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Developer Interview Series Part 1: Solution Discovery.

Not every developer has the same skillset, experience, workload, or needs so why are dev marketing programs taking such a general approach? One big reason is that there are so many different types of developers, all with an endless amount of variables, which means that if marketers target too specifically they drastically limit their reach. But if broad targeting isn’t the answer either, what is?

In this three-part interview series, we aim to understand developer marketing from the perspective of a developer and find out what works and what doesn’t.

We asked members of our in-house engineering team about their day-to-day work, how this affects their content consumption, and how they experience developer marketing. Let’s start by meeting the devs.

 

Meet the devs.

The majority of Ezra’s time is spent managing projects, communicating with customers, building estimates, writing SOWs, and working on the Iron Horse engineering roadmap: initiatives, innovations, optimizations, infrastructure, quality control, and so on. He spends roughly 20-30% doing hands-on development, and the primary languages he uses these days are Javascript, ReactJS, SQL, and PHP.

 

 

 

 

Randy splits his time between hands-on programming and team management. Specifically, he repairs old code, optimizes database queries, refactors java code, and builds out internal tools for our customer support team. He also manages a log of the AWS infrastructure side including the continuous integration setup and overseeing our offshore team, performing periodic code reviews, and discussing implementation details for new features. Randy is commonly working with Java, Node/Javascript, Python, and SQL.”

 

 

 

Kenny spends most of his time at Iron Horse focused on building high-quality code for our customers, building web pages, landing pages, full company websites, virtual event websites, in-browser React Apps, and more. Somewhere around 10% to 20% of his time is spent communicating with customers and learning new skills. The languages Kenny uses on a daily basis are CSS/HTML, Javascript, React, and PHP.

 

 

 

 

Product/solution discovery.

Having a great solution is only half the battle. To make sure developers can find out about your offering, it’s important to understand how and when they seek out new solutions.

How often do you search for new solutions/products vs. answers to an acute problem?

Ezra: “Rarely. It’s difficult to adopt a new product because more often than not it makes more sense to try and find solutions within your existing architecture before adopting a completely new solution/product. Finding a brand new product is not at the top of my list of things to do.”

Kenny: “It depends on the kind of project I’m working on. If it’s a landing page I will most often use WordPress because we have used that many times and it works for us. However, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the way we are building on WordPress. For example, the headless CMS/static website approach has been gaining a lot of steam and would be a great way to speed up our landing pages when it makes sense to do so. If we’re starting a brand new project with a specific scope and set of goals I spend quite a bit of time researching to see if there’s a framework out there that will meet all of those goals or if we’re better off building something from scratch.”

How important is it to you to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and solutions?

Ezra: “I’m really not as up-to-date on the latest trends as I should be because I’m spending so much time fixing problems and making optimizations. I don’t care about reading an article on the latest and greatest unless it’s solving the problem I have staring me in the face.”

Kenny: “It’s very important, but I try not to get too distracted with the newest stuff or the “bright/shiny/popular” things. It sucks to invest time into learning something only to have it go away a few years down the line. In my free time, I have been diving more and more into React as it seems to not be going anywhere.”

How do you feel about ads geared towards developers?

Ezra: “I never pay attention to ads. Developers really respect the HTML or CSS gurus out there that have kind of cut through the BS to get you the facts and make great recommendations, which aren’t meant to get you to sign up for some kind of plan.”

Kenny: “Developers respect other developers more than any one company. If you try to market a company to a developer it’s not going to go the way you want. Personally, ads wouldn’t sway me one way or another, but the advice of another developer is usually gold for me.”

 

Best content for developers.

One of the ways developers get exposed to your solution is through your content. The more relevant and available the content, the more positive the interaction for a developer.

What kind of content do you look for and how do you decide on what product or solution to use?

Randy: “I look for code samples, documentation, and source code—usually the things you need to see if it will solve your problem. Then I’d go look at case studies, white papers, and forums to see if others are using it and what their experience has been. The last thing I want is to start using a solution and find out it’s a headache to deal with and there’s a better option out there.”

Kenny: “I look for content/solutions that are actively maintained, have high developer satisfaction, and are relatively free of bugs so I’m not stuck with something that is going to break at some point in the future. I want something that fixes an issue or solves a need, not something that’s going to give me more work later on.”

What kind of content do you like and why?

Kenny: “Tutorials are great. I prefer to read a step-by-step tutorial rather than watching a video. I come across articles that have both and I always skip the video because I’d rather scan the article, get the information I need, and move on. There are also some good classes I’ve taken that are well-formatted because they get the right to point, the code is clean, and you can download the code directly.”

Ezra: “I’ve been really enjoying the 1 to 2-hour long virtual developer events, especially when they don’t spend too much time talking about their product but rather they spend the majority of the presentation walking through the solution. We as developers are very A to B, and we want to see something executed.”

 

Developer’s advice to marketers.

If it sounds like developers don’t like “marketing,” it’s because they don’t. But that has a lot to do with how marketers are targeting and messaging them and doesn’t mean this relationship is beyond repair.

What do you wish companies would NOT do to promote products/solutions to you?

Randy: “Stop telling me about the product and not about how it fixes my problem. If I’m looking for an answer to my problem I don’t care to hear about all the ways your product can be used. Good for you, but I need an answer for my issue, not a write-up about product use cases.”

Ezra: “Personally, I’m not a fan of vague marketing lingo, or addressing blanket solutions. I appreciate direct language about how a company can solve a particular problem, relative to my specific needs.”

What advice would you give to companies to help improve their efforts in the discovery stage when marketing to developers?

Kenny: “First impressions are everything. If I try to find something and there’s no documentation or practical applications for me to work with, then I associate that bad content piece with that company, and I’m less likely to trust they have the answer to my problem the next time I go searching.”

Ezra: “Know who you’re targeting. Not to compare developers to doctors, but you wouldn’t go to just any kind of doctor for help, you’d need the right kind of doctor. A dermatologist is not going to give you an eye examination, so why would I care about a solution that’s meant for another kind of developer?”

 

Check out part 2 of our developer series to hear our devs thoughts on developer engagement strategy.