This article derives from a presentation from Product Marketing Trailblazers in December 2021. Watch this presentation, and others, via our OnDemand service.

Thank you for reading this article on developer marketing. I hope it helps you build phenomenal developer campaigns and achieve success.

I'm Abhishek Ratna. I'm a mechanical engineer by education, was a professional developer in my early career, and have been a marketer for over a decade. I've marketed everything from video games to fashion to shoes, to enterprise software to advertising solutions to APIs.

During this time, I've worked with and learned from incredible marketers at Facebook, Microsoft, Zulily, and Databricks. Right now, I'm at Google, where I focus on growth and product marketing efforts for TensorFlow. My audience is our AI and machine learning developers.

In this article, we'll talk about:

Why developer marketing matters

The business of marketing to developers has evolved rapidly over the last few years.

As recently as a decade ago, buying technology was a tightly controlled process. Central IT teams dictated which tools and technologies could be used in their organizations. They oversaw budgets and procurement and had strict policies governing the use of the software.

Times have changed. Mobile technologies appeared, BYOD came along, and the cloud was born. Software development transformed dramatically. Waterfall models gave way to agile models that cleared the way for DevOps.

Businesses started competing on their ability to build and ship continuously. The API economy broke the stranglehold of monolithic service providers and companies started building their own stacks of tools based on open standards.

57% of developers influence technology buying.

As of today, developers are deeply embedded in the technology buying process. 57% of developers, across organizations of all sizes, influence technology buying. The more developers are convinced about the value of your product, the more likely you are to scale your community, win deals, and grow your pipeline.

Why developers hate (traditional) marketing

Developer marketing is inherently very difficult, and there are plenty of memes to back that up. In my first true developer marketing role at Microsoft, the first thing I learned on the job was that developers hate marketing.

What I believe that means is that they dislike traditional broad marketing. They cannot stand clickbait, paywalls, gated content, or tall claims. Developers are busy solving problems and building products.

They have strong opinions about what they need and they trust their own experience. Marketing messages are largely discarded, sometimes analyzed in excruciating detail, and shortcomings are mercilessly exposed and trolled.

So, how do developers buy or evaluate technologies? StackOverflow found that developers dive straight into product trials. They trust their peers' advice. They read reviews and debate on forums and communities. The one traditional marketing channel they seem to trust is the product website.

Why you need to establish developer marketing personas and segments

So why are developer personas and segments important? As we saw, developers aggressively weed out the noise and zoom in on relevant content. To win mindshare, you need to understand and establish your developer personas.

The word developer can encompass many different people with different skills, motivations, and attitudes. For example, a data scientist cares less about the code and more about the learnings that his or her model brings to the business. Data scientists focus on running successful experiments to build great models with high accuracy.

This is very different from a data engineer who solves complex problems in sourcing, transforming, and piping data. Data engineers are tasked with ensuring high-quality, fresh, and relevant data for their businesses.

They care a lot more about technical detail, uptime, data quality, and operational metrics. In contrast, web developers focus on bringing the user experience to life, while making sure their apps and sites are highly performant.

So why are developer personas and segments important? As we saw, developers aggressively weed out the noise and zoom in on relevant content. To win mindshare, you need to understand and establish your developer personas.

This is just a small sample of the differences in personalities that you will encounter when working with developers. As you can see, each developer subgroup differs greatly from the others.

The complexity increases once you take into account other variables, like their experience levels. Are they new? Have they been working on this track for a while? What technologies do they use? And so on. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work for your developer marketing content.

To get started with developer personas, I highly recommend reading through Cliff Simpkins’ chapter on developer persona building in the excellent Developer Marketing and Relations: The Essential Guide.

How to craft your developer personas

My approach to developer persona building involves four phases.

How to craft your developer personas.

Phase 1: The internal audit

It all starts with an internal audit with your product teams, engineers, developer relations folks, and biz dev teams. These stakeholders deeply understand your end-user developers and the most important problems they’re facing, as well as the attitudes and nuances of the audiences you're trying to convince.

Phase 2: External research

After the audit is done and a straw man has been created, it's time to look at external research. This is where you will flesh out firmographic details and understand things like what tools your devs typically use and what their typical experience levels are.

You can be hacky and curate data from LinkedIn to build something quick and dirty, or you can go to the other extreme of sophistication and work with a specialized developer consulting firm like Stack Overflow or SlashData.

Phase 3: Voice of developer

Once you're done with the external audit, it's time to capture the voice of your developers. Look for feedback and comments from your target devs that articulate their pain points. Your product and engineering partners highly value verbatim quotes and experiences, so this will allow your work to gain more internal buy-in.