How we built credibility and engagement in a new market
In May 2019, F5 finalised its acquisition of NGINX, the trusted open source leader in web and application server technology. Together, F5 and NGINX bridge the gap from applications to infrastructure, and from developer to operations.
With NGINX as a new business unit, F5’s challenge was to build awareness and credibility for the DevOps audience.
Developers are more technical and pragmatic than the traditional buying unit, which makes them a challenging group to reach with traditional marketing tactics. The objectives of this campaign were therefore threefold:
- Introduce F5 to the DevOps market
- Generate opt ins for further nurturing
- Identify points of interest for ongoing engagement
The elephant in the room? Developers aren’t into marketing. They’re generally suspicious of corporate objectives, and can sniff a drop of marketing jargon from miles away. So it was critical to ensure our engagement was empathetic to their preferences.
To fulfil all three campaign objectives and create true advocacy, we first had to solve real-world developer problems. So we set out to provide products, resources and solutions to improve development efficiency.
Our strategy comprised 3 clear steps:
1. Social listening and audience research
Going into the project, we knew that DevOps practitioners can’t be identified by a simple list of job titles. It’s a cultural and ideological shift, which makes targeting criteria difficult to pinpoint. To help identify accounts that were primed for outreach, we set out to observe DevOps professionals in their own environments. We spoke to some of NGINX’s developers to identify LinkedIn Groups, Slack Channels, Reddit threads and websites popular among the developer community.
This research led to our first hurdle. Our account-based approach found the DevOps audience segmented into two groups:
- Pre-DevOps teams that are only starting their transformational journey and lack know-how or executive buy-in.
- Pro-DevOps teamsthat exhibit through their hiring, skills and technologies that they are already on the path to development.
2. Behavioural targeting to locate and engage audience
In theory, we loved this approach. We loved the idea of giving each organisation the right content at the right time based on where they are in their DevOps journey. But we learnt that it was impossible to target accurately at this level.
Without knowing where each organisation was in their journey, we looked to the DevOps professionals who work within these organisations. Switching to this method of targeting, we had a lot more data available to us:
- Group Membership – We found the leading DevOps groups (e.g. DevOps at Scale, DevSecOps and DevOps on AWS) and included these in our targeting.
- Skills – We used the leading DevOps technologies (e.g. Ansible, Kubernetes and Openshift) as skills targeting for our personas. This allowed us to surface the DevOps practitioners in target accounts.
- Interests – We set up Boolean search operators to find keywords like ‘automation’ and ‘continuous development’.
3. Audience surveys to understand individual interests
Now that we had an audience we knew would value DevOps content, it was time to figure out how to identify what phase of the DevOps journey they were in, as well as get them to opt in to receive future content.
We realised that a survey was the perfect fit for the job, but that we’d have to approach the audience of developers with care. We injected humour into the survey copy to show that we were self-aware of our marketing tactics and that we weren’t blood-sucking salesmen.
The answers we received from this campaign allowed F5 to create an authentic dialogue with their target audience. Not only were DevOps professionals opting in to receive future communication, but they were also telling us exactly what type of communication they wanted to receive.
survey responses and opt ins
Field Marketing Manager (Africa)
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