Developer Relations vs Developer Marketing Which Side are You On?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between developer marketing and developer relations? And what is the difference between  an advocate and evangelist? Just who is behind those developer portals you use for the developer documentation and who answers your queries on official forums? Read on to find out!

In this blog post, I’ll set out to disambiguate the roles within a company’s developer outreach team and explain what each person does and where they focus their attention.

If you are a developer, you have likely visited a number of portals and joined communities over the years, some successful and some less so. You’ll find it interesting to know the inside story on how they are put together and what happens behind the scenes.

If you work with developers, or are planning to, you’ll also find this post useful, particularly if you are considering building a developer community, or funding one. It’s also likely to be something that you need to consider if you already have a nascent community running already but want to push into the next level of the developer community maturity model.

Here at /Data, our Developer Program Benchmarking reports track how developers perceive individual developer programs. Twice per year, we measure developer adoption, engagement, and satisfaction across the industry, reaching over 40,000 developers in more than 165 countries. Our data shows that developers visit the top developer portals at least once per week and, on average, developers report to be involved with 3.1 different developer communities. These days, development uptake revolves around community, and your outreach team is likely to have a huge bearing on your success. So, without further digression, let’s dive in to the structure of a typical developer outreach team.

Developer product engineering

What is a company’s developer product? Well, it could be a Github repo that you clone, or an installable tool. it could be a zip file that you download, maybe it’s an API, maybe it’s a library or a package. It’s something you use if you are a developer — and somebody made it. That person, or group of people, sit in the developer product team.

The developer product team can range from a handful of developers to hundreds of people in big organisations. This team is responsible for setting out their product strategy & roadmap, for developing the product and its supporting documentation & sample code, plus tooling, and libraries and IDE integration where relevant. They will be the know how behind the technical support provided when you need it.

Their goal is to develop the best product for you, the audience, in terms of its usability and relevance. They will want to know how to improve their offering to you, and also want to be able to demonstrate to their company that they are worthy of what has been invested in them.

Many product teams would agree that the marketing metrics of “who read our blog?” or “ how many twitter followers do we have?” don’t really apply to them. In our recent book, Developer Marketing: The Essential Guide,  Pablo & Rex of Arm’s developer ecosystem team, made the point that their goal is to help developers’ code run better on Arm products, and their efforts in this direction is what they need to measure. Their approach is to educate themselves on their developer audience so well that they find a unique way to serve them and make their lives better, thus raising their awareness of the company. In the book, they describe how they spent time meeting developers and listening to woes about a particular development workflow. They set out to build a tool to smooth out the experience for developers, and set themselves a target for the installation process to get a developer up and running in under 5 minutes.

Developer relations

Now we’ve seen into the team building the developer product, let’s turn to the main interface between that team and developers using their output: those working in developer relations. Their goal is to build credibility, trust and influence with developers for the company they represent.

Many people struggle with working out exactly how to pin down the role of developer relations, and those working in it may alternatively be labelled community manager, developer evangelists or advocate. The role incorporates some marketing, but it also fits alongside the product group and within engineering. We’ve described previously that developers don’t trust always marketing, so developer relations is often seen as the bridge or connector between the two. Developer relations is about field work: working with developers to help them understand how to use the developer product. Some of the activities you may find developer relations working on include:


– public speaking

– attending hackathons and contests

– writing sample code and running demos

– social media (including technical blogging)

– attending events and meetups

– hosting office hours

A role in two parts

The developer relations team has two distinct ways of working. Part of their responsibility is evangelism: to communicate the company’s message to external developers. They may find themselves explaining which features are available and which are not, yet.

Conversely, the other part of their job is advocacy: to convey the developers’ views back to the product team. Developer relations practitioners are familiar with saying “I’m getting very strong feedback from people who use X that we should actually include feature Y and not Z”, and defend specific feature requests to the product team.

