Not all marketing tactics are made equal. Especially at a dev tool startup. 

Depending on the stage in which you are, I suggest the following. 

No product market fit yet: 

  • Focus on getting feedback. Try to get people to talk to you.
  • Try many different channels at a small scale to see where you get the most feedback/interested folks coming from. 
  • Prioritize early-adopter-heavy channels where people don’t have super-high product expectations. 

Have product-market fit:

  • Focus on finding one scalable channel. Make sure that it has a product-market-channel-model fit. 
  • Scale this channel. Optimize it. Make it efficient. Find tactics that support the growth of it. 
  • Focus the vast majority of your efforts on this single channel. 

Have one scalable channel:

  • Diversify your channel portfolio. Add more scalable channels to your mix. 
  • All channels saturate. All have limitations. Be ready for when your scalable channel cannot deliver the signup/pipeline numbers you need.  
  • Make experimentation and finding new channels part of the process. Divide the budget into 80-20 between optimization of the scalable channel and experimentation on new channels. 
Stages of developer marketing

Let’s get into this. 

Developer marketing channel mix

For context, let's start super basic. Developer marketing is getting devs interested in your product, converting them to users, and supporting them through their journey with helpful content.

There are about a trillion marketing channels and ideas that “could work”. But only a few that could meaningfully move the needle quickly. 

I mean, with unlimited resources, you could do everything, and probably every activity would incrementally improve something by a bit.

But resources are never unlimited, especially at a startup. 

Depending on where your product maturity and adoption are you should be focusing your energy on different things. Your developer marketing channel mix should be different. 

For example:

  • when starting out you probably shouldn’t be optimizing the CAC across the portfolio of channels.
  • when you are driving 1M visitors to your blog growing 10% MoM you probably shouldn’t be spending a ton of time on a single, niche developer newsletter

I got inspired to write this article because many folks asked me about this and, recently, I re-read that classic piece from Mark Roberge “The Science of Scaling” and it got me thinking.

So how should you think about choosing your channel mix?

No product market fit yet

At this stage you typically don’t have:

  • great understanding of the user persona
  • great understanding of what exactly is the problem you are solving
  • mature product, that is ready for the pragmatic buyer. You likely don’t have a clear product vision either
  • tons of supporting docs, examples, community, brand awareness etc
You are not really ready to get a million devs into your product yet. 

In fact, if you pulled off some genius tactic that made it happen it would probably kill you. 


  • People would come to check out your website and product
  • They would not be able to use the product in the way they wanted. 
  • They would tell everyone about their horrible experience
  • Nobody would want to give you a second chance (devs are not great second-chance givers)
What you are ready for is feedback from potential users.

And you need it so badly at this stage. You need to figure out who you are building for, what are you building, and where people who want it may be. You want to know which parts of your vision sound better in your head and not in reality. 

At this stage, you don’t want to find scalable channels. You want to find channels that get you enough user conversations. 

You can optimize that by:

  • choosing channels that are heavy in early adopters. Devs who are out there looking for new tools. Think HackerNews, Reddit, ProductHunt.
  • optimizing the first session experience to get that feedback. Offer support and be there, jump into GitHub issues. Try to help folks onboard by yourself. Reach out to folks who signed up personally as a founder through various channels. 

Hopefully, with that approach, you help the team iterate and find your product market fit quickly. And then you move to…

Already have product-market fit

At this point you typically have:

  • some understanding of who your target dev audience is, what they want, and what your product can deliver
  • some hints of channels where you got the most traction and whether those channels can scale to the level of your (or your investors) dreams

Now, you need to find one channel that you can scale. Focus on that and you will be good. 

Once you have that channel candidate you scale it. 

It can be:

  • Your YouTube channel
  • Your Blog via SEO distribution
  • Your CEO’s personal Twitter or LinkedIn account
  • Dev team posting deep product insights on HackerNews
  • User-generated template libraries that get indexed by Google
Whatever it is find one and focus on optimizing that one channel. 

The mistake I see folks make (and I did multiple times before) is experimenting too much and not optimizing enough: you find a channel that works and grows and you jump to another channel to try it out. 

Don’t. Focus on scaling that one channel. Support it with paid campaigns. Figure out core conversion paths and optimize these. Hire channel specialists. 

Don’t move to the next stage until:

  • you see that the channel is proven (delivers Qualified pipeline),
  • you see it grow and understand why,
  • you have the room till the growth stops (you hit channel saturation). 

I know marketers talk about being everywhere all the time etc. But then you have really big companies that grew to tens of millions in ARR on one channel. Be one of these companies. 

Hopefully, at a certain point, you find that scalable and predictable channel. Then you can move on. 

Already have one scalable channel:

If you get to this stage congrats, things are working. You can start thinking like an investor now with a portfolio of channels. 

You want to have your core investment (the scalable channel) grow while you are looking for new ways, new channels to get you the returns you need.  

The thing is. You cannot really continue growing that scalable channel indefinitely. At some point, you’ll hit the growth ceiling. 

There are tons of insights in the podcast . One that I really like is the 80-20 allocation of the budget:

  • 80% optimizing: scaling predictable channels that work
  • 20% experimenting: looking for new channels that could become scalable

If you keep adding those scalable channels via constant experimentation you may see something like that when it comes to growth.

Stages of developer marketing

When your marketing looks like that you can move to the next stage. 

Already have a portfolio of scalable channels and experiment channels

Awesome. What are you doing here then?

Work on growing them!

…And if you find a minute share a learning or two with me ;)