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by Ian Foley, Oct 05, 2018

A Marketing-Based Approach to Building the Blockchain Developer Community


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Over the last decade, there has been rapid evolution in the approach marketers take to acquire new customers. However, these changes have typically not been applied to companies looking to build developer communities. This blind spot is particularly felt in the blockchain market, where developer resources and engagement are challenged by the nascent stage of the industry.

Traditional customer acquisition was based on the “spray and pray” model. Marketers used outbound email, phone calls and content to carpet-bomb potential customers, and success was measured by the tonnage of activity.

With the widespread adoption of sales enablement tools, such as automated email marketing tools that enable a continuous cadence of outbound messages, consumers became drowned in the noise. As an example, 53 percent of consumers polled by DMA Insights indicated that they get too many irrelevant emails. For a lot of marketers, this might all sound eerily like their current programs, but starting in the early 2010s, some innovative marketers started to deploy account-based marketing (ABM) approaches.

ABM reverses the traditional top-down pyramid, with the focus on creating a subset of customers that marketers have selected based on a deep understanding of customer needs and their own product’s value proposition.

According to research by the ITSMA, 87 percent of companies believe that ABM marketing delivers a higher return on investment than other types of marketing. Meanwhile, Demand Metric noted that 69 percent of ABM users said the primary benefit of the approach was better aligned sales and marketing teams. 

Applying ABM to Developer Recruitment

Developer communities started to take off with the use of open-source software in the 1990s and early 2000s, resulting in the formation of groups like Linux and Mozilla. Open-source software now leads certain markets. To support this, the active developer community has grown to approximately 21 million (according to Chris Wanstrath, CEO of GitHub), with JavaScript and Python representing 41 percent of total programming pull requests.

The blockchain developer community is currently dominated by Ethereum, with ConsenSys claiming 250,000 developers using that platform. This information is supported by Kevin Rooke, who noted that 94 out of the top-100 blockchain projects were launched on the Ethereum network.

For new blockchain companies, perhaps the best approach to scale a community is not to compete with the relatively small Ethereum community, but to attract other developers who are looking for new ways to build blockchain applications.

To market to these developers, companies initially relied on word-of-mouth from an enthusiastic community, and then scaled as businesses deployed open-source software into existing proprietary software environments. This approach worked well at the onset of the open-source movement when there were a limited number of new entrants, but the difficulty is in scaling up a developer community in a highly competitive market for developers where there are alternative software communities providing similar products.

Adopting the ABM process to building a developer community can help address this, since it has proven to successfully work in scaling to target large customer bases. The mindset change it requires is that the focus is not finding “general” developers but those that represent the target profile.

To build this profile, marketers should understand the journey that a developer goes through in determining what programming language to spend his or her time on. Also, working with the technical team of the company, understand what the psychographic attributes of the ideal developer profile are. Psychographic attributes include information on someone’s personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. For companies thinking about this approach, HubSpot has developed a free guide to help build a psychographic profile.

Once this groundwork is accomplished, the next strategy for the community manager is to build an outbound engagement strategy based on getting developers to know, then like and ultimately trust the blockchain programming language as a long-term platform for them to work on. Using the profile and daily journey profile, a marketer should have a good idea on whom to reach on what sites.

Throughout this ABM process, every step of the onboarding process should be measured and constantly optimized. For example, placing all content shared in a centralized content management system (i.e., Salesforce) that can track engagement.

In summary, ABM does provide a new framework on how to identify the right developer profile at scale. For those community managers with the willingness to learn from other applications of this approach, ABM provides a better strategy to succeed in winning developer mindshare and time.