It’s a very important role, advocating on behalf of the developers to the company and evangelising the company to the developers. It’s also something of a balancing act at times. In our recent podcast with Mary Thengvall, author of a recent book about developer relations and well-established community builder, she said:

… you’re constantly going back to the company with feedback from the community or turning around and explaining to the community why a product roadmap looks the way that it does and why those are the decisions you’ve made. You find that you’re explaining why we’ve made decisions or what best practices we have decided to follow. There’s a lot of storytelling in there, fitting your knowledge to the perspective of the person that you are talking to. Taking the feedback from the developer audience and the technical audience and communicating that in a way that the product team and the stakeholders and the company are going to understand and vice versa, taking the business speak from your stakeholders and communicating that back out into the community in a way that they understand…”.

Developer relations people are responsible for building connections, then stepping back and letting other people do their jobs. For example, they make an introduction between a community member and a recruiter, or they connect an active community member to someone at the marketing team, to write a blog post. The developer relations team are not responsible for hiring the person or publishing the blog, and it may or may not happen. But the connection was made and it can bring value to the company, ultimately, so that’s the job. It isn’t measurable in terms of sales numbers or marketing numbers or traditional business metrics.

Developer marketing

Working in developer marketing, the focus is to encourage developers to learn about, try out, adopt, use and contribute to a software product. This is the team that defines the target audience by building a model of developer segmentation and personas. They also create the developer marketing strategy and product go-to-market plans, and work on outreach channels of social media, content marketing, email campaigns and blogs. Some developer marketeers will be in teams that establish developer rewards programs and early access programs for software or hardware; other, smaller teams, will be focussed on growing an audience via sponsored events and meetups.

There’s a great chapter in Developer Marketing: The Essential Guide, by Ana and Christine of Qualcomm, who talk about building a developer community around hardware. They describe the process of narrowing down the target audience for the community around their Snapdragon 410E processor. It was

‘…to let a thousand flowers bloom: to make it as easy as possible to use, to build up a broad community and channel, then see where biggest leads came from and tune the business approach along the way. That’s a difficult place for developer marketing to work.

“Who is our target audience?” we asked.

“Lots of people,” the product team told us.

“What will they make with the board?”

“Lots of things. You know, for the Internet of Things.”

“Can you identify a few key vertical segments to focus on for our initial campaigns?”

“Why would we do that? We need to position the product as broadly as possible.”…’

As they say in the book, it wasn’t exactly a well-defined target audience and clear direction, but that is as succinct a description of the place that a developer marketing team finds itself as I’ve ever seen!  

And finally…

The following table illustrates the subdivision between roles as I’ve described them above. Please let me know in the comments if you think I missed anything about the roles, or if you have good (or bad!) examples of how they work together to allow the developer outreach team to engage with its community.

dev rel vs dev marketing

Assessing the Maturity of Your Developer Marketing Program

Have you ever visited a website with a ‘ghost’ developer zone? You know the type I mean? Where the blog posts are over a year old, nobody has posted on the forums in months and there haven’t been any new releases on GitHub for quite some time. I think we’ve all seen these portals, and maybe even worked on one (I know I have!).

we are closed

Image source: Konrad Forstner on Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

They come about when a company has ambitious plans for engaging with developers, but somehow, things don’t quite come together. Perhaps there wasn’t the appetite to provide the staff to build a convincing developer product and support it? Or maybe the product just wasn’t great, or as good as the competition. There are many reasons why developer marketing goes wrong. This blog post is how to tip the scales in the balance of success, and take your developer program from strength to strength.

A maturity model for developer marketing

You may be familiar with maturity models for assessing the “ability of an organization for continuous improvement in a particular discipline” (Wikipedia). Formal or informal evaluation of particular characteristics, such as processes and structures within a system, against agreed stages or levels are used to determine maturity. A number of  models have been developed by practitioners and academics over the past years, if you are interested, there is a thorough academic review here; the capability maturity model and ISO/IEC 15504 (SPICE) are probably the most familiar formal models within the software industry.

In marketing circles, there are various ways to assessing the maturity of your digital marketing, such as Boston Consulting Group’s approach for digital marketing maturity based on organizational structure.

digital innovation

Image source: Boston Consulting Group

However, when it comes to measuring software developer marketing, metrics and maturity models are not yet part of a common toolset. As we’ve previously observed, developer marketing is still a young and fragmented industry, with pockets of best practice locked within the companies that master it. We have recently answered the lack of recorded thought leadership on the subject, by publishing a book about the essentials of developer marketing. But we’ve yet to see a discussion about the way to measure the maturity of your developer marketing efforts.

