The soft pitch: developer-friendly content marketing


Ice cream

Ice cream

Developers and shameless sales pitches tend to go together like a pan of fudge and a fiery inferno. Authenticity,

Liz Couto

Liz Couto

credibility and technical merit are the ways to reach developers.

Content marketing might seem like it fits more easily into the first category, than the second. However, more developer marketing teams are recognising that high quality, well targeted content is a scalable and effective way to build awareness and provide something of genuine value.

This line can be tricky to straddle. Liz Couto, who leads Content Marketing for the Developer Program at Shopify, admits that learning how to craft pieces and marketing materials for developers can be an intimidating task.

Learning to speak dev

Not coming from a technical background has added an extra layer of challenge for Liz. But, over time, she’s crafted her own strategies for gaining community insight. As she explains, “I’m not a developer, but I do have a tried and tested background in marketing. Whilst development is not my expertise, crafting and delivering compelling brand messaging certainly is. While I may need help from the Shopify developers to understand the products, my skill set helps amplify our message and create a journey for devs that leads to conversions.”

To help further bridge the knowledge gap, she reads a good deal of blog posts, and listens to talks on how other API companies approach their content. She also takes careful steps to ensure that she looks at everything through the eyes of a developer, rather than someone looking to sell a product to them. “Whenever I discuss a new API, feature, or update with my teammates, I look at everything critically. I ask, ‘Why would developers care about this?’ I think you need to be 100% developer-first in every communications piece”.  

Making the most of dev rel perspective

To help hone this focus, she works very closely with the Shopify developer relations team. Being able to consult with the people “on the front-lines providing one-to-one solutions” is an invaluable tool when she’s called upon to deliver “one-to-many” messaging. Liz will also collaborate directly with the team on webinars, and always consult them for clarity on technical issues. She notes, “Your dev rel team can offer great context, and talking to developers themselves can further reveal what content they’d like to consume. And, it’s useful to explore what content topics other platforms are covering”.

It can be easy to get caught up in internal product hype when creating content; especially when a sales team has been living and breathing the latest pitch. To counter this, Liz advises a good dose of objectivity. “Maybe we’re excited about a new product and want to share high-fives all around, but none of that matters. It’s about telling a story of developer opportunities, not a story of company successes”. Having the developer relations team on hand to feed in outsider perspective is an extra tool for keeping grounded.

Pushing stories to the right places

Liz is careful not to make assumptions about how customers will first encounter the Shopify developer platform. Her team spend time analysing where traffic is coming from, and researching what kind of sources are driving views to their page.

Based on this, they will think carefully about the kind of story they want to be telling developers once they land on the Shopify site. Finally, they’ll think carefully about determining what the right media are for telling a specific story to their target market. For example, for grassroots messaging, the Shopify content marketing team favour Medium. It’s already a well-trodden ground for developers with a story to tell, which makes it a natural fit for sharing tales from the community.

Holding ground

Nowadays, one of the biggest issues for content marketers is being able to be heard above all the other noise. When Liz first transitioned into developer marketing, it was an emerging field. However, “It seems like everyone has a developer program these days. I have to work smart and strategically to win developer attention and prove that our APIs are the ones they should build on.”

The sheer amount of competition for mindshare means there’s more impetus than ever for companies to take the time to communicate well with developers. Failing to do this is one of the most rookie mistakes that Liz encounters in the crowded content marketing playing field.

“Of course we all have our individual objectives and our vision of how developers should create with our products, but they’re not your own company’s developers – they’re individuals and agencies who are rolling the dice in choosing your APIs over another. They’re taking a chance on you and therefore you need to focus on them, and their needs. If you forget this and just communicate your internal mission statements externally, you’ll alienate the developer audience very quickly”.

Liz will be sharing more about her experiences in building a content marketing strategy from the ground-up at DevRelCon London this December.

Photo by Calebe Miranda. CCO licence.


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