At Forest, we are first and foremost developers. We’ve had the ambitious dream, one year ago, to create a universal admin interface. Our dream was not only about building a product, but also about having it used by thousands. Thousands of our peers, other developers that grew frustrated over the years by the lack of a suitable solution to the admin interface mess.
Playing catch up? Read our previous article on Forest’s inception if you’d like to know more about the problem we’re trying to solve.
A needle in a haystack
We are neither marketers nor sales reps but we have a fair share of common sense, and that rather quickly led us to the realization that we would need to market our product for people to actually use it.
I’ll admit, at the beginning, we were a bit skeptical about “marketing”: why should we pro-actively sell our product? If what we have built was good enough, it would obviously become extremely viral, and word of mouth alone would be sufficient to see it used the world over.
It wasn’t long though until we came to the conclusion that, even after having poured our hearts and souls into crafting the best product possible, it would not reach the masses if we did not communicate on it and how it fared against its competition.
Marketing is not a taboo word: it is a means to an end, a way for you to make your product known and understood by your customers. Instead of a set of dirty tricks, see it as a new tool to add to your arsenal alongside great tech and seamless UI/UX. Indeed, why spend days building a beautiful solution that no one would ever come to use?
Why spend days building a beautiful solution that no one would ever come to use?
Realizing that, the next logical step was to establish who our target customers were: developers, at least for the foreseeable future. Granted, they might not be the most active admin panel users, but they are extremely involved in the initial back-office setup and its ensuing growth.
When a startup launches a new product it requires an admin interface quite early on, in order to deal with day-to-day operations like getting usage statistics, monitoring activities, moderating and curating user-generated content, managing users, etc.
Usually, the CTO / lead developer is responsible for the technology choices across the board, including for the admin interface. Ultimately, he/she is the one that will take the decision whether Forest will be used to build the admin. Looking at things this way, it became pretty clear that they were the ones we’d have to convince.
DRY, asking those before us
Lucky for us, we happen to know a thing or two about lead developers 😉 It won’t help us in undertaking grand marketing actions, but it will allow us to find good examples of companies that had the same problem and managed to address it successfully.
We just had to look around and check which products we are using everyday and wonder how they went about marketing their own product. The strategy was clear and simple, let’s not reinvent the wheel and tap into what others were doing before us, to learn and give it a more educated spin of our own.
We made a list of products we love, and tried to get introductions within their marketing teams. After some back-and-forth, seven companies were kind enough to join this experiment and share with us their learnings on marketing to developers, what was working and what was not. These companies, that we would like to thank for their time and tremendous input, are the following:
- Algolia, who brought to the market a whole new take on search that is truly instantaneous
- AuthO, who made authentication, once a tedious job, a matter of seconds with their powerful APIs and SDKs
- Docker, who enabled countless businesses with solid virtualization and solved numerous sysadmin pains
- Github, who made a business around code productivity and the Git open source software
- Keen.io, who first provided product-centric analytics to facilitate the product manager’s work
- Mailjet, who came in a saturated ecosystem that is the transactional email but leveraged their proprietary technology to make a sizeable dent into the market
- Stripe, who were the first ones to commoditize payments for sleek and easy integration into any application
It has been a truly amazing experience, we met with brilliant people and gathered a lot of relevant information. We decided to share everything with the community, because that’s what felt the most true to us.
We learnt so many things from the community, and are actually building a business relying on such efforts (check out our stack if you’re interested) that we thought we would pay it forward here. We have created a series of articles on these different subjects that we’ll publish on this blog, week after week.
Stay tuned for the goodies!
We will not reveal everything in this inaugural post, but we can already say that the most important thing we realized is that you don’t market your product to developers the way you market any other B2B product. B2D (Business-to-Developers) marketing as we like to call it is a brand new branch of marketing.
Everything is different, from the way you contact your customer, the content you create, the way you distribute it, the content of your homepage, the sales process, to the social network interactions. Stay tuned for more B2D articles!