Why market to developers?

Perhaps the first question should be – why market to software developers? Increasingly, we are seeing developers make technology adoption decisions and take control of the process by which software enters their organisations. In much the same way that IT departments, which were a rarity 20 years ago, have become standard in most companies today, it seems likely that, in the near future, companies will need to become conversant with developer marketing.

Good software developer marketing is rather different from consumer marketing; it consists of technical outreach and education, such as software documentation and example code, tools and downloads, knowledge bases and contact points both online and in real life, through focussed events. A developer marketing program has a number of aspects and channels and the maturity of such a program can be measured, in part, by their uptake. Let’s take a look at some details by working through the phases of developer marketing from the least to the most mature.

maturity phases developer marketing


newbie developer program

Image source:

Newbie developer programs are the entry-level for companies wishing to engage with developers. They are limited in scope and provide just a few APIs or SDKs, with limited documentation or hands-on support. The developer liaison team is of a small size (2-3 engineers focused on API product and documentation) and runs on a small budget. A developer portal to attract and encourage registered developers will be on the list of must-haves, and the team will endeavour to engage with potential developers in other online channels, such as StackOverflow and Reddit, but they will have limited visibility and few external advocates.

Developer programs at this stage of maturity should be asking how to build momentum to encourage engagement with their program. They should be looking at building developer interest that can be retained and built into a larger program.

Examples include Memgraph, OutSystems and Zebra Technologies.


challenger developer program

Image source: wetwebwork on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Challenger developer programs are Newbies that are taking root and growing. They have matured to the point of offering a range of APIs or SDKs.  The portal provides solid levels of documentation plus hands-on support. The audience is typically focussed in one area, and has grown from Newbie levels to about 10,000 developers. Engagement is mostly online through the developer portal and typical third-party channels, but there is some face to face outreach via hackathons and meetups, typically within a single region.

There is a overall developer marketing budget of up to $1M in place, and a team to provide product management and product engineering plus developer outreach and support engineering.

Challenger programs are asking questions about marketing strategy, such as the best activities for RoI, reaching an audience, and best practices for the marketing team to follow to justify their budget.

Examples include Pivotal and Mastercard.


authority developer marketing

Image source: Camera Eye Photography on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Authority developer programs are well established and offer a portfolio of developer products for their audience. There will be a range of APIs or SDKs available for a disparate developer audience of up to several hundred thousand that is located in multiple global regions.

The total developer marketing program is staffed and funded at a level appropriate to its size, typically up to $5M. There will be a need for a number of product managers and product engineers, plus a separate team for developer relations and developer marketing, plus a level of developer product business development.

Developer marketing will be able to present a range of events, and provide a solid online presence via a mature developer portal that has suitably high levels of documentation and technical support, as well as engagement external via third-party channels. Authority developer programs are sufficiently established to run a number of developer facing events per year across different regions, including hackathons, conferences and sponsored events. They may also provide training and developer certification.

The Authority programs are looking for validation for their marketing spend, and want to develop a strategy to target the right segments, extend their reach and build upon their established audience.

Examples include Mozilla and Unity.


unicorn developer program

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Unicorn developer programs are well-established, providing a number of different APIs and/or SDKS to a range of different developer profiles across a broad audience that numbers in the millions. The program is well staffed and funded with a budget of over $5M, which is used to provide a wide level of engagement online and in person at events, hackathons and training.

The Unicorns need to focus on the competition to stay ahead, and look to build up regional audiences where these do not currently exist.

Examples include Google and Microsoft.

How to evolve your developer marketing program

Having set out the characteristics and levels of maturity for typical developer programs, the natural question is how a program makes transitions between them. It’s dependent on the core platform or product, of course, since regardless of the size and skill of your developer marketing team, it’s not possible for them to deliver unless developers see value in it. And that comes down to your place in the market and how you deliver on your roadmaps and vision.

