Any startup that develops an SDK (software development kit) or an API (application program interface) needs a large number of developers to use the technology before and during the launch of a product. This is mainly to showcase credibility that the technology has been used by other programmers successfully. The problem is developers today are so sought after that many companies are spending massive resources on developer relations (including people and money, lots of money actually given to developers for using their SDK). How will a small start-up stand out in the noise when they are up against big companies like Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and well-funded start-ups?
I know, everyone will tell you that social media is key, and it’s true; barriers are off, and social media makes it so easy to reach a targeted audience. But remember, social media is a long term strategy, and it will take a few months to just get developers to notice you and eventually download your SDK. Social paid campaigns? Did you see the conversion rate on that? Low, extremely low.
Prepare the Ground
Before you reach out to developers, understand that they are very critical, they notice almost everything.
You don’t need a perfectly finished product, but make sure you prepare the ground around the SDK meticulously. If it’s not perfect, write it down for them, it’s totally acceptable.
Here are major things to take care of:
(1) Know your target audience
Carry out basic marketing pre-launch prep to find out exactly what kind of developers you are looking for. There are so many branches in the programming world, and being general will get you nowhere. Drill deep into the details and tag into specialties, in smaller boxes. For example Unity developers, Java Developers, Node.js developers etc.
(2) Developers Zone
This is the dedicated area in which developers go to automatically because they know it will speak their language. There is a commonality for Developer Zones on technology websites, and developers who visit your site will expect it since their search will need to be fast and intuitive. Benchmark at least ten other websites with developer zones that provide SDK or API for download. Try to recognize the gap between yours and theirs. Commonalities such as; how they divide by Operating System, video and written tutorials, sign up process and forms, agreements required to sign, documentation etc will appear, adopt them.
Try to avoid benchmark from the corporate SDK websites, their means level is far greater than yours. Stick to medium to small companies.
(3) Sign up Process
There are various types of registrations, of course, every company would like to get as much information as possible about the person who just downloaded the SDK. This information usually helps sales to figure out the chances of him/her becoming a full pledged paying client.
Unfortunately, most developers download new SDKs all the time and are not going to be impressed with your fancy sign up form. They would rather not download the SDKs than give away personal details. Restrict your form to name, email and ‘I agree to terms’ check box. Anyway, who needs last names today? Usually, people place false names and with tools like Rapportive you can get lots of details just from an email (on that in a later post).
(4) HTML documentation
You’ll notice that almost all SDK documentation is comfortably provided in HTML format. The HTML format enables easy indexing, linking, the clear hierarchy between pages and embedding of code sections.
Also, it’s already become a common standard for SDK developer docs, so you have no choice.
You’ll find DevDocs.io a great tool to integrate SDK and API documentation into HTML the right way.
Attaining Immediate Engagement
Now that you’ve prepared the ground, let’s dive into two best ways that get developers to work with your SDK immediately.
Hackathons are events that bring developers together for 48 hours to work on an innovative product prototype. This is an amazing opportunity to work directly with the developers, get feedback and learn. But that’s not all, if they work with your SDK in their project you get a product prototype by the end of the 48 hours (hopefully) to use in your marketing efforts. It’s not uncommon that some developers take the prototypes and build a full product around it.
Here are a few tips:
· Look for a Hackathon that is focused first. Don’t go to general ones that are marked ’Technology’ they are bigger but you’ll disappear in all the noise. Focused hackathons are smaller but cheaper and you’ll be more involved throughout the events. For example, try to find iOS, safe city, London Android lovers first.
· Who to bring: You need one programming expert that is very familiar with your code and one person that can speak in front of a crowd. Hopefully, it’s the same person. In most Hackathons, the API/SDK providers get to speak for 5–10 minutes on stage and in some cases, you can also have 30-minute additional slots to speak in front of developers interested in your tech. If you are bringing a shy developer, this opportunity will go to waste.
· Your own contest: Ask the Hackathon organizers if you can offer an additional prize from your company. They usually don’t mind. You’ll provide the prize to the team that made best/most innovative use of your technology in their project. It doesn’t have to be a big prize; we gave either $250 in cash or $250 in Amazon coupons. Nothing compares to what you receive; Developers not only see this as an additional way to earn a prize but will also:
— Provide you with a dedicated presentation of their project, that you can video record and do an interview, for marketing purposes
— Talk about their success in social media platforms which in turn attract more attention from their developer friends