Whatever you go to market motion is, at some point, some dev will be comparing you to other options. It will happen whether your GTM is top-down, bottom-up, middle-out, PLG, community-first, founder-led, or whatever led it is. When people buy software they evaluate and compare.

With smaller deals or bottom-up motion:

  • a single developer will find the tool during the weekend on Hacker News, they will play around, and bring it to the office on Monday.
  • They will convince the rest of the team to give it a go and they will start testing it out.
  • If they like it they will share it with other teams over lunch or by asking people to review a GitHub PR that has that tool/framework in it.
  • The adoption will grow, limits will get hit, security and compliance will start asking questions, SSO’s will be needed.
  • Vendor sales will get involved. They will enable devs with materials that help them talk ROI to the higher-ups. They will try to talk to the buyers too.
  • The devs will swear that the tool helps them be the 10x engineers they were supposed to be.
  • The new budget will be created. CFOs will double-click on it but finally agree with the CTO saying that keeping the team happy and productive is good business.

With bigger deals and a top-down motion:

  • a CTO would hear about a new problem at a conference, or over a beer with a CTO friend. Or your stellar outbound sales team will get in front of them with a 1-in-a-million email that wasn’t semi-automatically marked as spam.
  • Then a dev or group of devs will be tasked with figuring out the criteria that are important for a tool of that category.
  • There will be a spreadsheet. There will be market research, Reddit and Discord questions, and lots of Googling.
  • Based on what devs can find that spreadsheet will be filled, opinions will be formed and a shortlist will be created.
  • Then we are talking demos, getting pricing quota, signing up for a free version with a .gmail account, POCs, back and forth with solution architects and sales engineers to see if it can actually work.
  • There will be multiple emails and internal presentations.
  • There will be budget discussions and CFOs may be involved.
  • There will be “should we actually build it ourselves” debate.
  • And finally, a decision will be made by a VP eng, CTO, or a Head of something.
Dev tool GTM evaluation stage

There are million other ways of going from problem to buying the solution that fall somewhere between those two options. Many things in this journey will be different from company to company. But one thing will stay the same.

At some point, a dev will be evaluating those tools. They will be looking at websites and docs and trying to understand what you do, and how you are different. They will try to see if you hit all the criteria they need. They will try and see if what you are saying is true by testing it out, asking in the community, and looking at benchmarks. I can promise you, devs will be doing that. Not the CTOs. So optimizing that website for developer evaluation is crucial.

True, CTOs may go to your website at some point too. Early on, to see if they heard your name right at that conference. They will see if high-level this is the problem they solve. But what will they do next? They will send it to their architect or a senior dev. They will not be typing in “alternatives to X Reddit” to see what else is out there and then go over every single homepage to extract that diff.

It is crazy to me, how often people optimize their sites for a buyer CTO and go with some flavor of “improve developer productivity” or “build better software faster” without actually explaining what the tool does. Imagine saying “build better homes faster” to construction workers. Is it a drill, bricks, sand, or workforce extension? I mean I get that we are “selling a quarter-inch hole, not a drill” but seriously, what is it?

Also, I am not convinced that patronizing the technical C-level executive is the way to go either. I am a marketing exec and when I see a “5x revenue” header I roll my eyes and leave. And every CTO, VP Data, or Head of AI I know is smarter and more technical than I ever was. Heck, they often play with tools over the weekend just to “stay in the game”. One of our investors who used to be a CTO moved to a technical IC role before going to be an exec again to make sure he still gets it. But as I mostly focus on the bottom-up adoption by devs, I will not go deeper into that “we are selling value and C-level care about value” discussion this time.

So the takeaway from all this is don’t neglect that evaluation stage. In fact, whatever you do elsewhere may not matter if you don’t have this nailed. People will “evaluate you out”. So make sure your website materials, your community work on Reddit or Discords, and your profiles on review sites support that evaluation. The dev evaluation phase will happen with or without you in it.