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How to build a developer audience and why it matters

We ran into an interesting problem on the web team here at Acquia because we have two very distinct audiences that don’t overlap. This split audience of visitors to acquia.com caused us a bit of an identity crisis conflict for our main marketing website. If we tried to create content for one audience we started to dilute the other and visa versa. It was also hard for the users in either audience to easily find the content that mattered to them because their user paths and goals were very different. Our two audiences are (1) business users looking for a CMS platform and (2) web developers who know about Drupal and want to learn more about Acquia or find helpful tools. This conflict in audience motivation and needs hindered the the growth of either audience.

How do you solve the problem of divergent audiences?
Going against the old military warning not to divide one’s army, we decided to separate these two audiences into two separate websites. This would enable us to focus each site on the individual audience it was catering to, which in turn would help each audience to grow. You can only take this action if you have enough content and two sufficiently divergent audience types to support two websites, and we were fortunate that we did. [I wouldn’t recommend this option if you are lacking in content however. In that case, I would recommend re-architecting your website to allow for a better user flow for each or all of your audiences until you have enough content to separate them out onto completely different sites.]

Another reason we decided to split the two websites was because of the user goals and expectations. We wanted to build the trust of our developers because we weren’t doing that well on our corporate website, which was trying to serve a mixed audience on the same page and asking a visitor to declare if they belonged to one or the other group. Developers want free tools, free assets, and all the extra benefits specific to dev tools which we make sure is promoted prominently, front-and center on dev.acquia.com. Our business audience -- IT leaders and digital marketers -- wants to learn more about our products, read our assets and case studies, and look to contact us for more information. Developers rarely want to be contacted. We have content for both groups but it never flowed together properly on acquia.com.

“Developers are the most-important constituency in technology. They have the power to make or break businesses, whether by their preferences, their passions, or their own products…[they] have, out of necessity built up an immunity to traditional marketing tactics. Marketing materials should consist primarily of either code of documentation. They can’t really be marketed to at all.” The New Kingmakers

How do you know if your strategy is working?
When we made the decision to break out our developer audience and move it to a new web property, we made sure to create benchmarks and define success metrics before we kicked this off. Our main goal for the developer audience was to gain an increase in traffic since we are trying to build our influence with developers, and our other secondary goals were to increase free tool signups and downloads.

We launched the new developer site last July -- nearly 12 months ago. So the question is, now that we have a site built with the needs of those developers in mind, has the traffic and therefore audience grown?

In comparing our total previous traffic on a single site to our total traffic today with both sites combined, we have seen a 15% increase in unique visitors to date since breaking apart acquia.com and launching dev.acquia.com in the summer of 2015.

Whats next?
Now that we have our website up and running, the goal is to keep quality content flowing out and making sure it is getting distributed to the right places. We work closely with our in-house development team and our external partners to make sure we are able to hit our site goals. Newsletters have worked really well for this audience, which we have tailored both in content and in design layout specifically to them. Creating a newsletter of your top content along with syndicating your content out to the places your readers are spending their online time will be beneficial to your content strategy and audience growth. In order for your new website to continue growing, you need to ensure your site gives the visitors a reason to come back. You have to show your value through your content and offerings. Watch your bounce rates and time on site to see how your users are engaging with your content. This new site (and indeed any site) will always be a work in progress, so continue to watch it and brainstorm ideas to keep it fresh and valuable for your audience. If you let it go stale your audience will know and stop coming back.

My blog on marketing metrics has some valuable insights into what to look for when you start watching your audience grow.

In summary:

  • Know what problem you are trying to solve
  • Make sure you have enough content for your audience before splitting it off on its own
  • Set success metrics and benchmarks -- know what success looks like
  • Start building, writing, distributing and tracking.

Have you ever divided your audience onto separate sites? have others built up new audiences? What successes are you seeing?

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