Investment in the right elements of the developer program is also key; if you do not provide what your audience needs and values, you will not reach it. SlashData’s Developer Program Benchmark reports tracks the leading developer programs through twice-yearly surveys that that assess developer satisfaction across 20+ developer program features and services, including marketing. The reports show the levels of importance that developers place upon each feature, which can be used to guide the focus of marketing spend within a program of any stage of maturity.

developer program benchmarking

Ultimately, building reputation among developers comes down to the quality and nature of the communication you have with them, and in this, your developer marketing and relations team are crucial. As we explain in Selling it Softly, developers possess a healthy level of cynicism towards anything that could be interpreted as marketing. Anyone venturing into developer marketing swiftly becomes aware of the developer’s disdain for the hard sell. Our book sets out some best practice in some of the many aspects of developer marketing, but a central message runs through it: respect the unique character of your audience!

If you’re setting up a developer program as a Newbie, or already up and running and aiming to ‘cross the chasm’ to the next level in the maturity model, we have data to help you focus your efforts and budget in the areas that matter most to your developer audience. Our mission is to help the world understand developers. We help the top 100 technology firms understand the profile of developer communities and measure the ROI of their developer strategies. As an analyst firm, we survey 40,000+ developers annually and analyse that data to help our clients target the right developers, prioritise the right features for their products, and optimise their marketing budget to drive developer engagement and satisfaction. If you’ve any questions about what we do, or want to find out more, please do get in touch!

PS: While you’re here. if you want to find out more about the subject of developer marketing, check out our book, Developer Marketing: The Essential Guide.


The largest developer community: a critical view

When developers evaluate new technologies, one of the elements they often look at is the size and strength of the community surrounding that technology. “Can I get help and support from peers when needed?” It’s one of the reasons why open source technologies tend to be so popular. Conversely, technology vendors regularly signal their virtue with community numbers: “Our product is used by millions of developers, choose us!”

However, there is reason to be critical of this line of thinking. The activity of a core group, or indeed the vendor itself, may matter more to get great support than the sheer number of users. Most technologies are not subject to network effects: they don’t become inherently more valuable when more developers adopt them. Even in open source projects, there is often only a small number of core contributors. Furthermore, vendors may bloat the numbers they report: deliberately, or simply because they don’t have good data available.

At /Data, we’ve been maintaining and publishing estimates on the global developer community for a few years now. Our biannual survey also gives us a solid idea of how those developers are spread across various communities. So let’s see where some of the largest developer communities can be found and how powerful those communities may really be.

What do you mean by “community”?

The largest regions in terms of developer population are North America, with an estimated 4 million active software developers in mid 2018, and Europe (3.8M in the EU28). However, calling these communities is a bit of a stretch. Developers in these regions are fragmented across countries and cities, as well as technologies and languages. North America includes the relatively homogenous USA, but also various Latin American countries. Europe includes software powerhouses like the United Kingdom, but also smaller Eastern European countries. From the perspective of finding peers to support you (or talent to recruit), looking at small groups gathered in cities around specific technologies is more useful than considering the wider geography.

The largest developer program in our research, with over 10 million active users globally, is Google. Google is great at empowering and supporting their community through forums and the likes. This said, they also have excellent developer satisfaction scores when it comes to vendor-driven support of developers with documentation, tutorials and training, tooling, and so on. Google is the default choice for many developers; it’s not clear whether that is due to the strength of their community or due to the value they provide themselves. They of course offer a multitude of technologies, where experience in one product doesn’t necessarily translate into another. Perhaps it’s more correct to view them as a collection of communities.

What about different sectors of the software industry? More than 14 million developers are involved in creating web apps. Once again, we can wonder about the fragmentation in this community across technologies. A sector view may not be the right level of analysis.

Finally, we can look at a technology. There are over 10 million active Javascript developers, making it the most popular programming language in the world today. Here we may see a stronger sense of community, with forums, real-life groups, learning institutions and more being organised specifically around the language.

In short, when we say “community”, it’s not trivially clear what we mean by that. (Neither is “developer” for that matter, but that’s a story for another blog post). Community size is not necessarily an indicator of homogeneity, coherence or level of activity. That makes it less than straightforward to assess the value of a developer community.

developer community

How (not) to count developers

If you’re interested in estimates of developer communities, you will have no doubt seen very high numbers being floated. Developer tools routinely reports user numbers in the millions; communities who claim a broad reach, like Stack Overflow or Github, will report tens of millions of developers. At /Data, we are skeptical of such numbers, in particular if you intend to use them to make adoption decisions.

