Originally published here.
The complex terrain of tech/AI marketing often overshadows the importance of a developer-focused approach. Advanced tech solutions often demand an understanding that's usually in the domain of code-slinging engineers who are in the bowels of the DevOps dungeon on a daily basis.
Targeting developers who inherently grasp these solutions can help companies drive growth, scale, validate solutions, and efficiently engage customers. This target audience is indeed a unique persona – typically more analytical, and cautious of traditional marketing and sales; they prefer functionality over hype.
This concept isn’t new or novel; it's been relevant for over a decade and has seen proven success. However, it often still needs to be spelled out explicitly to go-to-market professionals.
Why developer marketing?
Investing in a dev-centric experience can drastically boost adoption rates. While a top-down marketing approach has its place, it can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. Long sales cycles are necessary to articulate the value of your tech solution, which makes scaling a daunting task.
A developer-first approach provides an alternative, offering a more sustainable method of scaling growth. In fact, developer marketing can shorten sales cycles by 29% compared to enterprise sales cycles, according to a survey of 26,000+ developers.
To further drive the point home, the same survey reported that developer-focused marketing can result in 2-5x larger sales pipelines compared to enterprise sales motions.
The proficiency required to comprehend advanced solutions isn't widespread in an average enterprise and is largely concentrated among tech personnel. This makes developers strong advocates by harnessing their expertise to validate solutions internally - providing a foot in the door with target accounts.
From there, platforms like LinkedIn and Zoominfo can reveal organizational insights and contacts, who can potentially contact to showcase deployed developer use cases that can drive value.
Target agility over size
The allure of big-league companies with their potent social validation, logos on your site, and large contracts can often result in a prolonged pursuit.
The tendency of large enterprises to adopt new technologies at a slow pace, coupled with the need for stakeholder approval at multiple stages, can add friction to the sales process. Sometimes, figuring out the buying committee can be an endeavor in itself.
In my experience, it’s the lean cloud-native and data-driven companies that are likely to try and run with newer tech solutions. Small and medium businesses are adopting cloud solutions at 2-3 times the rate of large enterprises, with mid-sized companies often being the fastest, according to Forbes. Unsurprisingly, the smaller the company, the louder the developer's voice.
Consider focusing your efforts on smaller to mid-sized, cloud-native companies. These agile entities, eager to gain an edge in the market against their competitors, typically are on the hunt for new solutions they can unleash.
Their timely feedback and validation, in turn, offer invaluable real-world insights. As smaller companies innovate and move quickly, large enterprises take notice.
Put the samples out
Stack Overflow reports that 84% of developer solutions purchases were after trying it through a free trial or open source/free tier. The significance of a freemium or sandbox version of your product for developers is akin to the test-driving of a car before purchase.
Create and share a low-risk sandbox for developers to test out. Open APIs/SDKs within a low-risk and easy-to-navigate environment with clear instructions empower developers to use your tools and potentially share them with their peers if it actually delivers.
In the spirit of openness, provide small-scale usage costs upfront to avoid downstream budgeting issues when a developer champions your tool internally or to their friends. You may admire an Audemars Piguet masterpiece but refrain from recommending it after seeing the price.
Next, it’s critical to track product usage early on to glean insights into use cases, patterns, and friction points. This is where you workshop what your product will become.
IBM reports that developer groups can improve product Net Promoter Scores by up to 55% and reduce support costs by 60-80%.
Engage developers in supporting roles to evaluate ROI and explore holistic use cases that’ll resonate across your market.
Attracting developers with more than just pizza and kombucha
Like an indie band, developers are scattered across a multitude of platforms, each with their own vibe, community, and distinct culture, making targeted campaigns complex.
Good marketing considers potential problems and emphasizes problem-solving narratives. Building a robust developer community is pivotal. Companies with developer communities see up to 5x more conversion rates from community members versus ones without.
Foster engagement through technical blogs and use-case content on platforms like Stack Overflow and GitHub. Use your technical team to conduct workshops, live coding sessions, or guest posts on developer-focused sites to increase product recognition. Platforms like G2 Crowd, Capterra, and Product Hunt can help with product discovery in many instances.
Teams can take a cue from GitHub's Code is Poetry campaign, which resonated with developers by showcasing the aesthetic aspect of coding, with videos garnering over 3.5 million views.
Similarly, AWS’s Start-Up Stories campaign demonstrated the practical use of AWS solutions through relatable start-up narratives - with an eye on their growth. Their pockets grew, too – AWS generated over US$6 billion in 2021 revenue directly from developer services and offerings like Lambda.
Both campaigns emphasized the panache and functionality of their respective products, providing developers with compelling, problem-solving narratives and tools to experiment with.
While developer marketing can be effective, it doesn't negate the importance of traditional B2B sales and enterprise marketing methods, which can be valuable in communicating value to various stakeholders at the highest levels and should be pursued in tandem. It’s the mix and company stage that requires some calibration.
With developer marketing, you allow the individuals with the deepest understanding of your product to become its most vocal proponents to help drive market penetration for your products.
Check out our Developer Persona Playbook to more easily get into your audience's mind and create messaging that resonates with developers.