I already see you rolling your eyes at this title. Publishing an article on the ‘engineering mindset’ here might seem weird. Or more like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Not the most logical thing. Yet, we should talk about this whole engineer vs. marketers confrontation. And here is the perfect place for that. Why?
The more DevOps engineers get to talk, the less you will see those fluffy product descriptions promising to take you to the moon and back. The truth is that no professional marketer wants to be annoying, and no engineer wants to be mean. The software engineer market might be challenging, But the more marketers understand their tech audience, the better it gets for everyone. Let’s cover the most common questions today.
Why is Marketing to Software Developers Hard?
Everyone says that communicating with the tech crowd is way too challenging. If you are a marketer, you probably know that your ‘normal’ approach doesn’t work here. You might have keywords in place, relevant links in the content, and the off-site SEO up and rolling. Yet, nothing really gives results. You don’t get more leads, and your potential clients, the DevOps engineers, seem to ghost you. Well, let me tell you one thing, developers couldn’t care less about the best marketing practices.
One of the issues that no one talks about is that marketing to software developers is relatively new. The Internet revolution happened in the mid-90s, whereas modern marketing appeared at least 50 years before that. So, many marketers try applying classic methods when working with the software engineer market. Often, these approaches focus on selling feelings. But they forget that DevOps engineers would rarely make emotional decisions.
What is This Mythical Mindset of an Engineer?
I keep hearing this concept of the engineering mindset. And to be honest, I avoid it for several reasons. First, an ‘engineer’ is a broad term that refers to many groups of people. Secondly, the idea of having one single ‘mindset of an engineer’ for all tech specialists makes no sense. Different people with diverse backgrounds and goals have very distinct mindsets. And last but not least, I feel like sometimes marketers tend to forget that DevOps engineers are also humans. They are definitely more detail oriented, particular about their needs, and savvier, but still, the same humans that don’t like being sold to. Do you remember that time when you had to buy something not based on your emotions? What did you do? You’ve looked at the specs of different options and got the most useful one, right? That’s how software engineers make most of their decisions.
Selling something to a developer is the same as selling a product to any other expert group. In the end, imagine if you had to market tools for carpenters or new software for lawyers. You wouldn’t say that your solution can build a house or go to court instead of them. This might sound ridiculous in this context, but when it comes to tech, many marketers forget to do the ‘reality check.’
Engineering Mindset: What Do Developers Really Want?
When you don’t know what someone wants – ask them. Sounds logical, but there is one little issue. Software developers don’t really want or have that much time to discuss their marketing preferences. Well, who wants that anyways? One of the few places where you can see engineers talk is Reddit. So, I went there to find first-hand opinions on the matter. Below, you can see the selection of comments, but for anyone who wants more, check this thread.
Don’ts When Marketing to Software Developers
Here are the things that you should avoid at all costs, according to the engineers themselves. This is the perfect chance to grasp what that engineering mindset means for marketing.
- Don’t lie to your audience (exaggeration included): “I think developers dislike marketing because we're being lied to so often.”
- Create extensive documentation: “When I'm using a third-party dependency, and I don't see docs when I need them, I get pissed off because my time is being wasted
- Avoid bold statements: “Don't say your product does it all because you'll make very strong enemies the moment you say that.”
Dos When Marketing to Software Developer
By now, we’ve figured out what to avoid in the software engineer market. What should you do
- Fix their problem: “I don’t care how shiny, fancy, or innovative your product is. All I want to know is if it can fix the problem I am currently working on.”
- Be particular about your product specs: “We want to know what the product does, its specifications, and its intended use. We don't want fancy clickbaity adjectives and wild, fantastical claims.”
- Be concise: “Pretty much tell me what I'm getting, for how much, and in a concise way.”
Marketing to Software Developers: What is the Best Advice
Your marketing strategy will greatly depend on your product. Yet, there are some universal tips to improve your communication with the tech audience. These approaches will allow you to minimize the gap between your product and the DevOps engineers.
1. Forget the Sales Targets and Focus on Value
You need to know who you’re targeting and what problem you can solve for them. Your approach should focus on what interests your potential users and how your product or service simplifies their life. How exactly are you going to add value to their workflow?
2. Create Detailed and Helpful Tutorials
Got a demo and tutorial? If not, this should be your first thing on the to-do list. You need detailed documentation for clear communication in the software engineer market. Devs hate digging around or trying to guess how some software is supposed to work. Save their time and take the guesswork out of the equation by creating detailed tutorials. You can make videos or simply write descriptive blogs.
3 Be Transparent
Refrain from exaggerating the features of your product or service. And be honest about the limitations too. This may be challenging because most marketers believe that some embellishment is part of the game. Yet, if you work with the DevOps audience, it’s time to unlearn that.
4 Be Upfront With the Pricing
If you go to any dev forum, you will see how engineers hate hidden pricing. It is a big part of what you call the engineering mindset. Do your product a favor and clarify what your users are paying for and how much. If certain services cost extra, say it upfront.
5 Avoid Buzzwords at All Costs
Buzzwords and flowery language are some of the greatest developer's pet peeves. While those may be the words that grab attention, they do the exact opposite in the DevOps world. Avoid them as much as you can. Instead, try to find this data-based approach to create an effective digital marketing plan. If your product is the real deal, you don’t need those flashy adjectives to describe it. Just go straight to the point.
6 Offer Free Trials
Now, we can’t say that it is obligatory. But it sort of is for the software engineer market. Developers like to know what they are getting into, so free trials are essential to let them see just how useful your product is. The fewer commitments attached, the better. But beware, you don't want to spam them with pushy notifications or emails about making a purchase. No one likes those, least of all devs. If they try your product and find it helpful, they will get it anyways. So, focus on the value you provide.
8 Avoid Anything Shady
As much as some questionable strategies might offer attractive results, don’t go for it. Avoid anything that misuses customer data, applies fear-based techniques, or simply is false. These unethical practices can only harm your brand image in the long run. Besides, pay attention to your website’s protection to ensure a safe marketing strategy. Even if your product is far from cybersecurity, your tech audience understands its importance.
8 Support and Community are Essential
You can’t do marketing to software developers without good after-purchase support. Most devs who spend money on a product or service will stick to it for a long time. So, having a support plan is vital. Besides, invest your time in creating a community. It might be your forum, a subreddit, or a Discord channel. The more you nourish your communities, the more helpful they get for your users.
We should view marketing to software developers as an opportunity to help each other. This might sound idealistic, but the truth is that good marketing is helpful. And DevOps engineers appreciate anything that can simplify their life. So, concentrate on value, and you will never again think of cracking the ‘engineering mindset’. What else could we do to improve marketing efforts in tech?