Marketing to Developers: Identifying Pain Points and Finding Solutions

Why is it so hard to market to software developers, and how can you address these challenges?

I have experience marketing to many user groups, including small business owners, homeowners, jewelry purchasers, and even other marketers. Out of all of these personas, communicating with developers proved the most challenging. There aren’t many resources out there on best practices, so most of what I learned came from constant A/B testing. And I mean hundreds of tests with subject lines, email copy, popups, interstitials, and more. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.

Why Is It so Difficult?

For one, it can be very difficult for marketers to get the hang of technical jargon and be able to communicate intelligently with developers. Developers already know that you probably aren’t familiar with coding and are skeptical about lowering their barriers and hearing you out. That means you have to prove that you know what you’re talking about right away.

You also might not get their humor. Ever tried to make a meme or joke that speaks to developers? Zone Leader Daniel Stori is able to do that – because he is a developer. Someone less familiar with the industry is going to have to go the extra mile to craft equally clever messaging while tapping into their sarcasm.

And finally, traditional methods will not apply. It’s time to throw what you know out the window and roll up your sleeves. Trying the same types of graphics, messaging, and channels you have used with other personas will leave you banging your head against the wall.

4 Key Differences Between Traditional and Developer Marketing

1. Informational Content > Clever Copy

Most marketers applaud themselves on a creative approach. Catchy taglines, puns, and ironic blog posts are usually successful techniques for grabbing people’s attention. For developers, on the other hand, you are going to want to take a keyword-focused approach. Let’s say you have 2 sentences in an ad or subject line to catch a developers’ eye:

  • Traditional approach: Sick of Your In-House Server? Get Started With Cloud Migration.
  • Developer-focused approach: Cloud Migration Techniques: Compressing Data, Choosing Migration Tools, and Testing

While the latter may seem blander, this copy will be more effective in showing a developer that this piece is credible and will be useful to them. Terms like “compressing data” and “testing” are likely to catch their eye because you are speaking their language by calling out pain points.

2. Email Marketing > Display Ads

The results are in! Developer surveys prove that email is their preferred source of communication. As long as you have a strong subject line (try using the developer-focused approach above) and continue to send useful content, developers tend to be open to reading your emails.

Just be careful – don’t pester people who don’t open emails with continued communication. Keep a clean, engaged list to avoid penalties.

3. Useful Images > Flashy Design

When it comes to designing for developers, it’s important to keep things simple and purposeful. Of course, you should never ignore the branding impact of sharp, professional designs. Just keep mind that the most creative image is not what’s going to draw a developer’s attention – it’s the most useful image.

4. Organic Search > Paid Search

SEO and paid advertising are both important pieces of the puzzle. For initial points of contact, organic is a much stronger investment. Starting out with paid is a little pushy, and this method will not resonate well with those who are averse to marketing.

5 Solutions for Tackling These Challenges

1. Write Informative Content

Proving your expertise off the bat is the best way to get devs to lower their barriers. You are going to have to stay informed on technical topics so you can write about them intelligently. This doesn’t mean you need to learn to code so you can speak to different methods. However, you can learn the pros and cons of different techniques, and stay active on Twitter to keep a pulse on new tools and methods.

For example, you don’t have to know which JavaScript library to use in a situation, but you should understand what a library is and have some examples of how they are used.

2. Invest in Email Marketing

You can read a thorough breakdown of email marketing to developers in another one of my posts.

3. Incorporate Useful Designs

Guide a reader to a full understanding of your product by using charts, graphs, and tangible images of a platform in use. Arctic Wolf, a cybersecurity company, does a great job of using images to make their services more tangible on this page.

4. Create an Organic-First Strategy

Instead of using AdWords for paid search to drive traffic to a decision-focused landing page, try a slightly longer play. Focus on optimizing content for organic traffic, set up retargeting audiences around these pages, then direct traffic back to your landing page for a decision.

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Granted, crafting this experience is easier said than done. You will need to write some specialized, quality content, invest in a serious backlinking strategy, and dedicate time to manage the organic strategy. If you’re looking for a quicker approach, borrow the authority of a trusted website like DZone.

5. Borrow Website Authority

Whether it’s via sending emails, using banner ads, or writing content, advertising with a partner like DZone will allow you to tap into a huge pool of developers with borrowed credibility. The most effective packages will involve providing specialized content, but you won’t have to worry about driving traffic to get the content noticed.

Final Thoughts

Marketing to developers is a new game, and you must be up to the challenge to succeed. Throw trickery aside and focus on building thought leadership. Keep testing new ads and techniques, and feel free to share any insights via Twitter!