Developer-focused Marketing

This is an evolving list of marketing initiatives that I’ve used on past projects. Some of the items on this list are more relevant for developer-focused companies, so YMMV.

Email Marketing

  • Put an email newsletter signup on your homepage. Thoughtful emails to an engaged audience will convert better than facebook or twitter posts. We have used Mailchimp in the past and push new subscribers to our mailchimp list upon signup via their API.
  • Send out new feature updates to your mailing list; Ideally you should link to a tutorial or doc on how to use the new feature. Do this once a month or once a quarter depending on your velocity. Eventually you’ll want to separate email subscriptions for “general announcements” and “product updates”, because responsible email sending is awesome.
  • Once you have a sizable email list, reach out to complementary products and services and setup co-marketing emails with other email lists. Usually this takes the form of a short featured section for your new feature in another company’s monthly newsletter. Don’t abuse this – you can quickly erode trust with your users and damage your brand if you’re promoting your company to irrelevant audiences.
  • This point is somewhat obvious – but don’t use the list too often. Monthly newsletters are common, plus the additional big announcement. Anything more than that is spam.
  • Keep your emails short and to the point! Make sure your call to action really stands out – figure out what you want the user to learn or do before you design the email and write the copy.

Documentation

  • Don’t forget that documentation is a form of marketing. If you’re building a development product that requires a lot of manual work (e.g. any CLI tools), your docs are incredibly important. They should be beautifully designed, thorough, and easy to navigate.
  • Your onboarding / introduction docs are perhaps the most important docs. Consider A/B testing and constantly improve these docs and the onboarding process.
  • For developer focused documentation, docs should have optional authentication that can pre-populate user keys / identities for easier cut-and-paste of commands.
  • Setup analytics on your docs and review these regularly. Your most popular docs & tutorials will signal which features are the most important to users. Your most popular FAQs will help instruct where to improve the product and where users are having trouble.
  • If you have a reasonably large user base, encourage users to ask questions on Stack Overflow. This can help alleviate support requests for a small team. Most of the time there are other users who know the answers to the questions. The answers will then be indexed by Google and users will be able to easily find answers themselves via the internet.

Content Marketing

  • Write Quora answers on questions relevant to your product. Most users find new products and services through “demand fulfillment”: They have a problem to solve, and they search google for an answer. They end up on Quora or Stack Overflow or someone’s blog post. Ideally, with answers on Quora, you have authoritative people outside of your company write answers.
  • Write StackOverflow answers on questions relevant to your product. Again, ideally you have authoritative people outside of your company write answers.
  • Write regular thought leadership pieces. These should be relevant to your audience. You should be regularly cultivating relationships with journalists and other industry blogs to see if they are looking for content around certain topics.

Community Marketing

  • Solicit customers to write blog posts & tutorials on their own blogs. It’s better for SEO to have authoritative sites linking back to you on specific topics
  • Include live chat functionality on your website to engage new leads. You should use something like Intercom and supplement the 1-1 conversations with community chat rooms using Slack.
  • Get listed on ProductHunt, BetaList, StackShare, and Slant.co
  • Create a discourse forum for your users to interact with one another and for feature requests. Note that you should expect to need to manage this forum regularly or you run the risk of vocal users potentially damaging your brand’s reputation.
  • Discourse forums and Stack Overflow answers are good places to keep answers to long-tail questions. This helps keep your documentation site clean and easy-to-navigate, while still providing answers to as many questions as possible.
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