What is developer marketing?


Developer marketing — otherwise known as B2D or business to developer marketing — is marketing that deals with software developer audiences. So far, so obvious. But what is it about software developers that means they need their own form of marketing and how does developer marketing differ from other types of marketing?

Developers are a different kind of audience

Depending on who you listen to, there are anywhere between 18 and 30 million professional software developers worldwide. The number grows when you add hobbyists, part timers, and other technical practitioners (data scientists and sysadmins, for example).

It’s risky to generalise about so many people. Even so, the work of making software leads to some common characteristics that are important for anyone who wants to market to software developers.

In particular, software developers tend to:

  • Want facts over aspirational messaging
  • Put their reputation on the line when they select a technology
  • Have deep expertise and probably know more about their niche than you do
  • Get their information from non-mainstream sources
  • Value practical experience over credentials
  • Make or directly influence technology and vendor choices.

This impacts messaging, channels, tone of voice, tactical mix, and pretty much everything else that a marketer might do.

Developer products are different

It’s not just that developers are a different type of audience. Developer targeted products are different in that:

  • To understand their capabilities requires specialist knowledge
  • Claims about them can be proven in a relatively short period of time
  • The buyer is often the user
  • Failure can escalate to affect millions of people very quickly.

Combined, the peculiarities of developer targeted products and the needs of software developers require specialised developer marketing strategies and tactics.

But don’t developers hate marketing?

No, developers do not hate marketing. Like everyone, developers dislike poorly executed marketing.

Let’s look at an exaggerated B2C example in order to make the point. Imagine you’re putting together a campaign for a new family car and, in this scenario, you don’t drive. In fact, cars bore you. You live in a city where you can walk or take the metro rail system to get where you need to be. And you’re single, without children. You know the engine is up front and you once took a driving lesson as a teenager so you remember which pedal is which.

Cars! How hard can they be?

Your company did some research and found that drivers hate it when their cars break down. You’re also putting your ads on billboards near fast flowing roads, so you’ve got to be concise. You get to work and then unveil the following to your colleagues:

Car go good

The message is concise, speaks to the need in the research, and the image shows the car in a family context. Job done.

Okay, that’s a silly example but deliberately so. Sometimes when non-developers try to talk about the benefits of a developer targeted technology or empathise with a situation common to developers, the results expose a fundamental lack of understanding. And this isn’t gatekeeping. Anyone can learn and the first step is knowing that developer audiences have specific needs.

This is important because developers look for signals of credibility when researching products. If your messaging feels “off”, perhaps because it glosses over some crucial details, then it’s harder to trust what you have to offer.

Building a developer marketing strategy

Building a B2D marketing strategy is much like building any marketing strategy. Start with the goal then work out how to get there.

In more detail, the stages to building your developer marketing strategy are:

  1. Understand the company’s wider strategy and define a north star goal to serve that strategy.
  2. Asses your starting point with situational analysis.
  3. Segment your developer audience and decide which personas to target.
  4. Use research to get to know those developers.
  5. Develop messaging that speaks to those developers, their needs, and your solution.
  6. Create strategic programmes that help your target developers on their journey through your funnel.
  7. Define metrics that measure your success and feed back into your overall developer marketing goal.

Whatever your strategy looks like, it should be part of a larger effort to engage developers generally. If you’d like to learn more about the context within which developer marketing operates then read our article What is developer relations?