All Marketing Should Be Like Developer Marketing
If I had a dollar for every time someone felt compelled to remind me, “Developers don’t like marketing,” I’d have enough capital to fund an early-2000s seed round. To be less hyperbolic, it’s a perspective I encounter frequently, and I’m often left wondering, “Who actually likes marketing?” Sure, there are some audience segments that may appear more prone to responding to marketing efforts, but this shouldn't be confused with appreciation for marketing. The response of Marketing-Responsive Audience Member A is more likely a demonstration of alignment; their interest or need for a product or service was met by ideal timing and presence by a brand.
If this seems too easy, I get it—marketing as a practice is often framed as cloak-and-dagger feats of illusion, not straightforward information sharing. But believe it or not, this simple approach to marketing—interest/need + ideal timing/presence—can be universally successful. Really. Including developer audiences.
Authenticity + Information for the Win
Inspiring intrigue and loyalty among technical audiences is often framed as a puzzling challenge in the world of marketing. In my experience, it’s common for marketers to list a number of perceived characteristics of tech-focused folks, including descriptions like “skeptical” and “volatile,” with the implication that the friction they’ve felt in regard to their marketing tactics is due to personality traits and types. It’s not. That perceived friction? It’s likely a natural, totally human response to a problem.
When a developer is seeking a solution, they’re probably facing an immediate problem; they need clarity on an API call or a tool to improve their ability to learn an unfamiliar section of a codebase—and they need it now. So, give them what they need, and deliver it in a way that demonstrates you understand how they navigate the digital landscape and what they require to move from point A (problem state) to point B (solution state).
Make your product or service the solution to their problem. This can look like a lot of things, but your baseline should include clear, prescriptive technical documentation that’s readily accessible (they can find it) and navigable (they can search it), bolstered by more educational content, like step-by-step tutorials and use-case-focused blog posts (so they can see how it applies to them).
Deliberate, thoughtful information sharing is impactful when you’re dealing with audiences driven by evidence and experience. By giving developers the details they need to make informed decisions, sans fluff, you build trust and a potential relationship. The value of forging a direct developer connection cannot be overstated. By investing in developer experience in step with your developer relations and product development colleagues, you’ll build a community—one that may eventually help you design and develop more user-aware, relevant offerings and go-to-market strategies through valuable feedback.
Needing As to Qs: a Human Dilemma
Developers are not unique in their preference for an authentic and informative approach to marketing. As an audience, worldwide they total an estimated 26.5 million people, representing a broad collection of cultures, genders, and races—many of whom are looking for human-centric content to guide their search for solutions. Sounds a bit like your own experience, right?
It’s a method of marketing that applies to everyone, including you, me, and Marketing-Responsive Audience Member A. People respond positively to seeming truth—we’ve literally evolved to gauge potentially threatening input (an inauthentic marketing message) and react with an attempt at reasoned output (the decision to purchase or not). All audiences—all individuals—desire to be seen and understood in ways that acknowledge their respective realities in earnest. We want to maintain our sense of individuality, while still aligning to the greater whole (being outcast sucks). And we want solutions to the problems we’re facing.
When we’re in purchase mode, we’re really just seeking opportunities to improve our lives—asking, “How can I make this better?” with the answer potentially including the good or service your client or company is taking to market. Seems basic, right? It is. Most of our marketplace consumption is motivated by essential human intentions.
All Marketing Should Look Like This
As marketers, let’s empower people to make purchasing decisions that truly address their interests and needs. We can do this by working within the same parameters we respect when marketing to technical audiences. Let’s meet potential customers where they are—interest/need + ideal timing/presence—guided by the goal of educating, not convincing them.
To date, I’ve not met a person who, in the throes of problem-solving frustration, would say, “You know what would be helpful right now? An automated marketing email with abstract graphics and high-level messaging.” Not once—and especially not a developer.
Alexandra Matthiesen is vice president of marketing at CodeSee. Matthiesen has 15 years of experience developing compelling brands and marketing the results. Her career has centered on technology and she has had the opportunity to do work for Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, and Veritas Technologies, among others.