Build it and they will come, right? Unfortunately, that's not always how it works. In a world where every existing product is battling for fleeting attention and new developer tools are launching every day on ProductHunt, it can be tough to get the right people to notice your product – and more importantly, remember it when they need it.
Even the most promising technology can struggle to gain traction without a thoughtful marketing strategy. Understanding the fundamentals and learning from some of the best in the industry can put your company on the right path for growth.
Defining the Challenge
Marketing a new service to developers can be tricky for several reasons. First, developers are consistently sold to because they carry significant sway in the purchasing decisions for the companies that they work for. This pent up ad and sale fatigue make difficult to get your message across typical marketing channels.
The second factor is that there is a high overhead for changing mission-critical services and switching typically involves significant work on the part of the developer(s) and their team. So the benefits of using your new tool or technology must outweigh those hefty switching costs clearly and obviously.
Lastly, technical audiences tend to vet new products in a much more critical way. Standard landing pages with fluffy copywriting underperform solution-based product pages backed up quantitatively.
Taking those factors into consideration it becomes more clear why some of the best developer focused software products build their marketing strategy around content.
Kicking off with Content
Not all content is created equally. Browsing Medium you're sure to come across posts announcing the launch of a new product or service that leaves readers thinking "ok, so what?" A post like that might get a few clicks throughs, but after that visit, the product fades away.
What best-in-class companies do is use content to create a story. They deeply understand their ideal user's daily life and daily struggles – and understand how their product can fit in to that flow. They then create content around questions, concerns, and solutions that are truly useful. Sometimes, the content doesn’t even mention their product. It is advice, suggestions, and data that builds brand recognition around a known problem.
Here are some ideas to get your gears churning:
- Tutorials - If your product truly solves a problem (and it should!) creating content around defining and solving that problem is a great place to start. You can create tutorials for several mediums like blogs, video, and social to see what works and what doesn't. Then, once you start to see results you can narrow your strategy moving forward.
- Comparisons - These are typically the top performing search engine landing pages for technical products and once your company starts to get some recognition is an area that should be invested in. When users are evaluating a new tool they want to see how it stacks up technically and monetarily. Creating well-designed product pages and blog post that can rank well in search results is a great way to own the conversation and highlight your differentiators.
- Courses/Webinars - If you're an expert on a topic, teach it. There are several low-friction platforms out there for hosting this type of content that make management easy. One caveat is to make sure the content is directionally related to your product. Educational videos are a great way to give some of your knowledge away in exchange for an email. They are also a helpful lead tool for your website and for advertising campaigns.
- Case Studies - spending time on case studies is an easy way to ease buyer concern about using your product. They want to see recognizable names that have used and have loved your product. Give away a free subscription if you have to, it will be worth it.
- eBooks - while they may be more time consuming to create, eBooks are great way to provide deep value and instantly brand yourself or your company as an expert on a topic. CloudAMPQ and Intercom are two companies that have successfully used eBooks to drive customer growth. A great way to cut down on the time and cost to create an eBook is to write a series of blog posts on a particular topic. Once the series is complete, repackage and bundle the collection as an eBook.
- Data - if your product offers interesting insights try to package it in a way that would be useful to other developers. While in a different category, Match.com annually publishes a study on singles in the US and it drives traffic, press and undoubtedly users back to their product.
Learn from the best
One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to watch how the best in the industry execute. Here are some of the best-in-class that are worth a follow:
- Digital Ocean - Regardless of industry Digital Ocean has one of the most impressive content machines. They consistently publish fresh, original content that specifically caters to their audience and is always on-trend. It doesn't hurt that they have an amazing product, but the way they source, create and organize content is top-notch.
- Basecamp - the company has transcended project management software and has become the leader of a no-nonsense business movement. Their founders have published four books on the topic (one being a national bestseller) and have a high traffic blog that consistently beats the drum of this story which also trickles to their brand and product pages.
- LogDNA - the log management tool does a great job with content and branding to make B2B feel very approachable and customer focused. Their blogs and white papers are very digestible for all types of customer personas. They also have a public Slack channel which adds a great layer of trust to potential custmers.
- New Relic - the company uses their large content library to power their wide-reaching advertising campaigns and target large enterprise companies. Take a peek at their website’s footer and you'll find answers to every possible question an end-users, manager or CTO might have before agreeing to a contract.
So you've spent a few weeks creating great content you think potential users will love. Now what? Here are a few things you can start with:
- Let SEO do its thing - The more content you create, the better your existing content will rank. This process typically plays out over several months, but you should start seeing consistent gains in organic search traffic
- Start small with advertising - The great added benefit of creating a library of content is that you can use the content for advertising assets on Facebook, Google, Twitter and Reddit. Ads using helpful content tend to perform much better than those screaming BUY NOW and act as a great introduction to your brand. Even starting with a small budget can be useful for baselining content performance and guiding future content creation.
- Partner with a marketplace - adding your service to a marketplace like Manifold is a great way to get instant distribution. Marketplaces have established marketing muscle that you can leverage to help spread the word to entirely new audiences.
- Syndicate - A helpful rule of thumb is that you should spend 50% of your time creating your content and 50% promoting. That means posting on social networks, Reddit, hackernews and reaching out to friends that can help spread the word. If you mention complementary products in your content make sure to tag them or ask if they would be willing to share the post as well. Also, emailing new content to leads or free users is a great way to re-warm them to your product.
The benefit of investing in content marketing is that it has compound returns. Start today and start seeing the results grow month-over-month. As the adage goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.