Developer Content: The Cornerstone of Product-Led Growth
Product-led growth (PLG) has been one of the hottest terms in marketing for several years, and recently it’s become more prominent in the developer marketing space. Coined in 2016 by Blake Bartlett at OpenView Partners, product-led growth describes a growth model where product usage drives customer acquisition, retention, and expansion. Twilio, Stripe, and Shopify are known as developer-first organizations that use a product-led growth strategy, but there’s one thing that really helps set them apart: their content.
At Catchy, a developer marketing agency based in Seattle, our content team has seen a significant uptick in client interest in product-led growth. Over the last six months alone, we’ve had more clients come to our door asking for product-led growth support than we have in the rest of our 13-year history. This isn’t surprising, considering the 2022 Product Led Growth Benchmarks report found that 58% of B2B SaaS companies had a product-led growth strategy last year, and 91% of them planned to increase their level of product-led growth investment.
Product-led growth is here to stay, and developer marketing professionals have been creating content to support it for years, whether they’ve realized it or not. Developers are, at their core, an audience that wants to get hands-on with a product to learn, build, and scale. The key to any successful developer marketing program is a brand’s ability to provide the right content that gets the product into users’ hands as seamlessly as possible.
In the following blog post, we’ll go over the types of content that are the foundation for a best-in-class product-led growth strategy.
So, what content do developers really want?
The first step to creating content that supports product-led growth is mapping out each stage of the developer journey. No matter what stage they’re in, the ultimate goal is to provide developers with an easy way to self-serve. If you don’t provide content like this, users have a steeper uphill climb searching out the information they need to prove the value of your product or get answers to issues or bugs they encounter. Spending hours digging up answers on Reddit or Stack Overflow definitely isn’t making a developer’s life easier.
Here’s what you need to know about the goals of product-led growth content in each stage.
In the Discovery stage, the goal is to make your product stand out. You need to quickly inform developers what unique value your product will add to their lives and how they can quickly begin to implement it. Developers want to make sure a tool that’s good today will still be good five years from now. Your content should address the key questions they’re using to evaluate your product, such as the quality of the documentation, ability to scale, integration with existing ecosystem of tools, and more.
If you’re starting from scratch, checking the search volume of relevant keywords using the Google Keyword Planner can be helpful. If you type in something like “code review tool,” you can filter by average monthly searches and use the results to guide what you create. For example, “code review checklist” has a high number of searches per month, making it a piece of content your users might want to see.
The goal of content in the evaluation phase is to go deeper into the value of your product - with things like case studies, webinars, explainer videos, and robust documentation. Since folks have different learning styles, you want to offer as many different types of content as possible, from written documentation to video tutorials and webinars to live office hours where users can ask questions and get help.
At Catchy, we use deep audience research and strategic recommendations to drive and inform content creation. If you’re just getting started producing content or you’re launching a new product, the Developer Marketing Flywheel is a structured approach to building an effective developer marketing program.
Once a user is in your ecosystem, the goal becomes quickly meeting their needs when challenges arise, as well as showing how other customers are getting value from your product. What are users building and why? Where can your users turn for help when they run into a problem or bug? A robust community, help articles, and customer support are all essential.
Your community can also become a source of content ideas. Ask your developer community what types of content and topics would be most useful on their journey.
So, how do you bring content types that are essential to a product-led growth strategy to life? Here are three pieces of content you need to win with developers.
Documentation and Technical Manuals
Documentation, aka “the docs”, is the platform where technical users build a working mental model of your software product. Detailed feature explanations, technical architecture diagrams, procedure walkthroughs, sandboxes, API specs, and tutorials with code snippets are all part of your documentation. From there, your world is their oyster!
Because it’s so foundational and important, it makes sense to treat your docs like a product that can be updated easily and truly meets your users’ needs. A frustrated or confused developer looking at incorrect or outdated docs is not a happy developer, and they certainly aren’t going to stick around.
The good news is the data is in, and technical users love self-serving technical information. In fact, no matter how good the “live support” offering is, less than 5% usually contact customer support immediately when confronted with a product problem.
There’s a reason RTFM (“read the friggin’ manual!”) is a time-honored and evergreen piece of advice for developers at all levels: The documentation should have all the answers your users need. For this reason, making sure your technical content is platinum standard needs to be a priority. Focus on writing and maintaining great docs that you’ve tested robustly and have confidence in. Devs raving about your docs to other devs is a fantastic vehicle for product-led growth.
Onboarding guides are another cornerstone of your developer content. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out: 74% of customers say they’ll switch to other solutions if the onboarding process is too complicated.
The entire onboarding process is an opportunity to introduce yourself to your users. On a very basic level, what is your company all about, and who is your product for? And equally important, how can users quickly get up to speed on your product and begin using it to create value and make their lives easier?
An onboarding guide doesn’t have to be a written PDF: for example, Slack has shared several snackable tweets that help users get started deploying apps faster. Think outside the box and consider video tutorials and drip email campaigns that provide a steady stream of tips. You can also mix media formats by embedding video or audio to appeal to a wide range of users.
Your content work doesn’t end once a customer starts using your product. Content still plays a very important role in client retention, from a robust knowledge base to a community where folks can connect and get questions answered. And there’s another type of content that is immensely valuable in both the evaluation and retention phases: case studies.
Sure, you’ve got a nifty new toy, but what are you going to build with it? Giving your users inspiration is a key part of not only selling them on an initial investment, but keeping them around long term. When customers start doing new and exciting things with your product, you need to engage with them. Invite them to share their story in a video (like this great example from Cohere) or a blog, and highlight the success they’re seeing.
Putting real people and, ideally, great statistics out there as the face of your product can be a real flywheel for growth. Maybe other customers in that particular industry see the case study and start exploring, or maybe a developer who already uses your product for something else sees new possibilities. Case studies can significantly contribute to your overall product-led growth strategy by showing the tangible results your product gets out there in the real world.
Content is the bedrock of any quality product-led growth strategy, and creating educational content that contributes something of value to your users can feel overwhelming to those new to it. Creating a community, nailing your technical documentation, and building a solid onboarding guide - all these things can add up, taking a team of a few people countless hours.
Our advice is: focus on the little things that can make a big difference. Maybe that’s writing up amazing “Getting Started” docs, or maybe that’s a drip email campaign that improves your new user retention. Whatever it is, focus on what you can do and do it well. There are few things developers appreciate more than thoughtful, genuinely helpful content.
Have any thoughts or questions about how developer content contributes to a product-led growth strategy? Connect with Kathie and Lucy on LinkedIn.
If you want to hear more from Catchy on differentiating your content, take a listen to the DevMar Debugged Podcast with Cam Agnew, our Creative Director, and Kathie Jurek, our Associate Director of Content.
Build a Blog that Software Developers Will Read
The Technical Content Manager’s Playbook is a collection of resources you can use to manage a high-quality, technical blog:
- A template for creating content briefs
- An Airtable publishing calendar
- A technical blogging style guide