Creating Marketing Content Developers Actually Want.
Creating marketing content for developers is tricky because content should address the needs of its audience, and in this case, developers are not your typical audience.
Developers tend to be pragmatic and solution-oriented. They are often turned off by the hyperbole and lack of detail found in typical marketing messaging. Instead, they want content that gets to the point and addresses the question, “how does this solve my problem?” In other words, the best developer marketing content doesn’t aim to sell to developers, but rather to support them.
The top 4 types of content developers want.
In our work with developers, we’ve consistently heard the same message. The top four types of content developers want are:
1. Documentation and tutorials.
Hands down the number one piece of content software developers want. Documentation and tutorials should be technical, succinct, and factual. Most importantly, documentation needs to identify the benefit of the product and how it solves the developer’s problem.
2. Code and project samples.
Developers are tinkerers at heart, and they want to figure something out first-hand, rather than just reading about it. Code and project samples provide a quick way for developers to get acclimated and start testing features out for themselves.
3. Trainings and meetups.
Software developers are naturally skeptical of brands, trusting instead the opinions and recommendations of other developers. This is why developer communities at Stack Overflow and Reddit thrive. I speak more about this in my other post, “What Is Developer Marketing?” where I explore the reality that developer marketing is not marketing.
Companies can tap into this preference for peer validation by creating content and spaces that facilitate peer-to-peer or 1:1 discussion, such as webinars (with accompanying Q&As or AMAs), office hours, trainings, hackathons, and meetups. These events not only allow developers to connect with others working on similar projects, but create opportunities for validation of your solution to come organically from the community at large rather than from your brand.
4. Developer diaries.
A developer diary is a great way to initiate developer-to-developer sharing and can lead seamlessly into a dev community to start an organic discussion. Whether it’s a blog post or video, the point of a dev diary is that it’s produced from the perspective of a developer; not a brand speaking to a developer. Unlike a thought leadership piece, a dev diary discusses how a product or solution worked, which can spark ideas, facilitate understanding of how the product is used, and send that very important “you’re not alone out there,” message.
How to get the most out of your developer content.
Creating effective content is the first step. It’s equally important to make sure developers can find and engage with that content where and when they need it. Here are six principles to keep in mind.
Speak to a broad audience.
It’s important to remember that every developer audience is filled with both seasoned and novice developers. Core pieces of your content should be written broadly enough to address any and every level of developer. I tend to lean towards writing for the lowest common denominator; experts can glance over the content and discern what is useful to them, but it doesn’t always work the other way around. A simple trick is to provide both long-form content—such as whitepapers and documentation—and tips and tricks to appeal to all levels of developers, not just the experienced.
Solve problems. Spare the fluff.
The goal of all developer marketing content is to make the journey to adoption and use of your product easier so the developer can become a loyal user and, ideally, an advocate for your solution within their communities. This means your content calendar should be driven by the actual needs of your developer audience—not the features you’re excited to promote. And the content itself should be clear, get straight to the point, and provide value for the developer.
Developers binge on content and are not shy about evaluating multiple solutions until they find one that fits. Having a dedicated resource hub is ideal because it allows developers to explore content at their own speed. However, an unstructured journey can lead to passive consumption and developers viewing content that might not be relevant or useful. For this reason, resource hubs should be complemented with triggered nurture emails and on-site suggested content to help guide developers to take meaningful actions.
Help developers find the content they need.
While developers like being able to control how and when they access your content, it’s also important to provide a framework to help them home in on the content that is most relevant to them at a given point in time. This can include curating content for different personas within your audience, and making it easy for those personas to find content geared toward their experience level.
A best practice when providing resources for developers is to ask their level of familiarity and their objective, rather than assuming everyone is starting their journey in the same place. Once you have this information, you can nurture developers with personalized campaigns tuned to their needs, wants and requirements.
Marketing content for developers should be curated and suggested based on:
- Explicit preferences via forms or surveys.
- Implicit actions, such as previous content engagement.
- Relevance to their objective.
Make content available in the spaces where developers already are.
While traditional marketing programs seek to point target audiences to the website at the earliest possible point in their journey, those marketing to developers can see success sooner by going to the places that developers already are.
This can mean creating a community space on popular platforms like Reddit or Stack Overflow for users of your solution. More often it means seeking out and joining developer communities that already exist, and doing so on their terms, rather than trying to bend the conversation to your own goals.
Seeking or establishing an active content resource presence (as opposed to driving developers to your company site) encourages developers to provide their thoughts and validate or disprove claims in organic conversations.
Seek out feedback.
The best way to understand what developers need is to ask them. Whether you collect feedback by participating in community discussions, through a form on your site, or through a larger power-user or other feedback program, developer input can help you understand challenges using your solution, most desired features, and even use cases that you have not thought of.
Asking for input also helps build trust with the community— but only if you actually listen and act on their feedback. By creating a two-way relationship with the developers that use your solution, you can help them use your solution more fully while also building your solution to better serve your users. This is a win-win that often leads to deeper loyalty and advocacy for your offering and brand.
The Iron Horse insight.
Creating truly authentic developer content takes a solid understanding of both your solution and the developer mindset. In most cases, the person best suited to lead this effort is one who has a development background themselves or communicates with developers frequently.