No Secrets

People are curious to learn secrets, but sharing secrets on the internet defeats the whole purpose of having a secret. So let’s all agree, for now, that there are no secret strategies for marketing to developers — at least on the internet. In the quest to market to developers, what can be elusive are the opportunities to apply time-tested marketing principles to a unique audience which is clearly identifiable and scalable. So the not-so-secret secret here is the need  to focus on key marketing elements, and use those elements to engage our developer audience to prompt them to take action. It’s not rocket science, but it is technical in nature.

Rules of Engagement

The key to engaging the developer audience resides in understanding them. Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” which succinctly states the importance of communication. Marketers, in general, want to talk about their company, product, and brand. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to note that what you say has to be balanced with what your audience wants to hear.

venn diagram of what developers want to say or hear

The best way to seek to understand your developer audience is through active listening, research, surveys, participating in developer conferences, or associating yourself with developers. If you’re not a developer, having  developers on your staff can be especially helpful because developers don’t buy from marketers. Developers, like scientists, are inherently skeptical, well-educated, and technical.

Technical Content, Please

Compared to our flashing-clock-on-a-VRC forefathers, the generalization could be made that, as a society, we have all become more technical in nature, especially given the fact that our devices have become more sophisticated. In the developer community, technology rules and specifications sell, so use this bit of insight (not a secret) to craft your content around specifications, test data, endorsements, comparisons, and technical details.

Your website will also need to reflect the technical nature of your audience. It needs to provide data, documentation, and resources that developers want to see. You can score extra points for creativity and engagement efforts, but you’ll lose points if you don’t maintain the site or keep it relevant. Developers live in software, and they understand what is technically going on behind every one of your marketing efforts, so seek to build trust with honest presentations and clear navigation to guide them to the information they need to make informed decisions about your products. Be sensitive to social media cues and comments in the developer community, and use that feedback to improve your efforts. ContentLab has a great downloadable strategy guide illustrating how your content should be designed to attract, educate, and engage your audience with technical content at scale.

Choose The Right Channel

What you market and how you market is as important as where you market, especially when you are seeking to understand and working to build trust with the developer community. One of the most popular outbound channels used to address developers is newsletters. Developers love newsletters for several reasons:

  • Developer newsletters are a source of trust because they are well established, and contain trusted content from a variety of sources. The value of a newsletter is in its reputation. The publishers of high-quality newsletters work hard to ensure that their content reflects what the community needs in terms of content, transparency, and sources of information.
  • Information is perishable, especially in the software realm where continuous change and improvement is the norm. Newsletters offer a venue for developers to keep up with changes and updates, and can help them progress in their respective areas of interest. Associating your products and your brand with an established, respected newsletter adds to your credibility, and can provide you with an avenue to your specific developer audience, as defined by programming language or other areas of development.
  • From a broad perspective, newsletters offer your readers a buffet of content designed to inform and engage them, using creative elements, graphics, and other features designed to build trust, which will ultimately result in actions like clicks and visits to your website.

OK, Maybe One Secret

So if everybody knows that building trust, clear communication, education, and engagement all lead to positive call-to-action results, how can you differentiate yourself from your competitors? The answer to this question is obvious, but it’s still something that’s very easy to overlook. The key to having a competitive advantage in marketing is execution. How you apply and present your efforts matters.  A number of cliches come to mind here. The devil is in the details. You have one chance to make a good first impression. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. And we can’t forget the famous and often used Don’t **** it up!

Start with a good plan, be realistic in your expectations, fund your efforts adequately, both in terms of financial and human capital, and analyze the outcomes to see how you can do better next time.

Submitted for Your Approval

To wrap this up, let’s review the key points:

  • There are no secrets in marketing to developers. Like any other market, the key is to understand your audience, their needs, and the information they seek. Tailor your content, your marketing programs, your website, and your approach to address their needs.
  • Developers are technical people, and they thrive on technical content. Your content has to prove to them that your product is going to solve their problem, or that it can do something better than an alternative product or method, including something that they can create themselves.
  • While marketing is an iterative process, strive to be the best when you execute your marketing initiatives. You can differentiate your efforts through quality, quantity, or audience perception. Analyze your efforts, and reach higher the next time around.

If you need help with your outbound marketing efforts, consider partnering with DeveloperMedia. They understand the developer community, and they will help you be understood.


  • DeveloperMedia

  • Developer Marketing Alliance

Your guide to developer marketing

  • ContentLab

  • ContentLab Content Strategy Guide