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Craig Kerstiens

Where to go with developer content

Last week I wrote up some initial steps for getting started with marketing a developer focused product. The short of it was quite trying to do “marketing” and just start putting out interesting material. A big part of this is sourcing material from your company’s developers. From there you want to gradually shift it from simply interesting technical posts to things that align with your core beliefs and add value to your customers.

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is by highlighting some examples of it.

Teach them how to

Tindie is a marketplace focused on makers. Browsing their site is simply awesome, there’s everything from fully built things to raw supplies to let me start hacking. The biggest problem though is they don’t tell me how to take advantage of so much on their site. Posts similar to New Relic’s on how they made their awesome conference badges with a ready made shopping list of components would both get me excited and teach me something I didn’t know how to do prior.

Now a lot of this may seem obvious, but its not just about giving a how to. This doesn’t belong in a readme or in product documentation. Instead the activity of regularly crafting relevant stories that stretch how people think about hardware hacking should be a top of mind focus. It also positions you as a thought leader within the space. Right now there is no thought leader for makers, and theres ample opportunity to be that.

Timely content

Chipmaker recently hugely capitalized on the Nest acquisition by writing a post only days after of how you can build an open source Nest for $70. I suspect they didn’t have such a post just lying around waiting for the acquisition and instead scrambled to get it all together almost as soon as it occurred.

Over time the opportunity will always present itself in some form to attach yourself to another story. Sometimes this can be related to a direct competitor, sometimes its simply tangential. Being willing to quickly invest time when an opportunity presents itself is key to taking advantage of those opportunities. But please don’t let such opportunities be your only way of capturing attention, there should still be a steady beat and focus.

Let your beliefs come out

Nearly everytime I sit down with some founder or very early employee at a company the vibe and impression I get from them is an order of magnitude stronger than the company’s public persona. At the root of every company trying to do something big is an acute focus on a problem with strong opinions about how to solve them. You don’t win people over by giving middle of the road opinions.

Heroku’s often been an example of being extremely opinionated. For a long time you found bits of this within our product such as with an ephermal filesystem – which in the long term enables scalability. Or with directing the separation of code and config – which helps reproducability for when things go wrong and spinning up new copies of your app.

Again the biggest problem with this opinionation wasn’t that it existed, but that it wasn’t talked about clearly or loudly enough. Its now much clearer and broader in the form of 12 Factor which fully codifies those strong opinions which influence the product, but also has applicability outside of Heroku.

All of the approaches

Doing just one of the above really isn’t enough. Having multiple types of content such as the above three allow you to be much more effective. Of course the way you manage them and distribute them changes based on the type of content, but more on that later.