Understanding The Four Key Areas Of Developer Marketing

This is the first part of our series How To Build a Strong Developer Community.

You’ve likely heard of business-to-consumer marketing and business-to-business marketing, but are you familiar with B2D, or business-to-developer, marketing? In this article we'll examine the emerging B2D landscape; assess how it’s like and different from B2C and B2B; and explain why it’s important for API and SDK providers to know the difference.

What's the Outcome?

In a typical business scenario, the ultimate goal is a sale. Once the sale is complete, organizations often provide post-sales support—for reducing returns (on the consumer side) or as part of a package (on the business side).

In these cases, the marketing goal is uptake: “Please buy our product or service. You'll be happy with the usefulness of your purchase, and we'll be happy because we made money. We both benefit.”

This is not the case for developer marketing: We want more than the uptake. It's not enough for a developer to use your API or SDK. Success is achieved only when they actually develop something useful with the API; when a user (consumer or business) uses the product of that development (such as an app or service); and when all three parties achieve some sort of benefit.

Here, the marketing goal is about co-creation. Co-creation is the premise of the Open Innovation Theory that Henry Chesbrough coined back in 2003. He encouraged firms to use external ideas to advance their technology. The trend caught on, and today there are a number of open innovation or co-creation programs, including:

  • Partner programs
  • Affiliate programs
  • Incubators/accelerators
  • Open source programs
  • Developer programs
  • API programs

External Engagement Is No Small Task

Whatever the program, engaging with external partners is no small task.  If you want to win, there are two important things you need to do:

1. Get your API right as a product,
2. Follow the principles of developer marketing.

Remember, this is co-creation. If your goal is: “Lets get someone else to do our work for us,” you will fail.

Indeed, developer marketing calls for a very new approach to marketing. But, make no mistake: It is marketing, given that it is a set of activities designed to acquire customers/users and maintain a relationship with them.

Forget about the 4Ps of marketing (price, product, promotion, and place). Here are four key areas for developer marketing, which we’ll touch on briefly here and expand upon in future articles in this series:

Build a Community or Ecosystem to partner with you: You're not building an audience or building a customer base. Engagement with your community is as important as the initial outreach. Once you build a community, you can also leverage them for support and marketing.

Incite their imagination to create: Your messaging must be developer-centric, not product-centric.  Think about what will entice developers and engage their imagination and passion--with you and your product. Focus on the desired outcomes, not activities. It's about what developers can build with your product, not what you do with developers.

Provide directions, support and context to build a viable product: We call this onboarding. The provision of documentation, code samples and technical support is crucial. Equally important is context. Don't rely on developers to know your business, your vertical or your customers.  Provide some case studies or use cases.

Have an end goal where everyone wins: Can developers use your API to create an app they own and sell? Are you providing a revenue share option for your goods and services sold through their hard work? Can they enable advertising in the app?  If there are no wins for the developers, there are no wins for you, either.

Go Where the Developers Are

So, just where do you find these developers, or co-creators? It depends a great deal on your product, but, in general, developers tend to be a technical audience; they tend to skew younger in age; and they are often male, although the latter is starting to change. Developers don’t like to be marketed to, and they have high “guano-meters.” They appreciate straight, unvarnished talk from someone who knows the subject at hand and understands the issues that developers face on a day-to-day basis.

The next article in this series will be on segmentation, for a deeper dive into this unique market and more tips on how to succeed with developer marketing.

This is part of our series How To Build a Strong Developer Community. In part 2, we will look at how to focus on the right developers to achieve your product goals.

Caroline Lewko I've been in the mobile and tech sector since 1995 in a variety of roles from coder, funder, business developer and entrepreneur. Today I lead our team for our consulting engagements through our "WIP Factory" strategic marketing and consulting agency. The WIP Factory is the first B2D -- business to developer -- marketing agency, and we help companies build the developer community around their APIs, devices, platforms and other tools. Some of that includes: Traveling a ton to support our clients and team, speaking at events on developer marketing, MCing hackathons, meeting the most interesting and creative class around the world, and trying to envision where technology is going and how to meet the needs of developers on their journey.

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