Share Knowledge, Not Features

The Secret of Marketing to Developers is to Not Use Marketing

by Adam DuVander

You have something new and amazing for developers to check out. Yes, you'd like them to use your service, so it's a little self-serving, but chances are they actually will be interested, too. Inspired, you begin to draft a new blog post. These are the hardest for me to write and probably the hardest of your posts for me to read. It's because I hold us both to a simple, but high, standard.

Share knowledge, not features.

When I edited ProgrammableWeb, the journal of the API economy, it was my job to read every API blog every day. I skimmed endless numbers of posts that started as something like this...

SumCo is proud to announce a major update to its Arithmetic API that allows divisors with values less than one... blah blah blah

On a slow news day, or when I could muster the effort, I would translate that into something like...

How to Divide by Zero.

It's the same message, but it focuses where the reader is more likely to care.

That's a basic, maybe even snarky, example. My job as a journalist was to help readers understand why your announcements matter. Journalism is about the point, as Nora Ephron said.

Don't punt that job to the journalists. You can do it yourself, when you share knowledge, not features.

Features != Benefits

When you focus on the features, you're focusing inwardly, thinking about that cool thing you've just built. I'm sure it really is cool, but when you tell someone about it, start by seeing it from their perspective. Find the benefits and share those.

Tell me about the fireballs

Samuel Hulick perfectly captured the distinction between features and benefits through the Super Mario Brothers analogy. Mario doesn't care about the flower itself. He cares that the flower lets him shoot fireballs.

Tell me about the fireballs.

Developer Marketing Does Not Exist

I refer to myself as an "accidental marketer," because I never set out to qualify leads or think about positioning. In fact, I don't really consider myself a marketer, it's just the easiest way to describe what I do in a traditional sense.

What I really do is help developers discover things that help them create better stuff. That's not really marketing, which is a good thing because the first step of developer marketing is to stop marketing.

There is no developer marketing

There is no Developer Marketing, only teaching, inspiring, helping.

Share knowledge. Not features.

Developers Will Love You For It

There's been a rapid growth of developer-focused companies in the last few years. I left ProgrammableWeb to join one, which was the first time I shared this idea publicly. Now I've worked for another couple of these companies and consulted for several others. I'm convinced if developers are who you're "marketing" to, then you need to focus on helping them, not selling to them.

The numbers back this up. A focus on the community separates great APIs from others. When you go community-first, you're naturally solving problems and helping your community discover new things. In other words, you're sharing knowledge. Not features.

Got great examples of sharing knowledge?
Tweet it with the #sknf hashtag.