How to Reach Developers with Email Advertising

Portrait of Melina Panitsidis
by Melina Panitsidis
Jul 10, 2020

Email is going through a renaissance.

The use of email has continued to grow despite the increase in irrelevant spam that convinced marketers to focus their efforts on other channels.

So, what’s got marketers realizing email advertising isn’t such a bad idea after all? The rise of really great email newsletters. They’re everywhere. You’ve probably come across them at one point or another. Hey, you might even be subscribed to a few of them!

This email renaissance is providing marketers with an excellent opportunity for targeted online advertising. Email advertising might not be one of the first strategies that comes to mind when you’re trying to reach developer audiences, but it should be.

Why? We’ll explain everything you need to know about email advertising for tech-savvy developers and why it’s an effective strategy, but first...

The basics of email advertising and where it fits in the funnel

Unlike email marketing where marketers spend countless hours curating an email list and refining email sequences, email advertising allows you to borrow an already engaged audience. Who doesn’t love a good shortcut?

Email advertising can take two forms: sponsored newsletter and dedicated email sends.

Sponsored newsletter

A sponsored newsletter is exactly what it sounds like. A brand sponsors a publisher’s newsletter and in exchange gets premium ad placements within that newsletter. Pretty simple for a strategy that expands reach and increases brand awareness in a single newsletter send. Sponsored newsletters are a staple for top-of-funnel marketing campaigns because it allows marketers to establish a relationship with a new, engaged audience and start building brand awareness early on in the customer journey.

What does a sponsored newsletter look like? That depends on the newsletter. For example, Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting platform, sponsored a newsletter by CSS-Tricks to reach a new and targeted audience in the design and development community.

CSS-Tricks Newsletter_Cloudways

With a simple ad placement in a single newsletter send Cloudways expanded their reach and increased brand awareness to a new group of developers.

Dedicated Email

A dedicated email send puts a spotlight on your brand. Your content, offer, and message are front and center in a publisher’s newsletter. Dedicated email campaigns are versatile and can be used at all stages of the funnel but are ideal for lower funnel initiatives like driving conversions.

Take for example, Amazon Web Services. The cloud computing service used a dedicated email send in CodePen’s newsletter, The Spark, to promote a webinar.

Codepen Dedicated Email_AWSThis type of email advertising placement gives advertisers more room to expand on their message, brand, and offer to drive a specific action. In this case, Amazon Web Services used dedicated email to drive webinar registrations.

What makes email advertising different?

Email advertising has a few key advantages over other forms of targeted online advertising. That’s why incorporating it into the marketing mix can help marketers fill the gaps in their overall strategy.

Let’s take a look at how email advertising stands out.

High engagement

60% of Americans subscribe to some type of newsletter. This voluntary opt-in stems from genuine interest in the content a newsletter is putting out. Why is this a key advantage in email advertising? Because it offers marketers automatic high engagement rates. Think about it, if a subscriber wasn’t fully engaged with a newsletter, they would have never subscribed in the first place.

Developers use email religiously to communicate, work on projects, and keep up with news in the community. Email advertising to reach this tech-savvy audience is effective because marketers can be sure they’re reaching a highly engaged audience. In short, developers actually care about the emails they receive— and that’s where the opportunity lies for marketers.


This is a big advantage— especially in the development community.

By subscribing to a newsletter, a user is granting a publisher permission to communicate with them. They trusted a specific publisher enough to share their email address and they clearly trust in the content the publisher is sharing.

That trust factor (or by definition, halo-effect) is extended to marketers running ads in a newsletter. If a user subscribes to a publisher’s newsletter, they’re trusting their content and what they have to say. Meaning, they’ll trust the ads a publisher chooses to run in their newsletter. After all, publishers work hard to build a subscriber list and establish trust— they’re not going to throw that away if an ad doesn’t align with their content.

Developers don’t trust advertisers. In fact, developers are avid ad block users. Email advertising not only allows marketers to bypass ad blockers, but it also allows developers to see ads through a different lens. One that doesn’t feel forced, intrusive, and pushy.

Double opt-in is the gold standard

A user is aware of what they’re getting into when they subscribe to a newsletter, but some publishers want to make sure it’s what they really want. 

Enter, double opt-in.

Publishers that require double opt-in will send a confirmation message (usually via email) requesting that the user confirm their subscription. This ensures a subscriber wants to engage with the publisher and provides marketers with verified views.

Instant access to niche audiences at scale

Most newsletters offer content on a specific topic and cater to a specific audience. Basically, with email advertising, you know what you’re getting and who you’re reaching.

That’s why it’s an effective channel for marketers looking to reach developers. A traditional PPC campaign could potentially reach developers here and there across the web— but there’s no guarantee. Partnering with a publisher that caters to the development community to run an email campaign will guarantee you’re reaching the right audience.

Pro tip: Find an ad network that offers access to multiple independent publishers. This way, you’ll be able to expand your reach and make your campaign more effective with a single buy.

Email is very mobile-friendly

Most of us don’t like to admit how much time we actually spend on our smartphones 🙃. Luckily, for marketers wanting to incorporate email advertising into their strategy, this is a good thing. The mobile-friendly nature of email allows marketers to reap the benefits of how much time users spend on mobile devices without putting in any extra work to account for it.

Easy to track

Email advertising metrics—opens, clicks, CTR, etc.— are simple to interpret.

By using historical newsletter stats provided by the publisher and interpreting campaign specific metrics, marketers can analyze and optimize to maximize success. This makes budgeting and determining the value of a campaign simple and straightforward.

Tips for creating email advertising for developers

Do your research

Developers are unique, so before you do anything else, do your research. Dig into the different personas within the development community.

That means: researching different developer types (hint: there are many!), learning about what they like (and what they don’t), and exploring where they hang out online. While we can make some assumptions based on available data, not all developers are the same.

Supplement research with specific questions like: 

    • Who is your audience? (age, gender, location, education, income, etc.)
    • What are their goals/problems/pain points? 
    • What are their interests?
    • How does your product or solution solve their problem?
    • Where and how can you reach them? (websites, podcasts, blogs, etc.)

Getting specific about your developer personas isn’t just about reaching your target audience. It also helps define your messaging and creative.

Choose the right publisher

When trying to reach a developer audience, it’s essential to find a trusted publisher with a strong community that also aligns with your brand. Scope out publishers who specifically cater to the development community. Some of them include: Codrops, Coding Horror, CSS-Tricks, Bootstrap, Sitepoint and CodePen.

It goes without saying that marketers will have a lot more success reaching developer audiences via a coding newsletter rather than a newsletter about exotic birds.

Provide relevant value

Lastly, ask yourself if your message or offer provides value to the development community. Maybe your brand offers coding resources or an organizational tool that developers can benefit from. Whatever it is, it should interest and benefit developers in some way.

Once you’ve established your brand can offer relevant value, make sure you combine that with clear ad copy and a strong call-to-action.

Wrapping up

Developers are quick to ignore an ad that doesn’t meet their standards. This tech-savvy audience values trust, community, and quality over anything else.

By keeping these attributes in mind and maintaining respect for the developer community, marketers can expect impactful results from their email advertising campaigns. The formula for success is simple. Craft a strong offer, pair it with the right publisher, and you’ll be filling your funnel with qualified leads in no time.