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Craig Kerstiens

Where to start with developer content

Commonly at developer focused companies the question from a marketing team will come up of “How do we get content that developers find interesting”? Or how can I get our developers to blog more? Or some other similar question. I general the question of creating content and engaging with developers is a very common one, and often theres a mismatch between what marketing wants to do and what developers appreciate.

Stop marketing

Forget trying to “market” to developers. Hopefully you at least have developers that believe in the product their building, if thats not the case then find a new product or a new team. If you’ve got a product targetted at developers and a team that believes in it then you’re already half way there to marketing it. Now back to the first point, forget trying to market it. Start with building some form of an audience, reputation, respect among other developers. This isn’t done through ads, email marketing, SEO or any of that. Its done by creating content that developers find interesting, as a first step forget your product entirely, but don’t worry we’ll get there soon enough.

Sourcing content

The first piece of it on finding content should actually be extremely simple. Typically engineers love sharing knowledge and information. At least once a week there’s an email out to all the engineers of a truly interesting approach to something. This content is often not in a perfect form for external publication, but quite close. In particular Heroku has one employee, an early employee and now architect, that every email he sends to such a group I pull down and save for future reading. Another example of this was one of the Heroku founder Adam Wiggins, you can find many similar emails slightly cleaned up as blog posts on his own blog.

Take these emails, find someone technical enough to clean them up and ship them. Your goals here are to simply build some level of connection with other developers. Now a lot of time these may not be in the right “voice” for your company blog. Thats quite fine, I’m a strong proponent of letting developers create their own personalitiies. The place for the content then may not always be on the company blog. In general I find there’s three groupings:

  • Content for the company blog by an employee
  • Content for an individuals blog (the caveat here is they need to regularly create content - every 6 months doesnt cut it)
  • Content for an engineering blog (if you have enough of the above that blog infrequently this is a great home for it)

Don’t worry about the product yet

No really don’t worry about pitching your product. There was an awesome piece on the intercom blog talking about why most features fail and how companies pitch the details versus the problem they solve. Though there was a hidden gem in there:

{% blockquote [Des Traynor] [] [New Features Usually Flop] %} Telling your customers something is a “ground up rewrite”, “HTML5 based”, “responsive” or anything like that will miss the mark unless you’re selling to developers. {% endblockquote %}

For companies targetting developers this actually works really well, as a developer I care about the how. Simply put its interesting. Another great example of this is priceonomics. To be honest I only checked what they actually do in writing this post, but their posts I regularly find interesting.

Whats next

What do you want to know about? Creating a voice/brand, starting to pitch your product, content distribution? Let me know. A good about of my time is spent on these and happy to discuss further on whats valuable to others so we don’t have to suffer through painful marketing. Let me know or @craigkerstiens