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Why Developer Acquisition Matters.

Most developer marketing programs rely on sheer, brute force, and scale to be effective. Even then, there’s a high level of luck involved to ensure that the right audience is being reached and that the developers will actually consume the resources put forth. 

What we do know is that it often takes numerous visits to a brand or product site for a developer to seriously consider adopting a solution or product. Once they have the product or solution in hand, it takes countless more visits for a developer to get acclimated and comfortable with integrating an offering into their project. In either case, it takes time to build trust with a developer, and time is measured by the frequency of positive interactions.

Typical developer marketing programs include media outreach via search engine marketing (SEM), programmatic, syndication, and social channel efforts. A wide net is cast and recast with the hope of building affinity and ultimately driving users to a conversion point. 

While effective in supporting broad awareness, marketers are still left wondering:

  • Are target developers actually consuming the assets that were so laboriously built?
  • Have the right types of content been put in front of the audience?
  • Are the best resources being shown at the most effective times?

When it comes to most developer programs, the answers to all of the above questions are frequently “no.” The vast majority of developer programs focus strictly on building initial awareness without a comprehensive plan to build a relationship with the developer through more direct methods, such as email nurturing or personalized content and resource suggestions.

Why developer acquisition matters.

Without acquiring a developer’s contact information, the best outcome is that a small subset of the anonymous developer audience returns under their own volition to consume additional content and resources.

Unfortunately, marketers have no idea who this person is or how to reach out to them directly and guide them to a specific conversion point, such as a trial or download.

So, how does having a developer’s contact information from the get-go help developer marketing?

  • Developer acquisition gives brands the opportunity for “free” and recurrent marketing. It costs money every time a company drives traffic to its site resources from a media channel. Reaching out to developers via email or other direct methods reduces media buys and ensures that the audience is seeing what marketers want them to.
  • Developer acquisition takes the guesswork out of understanding developer habits. Once a contact is in the MA/CRM, activity tracking is possible, and that’s key to understanding the quality of the developer journey(s). This means that marketers can see exactly what content has been consumed, how the audience is navigating the resources, and identify gaps in the overall flow.
  • Developer acquisition helps brands stay top of mind. Having 1st-party information about the most engaged audiences will allow marketers to retarget these segments in addition to finding people with similar characteristics and building lookalike audiences—both effective ways of reducing media buys and “empty” traffic. Additionally, by establishing a direct line of communication, marketers know for a fact that they’ve received their content/resources.

Here’s a gut-check model to illustrate the tradeoffs of the two methods:

  1. Model A: without email nurture. Marketers at company A have found that it takes 10 interactions before a developer is willing to engage with their content via clicking through content and filling out forms.
    • It costs an average of $1.50 to drive a web user to any specific content page via scale/media methods.
  2. Model B: with email nurture. Marketers at company B have also found that it takes 10 interactions before a developer is willing to engage with their content. 
    • It costs an average of $8.50 per lead captured.

There’s no need for a calculator to figure this one out. It takes $15 through conventional methods to have a developer see 10 resources. Utilizing a lead acquisition and email nurture process, it costs $8.50 to provide a developer with 10 resources—more in perpetuity.

As the old adage goes, “you can be fast, good, or cheap: pick two.” Programs that focus on driving scale, such as programmatic media campaigns or search engine marketing (SEM), are both fast and relatively cheap to get off the ground and provide results that help lend to awareness and top-of-funnel engagement. The caveat is that marketers are overwhelmingly at the mercy of luck to reach their intended audiences, whether in an online or physical event setting. On top of that, good luck with bringing that person back into the fold.

Developer acquisition campaigns fall into the good and cheap categories. Curating content and developing nurture campaigns do require more time to develop at the onset, but the good comes from the continual payoff in the end. Dollars are saved in reducing media churn and making touches more effective rather than more frequent.

Here are some tips to help create an effective developer program:

  1. Don’t wait until the final conversion point to acquire developer leads. Capture minimal contact info from the start and begin establishing a rapport as early as possible.
  2. Utilize acquisition data to influence other tactics. Aggregating demographic and engagement information from acquired leads can help validate ideal customer persona (ICP), hone in on audience targeting, and inform content gaps and roadmaps.
  3. Have a nurture plan ready. The acquisition serves no purpose if the developer audience only receives opportunistic communications or vague newsletter updates.

The Iron Horse insight.

Developer programs should not solely rely on acquisition campaigns for success. However, every successful developer program has an acquisition component.