At Devada, we’ve sent literally millions of emails to developers. Getting their attention can be challenging, as they tend to be skeptical of traditional marketing tactics. Email, however, is one of their preferred communication channels. If you can make your messages stand out in their inboxes, you’ll be on your way to reaching your target open rates and CTRs.
Most marketers can’t resist a witty subject line. Devs, however, aren’t always the biggest fans. It’s not that they don’t have a sense of humor – they’re just wary of clickbait and clever advertising ploys.
When it comes to subject lines, our motto is “tell, don’t sell.” In our experience, it’s best to be as literal as possible and describe exactly what information devs will get out of your email. For example, our top-performing emails include the name of what we’re sending right in the subject line. If the email is about a new Refcard, we say “New Refcard.” If it’s a call to download an infographic, we say “Infographic.” Below are a few examples of our subject lines.
- [New Refcard] RESTful API Lifecycle Management
- [New Guide] Download the 2017 Guide to Security
- [Infographic] The Crossroads of Testing
Our overall advice? Be descriptive, brief, and factual.
Preview text is tricky, as character limits vary by email client and some don’t show it at all. If you do it right, however, it can serve as an extra push to get those opens.
As with the subject line, it’s best to be as concise and literal as possible. By concise, we mean around 35 characters, as that tends to show up fully in most email clients. If you know which email clients your subscribers tend to use, you can tailor your preview text to that particular client. For example, Outlook cuts off at 35 characters, so if your recipients use mostly Outlook, keep it to that limit.
At Devada, we try to make our preview text “speak their language” by using tech-focused words. For example, preview text for our Containers Guide might say, “Implement cloud-native enterprises.” If your developer audience tends to work in a specific industry or belong to a certain segment, use technical terms that will be particularly relevant to them.
This is the meat of your email. As with all content intended for the developer audience, this copy needs to be brief, engaging, informative, and not at all “sales-y.”
Be very cautious about including images in your emails to developers, as many devs block images from their inboxes. If you do use an image or two, make sure to include alt-text in case they do get blocked.
The cleaner your layout, the better. Keep it to one or two fonts and don’t use too many colors.
Use short paragraphs, wide spacing, and bullet points where possible. Devs are busy and very pressed for time – you want your content to be skimmable.
What do you want your devs to do after reading your email? Download a resource? Sign up for an event? The CTA is where you’ll prompt them to take the desired action.
Start your CTA with a verb. “Download,” “read,” “visit,” “start,” and “sign up” are all good options. Most email CTAs are buttons or images; however, we’ve found that devs prefer to click on text links, but you can include a button as well.
A Few More Tips
Here are a few more things we’ve learned from our years of marketing to devs via email:
- Make it very easy to unsubscribe from your lists
- Purge inactive email addresses from your system on a regular basis
- Use text links (devs prefer them over buttons)
- Don’t include embedded forms – they’re a security risk
And of course, we highly recommend you test, test, and test some more! Get to know your specific audience and send them the emails they’ll find truly valuable.