This One Thing will Sink your Developer Marketing Strategy

Here’s What to do Instead

After getting my 100th passive-aggressive “quick follow up: please stop ignoring me” email from marketers trying to sell me a developer tool, I get the sense that nobody really knows how to market to developers. It’s either the same blanket approach marketers have been using for decades, or a bunch of lame memes on Reddit because, “developers are quirky right?”.

Developers are just people who like to get shit done. Given the nature of our work, we’ve become used to finding our own way or sourcing our answer from the community at large. We identify and use products based on their presence and what other people have to say about them.

Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You ☎️

The thing to understand about developers is that marketing to them directly will have little effect. Unanticipated sales emails land directly in the round file. I even built a spam filter ++ just to screen out anything that feels like an unimportant, unexpected marketing mail. The absolute worst thing you can do for developer marketing is an unanticipated phone call, especially now that the scam calling situation has gone off the rails.

If you’re trying to reach developers stop cold contacting them.

An actual depiction of email blast campaign to developers

Spray & pray tactics like email campaigns generally wont work on us because we’re solving problems that typically aren’t well defined and its unlikely we’ll be able to see how your product fits in my very particular implementation. Direct marketing doesn’t fit with how developers evaluate solutions. We know right at the start that your goal is to get me to sign up so you get a bonus, so already your pitch is not unbiased and there is no neutral party to testify to how good it is.

P.S. I will NOT forward your email to my manager or co worker, they’re not interested, trust me.

Inception & Infection: Marketing Without Marketing

So what should you do if the traditional outreach methods aren’t working?You’re likely Googling “How to reach more developers” which brought you to this right? Developers Google things all the time. When we hit a problem, within 10 minutes a we’ll have somewhere around 10 browser tabs open to blogs, videos, and playground pages. Once developers have discovered you, let them play with your product, no strings attached, in the context of their problem.

Inception — Guide Me to My own Conclusion About You

Blogs and videos are terrific because they’re non invasive, and we come to you. Not only that, but now I’m thinking I found the solution and it just so happens to be your product. It’s the same basic idea as Inception. You also build up karma and broad recognition in the developer community as an influential or authoritative source of information. Some blogs are even read for fun by developers outside of peak marketing hours from late Saturday to mid Monday. Blogs are usually top of funnel so having lots of them about various topics interesting to developers is the way to go. They don’t always have to intersect with your product offering, but obviously make sure you have plenty of those as well.

Shameless Plug: OneLogin does blogging pretty well where the post is interesting, explains the scope of the problem and shows you how to solve it with ReactJS.

You have to make developers think they came up with the idea

Infection — Capture The Mindshare

Let developers use your product before engaging them. This also brings the added benefit of letting developers learn your product sooner, making them less likely to move somewhere else (like Microsoft teaching kids Windows). The more developers who know your product, the more they recommend and teach it to others. Like most demographics, developers are much more likely to research and use products that are recommended to them by other developers organically.

Developers, like most people, love free stuff, so offering a forever free freemium account with all the features unlocked on a limited capacity is the way to go. You can also offer up workshops and webinars for doing neat things with your products if your product happens to be more complex. Measure time to hello world as an important metric for how approachable your product is. We love one-line installs from the CLI more than filling out signup forms and a lot more than meetings.

Something like this would be 🔥

Wrapping Up

Developers are just like any other segment of customers. We like a lot of the same things you like. We don’t like being “sold to” and we are more likely to approach products that that help us solve problems first and worry about sign ups after. If you want to reach us, the best way to do that is by being a good citizen. Create concise, fun, authoritative content that we can leverage to solve a problem. If you have a great product, let us tinker with it, give you feedback, and ask questions. Developers live in Google, so focus your effort on making sure your content is the first thing that pops up in the search box. If you need to do canvas marketing for a brand new product, try hitting the various message boards like HackerNoon or Reddit and we will find you. Just have a great product first; the rest will follow.

Software Engineer | Product Leader