Content strategies for developer marketing programs

Emerald A few pieces from one of my favorite pop artists, Banksy | What’s with the random art?

One of the core tenants of developer marketing is the understanding that developers as an audience are avid consumers of content. If you look at the most popular developer programs, you will notice that many of them achieve a publishing velocity that is unheard of in other marketing organizations. This is because content plays a major part in engagement strategies and ranges from product marketing content to educational content, and even documentation.

For large organizations, it’s a numbers game. If you can hire enough technical content creators or reserve enough budget to buy high-quality content, you can achieve this goal fairly easily. However, if you are not a large organization with seemingly endless resources, meeting the content needs of a developer program can be much more difficult, if not impossible.

In this post, I want to talk about a few different content strategies that if deployed correctly, can allow organizations of various sizes build a program that engages and meets the needs and expectations of developers.

Developer content strategy 1 - The intent model

Intent marketing is something that has been around for a longtime but for some reason is almost always ignored. If you are not familiar with intent marketing, intent marketing is a strategy that focuses on predicting and meeting the needs of your target audience before they express those needs. For example, most enterprise buying processes will require IT, SecOps, Legal, etc. review prior to signing a contract. An intent marketing strategy, would predict the need of an individual who is championing the sale to look for information required by those departments and proactively surface them.

If you take that method and apply it to a content strategy for a developer program, it would look like building evergreen technical content that pulls developers through the discovery process (usually tied closely to an open source solution) into the evaluation process, and finally to the advocacy phase. By focusing your content strategy only on the immediate and direct needs of your specific developer audience, you limit the amount of unused or short-lived content that you might have invested in creating.

For a small to mid-size organization, this is a great strategy to focus on that will provide a helpful and engaging program for your developers. Additionally, it keeps you from wondering off into edge cases, which is all too easy with developer content.

Developer content strategy 2 - The pillar model

When talking about content marketing, pillars are a common concept. Generally, we use this terminology around SEO strategies, using content pillars as building points for search rankings across a site. For this example, I’m going to use the term pillar to refer to content types vs topics. If you understand how content pillars work in SEO, you will see how that strategy can easily overlap this strategy and would work well when used together.

Developer content programs consist of three main types of content, product marketing content, educational content, and technical documentation. This content might take various forms like video, code sample, long-form written, and even infographic or technical diagram. My point is that you can and should group all of your content into these three buckets. In fact, I would argue that most developer programs miss their mark because they do not define exactly what type of content they are producing. When the lines get blurred, the content will become confusing and the overall experience of the developer will begin to decrease.

This is a strategy that is really important when you are working with large amounts of content and larger teams. By keeping your roles focused on a specific pillar, you keep your program feeling really genuine and impactful without overwhelming everyone on your team with sync meetings.

Developer content strategy 3 - The reuse, repurpose, recycle model

Most of you will know exactly where I’m going with this one based on the name. The reuse, repurpose, recycle model is a content strategy that should only be used by teams that have no other choice. Overtime, it has diminishing engagement value, but for early stage startups working on bootstrapping a program or productizing and upstream project, it could be just the right tool.

This strategy focuses on building out a handful of really in-depth content pieces that meet the needs of +50% of the developers you are trying to engage with. It’s just enough to take a small amount of the burden off of your support engineers but not enough to make your team cringe at the thought of updating it as you release … because that’s exactly what they will be doing. If you’re pursuing this model, I would plan on investing around twenty thousand dollars into creating this content. Hire a professional editor and work with the best technical writers, it will pay for itself in the end.