Traditional marketing strategies may not be applicable when dealing with a more discerning audience — such as software developers — in a field being transformed by social media and new communication channels. B2B marketers are measured on leads and pipeline generated for the sales team. But how do you generate pipeline without alienating your users in the developer community?
The old school approach to lead generation is to put a registration wall in front of everything. If you want access to a white paper or piece of content, you have to provide your contact information. But I’ve seen gated content result in dozens of junk addresses, immediate unsubscribes, and annoyed community members who rant on Twitter. And that is just what I see — I’m sure countless others felt irritated by the request but didn’t express their displeasure.
In the early days of JBoss, users had to provide their email address in order to access JBoss docs. At the time, developers were willing to provide their email addresses because they knew that they’d get value in return. This registration process was a key driver of leads into JBoss’s sales funnel. Today the idea of gating crucial documentation seems counter-productive, but I think that is because vendors have found better ways to provide value to users such that prospects want to share their information.
Lead Generation Strategies
So if you can’t gate content, what approaches keep a developer community happy while also gathering leads that you can nurture? Here are some things that I’ve seen that work very well.
Provide a free service or trial
Developers are tinkerers, and they like to try new things. Once the developer has signed up for a free trial, you have the opportunity to continue to nurture that lead and encourage continued use of the service. Twilio has nailed this approach, presenting a cool demo of API at hackathons and then offering credit to use their service.
Encourage opt-ins for targeted content
Content can still be a great approach for generating leads. However, rather than taking the risk of irritating your potential user base by automatically gating all your content, consider an opt-in approach by asking users to subscribe for updates on relevant content.
For example, when users download MongoDB, we don’t require that they provide their contact information because we want the download-and-get-started experience to be as frictionless as possible. Instead, we start the download and then display a web form asking if the user is interested in receiving updates on MongoDB and notifications about local events in their area.
Organize great events
Developers love meeting up. It’s a really wonderful and unique thing about people who build software as I’ve never seen any other professional group with such an active and diverse conference and meetup scene. If you organize an event with interesting content developers will register and attend. By keeping your events focused on technology you will build credibility within the community. Seeing colleagues at these events also provides validation that your company and/or product is interesting to other developers.
Allow the community to provide feedback
There are many great tools such as Jira or UserVoice where users can provide direct feedback on your service. The users gain the opportunity to request, vote on, and discuss features. You get great product feedback as well as a way to capture user information. It’s a win for everyone.
Give away swag
I love the simple web form on Kinvey’s website: I want a sticker. This is a low cost, easy way to build a lead database and get developers to decorate their laptops with your logo!
Join the online education revolution
10gen recently launched an online education platform in collaboration with edX to provide MongoDB training. Within a few weeks of announcing our developer and DBA course, we had 30,000 enrollments. While this is a very new program for us, I think it will end up being one of our greatest marketing innovations. We’ve not only captured thousands of email addresses, but we are engaging these users over a multi-week course with interesting materials and exercises for learning MongoDB. I am curious to see how this will influence our sales pipeline over time.
The Takeaway: Provide Value
While all of these approaches to lead generation are different, there is a common theme across them all. Provide great value and developers will give you their contact information.
Once you’ve got someone’s contact information, that’s when the hard work begins. Don’t break the trust by launching into a sales pitch. Nurture your community with great technical content while gently introducing your product and services.
I don’t think that 10gen is perfect at any of this, but I aspire to generate leads through programs that nurture our community. It’s an interesting challenge.