First, because it is not clear where each source draws the line in what they consider to be an (active) developer. Are IT professionals, DevOps, or sysadmins included? What about people who once made an account, but never actively used the product?

However, the bigger issue seems to be where such numbers are sourced. Most estimates floating around the internet are based on (unique) pageviews, downloads, IP addresses, and the likes. All of these are susceptible to a multiplier effect, not in the least due to multi-machine and multi-browser software testing, frequent cleaning of caches and cookies for testing, repeat downloads of developer tools, and development automation (e.g. build servers). Abandoned accounts may significantly skew the estimates as well. Sometimes, numbers we’ve come across seem to be based on nothing at all.

Measurements like that are only a vague indication of the number of actual active developers and therefore of the strength of the community. They tend to be not comparable across vendors. Not to mention that it is in the self-interest of the vendor to report the biggest number they can find. Indicators that indicate actual developer activity, like Monthly Active Users, are exceedingly rare.


Whether you’re a developer thinking about the direction of your career, or someone who is deciding on which technology to adopt, the question of how strong the supporting community is, is perfectly legitimate. To asses the true benefit of community, however, make sure to use the right scope and reliable, meaningful numbers. On our part, we will continue to provide you with our best estimates of active software developers, using sources that are direct evidence of recent coding activity.

If you are interested in having a look at a list of the largest developer communities in terms of active users have a look at the 1 Million Developer Club .

Virtual reality: Where did it all go wrong?

In this article, I’m going to talk about how I perceive the mainstream consumer audience to have rejected virtual reality, and suggest that its child, augmented reality, may be the Slope of Enlightenment that convinces us to buy in. While these are my views alone, towards the end of the piece, I’ve dug out some data from software developers around the world who are working with AR and VR. 

Tomorrow’s world, today

I worked in the smartphone industry before it came of age. Our mission was “a smartphone in every pocket” at a time when simple feature phones like the Motorola RAZR were the must-have communications device. Within a few years of our early projects, the competitor, Apple, launched the iPhone. The rest is history. The App Store opened its doors, the stars aligned, the technology dream was realised and smartphones went on to rule the world.

I grew up in a time of change. We had a BBC microcomputer before I was ten years old. As a teenager, I sashayed along to the sounds of the eighties on a tape Walkman, and later mobile CD players and minidiscs. Then Napster, now Spotify. Change. The cadence of technological evolution was a rapid heartbeat, sounded out by the Internet, mobile phones and a maturing software development industry, which I joined enthusiastically.

Maybe I just got used to an unrealistic pace of change? But whatever happened to virtual reality (VR)? Its heartbeat seems to have flatlined. Nothing much has changed in the years that have passed since the “year of VR” (pick your year, we’ve had a few of them), which turned out to be nothing much of the sort. When I look at my mobile phone of a few years ago, or my website developed in 2004, I think how clunky and quaint they look compared to the sleek form factor and execution possible today. But when I look at the VR headsets of yesteryear and today and compare what they deliver? Not so much.

Take a look at this slideshow of legacy VR hardware. Sure, we’ve come some way since the Sensorama, but the Sega VR of 1993 wasn’t significantly more dorky than today’s HTC Vive Cosmos, was it?

Does anybody really want to strap a heavy, nerdy headset on that makes you suffer motion sickness after a few minutes use, tethers you to a PC, dulls your senses to the real world outside the headset and causes you to trip over your furniture?

Sure, expensive and shiny, next generation VR devices, are coming. But much of the hardware available is unchanged from when it came to the stores two or more years ago, which means hard-core early adopter audiences aren’t shelling out again.  While availability of more cost-accessible hardware for casual users has increased, e.g. the Oculus Go, the handsets are still expensive enough to give mainstream consumers pause, and typically compromise on aspects of quality that mean the VR experience is somewhat flawed.

