Nobody likes the idea of being “marketed to,” but developers especially are inherently allergic to marketing. Try traditional marketing methods on developers and they will backfire. At the same time, figuring out a way of communicating to developers in a smart, impactful way and gaining their loyalty is critical; they are now integrated into so many departments within an organization (IT, finance, marketing) that they have an enormous impact on tool change and sales, in addition to being key players in digital innovation.
As current CMO of Nutanix and prior CMO of F5 Networks, Veritas and Aruba Networks, I have seen and heard many perspectives on the best ways to reach developers through marketing. Here’s a couple of the most important do’s and don’ts.
Scale back on traditional hackathons
There is a common misconception among marketers that traditional hackathons are the only “cool” way to engage with developers. Historically, hackathons used to be the primary, and sometimes only, developer marketing tool. In the mindset of many marketing departments, by holding a hackathon you have checked the developer marketing box and can move on. Hackathons should still make up a portion of your marketing strategy – but not all of it.
Developers are looking to learn and interact with products at events they attend, and often, traditional hackathons leave little room for learning. Instead, they’re described as time restrictive and competitive, characteristics that run contrary to the environments developers are drawn to now. I’ve noticed more developers are cognizant of work-life balance and statistics even show they “value things such as vacation time or the ability to work remotely more often” and are not interested in “taking their bodies and mind to the bleeding edge for glory anymore” (Dice). In addition, the external code created at most traditional hackathons generally cannot be used again, which is not conducive to the end-goal of a hackathon for many developers: to take home something tangible they can bring back to their workplaces and use again in the future.
Instead, host engaging, hands-on events
While developers may initially be wary of events like traditional hackathons, there are other events marketers can prioritize that developers will get excited about. Give them an opportunity to learn about and engage with your platform in a “hands-on” way at an event, or glean new knowledge, and they will attend.
Importantly, in-person events build trust between developers and companies, allowing developers to meet the people behind the platforms and have real conversations about it. One example of how we’re driving this method of marketing forward at Nutanix is through our .NEXT “On Tour” events. During these events, hosted across 11 cities, we focus on our Nutanix Prism API, teaching developers how to build a simple custom monitoring tool that lets them see what is going on with their cluster using webhooks and REST APIs. These hands-on labs at .NEXT allow us to interact with developers and our product, giving them an opportunity to learn and ask questions in a productive way.
Make it easy for developers to connect with your company online
While developers might prefer a hands-on interaction with your platform, they are willing to connect online too if you provide them with easy-to-use and useful online tools. First and foremost, make it easy for developers to access your products and online materials; any roadblock that prevents a quick downloading of an online tool will be quickly forgotten.
Offering “community editions” of tools is one of the best ways to allow developers to interact with a product and tools for free. If you’re not offering a free download for developers to try and test out, make sure you provide clear, understandable product descriptions. Creating a developer portal is another way to engage developers through your company’s website in a way that will resonate, as developer portals encourage an authentic community feeling and provide a space for voicing of real opinions.
Finally, remember that developers love to learn. A key finding from a recent Developer Ecosystem study notes “education tops monetization in what developers want most from ecosystems,” and “nearly three-quarters of survey respondents want to learn new skills, or improve current skills, when engaging with a developer ecosystem.” As the study notes, companies offering an educational component clear a path for easy developer engagement.
With the emergence of cloud, developers have also emerged into a new light, and they are only going to increase in number – and in the impact they have on organizations. In fact, according to Evans Data Corporation, the global developer population is expected to reach 27.7 million by 2023. As the number of developers grows, marketing to them proves to be a unique challenge and opportunity. Doing it thoughtfully is worth the investment to gain their loyalty and, more importantly, their trust for the long term.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.