Why You Should Care About Developer Education Programs: Key Takeaways from Developer Education on the Frontlines

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If you’re marketing software products to developers or technical audiences and are itching to build developer awareness and adoption for your product, let’s explore how developer education will get you there.  

To bring you an insider’s look into how to build successful developer education experiences, ContentLab has teamed up with Appsembler to bring you a joint webinar, Developer Education on the Frontlines. We wanted to bring our firsthand practitioner experience to developer marketers, developer advocates, and product marketers interested in building their developer education programs.  

Let’s review some key takeaways on why developer education matters. 

A developer’s preferred way to learn (Source) 

What is Developer Education Exactly?

Before we dive in, let’s talk about what developer education is. You might read developer education and think to yourself “I’m already posting tutorials aimed at the developers I’m trying to reach. Isn’t that developer education?” 

Well, yes and no. Tutorials are part of developer education. They’re a great start, and you can achieve good ROI from tutorials alone. But if you focus solely on tutorials, you’re just scratching the surface of what developer education can contribute to your developer relations initiatives. Tutorials tend to leave you asking, “what’s next?” 

Fortunately, tutorials aren’t the final step in the developer education journey. Instead, longer developer learning courses are an ideal next step that offers developers a more engaging experience — giving them a reason to keep visiting your site and building affinity toward your brand.  


Why Marketers Should Care About Developer Education 

In 2011, Marc Andreessen said that software is eating the world. I think he was right — software has eaten the world, and it is continuing to eat the world. 

The number of software developers is increasing rapidly. I read a DevRel book published a few years ago that estimated there were 20-25 million developers in the world. A recent State of the Octoverse report published by GitHub estimated there will be 100 million developers by 2025. That’s a lot of growth! 

That growth alone means there will be an increasing need to educate developers — but there’s more to the growth of developer education than just an increase in the number of developers. 

Since software is eating the world, many companies that were not software companies had to become software companies. And part of that is reaching out to developers to convince them they should work with and build on your platform. 

At the same time, the growth in the number of developers has led to rapid growth in the number of companies that create products specifically for developers. 


Beware of Grumpy Developers: A Changing Buying Process 

But why the interest in developers specifically? Because they’re well-positioned to be kingmakers or dealbreakers when you’re trying to sell to their employers. They might not always be the final decision-makers, but if you annoy them or fail to impress them, they can ensure their company doesn’t work with you. 

34% of sales opportunities are lost because of developer influence, and one out of every three deals dies because of a failure to get developer buy-in.

Most efforts to engage with developers fall under the developer relations umbrella. I hypothesize that developer education is becoming an increasingly important part of developer relations. 

Self-guided courses will play an increasingly prominent role in developer education and in making sure developers end up with a favorable impression of your company and its products. Why? 

For one, new developers want to ramp up quickly and be able to do their jobs effectively. So, while newbies might not influence purchasing decisions, the presence of courses to help get junior developers up to speed on your product and related technologies will impress the senior developers who influence purchase decisions. 

Beyond that, languages and frameworks change rapidly, and even experienced senior developers are afraid of falling behind. Developer education courses offer newbies and veterans alike an easy and enjoyable way to learn new things, keep up with changing technology, and learn about your products. 

Don’t Forget the Boot Campers!  

It’s also worth noting that many new developers come from non-traditional backgrounds. For example, instead of having a computer science degree, they might be self-taught or perhaps even graduated from a boot camp. 

This is how I learned JavaScript (Source)

Many bootcamp graduates are excellent developers — but having graduated from a 3 or 6-month program, they haven’t covered software development in as much depth as someone with a 4-year degree.  

But don’t underestimate them! Anyone with the discipline to finish an accelerated bootcamp program also has the discipline to keep educating themself after they’ve entered the workforce. Self-paced courses offer you the ability to reach out to this large and growing demographic to provide the continuing education they’re looking for.  


Developer Education Drives Developer Engagement 

At the end of the day, we as marketers aren’t spending money trying to reach developers because we love spending our employers’ money. We’re doing it because we expect positive ROI on what we spend. That means that over time, we need our developer relations programs to result in new clients and new revenue.  

Let’s take a look at how developer education helps DevRel deliver a good return on investment. This diagram from The DevRel Book illustrates it well:  

Source, The DevRel Book

We see that developer education helps build a bridge to developer success. I agree — and the only thing I’d change is that I’d add a lot more overlap between developer education and developer marketing. In fact, I think I’d merge them into a single box! Done right, developer education is developer marketing.  

ContentLab and Appsembler both worked with Chef, first to develop and then deploy developer learning courses. Over time, Chef found that these courses were its #1 source of new leads! It’s hard to ignore this potential if you’re looking for a reason to invest more of your marketing budget into developer education. 

The marketing qualified leads (MQLs) generated by developer education – especially courses – show stronger intent than typical MQLs. This of it this way: if a developer has gone to the trouble of working through and completing a course you’ve created, you can reasonably assume they like your company and your products. That’s stronger than the intent you’ll get from an MQL who only signed up for your newsletter or traded their email address for a whitepaper.  

Relying on traditional lead gen alone, determining intent can be difficult to impossible. You can force people to show more intent by asking them for more information like their phone number and address. But receiving more info from them doesn’t necessarily result in strong purchase intent, and certainly doesn’t drive conversions.  

I’d rather create and publish courses for developers instead that engage, empower, and provide value. Wouldn’t you? 

Putting It All Together

Developer Education is big business. It goes far beyond just training developers — instead, it can be a powerful tool in your developer marketing arsenal.  

To recap, there are a few important reasons developer education should be on your radar: 

  • The number of developers in the world is increasing rapidly, meaning the size of your target market is also increasing rapidly. But there’s a catch: the number of companies competing for developer attention is also increasing rapidly. DevEd, especially developer learning courses, helps you stand out from your competitors.  
  • The buying cycle: developers are kingmakers or dealbreakers when you’re trying to sell to their employers. The presence of effective developer education ensures that developers feel confident in your company and your product.  
  • It helps you tap into the growing demographic of self-taught developers and bootcampers. They might not have as much knowledge as computer science graduates, but they’re able to learn a lot in a short period of time — as long as you provide them with great learning material.  
  • Developer education drives developer engagement. Developers might visit your website and enjoy a blog post, but developer education gets them to stick around, build affinity toward your brand, and get to know your products, and hopefully become a customer.  

If you like what you’ve read here, why not watch the webinar? It dives deeper into everything we’ve covered and includes a few fun battle stories along the way.  See you there!

Picture of Ryan Peden
Ryan Peden
Ryan is a developer and marketer who lives at the intersection of business and technology. He loves writing code, writing about code, and planning developer marketing strategy. Visit him on LinkedIn.

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