitalOcean is just one example, there are other companies that champion these, such as Datadog:

And Elasticsearch:

As well as:

GitHub Actions: GitHub Actions is a product that enables developers to automate their workflow. The ad for this product is simple and to the point, showcasing how developers can save time and streamline their workflow with GitHub Actions.

GitLab: One example of a successful advertisement by GitLab is their use of display ads on developer-focused websites and online communities, such as Stack Overflow, GitHub, and Reddit's r/learnprogramming.

These ads showcase the benefits of using GitLab, such as its powerful features and ease of use, to reach developers who are actively seeking information and resources related to their field.

Another example is GitLab's use of video advertisements on social media platforms, such as YouTube and LinkedIn, that highlight how GitLab helps developers collaborate.

Google's "Code with Google" campaign provided valuable resources, such as tutorials and events, to help developers improve their skills. This campaign was effective because it addressed developers' pain points by providing solutions to their problems, and the approach helped establish Google as a trusted resource for developers.

Amazon Web Services' "Build On" campaign showcased the company's commitment to supporting developers through its cloud computing services. The campaign used video testimonials from satisfied customers and interactive content to show how AWS is helping businesses succeed.

By highlighting the practical benefits of its services, Amazon was able to effectively reach and engage developers who are looking for ways to improve their workflow and drive their businesses forward.

These examples demonstrate that by understanding the needs of developers and providing value through your advertising campaigns, you can build a successful relationship with the developer community.

Note: It’s equally important to focus on “What happens after the developer clicks on those ads” than the ads themselves. All your efforts will be in vain if they land on a webpage that sounds salesy.

However, a simple landing page with a CTA on talking to a solutions architect or learning more always works better.

Quick note on targeting

There are several factors to consider when you start to understand who your target audience is.

It’s definitely the developers, but what’s their demographic information, interests and behaviors? What devices and platforms are they interested in? Are there any custom audience or use case?

Once you've taken a deep dive and identified your target audience (in a better way), you can then choose the right channels to reach them.

There are several ad targeting options, including:

  1. Contextual targeting: This involves showing your ads on websites and platforms that are related to your product or service.
  2. Behavioral targeting: This involves showing your ads to people based on their online behavior and interests.
  3. Location targeting: This involves showing your ads to people based on their physical location.
  4. Keyword targeting: This involves showing your ads to people who have searched for specific keywords related to your product or service.
  5. Retargeting: This involves showing your ads to people who have previously interacted with your brand, such as visiting your website or adding items to their shopping cart.

Effective focused ads, or “ad targeting” is essential for maximizing the impact and ROI of your marketing campaigns.

By understanding your target audience and their interests and selecting the right channels to reach them, you can ensure that your ads are not only seen but their action taken since they have a problem and you have the champion in solution.

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Final words

In conclusion, advertising to developers can be a highly effective way of reaching potential customers if done right with clear definitions of campaign goals, ad targeting, and landing pages.

Developers are an influential group in the tech world and have the potential to be significant influencers and adopters of new technologies. By understanding their characteristics, habits, and preferences, you can tailor the advertising campaigns to meet their specific needs and pain points.

Whether it be through targeted content marketing, developer events, or other forms of outreach, businesses that approach advertising to developers with a well-planned and thoughtful strategy are likely to see great success.

Finally, I’ll take my leave with a final piece of advice.

Do: Always do a dry run and MVP (minimal viable product) of your ad so that you can quickly re-iterate if anything needs a fix.

Don’t: Avoid targeting the competitor keywords blindly as SEO. It might seem to work, although, in the longer run, your audience will sense the actual trickery behind it.

If you want more expert-led content, tune in to our podcast, where we sit down with industry leaders from some of the world's largest companies.

DevMar Debugged | Developer Marketing Alliance Podcast
A podcast where developer marketing leaders from top companies all over the world share their insights, experience, and opinions.