Convince people that you’ll change their lives

In the consumer world, expectations for VR were raised early and sadly led to disappointment as it became clear that the ambitions went far beyond what was possible given the technology available. Overpromised, VR lost the attention of mainstream audiences, as it simply could not deliver. In part, this was down to problems with the hardware, such as cumbersome headsets, inadequate processors, poor displays and weak audio. Then there’s the secondary reason: there is no “must-have” killer app that convinces sufficient people that you’ll change their lives.

The two issues go hand in hand (the ‘chicken and egg’ situation) since if technology is inadequate, the content creators see no justification for investing heavily in VR. In turn, this means insufficient buyers and revenue to justify the investment in improving the technology. (It’s worth pointing out that secondary uses for VR, such as in industry, education, healthcare, have a very different uptake/content model, and as such, I’m considering just the mainstream here).

And, as such, entertainment content is the key to unlocking adoption by persuading consumers that VR devices are a must-have item. Like 3D TV, VR has thus far failed to deliver a sufficiently convincing experience that sends people rushing to shops to buy the hardware, despite its costs and the limitations involved.

What’s more, VR content isn’t coming along as fast it used to. Hollywood used it for marketing, e.g. to promote films such as 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and TV shows including Game of Thrones. But this has dropped back as consumer uptake and gratification was found to be negligible.

Venture funding for consumer VR software companies may drop by more than half this year, to $265 million from $576 million a year ago, SuperData says. And this isn’t surprising. According to the SiliconANGLE. VR headset sales have dropped nearly 34% since Q2 2017. Even committed hardware manufacturers are showing signs of taking their foot off the gas. Samsung, which was one of the first to market with its Gear VR mobile headset, didn’t say anything about VR in its major announcements at CES this year.

Is AR the way out of the trough of despair?

Experts predict that new kids on the block, Augmented Reality (AR) on smartphones and Mixed Reality (MR) headsets, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens. will pick up the audience that VR failed to serve. In terms of the Gartner Hype Cycle, AR and MR — the children of VR — look to serve as the Slope of Enlightenment.

AR can be delivered by the hardware already in your pocket. It doesn’t need the level of resolution or processor power demanded by VR. AR is also far less cumbersome than VR and can be used on the go since it doesn’t require total immersion in the experience. The software brings in a virtual element without losing the real world.  

Certainly, analysts report adoption of augmented reality and mixed reality to be on the up, with earnings expected to come from mobile AR apps, particularly games. Google and Apple have strongly embraced this market with ARCore and ARKit, enabling developers to access AR services on more than 500 million devices in the wild today. Both Apple and Google envisage third-party apps and services that use AR as valuable additions to their app stores. Successful apps add billions to the top line (Apple was expected to make $3 billion revenue over 2 years from in-app purchases within the best known AR title to date, Pokémon Go) and high-profile AR apps also strengthen the ecosystems of both companies, boosting other revenue streams.

The smart money is now shifting to companies working on AR and MR. Apple have a rumoured research project to build a headset for delivery next year. Investment in companies working on MR is expected to jump by nearly 50 percent this year, according to SuperData, with sales of MR headsets expected to ramp up significantly and surpass earnings of VR headsets within the next two years.

The above is purely my opinion, based on observations of the tech industry over a number of years and a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to inflated expectations. It’s uninformed by experience at the coalface of development however. So, what do software developers working with AR and VR, have to say?

Software developers working in VR and AR told us…

Here at SlashData we run regular surveys of software developers around the world to uncover valuable insights from those working in mobile, desktop, IoT, cloud, web, game, AR/VR, data science and machine learning.

In our Developer Economics 14th edition report, which is based on a large-scale online developer survey that ran over a period of eight weeks between November and December 2017, we reached over 21,700 respondents in 169 countries. We studied the data returned from developers working in AR/VR and found the following:

  • 25% of professional game developers say they are targeting AR and/or VR. This figure falls slightly to 19% across the entire corpus of developers surveyed.
  • Dedicated VR hardware, such as Oculus Rift, is attractive to games developers (61% report using it), but across all developers working on VR projects, we see a much lower uptake (33%), reflecting its early adopter status in fields other than games.
  • Across all developers working on VR projects, 32% are targeting smartphone hardware using Google’s Cardboard, and 19% are using Daydream View, built into Android Nougat and beyond, reflecting that developers, and consumers, are still experimenting with the technology on their existing hardware.
  • A similar picture emerges for AR, with Android and iOS taking the lead in most popular AR platforms across all developers targeting AR.
  • Of the dedicated AR hardware available, Microsoft HoloLens leads the pack, with Google Glass at Work and MagicLeap trailing behind when the survey ran in late 2017.

