The Top Challenge for Technical Content Marketers

When the Content Marketing Institute asked technical content marketers what their top challenge was in 2019, 68% said: creating content for multiple roles. Even tech content marketers who consider themselves extremely successful struggle (66% of top performers compared to 68% of tech content marketers overall).

Identifying multiple roles, as an issue, is still ambiguous. This encompasses different responsibilities (managers vs. individual performers); different programming skill sets (front-end vs. back-end, for example), and different levels of experience. Experience often correlates to age (not always, but assuming a typical educational trajectory, more years since training means more years total), as well as company position. So clearly, generational differences can influence how to best reach a technical role.

What Are the Generations in Play?

The generations relevant to the current workforce (from oldest to youngest):

  • Baby Boomers were born between 1944 and 1964. They’re currently between 55-75 years old (there are 76 million in the U.S.) and they are likely to hold roles such as director, senior director, vice-president, president, or C-suite. They are often high-level decision-makers, but can also be senior and influential technical individual performers or team leads.
  • Gen X was born between 1965-1979, and they are currently between 40-54 years old (there are 82 million in the U.S.). Like Baby Boomers, this generation is likely to hold decision-making positions such as manager, director, vice-president, president, or C-suite. They may also be highly valued technical individual contributors or team leads.
  • Millennials were born between 1980 and 1994. They are currently between 25-39 years old (there are just over 83 million in the U.S.). They are likely to be technical individual performers, team leads, managers, or perhaps directors. In startups or more disruptive technology companies, they may also be in director, vice-president, president, C-suite or founder roles.
  • Gen Z is the newest generation to be named, and they were born between 1995 and 2015. They are currently between 4-24 years old (there are nearly 74 million in the U.S.). They are most likely to be individual performers on technical teams, or possibly team leads. Unless they are company founders, they are unlikely to hold higher leadership positions.

Why Do Generational Differences Matter?

According to data presented by Developer Media from a CodeProject survey, 35% reported they rejected tools. Another 30% revealed they don’t have to reject tools — They have full authority to purchase their tools.

Most developers, according to Evans Data Corporation’s Developer Marketing Survey 2019, say they influence tool purchase and adoption. The majority of those surveyed by Evans Data Corporation reported they rejected tools (some even after purchase) in the past year; either due to  poor documentation or code samples, a steep learning curve or perceived lack of time to train.

Interestingly, the biggest annoyances with tools reported in the Evans Data Corporation survey vary by experience (and therefore, age) with those in the first two years and over 20 years experience of programming losing patience with poor UX/UI. Those with experience that likely corresponds to  GenZ up to the last vestige of millennials as well as a majority firmly in GenX lose their cool if there is a steep learning curve.

Developers use a wide variety of technical content types and sources to inform themselves and form their opinions about the tools they use before and after purchase. Responses to the 2019 Developer Marketing Survey by Evans Data Corporation show content preferences and popularity also vary by age and experience. For example, code samples are most commonly used by developers less experienced developers or some of the most experienced developers.

Age and experience also influence which channels developers go to for information and what type of information they are seeking. For example, Q&A sites are most popular with those younger millennials, with usage declining consistently from that point on. However, looking at Gen Z and Gen X, Twitter is popular to stay abreast of industry news.

Vive le différence

What does all this mean as you look ahead to developing your technical content marketing strategy for 2020? Age and experience contribute to the complexity of addressing multiple roles. Additionally, when referring to data rather than internet wisdom, what resonates with more youthful or inexperienced developers may also resonate with more experienced developers. It’s not always an either/or situation. However, one thing is clear. Most developers influence purchases, and many can reject tools once they are purchased. Based on the number of developers who exert influence over tool adoption, it’s more than just the purchaser or decision-maker that you need your content to reach. So considering how you will best reach a wide variety of roles and the generations that populate those roles is key to content marketing success.