How do you make effective developer-focused content?
Marketing to developers requires you to throw your typical content marketing handbook out the window and learn how to connect with a different breed of audience. While there’s overlap between the content strategies, there are some key differences that position developer marketing as a separate branch of content marketing entirely.
Enterprises are increasingly looking to their tech teams as critical to business decision-making when evaluating tool purchasing. However, developers don’t have the time to dig through another “innovative” business solution, or an “empowering” product. They’re an audience that requires facts upfront—and this is where the common sales process and content strategies tend to come up short.
Let’s highlight some key differences between traditional content marketing and developer-focused content marketing. Keep in mind that while “developers” are not one monolithic entity, there are commonalities that can apply to a broad segment of developers and technical audiences.
Show me the code. And some screenshots.
Adding code is one of the clearest departures from non-technical content creation. Code is what sets developer marketing apart. It’s the differentiator for developer-focused content because it’s the most useful and concise way of communicating. The code you provide can help developers assess if a solution is relevant and valuable to them.
It’s the tool of the trade.
However, great code alone is not enough. Be mindful to supply the information in practical ways that make sense with usability in mind. Here are some tips for including code more effectively in your content:
- Add context around your snippets. Provide the what and the why.
- Include code as plain text and with line numbers. This is more useful than providing code as images.
- Your code should work. Make it simple and remove guesswork. Tell the reader exactly how it can help them.
- Show the final results. Demonstrate how all the pieces fit together to show if your solution is what your audience actually needs or wants.
Ultimately, make sure your code is clean and easy to replicate. Code isn’t useful or valuable if it can’t be replicated. If it’s not easy for an audience to test your product, then they won’t believe that your solution will work for them.
A note on screenshots
Sometimes an image is better suited to explain a tough concept rather than long-winded descriptions.
A well-done and relevant screenshot shows the developer exactly what they’re building at a glance, and gets your audience the information they need quickly.
Get to the “Ah–hah” moment quickly.
Allow developers to get to your solution quickly and painlessly. Remove barriers such as gated content and leave credit card sign ups behind.
And don’t stop there in reducing friction. Deliver more “ah-hah moments” with your supporting written content.
Put the problem up front. Get to the meat of your purpose quickly—no long product history needed. And avoid making readers scroll through miles to find what they need.
Here are some more ways to structure developer-focused content for maximum impact:
- Put the prerequisites front and center.
- Put dates on articles.
- Give all the basic details first—who, what, where, when, why—and then dive deeper.
- Prioritize what’s most important to the reader and front load that information in a logical order.
- Lead the reader where they need to go next.
Features, not benefits—and skip the flourishes.
This is where content marketing to non-tech audiences gets flipped on its head. Effective developer-focused content should lead with features before benefits.
Start with why your solution exists. Answer what it does and for who.
Once the features are laid out, benefits and supporting information can be weaved into a narrative.
The decision-making process of technical audiences is different than other audiences, so structuring your content to be features-first will prove to be more effective. The typical developer may evaluate a solution like this:
- Does this have all the features I need?
- Am I able to test the code, view screenshots, or demo the product easily?
- Is there current documentation and supporting resources?
Developers don’t typically have the patience or time to sift through vague promises, jargon, or content that lacks clarity. So, it’s important to get developers on the hook quickly, capture their interest, and then tell your story. Benefits are still important—but the way they are incorporated should look different when writing developer-focused content.
Make content educational: show, don’t tell.
This is where the term “developer marketing” is something of a misnomer. One of the biggest tools in the developer marketing toolkit is actually education.
Developers are a unique audience because they seek content to learn, to improve their own knowledge and workflows, and to sharpen their skills. Education is an ongoing part of the job as a developer. Successful developer marketing leans into this. Trust must be built, and one of the clearest paths to building trust is through education.
The more you can write from a place of knowledge that demonstrates you know what you’re talking about, the more trust you build. Having content that is written by subject matter experts is crucial to help you achieve this, since valuable technical content can’t be bluffed.
Be honest and shoot straight.
Content marketers in non-technical spaces don’t necessarily lie but they don’t tend to shoot straight either.
Being clear and honest is key to connecting with technical audiences. And honesty means communicating the limitations of your product if there are any.
As a marketer, it’s scary to say why your solution may not fit—but you have to paint an accurate landscape. It may be the case that there are many solutions to their problems, but you can make a clear and accurate case for yours. The developers that do invest in your solution will be happier for it.
Building developer trust is crucial and takes a long time to do, and it can be easily lost. Don’t tell your audience what you think they want to hear. It’s a hard tendency for a lot of marketers to break—to want to do everything you can to appease your audience. But it’s well worth your time and effort to focus on integrity.
It may be hard to say you don’t have a solution for everyone—but it’s the only way to build trust. Think of the overall developer journey. Employees move companies. Companies shift and grow, and their goals change. The people you have built trust with will keep this mental note and may end up coming to you when the time is right. Plus, working with people who actually want to work with you will lead to fewer customer-service disasters in the future.
Putting it into practice
What makes developer-focused content unique? This audience is deeply technical and highly critical.
Taking the time to consider the workflows and needs of a technical audience means adjusting the strategies that typically work for general audiences. To grab developers’ attention, focus on content that is relevant, significant, solution-focused, replicable, and usable. There may be no quick wins in developer marketing, but the long-term trust you can build if you do it right will pay off in the long run.
This post was originally featured 2020/02/01. It has been updated for comprehensiveness.