How to market to programmers (and how not to)

Not like the other

Last year I started my new job here at Mindscape. I outlined my feelings on this topic here.

Not only is starting a new job terrifying, but I was going to be the only lady in the company – and would be marketing for software developers, to software developers [Co-founder note: This is not for the want of hiring female developers, we wish there were more of them and is why we sponsor events like the Girl Geek Dinners etc].

Now, I have it under good authority (source: trying to market to developers for 2 years) that programmers are probably the most difficult group of people on earth to market to. I honestly think that it would be easier to convince Sad Keanu to be just a bit less sad than to convince a programmer to even have a look at your new product/service/amazing thing.

So upon starting this new job, I had no idea what to expect in terms of my ‘only girl’ and evil marketer status.

The only girl thing? Easy. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Eating pizza every week is not a good idea. Guys like to do that despite the fact that after a lunch of pizza you’re rendered incapable of doing much more than stare at your screen with half closed eyes, wishing that you were actually a cat and your only responsibilities included sleeping in the sun and staring at at your owner, plotting certain death.
  • I’ve been threatening since the beginning of time to implement yoga Wednesdays into our week to ease the strain of sitting at a desk all day, but I’m never greeted with much enthusiasm. In fact, I’m mostly greeted with nervous silence. I can guarantee if the females out numbered the males here they could be coerced into making it happen but as yet I’m on my own for this one. Maybe I should bribe them with pizza… and perfectly even slices of cake.

Enter technophobe!


Confused Otter.

This is how I felt surrounded by programmers.

Never mind trying to effectively market to programmers, I couldn’t even keep up with their lingo on the Twitters!

I needed to ask a million questions a day, everything from ‘what does commit mean’ to ‘why does anyone have to support IE anyway?’.

But when it came to marketing for Raygun, there came a point where asking questions just didn’t suffice. After ‘what even is an exception!?’, the only way to learn was to actually use Raygun myself and see what errors look like, and how to handle them.

Welcome! The time had come to buy the much coveted domain name and make the move from a WordPress hosted blog to one I could maintain all on my own, and use with the Raygun4WP plugin. 



It was a happy day when I sent My First Error. Which sounds like a Fisher Price product.


And now the hard part is deciphering the error messages that get delivered obligingly into my inbox daily.

Considering I’m a noob with a blog there are a lot of them.


Codecademy to the rescue

Luckily I’m surrounded with plenty of support from my workplace and the internets to learn the great secrets of programming. In particular, Codecademy has been a huge help with teaching me the basics. And it’s free!

In my spare time, I’ve already built my first interactive web page with HTML and JavaScript (I actually made one 8 years ago at Uni, but I don’t count it because it didn’t actually work), as well as learnt the hows and whys of these languages. After that, Codecademy also offers courses in jQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby.

Although it may sound like it, I’m not endorsing Codecademy for reasons other than I just think it’s rad. There are SO many websites and resources out there to help out beginners like me. In particular, the rise of non-profit organisations and effort to support women in tech is very encouraging.

So, between the plethora of help resources I find online, and the patience of everyone at Mindscape in answering every question I ask without ever making me feel inferior for not knowing something, it gets easier and easier to understand how to fix things on my own blog, as well as extend advice to friends.  Hell, I got so excited that I’ve encouraged friends with kids to get them started now.

One. Other. Thing.

Now, I mentioned before that programmers are likely one of the most difficult audiences to market to. And when I said that, I meant actually nearly impossible. Developers are smart. They’re resourceful. They’re probably annoyed by your marketing copy and are extremely immune to advertising. Traditional marketing techniques just don’t work for this audience, and there’s no choice but to think beyond the status quo.

So I have had to work really, really hard to create a marketing strategy that works with this very unique audience. Considering nearly all of the textbook marketing ideas are out, I call this plan the ‘anti-marketing strategy’.

Actually, I just made that up then, but I like the sounds of so it stays ;-)

To be honest, there has been days where I’ve had to shake myself out of day dreams of marketing a product that is easily shot out of canons to screaming fans (seriously, if only we could shoot software out of canons), but really I’m glad I get to go to extraordinary lengths for an extraordinary audience.

So techniques that do work include first of all, creating a really great product that doesn’t need buzz words and cleverly worded copy to sell. Engaging with your users, always is a must. Talking with them, rather than shouting through an advertising funnel is always going to be best.

And if you’re going to advertise, use humour.

Advertising which makes fun of other advertising.

Advertising which makes fun of other advertising. The best kind.

Now, time to go throw some exceptions around (with glee).

Tagged as General

5 Responses to “How to market to programmers (and how not to)”

  • Great post Hilary!

  • Fact: Guys look stupid doing yoga. Women not so. Generally speaking.
    Fact: Guys don’t like looking stupid around women.
    Fact: The more women, the more stupid-appearing adverse guys will be come.
    See where this is going? :)

  • Thank you, Lori!

  • Haha yes I see :-) In my experience, everyone looks a little silly doing tree pose, no matter who they are!

  • Hilary,

    This is Hilary. Let me just say that when I stumbled upon this posting (after desperately having googled “how to market to programmers”….I thought I found me, just in a parallel universe. I am the only female at a 7-person B2B computer software company. I AM the marketing department. I related with EVERYTHING you said in this post! And then it was just freaky when I saw your name was Hilary…anyway, I just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it helped me tailor my marketing technique. Before I could even market here, I had to figure out what their products even were. Which, like you said, meant bumbling through their software myself. Humor and intelligence is key for this audience. Anyway please message me back if you’d like to share any other things you’ve learned from that position, I’d be happy to talk!

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