Discover more from Kyle Poyar’s Growth Unhinged
The future of software go-to-market
Welcome to my first-ever newsletter takeover
👋 Hi, I’m Kyle and welcome to my newsletter, Growth Unhinged. Every other week I I take a closer look at what drives a SaaS company’s growth. Expect deep dive takes on SaaS pricing, Product Led Growth, public company benchmarks, and much more.
Developers are known as the toughest software audience to crack.
They notoriously don’t have much time and will absolutely abandon ship if a product seems too labor-intensive to adopt. They hate to be “sold” to, creating challenges in hiring a sales and SDR team to generate revenue. And they have an averse reaction to traditional marketing, never shy about calling out vendors who are inauthentic.
Unfortunately, you can’t afford to ignore developers, even if they aren’t a core constituency in adopting your product today (although even that may very well change if trends continue.)
How developers buy software tends to eventually become how everyone else buys software. Just look at the current buzzwords of SaaS: product-led growth, consumption-based pricing, the (re)birth of freemium products, the push towards building user communities. All strategies have become old news when trying to appeal to developers.
If you think developers are an alien species, you’re in luck. My colleagues Sam Richard and Sanjiv Kalevar recently took a deep dive into the leading strategies behind the rise of developer-centric companies like Atlassian, MongoDB, Elastic, Snyk, and Datadog.
Sam and I teamed up to share the top learnings that you need to incorporate into your go-to-market playbook right now, whether or not you target developers. That’s right: this is our first-ever Growth Unhinged newsletter takeover!
Software buying has evolved towards the developer (end user)
The rise of the end user has been playing out in the developer world for years, whether you consider early open source software projects, AWS making it easy for developers to provision their own infrastructure, or the rapid growth of early developer-centric tools like Atlassian (founded in 2002), GitHub (founded in 2008), and Twilio (founded in 2008).
We’re now seeing this shift towards the end user reaching all functions in an organization. Monday.com described the shift extremely well in their recent S-1 filing, saying that the power of software is increasingly being democratized for everyone.
“Software has historically been too complex, unapproachable and expensive for end users to access. More recently, software design has focused more on user experience and enabling frictionless adoption. Additionally, the internet has allowed users to download, experiment and purchase software on their own… We believe these trends are important to democratizing the power of software for everyone and fostering a culture in which users enjoy using their software.” - Monday.com S-1
Successful developer companies allow users to try-before-you-buy and pay for value
72% of public developer-first SaaS companies offer a free product or free trial, as do 89% of developer-first companies in the Cloud 100. Meanwhile, 90% of developer-focused companies with public pricing charge based on usage.
The rest of the software world is still catching up. Only half of all software companies have a free product or free trial today, according to OpenView’s SaaS benchmarks report. Even fewer (39%) say that their primary pricing model is based on usage or transactions. I suspect that we’ll see more convergence towards the developer pricing playbook in the coming months and years.
Developers prefer a different customer journey (DSACS)
Gone are the days of the traditional SaaS funnel of prospect, MQL, SQL, opportunity, and all that jazz. It has been replaced with a customer journey that reflects how people actually want to adopt software.
There are five key steps in the developer-centric journey:
Discover - a user finds your product to solve a pain point they’re experiencing, usually through their community or workflow-based discovery
Start - they’re motivated enough to sign-up and try the product before they buy
Activate - they reach an ‘aha moment’ and keep returning to the product
Convert - they make an initial purchase decision, usually on behalf of their team
Scale - they spread the product to more use cases and teams until it eventually becomes ubiquitous in an organization
Accelerated growth comes from reducing friction points that get in the way of users moving from one step to the next. Sam provided some product benchmarks to help you gauge how you stack up and where you should invest to improve.
Authentic brand and messaging are key to winning this audience
The biggest stumbling block in the developer customer journey is convincing users to try out a product, going from Discover to Start. In fact, only 5% of unique website visitors sign up for a free account at a typical software company. That’s where brand, messaging, and product marketing play a pivotal role.
There’s a natural tension between using the website as an educational tool versus pushing users to jump straight into the product. While it will always be tricky to find the right balance, developer-centric companies make sure their messaging addresses these four pillars:
Honesty - keeps users and community in the loop about what changes they’re making and why (GitLab even publishes their marketing handbook - now that’s radical transparency)
Clarity - say what they need to - without embellishment
Usefulness - make materials genuinely helpful, not just something they’re trying to get developers to buy
Authenticity - get to know their audience and reflect them in their brand’s voice
I highly recommend downloading the complete Developer GTM Playbook, which has numerous case studies, examples, and expert advice. Even if you don’t sell to developers today, you’ll fall behind if you don’t stay up to date with this audience.