We are currently running another survey and we would value your input. If you’re a software developer working in the field of AR or VR, or considering doing so, please consider answering the questions. If you’re not a developer but are working in the AR/VR field, pass the link on to your developer friends and colleagues.

Every survey completed has a chance to win Oculus Rift +Touch Virtual Reality System to test your creations (or simply play around), Samsung S9 PLus$200 towards the software subscription of your choice, or other prizes from the prize pool worth $12,000!

Plus, if you refer other developers to take the survey, you may win up to $1,000 in cash. Just don’t forget to sign up before you take the survey, so that we know you want to be included in the prize draw!

What do you say, are you in?

Developer Marketing Guide: Selling It Softly

Have you heard this geek joke?

Q: How can you tell an extroverted software developer from an introverted one?

A: The extrovert looks at YOUR shoes while she’s talking to you.

It is something of a cliché that developers (aka hackers, nerds, geeks) are all pale, bespectacled boffins who ache from endless hours spent in dark rooms in front of multiple screens. Not strictly accurate, it might still be fair to say that developers constitute an audience with some noticeable shared characteristics—among them, a healthy level of cynicism towards anything that could be interpreted as marketing. Anyone venturing into developer marketing swiftly becomes aware of the developer’s disdain for the hard sell.  

So how do you market to developers?

During the Future Developer Summit in October 2017, the /Data team realised that developer marketing is still a young and fragmented industry, with pockets of best practice locked within the companies that master it. While countless books, courses and blogs exist for consumer marketing, and for various forms of B2B marketing, developer marketing has been poorly served. What was evident during the summit was that we needed a medium to spread knowledge—currently held behind closed doors—to a broader audience around the world.

So the vision for the book was simple and powerful: to become the standard textbook that every new recruit into developer marketing reads to immerse himself into this brave new world. A book whose influence may extend beyond the field of developer marketing. Given that developers are the most marketing-averse audience out there, it could become a toolset for B2B marketers in many more industries. We brainstormed the book concept at the summit, and invited leading practitioners from the best companies in the field to contribute.

At this point, if we were in a film, the screen would fade to a blur and we would be brought forward to the 2018 Future Developer Summit, with a caption underneath that read ‘12 months later,’ as we effortlessly launched the book.  Of course, the 12 months between summits brought a number of challenges as Nicolas and Andreas encouraged leading developer marketing practitioners to author chapters in the book, and they were edited together into a whole. But we got there, and the hard work paid off when, finally, we launched Developer Marketing: The Essential Guide last month.

What’s in the book?

Instead of a step-by-step guide to writing a developer marketing strategy, we present a toolbox of knowledge and practical understanding. Topics covered include: running successful developer events, building and maintaining a solid community of developers, how to get the most out of email marketing, how to nurture IoT / hardware developers, how to encourage experts in your community to advocate for you, and how to create a mindset for content marketing in your organization.

In each chapter, our authors have been encouraged to share valuable but non-obvious learnings, including mistakes they’ve made along the way, and a set of actionable best practices. We typically begin each chapter with a problem statement to introduce the topic and make clear why it is important. Then we describe the company’s ‘journey’, with the goal of sharing what does and does not work (and why) so you gain practical insights from the voices of experience.

Each chapter was contributed by experienced developer marketing practitioners working at companies with successful and well-established developer marketing programs:

/Data: Developers Are a Big Deal. Marketing To Them Shouldn’t Be.

