Advice, Alumni, Mentors

First Step of Developer Marketing is to Stop Marketing

Developers have a keen ability to ignore most traditional marketing. Including “developer marketing” in this post’s title alone may have raised the hackles of most developers who read it. Yet, developer marketing is necessary for an increasing number of companies.

There are a growing number of APIs, which allow developers to create something new on top of data or functionality created by someone else. As an incredible side effect, many companies have found themselves with a developer audience. Perhaps more amazing are the many companies whose customers are all coders. Marketing to these developers can be difficult for marketers that don’t know tech and similarly tough for geeks that don’t know marketing.

Like anything worth doing, it’s hard work, but I think the approach is fairly simple–it just doesn’t look like traditional marketing.

I’m a programmer, but I’m also an accidental marketer. These days I write more lines about code than lines of code. For five years I tracked API growth as a journalist and analyst at ProgrammableWeb. This background led, perhaps inevitably, to working for API providers.

My approach has three parts, all focused squarely on developers:

  1. Solve their problems
  2. Make their lives easier
  3. Show them off to others

The first seems obvious, yet we’ve probably all experienced a technology solution in search of a problem. To get any lasting adoption from developers, you have to start with a problem. That’s why infrastructure APIs like Orchestrate have become so popular. Developers like unique puzzles, not repetitive work. You can help developers understand the problems you solve by providing example use cases. Write blog posts, tutorials and documentation that inspires developers to see what’s possible.

To feel the maximum impact, your solution should also make a developer’s life easier. It is absolutely possible to solve a problem in a way that becomes difficult to implement. Instead, you want to get them addicted to your simplicity. This is where developer marketing really strays from traditional marketing. To make a developer’s life easier, you need to focus on streamlined documentation and full-featured client libraries. This means you need to write code.

Lastly, make this marketing process repeat with others by showing off your best developers. Create an app gallery with screenshots and links to their website. Write blog posts that tell their story. If you’re pitching press, turn your PR machine toward promoting your developers rather than promoting your product.

These three parts of marketing will endear you to a developer audience. Nobody can raise issues with solving problems, making their lives easier and showing off successful work. Developers probably won’t even realize you’re marketing to them. And in a way, you aren’t.

Adam DuVander, Developer Relations at Orchestrate. Find him on Twitter: @adamd

PIE Demo Day is on October 24, 2014 at 2pm. Click here to join the event livestream.

Alumni, Mentors, News

Once a Mentor, Now I’ve Joined Orchestrate Full-time

Like many PIE mentors, I have been looking for ways to be more helpful to the companies and alumni. When class is in session, I spend a half day most weeks co-working alongside the founders. This casual approach has worked well, because I get to know the teams in a different way than if I had a quick ten minute meeting. There are so many aspects to starting a company and it’s been a wonderful experience to watch this from the outside. My overwhelming feeling has been that my niche background as a developer-turned-developer-communicator means I can only help so much.

When Orchestrate became a PIE company, Rick introduced me to CEO Tony Falco. With my background editing the premier API directory, ProgrammableWeb, I’d seen thousands of APIs. I’d been a technical journalist and had watched the trends in developer-focused companies. The founding principals behind Orchestrate’s database API aligned well with my own thinking and we had a lot of good conversations about where the industry is headed. I was impressed with their team of infrastructure experts and I felt my most useful in my several years as a PIE mentor.

Along the way I joined transactional email service SendGrid, whose API and related services are popular with developers. I became an accidental marketer and I learned the approach wasn’t that different from reporting about technical topics. In both cases, I was sharing knowledge to solve developer problems. My role at SendGrid was necessarily cross-department and I saw how each of these areas of the company contributed to one of today’s most successful developer-focused companies.

Recently Tony and I sat down for coffee and discovered there was a way my unique background could be more helpful. Today I am joining Orchestrate full-time to build a developer relations team to help coders be my productive and creative. I’ll still be a PIE mentor, but I may have to more publicly acknowledge my favorite. As I expand my skill set and further narrow my speciality, you’d better believe I’ll be reaching out to my fellow mentors, as we work to make Orchestrate one of tomorrow’s most successful developer-focused companies.