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 min read
April 18, 2016

How we use paid advertising to promote Cronofy

We’ve tried many marketing channels to raise the profile of Cronofy over the last few months. Some worked and others didn’t really deliver on our optimistic expectations. In this post we will share what we have learned from experience and testing and the best practices we follow to promote our Calendar API with paid advertising.

We’ve tried many marketing channels to raise the profile of Cronofy over the last few months. Some worked and others didn’t really deliver on our optimistic expectations. In this post we will share what we have learned from experience and testing and the best practices we follow to promote our Calendar API with paid advertising.

There are different options when it comes to advertising your brand. You can rely on mouth to mouth or social media, you can also focus on face to face by going to industry events or conferences. And then there is paid advertising and in particular Pay-per-click. It can be really useful when your SEO is still in its early stages and when your pages don’t rank high in the results in Google. Paid advertising can also be useful when you launch a new product in a very competitive market or when you want your website to get traffic quickly. My recommendation would be a combination of all of these channels and a lot of testing in order to assess which provide the best ROI for your audience.

However it can be a challenge to make paid advertising work if the audience that you are trying to reach is mainly made up of developers.

I have always worked around or with developers and the feedback they gave me is that they don’t like paid advertising. Not at all.

From several discussions I have had throughout the years with developer friends (trying to convince them of the usefulness of PPC and of the relevance of my job), they seem to think that paid advertising is pretty much synonymous with false advertising. If you pay for your result to appear in the search results or on a website, then surely they can’t be as relevant as the results you find while browsing on incognito mode on Chrome. As developers are a lot better educated on the ins and outs of the internet than your average person this can be problematic. They know which search results are sponsored and what a remarketing banner ad is.

Personal experience also supports my belief that developers are in general reluctant to click on sponsored links or ads when they browse the internet. My AdWords campaigns targeting developers have always been amongst those with the lower click-through-rate (although sporting really good conversion rates).

So is paid advertising doomed to fail if the service that you advertise is targeting developers?

I don’t think so. However you might have to be even more creative than usual and can’t rely on paid advertising as your primary lead generation channel. It can be a good complement to other marketing activities.

How we optimise paid advertising for developers

Be concise but precise
When you advertise an API like Cronofy and want to convince developers that using it will make their lives easier you want to be as precise and technical as you can be in order to show that you know what you are talking about and that you are not going to waste their time. Apply this philosophy to every piece of paid advertising that you create, from text ads to banners. For better results you can try Adwords Dynamic Search Ads which will use terms from the search query as the headline for your ads. This way you can accurately reflect what the person is looking for. You can also use Ad extensions on Adwords to direct the traffic to the part of your website that will interest developers such as your docs libraries or a getting started guide.

Design the right Call-to-Action
I have found that the usual Call-to-Action that you would use for your PPC campaigns such as ‘sign-up today’ don’t work as well when targeting developers. I try to use Call-to-Action that imply a short enrolling process such as ‘get started today’ or a better understanding of what matters to developers such as ‘start coding now’ or ‘start developing today’.

Build up your brand image
The developer community is a tight-knitted community, be it at the local, national or global level. This is why by raising the profile of your company offline and/or organically you can reap the benefits on paid campaigns. If developers have heard or read about your company before, maybe at a hackathon or on a specialised blog, they will be more likely to click on your ads as they come from a legitimate actor the tech scene. It may also mean that you will see an increased search traffic on your brand terms which is always good.

Targeted advertising, less is more
Paid advertising can sometimes feel invasive when overdone. This is why I recommend using targeting advertising as much as possible. If you target specific topics or websites, your ads can appear on screen when people people are actively looking for a solution to a problem, then your ads can be considered helpful. For example you could try placement ads on a tech forum where people are looking for answers to their questions as long as your ads if designed to address specific questions. For example with Cronofy, we help developers integrate with all calendars but if we advertise on a forum that deals specifically with Office 365 calendars we will mention what our API can help you do with Office 365.

Optimise conversions with a developer-focused message
Once you have generated clicks and attracted traffic to your website you have only won the first battle. You now need to convert these clicks into leads and developer accounts. If you send your traffic to classic landing page, boasting about the deals and all the amazing features that you have built for your product, expect the conversation rate to drop. Developers don’t want to read about how amazing you think your product is and if they want to read about features it is only about the ones that will make their lives easier. They want to see it for themselves and get stuck into the code and docs as soon as possible. Make it easy for them and tell it as it is. If you have a developer area then this is where you want to direct the traffic, with links to code samples and docs.

As is true with any paid advertising strategies there is only so much you can assume and apply from previous experience. Which is why nothing can beat your own tests, maybe you will find out that a different Call-to-Action works best for your landing pages or that promoting your features will boost conversion rate, the points above are drawn from my own tests as well as feedback from some very sceptic developers who helped me build our paid advertising campaigns and are not exhaustive.

If your company use paid advertising to promote an API it would be great to hear from your own experience and tests. Don’t hesitate to hit us up on Twitter.

Jeremy is the Head of Marketing at Cronofy with over a decade of experience in the tech industry.

Cronofy reviews sourced by G2