Microsoft: Using Developer Personas to Stay Customer-Obsessed

Facebook: Successful Developer Email Marketing

Salesforce: The Power of Community

Oracle: Repositioning Your Brand to Developers

SAP: Connecting Developers with Experts

VMWare: Hands-on Labs for Deeper Engagement

Atlassian: Growing Up by Scaling Down: How a Small Developer Event Can Make Big Impacts on Your Ecosystem

Arm: How to Connect with Developers When You Can’t Meet Them

Qualcomm: Hardware Is the New Software – Building a Developer Community Around a Chip Instead of an SDK

Google: Behind the Scenes of Great Developer Events

Unity: Developing the Right Mindset to Create Great Content

Accenture: Closing Thoughts: How to Attract, Engage and Retain Developers

There are also some common elements throughout the book. One of the key themes that runs throughout is the increasing influence of software developers within the companies in which they work.

How have software developers gained their superpowers?

In the past, technology selection was determined by system administrators and procurement teams, but the availability of open source code and free-to-trial software development kits now allows developers to evaluate platforms and tools and choose what to use without having to ask for authorisation. Developers are increasingly in control of the process by which software enters their organisations, and as complexity increases, the managers to which they once deferred are now asking them to make technology adoption decisions.

This also applies to paid services; let’s take the cloud as an example. It’s easy for a development team to select and adopt a free trial of a cloud platform during the development and testing phases. The team lead can instantly license, provision and use the tools it needs, avoiding delays and paperwork and allowing for rapid experimentation and innovation.

Some months later, when the team is ready to scale up its code to production, the costs kick in for its company. And the decision as to which platform to use? The developers have already made it and wrapped it in many layers of code. The “bean counters” are unlikely to be able to reverse it. Your role in developer marketing is to make sure that initial choice is your platform, app or service. But how?

When a software developer needs to select a tool for a series of projects over the coming year, he or she often already has an idea of what to use, maybe from reading a blog post, watching a webinar or attending a presentation at a recent event. Our chapter from Matthew Pruitt, who works at Unity, shares insights about Developing the Right Mindset to Create Great Content, and explains a range of techniques to communicate meaningfully about your product:

You don’t need to work in a large organization or have multiple teams support you.  I’ve seen great, successful content produced by solo indie developers and that’s because they put themselves in the right mindset.

Let’s explore what I mean by developing the right mindset.  Before you start creating content, you should be asking yourself two very important questions: ’What is the one takeaway I want someone to have after viewing my content?’ And ‘Why should they care?’

Developers really value the opinions of others like them, and will look at feedback on your product before committing. To get a good idea of what other developers think, they may look at discussion forums on your developer website. They are also likely to visit sites such as Stack Overflow, to understand just how easy your offering is (or isn’t) to set up and use. They are looking for statistics, such as the number of recent, active discussions, along with the kind of sentiments expressed, and the commonly mentioned pain points.

Developers want technology that is supported by a community, and they want a community that is growing and enthusiastic. They want to know that, when things go wrong, there’s a place to ask a question and get a swift response, and a place where answers to common issues are easy to find because the community is well-established. When marketing to them, you need to know how to grow your developer community, and how running a developer program for experts in the field will encourage them to advocate for you and amplify your messaging. If developers are happy, they’ll recommend you to others, who will also sign up to be part of your community and will, in their turn, make recommendations to their fellow developers.

You need to understand the dynamic within a developer community and what you can control. Jacob Lehrbaum, of Salesforce, contributed an insightful chapter entitled The Power of Community:

Community is fundamentally about people coming together to help each other, and the first step is to create a community that people want to belong to. A big part of that is your product itself, but there are things you can do above and beyond your product to make your community be a place that people want to spend time. One of the ways you can do that is through culture…

Why read this book?

In much the same way that IT departments, which were a rarity 20 years ago, have become standard in most companies today, it seems likely that, in the near future, companies will need to become increasingly conversant with developer marketing and consider creating departments of people that understand and value developers.

Maybe that’s you! Perhaps you are just starting out on your developer marketing career, transitioning from traditional marketing, or from working as a developer yourself. Or perhaps you already have some experience but want to learn from the experts how to build your ecosystem to attract, support and grow your developer base.

Whatever your experience, you know, or soon will know, that the developer audience is a tough one to market to. This book will teach you how.

Developer Marketing: The Essential Guide is available from mid-September 2018 from Amazon. All profits from the book are to be donated to worthy causes that support software development in vulnerable or minority groups.