Why Getting to Know Your Developer Audience Is Key to API Marketing Success

This is the second part of our series How To Build a Strong Developer Community. In part 1, we looked at some of the challenges faced when engaging with developers, as well as advice for how to go where the developers are.

Research shows that the number of developers worldwide is about 50 million. That’s a lot of developers, with a lot of differences among them. They range in age from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, and they come from all walks of life and from all parts of the globe. They engage in a wide variety of different technical activities. Indeed, the very term “developer” can apply to a single person or an entire company. What all of this means, in short, is that if your API program treats all developers in the same way, it is almost guaranteed to fail.

So how about targeting the long tail, hobbyists, makers or gold seekers? These labels make it sound as though you are putting developers into useful categories, but they are often too generic to be useful. Segments should be clear and specific enough to allow you to put a messaging and activity plan in place to meet the needs and goals of both your developer program and corporate objectives.

We're also assuming you don’t have unlimited resources, so you must focus on the right developers to achieve your goals.

That’s segmentation.  

Segmentation answers a very important question:  “Who is required to make this product (your API, SDK, tool, device, etc.) successful?” A good segmentation model answers this question, and it focuses your efforts so you can much more easily get your developer messaging and activities correct. In turn, you’ll convince developers to invest their currency--their time--in your APIs.

We've come up with a template to share with you to make sure you get your segmentation right. WIP's Segmentation Framework is based on four filters to help you determine your targets based on the characteristics and drivers that are most important to your business. The filters include:

1.  Technical Imperatives

2.  Individual Imperatives

3.  Business Imperatives

4.  Market Imperatives

Following are some possible questions to ask as part of each filter to help narrow down the segmentation that will work best for your business and your product.

WIPFactory Segmentation Framework

FilterPossible Questions
1.  Technical Imperatives
Does our product demand a particular Platform?
Where does our product fit in their Development Cycle?
Does our platform demand a particular toolset?
Does our product demand a particular language?
2.  Individual Imperatives
Do the developers need special skills? What types of projects have they worked on?
Will developers require experience? Have they brought an app to market?
What are their needs? What motivates them?
3.  Business ImperativesWhat type of businesses support our objectives?
What type of business can afford our tool and can build a sustainable app?
What is corporate telling us?
Who can best help us reach our Measurables/ROI in the timeframe we require?
4.  Market Imperatives
Is there a particular geography that is important to us?
In what geography where developers are located?
What are growing markets/verticals?
What are industry trends we need to consider?

After going through the framework, you might end up with segmentation like this that shows you exactly the type of developers to look for:

Best API Ever
Developer Criteria and Experience Required
Technology RequirementsAndroid, RESTful APIs
Individual Skills/ExperienceLocation, advertising,  understand buyer behavior, at least one successful mobile app
Business /Industry FocusRetail, fitness, consumer goods, mid-size development companies (not one-man teams)
Market/GeographyWearables/NYC, London, Paris

You may not have criteria for each filter, and the relevance will vary from API to API and company to company. (That’s the point, after all!) But as you walk through each filter, the segments you do come up with must meet the following standards:

1. Is the segment relevant to our business?
2. Is it a large enough segment?
3. It is a valuable enough segment?
4. Can we access this segment based on our resources?

Depending on the type of API you have, you may settle on two or three segments that you want to target.  Given your budget, resources and time constraints, you may want to target one at a time. Be sure to craft specific, relevant messages for each one. And know that each may require different outreach channels, different events and other activities.
Market segmentation diagram
As with most strategies, it’s important to be agile and to assess performance over time. Segmentation isn’t a one-time exercise. Make a point of reviewing your segmentation every six  months to one year as your products change and/or the market changes (for example, with new entrants, maturity of developers or your product).  Once developers becomes part of your community, you can segment them then, too, which will help to support your retention tactics, champions programs, and more.

This is part of our series How To Build a Strong Developer Community. In part 3, we will look at how to make sure your developer program is measuring the right things and how to make effective use of your data.

Be sure to read the next Developer Relations article: How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Developer Program