Select Page

Marketing to Developers: Show and Don’t Tell

by | Apr 24, 2021 | Articles, Content Marketing Articles, Developer Marketing Articles

Marketing to developers is just like marketing to you and me. When you go to an electronics store do you read the stickers plastered all over the TVs? Do you listen to the poor sap who’s trying to “sell” you on a TV? No! You look at the TV itself, try to judge it against the other 50 TVs right next to it and then try to figure out if it meets the requirements (that are in your head).

Focus on the problem

Marketing to developers works the same way. Just as you have a problem, you need a new TV that fits the size of your home, has the right connections and performs well, developers go through the same process. Developers are trying to solve a problem it is just one that you (as a marketer) may not understand, but it is a problem all the same.

The quickest way to a developer’s heart is by understanding what problem they are trying to solve and then by “showing” them how your solution meets their requirements and fixes their problem. It is that simple.

Show, don’t tell

Many marketing professionals believe they need to create some sort of guttural feeling in their prospective buyers and believe they need to create wiz-bang commercials, with highly polished actors, graphics, music and voiceovers to “sell” to developers. It simply is not needed and a waste of your marketing budget.

What is needed is to make sure your message is crisp and clear. You understand exactly what you are offering and which requirements it meets and frankly which it does not.

The groundwork

For example: Let’s say I am responsible for building a customer base for a company offering APIs.

  • Well, the first questions are:
  • Which platforms does it support? (Linux, iOS, Android, Windows)
  • Which languages does it maybe have libraries for? (C, C++, Java, Javascript, Objective-C, Swift, Kotlin, R, Python)
  • What are the limitations of the API? (Character space, rate, memory)
  • What exactly does it do?

From these quick questions as a marketer, you can quickly craft landing pages, and enough messaging to get your first clients.

People this isn’t rocket science, you just have to remove the BS from your marketing and open up your offering for self-evaluation.

How do you demonstrate your offering?

Next, you need to “show” them that the thing works. There are many ways to do this, but the most effective is by opening up your product for prototyping (aka “try before you buy”) so that the developer can properly evaluate your product. That means open documentation, demo environments, quick start guides, FAQs,

These assets are the basis of what you need to begin selling to developers, but I would recommend you go one further step and that is by creating “ready to run” projects that a developer can download and tinker with. I advise this to my clients because it offers a very quick way to get to an “ah-hah” moment where the developer fully understands exactly what your platform offers and will be quick to make a decision.


An example of a great project that works

HERE Covid Tracker

The HERE Coronavirus Tracker is an open-source project that allows anyone in the world to download the source code to create their own COVID-19 visualization tool. This included the map, data processing and data acquisition code. The only thing that a developer “needs to do” to get the map working is “sign up for a free account” with mapping provider HERE and they could have their own map.

The genius with this map and the open-source project is that instead of making a pitch to developers to download this project and make their own map, a small “call to action” was placed on the running version of the map that said, “Get the source”. The link went to a Github project where the developer could learn more and download the project and get started for free.

This map was also quite timely because at the time it was the beginning of the global pandemic and people were actively searching for maps and the HERE Covid Tracker was one of the few.

HERE Corona Virus Map

 In conclusion

To conclude, marketing to developers is not about setting up a brand image, feeling, or a sensation of success. It is about the nuts and bolts of, defining what the problem is that a developer is trying to solve, showing the developer how your solution or product solves that problem and then giving them enough detail that they can make sure that your solution fits their specific environmental requirements.

The tough part is doing the groundwork to set up your marketing programs to produce the right assets so that later when you go to market with your marketing you have the right assets, messaging and details that a developer requires to make a sound decision.

Phil Johnston

Phil Johnston

Owner, Hakungala

Phil has been building, growing, and marketing developer products for the past 13 years. Starting in 2008 with his company ORCA Digital Services, followed by BMW Apps, GoPro and HERE Technologies he gained his experience in selling APIs to developers of all walks.

Most recently, Phil has been helping companies on both tactical and strategic projects.

Feel free to reach out to chat with Phil.