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You’re Targeting Developers? So Is Everyone Else. Here’s How to Do Segmentation Better.

Updated: May 28, 2023

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

One sure way to make us grimace is to tell us you are “targeting developers,” or better yet, you’re “targeting the long tail.” Even saying, “we’re targeting enterprise developers,” will raise an eyebrow. You are setting yourself up to fail.

Here’s why. There is no simple single definition for ‘Developer.’ Rather, it refers to millions of people with differing skill levels and authority, who use different technology stacks and programming languages. They speak different languages and live in different geographic regions. They belong to different types of companies, are at different stages of their education or professional career, and are working on different use cases. The sheer variety of traits that make each developer unique, quickly adds to a combinatorial explosion of attributes that create colossal diversity.

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Segmentation is about focus and alignment.

That’s where Segmentation comes in. Focus is required because the alternative is unrealistic. To succeed, you must pursue targeted opportunities rather than the entire market.

By creating your segments (or target groups), and, subsequently, developer personas, you will be able to:

  1. Make your messaging more precise and tailored

  2. Create a smarter go-to-market strategy

  3. Use it to optimize your Developer Experience

  4. Enhance your product

  5. Nail down your product/market fit, and

  6. Decide on the type of support to offer.

There are a number of criteria to understand about developers, including:

  • Their motivation – why do they do what they do?

  • Their skillset – what tools and resources do they currently use, what gaps do they have?

  • Their goals – what do they want to achieve?

  • Their mindset – how do they evaluate and make decisions?

  • The demands on their time – where and how do they need support? What type of projects are they working on?

  • Their limiting factors – skills, budget, existing infrastructure choices, corporate culture?

  • The demands on their attention – who are you competing with for mindshare?

  • And where to find them?

Segmentation isn’t just about your developer. To be successful, segmentation must also consider your company and Developer Program goals and objectives, as well as the product you support.

We’ve used and reviewed many segmentation models over the years, but always found them lacking effectiveness for Developer Relations. Other segmentation frameworks tend not to work for DevRel because:

  • They aren’t practical enough.

  • They aren’t specific enough to YOUR business and product.

  • They only go part way (using only a single filter or just demographic data).

  • They don’t give you enough information to adequately target your developer audience and plan a tactical strategy.

  • They don’t map to the real world – Developers don’t identify with them.

  • They also failed to answer a basic segmentation question:

What type of developer will find success with our product?

To start your segmentation, you’ll gather several sources of information. This will include qualitative sources like feedback from your community, colleagues, and peers in the industry and the tech press. Gather information from your CRM and product analytics tools, if you have an existing community. It may also include quantitative data from reports and surveys like those published by Stack Overflow, SlashData, or your own community surveys.

You’ll see the framework (see image below) uses a series of four filters to help you narrow down the criteria by which you will segment your developer targets:

  • Technical (product focused)

  • User (developer focused)

  • Organization (customer organization/use-case focused)

  • Market (industry vertical and geography focused)

Developer Segmentation Framework

There are several questions for you to answer in each filter category. You may add others and adapt it to what makes sense for you. Think about what is important for your product and company right now. You may not have criteria for each category, and the relevance will vary from product to product, and company to company.

Segmentation Criteria Tests

As you list your criteria by answering the questions in the framework, your criteria must also be able to answer “YES” for each of these tests:

  • Is the segment relevant to our business?

  • Is it a large enough segment?

  • Is it a valuable enough segment?

  • Can we target this segment based on our resources?

Our Developer Segmentation Canvas can be used to fill in your criteria. You can download one from our Tools section.

Developer Segmentation Canvas

If you’ve listed more than 2 or 3 criteria in a particular category, we suggest you rank them. Then plan your strategy and activities with those ranked most important first.

Developer Segmentation Canvas in Action

We thought it would be helpful if we walked you through an example of completing a segmentation canvas. For this example, we will use a never-before-seen developer SDK, that helps mobile game developers utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to create real-time immersive environments in their games.

We want to answer the question: What type of developer will find success with our product?

Let’s go through each filter to identify the best criteria.

1. Technical

This product is only focused on the Android mobile operating platform and also integrates with Unity. Developers can use Java or C++ programming languages for the integration of our tool. The implementation takes place after the game has been designed, and builds on top of Android's Telecom Framework, so the developer should have some understanding of telecommunications protocols. It includes a number of pre-trained TensorFlow models for generative imagery at the edge.

Our Technical criteria are: Android, Unity and Java/C++, 4G and Wifi6, TensorFlow models

2. User

The implementation of our SDK is fairly complex, so we would expect the developer to have around 5 years of mobile gaming development experience. This is a crucial technology for a game, so we would expect our developers to have the knowledge and authority to make the decision to adopt our SDK.

Our user criteria are: Mobile game developer, 5+ years of experience, Key decision makers.

3. Organization

These complex types of games and technology are likely created by big game studios, however, it is likely that a well-funded Series-A start-up with experienced developers may also be motivated to attempt this type of game.

Our organization criteria are: Companies that would be most successful with this type of game are 1. Large game studios 2. Series-A start-up. Their use cases are creating large branded mobile games.

4. Market

The industry for our product is Entertainment and Media, notably games. However, we have seen the Education market, specifically because of the school-from-home trend, become more interested in these types of mixed-reality apps. Regionally, the larger game companies are based in the USA (San Francisco), Canada (Vancouver and Montreal), France, and South Korea. It makes the most sense to start with our home market of San Francisco for education, where our CEO is connected.

Our Market criteria are: Industry 1. Entertainment and Media (Games) 2. Education. Geography – San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, France, Seoul.

Below, we have completed a segmentation canvas for you based on our filtering exercise above:

Developer Segmentation Canvas Example

With your segmentation complete, the insight it provides will be used to develop personas to create effective strategies and activities for your developer audiences.

Segmentation is not a one-time exercise. To start, it’s most important to focus on your current situation over the next 6 to 12 months. However, what’s important today may change in the future, as the market changes (e.g., new entrants, developers' experience), or your situation changes (e.g., updates to your product or business objectives). You may also find alternative criteria based on your own users who start using your product.


With such breadth and diversity across the entire Developer community, your product is highly unlikely to appeal to everyone, and even if you wanted to, you will not have enough resources to reach so many people and be effective.

Whether you're a Developer-First or Developer-Plus company, segmentation is a crucial exercise. Use it to focus your target audience while keeping in mind the goals and resources of your company. The exercise also sets you up to create your target Developer personas to bring your segments to life.

This article was originally written for and published on Heavybit. It's been modified.


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