For about twenty years, my focus on marketing and selling enterprise software was on business decision makers foremost, and technical people second. The software I was involved in was large-scale, on-premise applications with a high initial license purchase. That has changed in the last two years.
Although I hate to agree with him, my main focus has now become developers, as Steve Ballmer said some years ago:
That means that instead of working in a B2B(business-to-business) environment, I’m now in a B2D(business-to-developers) one. The software in this category is increasingly cloud-based, and bought on a monthly subscription basis. The B2D category is becoming more viable with the increase in influence (and responsibility) that developers wield.
Who are developer buyers?
When you look at the characteristics of developer who buy (so-called developer personas) you have to get into a different world to the personas of enterprise software buyers.
For a start, developers want full documentation of the software they will be buying, and it needs to be easy to access, read and use. Unlike B2B buyers who have considerations like cost and outcomes, for developers, time is their most important resource. They are looking for solutions that help them make better use of their time.
The B2D sales process
The B2B sales process is usually long and involves multiple decision makers and stakeholders. The B2D process is different.
Your first task is to get developers interested, that means talking to specific, pressing issues and questions that affect them now. You have to get the developer to give you a few minutes of their time. Not to buy the product though, but to convince the developer that your product is worth trying out. If you manage to convince the developer, they then may need to persuade a project manager, boss or client.
If you’re lucky, the developer drives the decision and the process is quick. If you’re not, and management gets involved, then the process slows down.
When selling in the B2B space, it’s not uncommon for hyper confident sales people to be make overly enthusiastic promises because the buyers can be in an unfamiliar situation and have limited knowledge. You can’t do that with developers because their knowledge is about the same as yours.
Creating content for the B2D market
I am often reading these days of content marketing teams made up of people with a writing or journalistic background. That might work for enterprise software which can be written about without getting too technical.
You can’t do that if you are creating content for the B2D market. You have to understand the decision processes in the developer buying journey, and be able to write knowledgeably about technical issues. It took me several months, and exposure to customers and sales activities, before I began to understand what content would be useful.
The type marketing person with little technical background is therefore not right for the content development process of the B2D world. My advantage is that with a background in technology of over three decades, I can get into content creation mode more quickly. However, there are areas that you still need a developer to make useful content
The educational content that you create for B2D developers need to resources that they can consume on their own time. The resources created should help developers get things done, and provide them with ideas.
Developers tend to join communities where they can participate and share experiences, questions and challenges, and where they can learn. Therefore marketing in the B2D world also means getting your own developers into the communities where they can help potential buyers learn and get exposure to the developers’ concerns.
How do you find the right community? Speak to your own developers.
In the technology area that my company deals with, application and data integration, the main differences between, say, North America, Europe and South Africa is that the Americans are more familiar with some concepts. Apart from that I don’t have any evidence or experience to suggest that you have to deal with developers differently depending on which part of the world they are from, except of course for languages.
If you have any examples of geographical differences, let me know.
If you want to learn more about B2D marketing, here are some interesting articles.