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Demystifying Developer Personas

October 1, 2020
Demystifying Developer Personas

On first look, software developers appear to be a more distinct and well-defined market segment than most others, which should make it easier to market to them. It’s always simpler to create messaging and positioning for a target market that is uniform and cohesive than it is for a very diverse market. And so developers give the appearance of being easy to market to; but is it that cut and dry?

There are important primary characteristics that set developers apart from the general population. They write programs professionally, and as a result a very particular type of mental acuity and skill set, is more likely to be found among this group than the general population. The very act of programming requires certain characteristics. The successful developer is logical, has a keen eye for detail, and responds to mental challenges with a kind of inquisitiveness that can be associated with analytical and creative mindsets. Developers are usually more cerebral, curious and way more literal than others.

However, while there is a measure of homogeneity amongst developers that can aid marketing professionals who are trying to reach and persuade them, there is also a level of divergence from the general population that makes developer focused marketing unique. Developers frequent and place confidence in different media than the general public; they appreciate different forms of touch, and different elements in messages are more likely to resonate with them. In addition, there is not just one form of development and the types of development this group of people engage in can be so diverse that reaching out to them requires a special understanding of what they do, in addition to an understanding of who they are and what media they trust.

You can do research to find out the specifics of today’s developer and we do. We’ve been studying developers for well over 20 years. We can give you lots of data that can aid in your development of a marketing campaign and strategy. Our annual Developer Marketing survey explores in great detail the various elements of subsets that make up the developer population – and since we’ve been doing it since 1998, we’ve learned a lot about developers and the various personas they exhibit. Some characteristics are shared across personas while others are unique to the type of developer you may be targeting.

For example, developers all answer to a variety of titles in their jobs, the most common being programmer, development manager, or project lead, though titles vary considerably by company size. They are overwhelmingly male. Although the female contingent is growing, males still comprise at least three out of every four developers almost anywhere in the world, though there are many more women developers in Asia. – the ratio varies according to geography, but both men and women developers think there should be more women involved.

Their median age is now 38 in most places in the world. They tend to be married, and to have one or two children. The typical developer has between three and 10 years of experience, and has a high-level academic degree – a bachelor’s degree or higher – though there many developers who continue to learn on the job in order to keep up with the ever changing technology.

These are valuable fundamentals on which to build a strategy, but you still need the insights that only experience in marketing to developers can bring, and that experience suggests you also need to define distinct personas within your target market.

Personas, including developer personas, are not well defined or rigid. How you define your personas should vary with the type of product you have, and the type of work and work environments you expect your users to be engaged with.  

There are basically two ways to study developer personas: pre-defined and organic. Often marketers will define their own personas and then do research to profile them. For example, a marketing professional may have a product line that consists of an entry level development tool – maybe a text editor with color coded highlighting, an advanced IDE with a full suite of professional tools, and an RTOS. Obviously there are three different target customers and there may be subgroups within each of those. This observation lends itself to the creation of customer subsets that are expected within each group. However, in order to transform these subsets into personas you need to do research to profile them. You want to know basic demographics of each subset, but also factors such as language and technology use, where and how best they can be contacted and influenced, plus attitudes and intentions. You need to know the similarities and differences and only then can you flesh out your personas enough to make decisions based on them.

The other way to form personas is organically. Forming personas organically means not coming with a preconceived expectation of who your target subsegments or personas are. Instead a survey is done exploring all the relevant profiling factors, but cluster analysis is used to find the clusters that occur naturally within your target market. In essence you are letting your target market shake itself out naturally to reveal the personas that form distinct groups.

However you go about creating personas, marketers know that they provide an excellent foundation on which to base targeted messages and positioning. We do lots of persona work for some of the largest companies in the world and are happy to help with this. Let Evans Data apply the expertise earned over 20 years to help with this and other research needs.

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