While the world of software development is evolving at lightening speed, the same isn’t necessarily true for the marketing challenges developers face, says Sara Faatz, account director for Developer Media.

“To ‘rise above the noise’ and reach your intended audience, you need a strong foundation for your marketing programs,” she says. “The foundation, in my opinion, consists of clear and concise messaging, an honest interpretation and communication of your value proposition, a clear understanding of your target audience, the ability to communicate a compelling call to action and a mutually agreed upon definition of success.”

Building this foundation and level-setting each year is critical to overcoming any challenge that might come your way.

We recently checked in with Sara to get her take on what’s trending in app development today, and hear her advice on successfully reaching your intended audience. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s trending in the world of software development today?

In general terms, app development. If you drill down a bit more, I would say cloud and mobile, IoT, big data and security are probably the topics we hear the most about.

Philosophically speaking, the rise of the importance of the application to society as a whole has not only moved the developer to the forefront of the technology space, but it has earned him/her a spot at a lot of business decision-making tables. This puts us at a really interesting inflection point in the evolution of software development and the role of the developer.

What innovations are exciting you the most?

With the rise of cloud and mobile over the past five years or so, the world has really opened up for developers. They have an opportunity to evolve their skills to support more than just one platform or technology stack. For the C# developer who was writing strictly Microsoft apps, he/she can now use tools like Xamarin to write for Android and iOS.

The rise in the importance of app development was really born out of the BYOD phenomenon. As more people demanded support for their iPhones at work, there needed to be a better way to support them. The need of the IT department to have a scalable way to support multiple platforms and technology stacks created this world we live in now – the one where things are “fixed” with software. 

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From just a pure technology perspective, I think some of the things that cloud, big data, and IoT enable – like augmented reality – are really interesting. Axinom, for example, has some interesting business use cases for augmented reality. Microsoft recently made an announcement about the next iteration of HoloLens.

IoT in general has the opportunity to really impact our world in an amazing way. As with anything new, there are some potential pitfalls (particularly from a privacy or access to data perspective). But the opportunities for good – using it to ensure safety, a more efficient process, using it to ensure quicker access to healthcare when needed – those things are very interesting to me.

How do you coach clients on overcoming the marketing challenges facing software and app developers today?

I strongly recommend setting and/or checking your foundation each year. This means:

1. Work with executive management to ensure that your marketing initiatives are in line with the product or service that is actually generating revenue (not just the fun/new/shiny thing);

2. Spend time creating your messaging pillars. Have themes (I often suggest three) that will be the focus of all of your campaigns. Within those messaging pillars, understand your true position in the market and create messages that include your value proposition within that them;

3. Truly get to know your target customer. Find out what keeps him/her up at night. Make sure you know what need your product/service is fulfilling. You can do this through focus groups, surveys, and working with your sales and field organizations to get their feedback;

4. Once you have your messages set and know your audience, make sure you have a clear call to action – one that is based on the feedback you’ve received from your focus groups.

5. Finally, make sure that you have an agreed-upon definition of success prior to kicking off any annual plan (or even a one-off event/promotion). This will tell you what to measure and will help you determine if you’ve met your goal.

What are your favorite tools for marketing new software and apps?

In all honesty, it depends on the marketing program and budget. Developers respond incredibly well to content marketing and experiential marketing. Being able to experience your brand through content or in-person interactions allows the developer to make an informed decision about your product or service. It also opens the opportunity to create a champion out of that person.

I often compare a marketing plan to that of a puzzle. A solid program is made up of a number of different pieces that complete the picture. If you take one out, the picture is no longer complete. Another way to think about it is that marketing program elements and their impact are additive. Each campaign element provides tremendous value on its own merit; however, when combined with the right mix, the value exponentially increases.

Product reviews, custom authored articles, webinars, hackathons, behavior-based campaigns – these are all great marketing tactics that allow the developer to interact with a brand in a non-threatening and authentic way.

What tools do you think are less effective in this space?

Any tool that “tricks” the intended audience into doing something (clicking, entering information, etc.). Developers are already leery of marketing and sales. There is an inherent distrust. Stay away from tactics or tools that are not authentic.

What marketing advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over?

Be authentic. As I’ve mentioned before, developers are often allergic to marketing. They don’t want to feel like they are being sold. They want you to present your information and allow them to make informed decisions on their own. The more opportunity they have to interact with you in a genuine way, the more likely they are to trust you and want to work with you. Developers are incredibly loyal if trust is earned.

Build a Foundation. It is really important to build the marketing foundation. Ensure marketing initiatives are in alignment with business goals; create agreed-on messaging pillars that clearly communicate your value-proposition; know your audience; have a clear call to action and a clear path to get there; and agree to success metrics before you even start.

What would you like to see more app developers do before bringing their product to market?

I’d love to see them test the application in the market, understand their audience, and ensure that their product is as exciting to their intended audience as it is to the creator.

I’d like to see them go through the exercise of creating messaging pillars and clearly defining their value proposition. It might sound like a daunting task to someone without a marketing background, but a lot of it is just common sense (and the ability to look at your product/offering honestly).

I’d love to see them create personas – fictional characters based on the different user types that might use their product. By going through the exercise of truly learning who the customer is, (behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, etc.) they will have a better idea of how to market to them.

And finally, I’d like to see them actually write down what success is to them. Is it the number of people using their product? Is it a revenue target? Is it visibility? Understanding why you are bringing the product to market and what you hope to get out of it will ultimately allow you to set yourself up for success.

What should developers understand about their audience before building and marketing a product?

Developers should understand who their product is for and understand the behavior of their intended audience. Creating personas (as mentioned above) is a fantastic exercise that allows you to have a better understanding of the motivations, behaviors, and potential actions/reactions of your audience.

If a developer is targeting a developer, remember to be authentic. Developers are loyal to brands that they trust or have interacted with in a meaningful and honest way. They are drawn to authenticity and vehemently reject bait-and-switch type tactics.

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