Market research

Good ways to survey developers?

Alex Eckelberry CEO at

July 23rd, 2015

I'm working with a company on a product that is very specific to developers; I'm curious if anyone has any good leads on doing primary research in this area. I've looked at using SurveyMonkey's panels, but I'm not sure it will be targeted enough. 

Simply put, I want to ask application developers several key questions to determine the viability of this product. 

Patrina Mack Experts in global commercialization

July 23rd, 2015

Hi Alex,

Sometimes there are industry reports about products that are designed for developers that can help guide you.   We just recently did a project for s/w development testing tools and gleaned a lot just from online research.   The other approach is to use LinkedIn and search for folks with the right title in the right vertical for your go to market strategy.  i would strongly urge you to stay away from focus groups - developers are stereotypically not that social so a group setting could be quite unproductive however a one-on-one telephone call with folks in the category would be very productive...sometimes it's about being "just about right instead of precisely wrong" which in other words means insights from a few key people could be quite illuminating.   I would also suggest that you talk to their bosses or others in the organization for an "enterprise interview" at their location.   If you're at the point of also trying to understand how to sell into the organization enterprise interviews can be quite revealing about how to play to both users and decision makers who manage the purse strings.   Also, just the process of finding the right message to get engagement via linked or direct dialing for developers can go a long way to refining your positioning.  And one last thing is to go to a relevant developers conference and do what I call a "reverse trade show" - find the people you need to talk to without having a booth; just by walking the floor.

Hope that helps.


Alex Eckelberry CEO at

July 23rd, 2015

@Joanan Hernandez, the Ford quote is a good (and very tired) example of how one asks the question. Besides, his genius was not in inventing the automobile, he genius was in figuring out how to make it economically. There was already a demand for automobiles when he launched. 

I never release a product without primary research in advance of it. In fact, I would count primary research as the single most important thing I've done in launching a product, and the key to some of the most successful launches I've had.

It's not because I'm smarter: It's because the customer is smarter than me.

Releasing a product without primary research is kind of like playing Russian Roulette. You'll get lucky some of the times. 

Chris Gorges Managing Director, Infinia Group // Founder, Biddlist

July 23rd, 2015

Depending on your budget, you could use a research firm that does recruiting / surveying / focus groups. Here are some -- happy to make intros if needed.

Assistance in Marketing
Russell Research
Market Probe
Millward Brown Firefly
Kelton Global

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

July 23rd, 2015


This is a tough market to survey! Happy to share battle wounds :)

Think: shoved into a locker growing up or chasing $$$ after the age of 25

Good luck! :)

EDIT: It inspired me to get behind the "more female developers" movement, except [declines to add commentary on that subject]

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

July 23rd, 2015

I would be very interested in the results of a focus group that subjects developers!  I just don't think very reliable information would result :)

The Lean Startup wasn't written for targeting developers either, for that matter :)

Most business theory breaks down as soon as you talk to scientist/researcher types, I strongly suspect :)

Michael Markarian Founder at Mount Dream

July 23rd, 2015

I have one comment on the Ford quote.

He is telling us not to ask customers what to build. 

However, if you ask your customers "hey, if I build this, will it be valuable to you?" and they say "no, I'm not interested", you should proceed with extreme caution.

Alex Eckelberry CEO at

July 23rd, 2015

@Patrina, good tips, thank you.

Balaji Gopalan Co-Founder, MedStack - end-to-end platform for healthcare apps | Product Management Educator, Consultant, Thought Leader

July 23rd, 2015

Definitely agree with that last point.  The best way to get feedback from Developers on tools you wish to offer them, depending on what you're trying to offer, is to put yourself in environments where Developers ... talk about Developing!  Meetups, hackathons, conferences, etc.  Driving a discussion between them, being open to and considering the resultant feedback, should prove invaluable.

Points made about understanding selling model and channel is well-made.  But maybe, first ensure the product is usable and valuable for the Developer ... then, with their endorsement, build the Enterprise selling model.

nita gopal Founding Partner, Ngworks, A Qualitative Research Consultancy

July 23rd, 2015

dear alex, sorry i can't follow the discussion online... there seems some break in link which won't fix itself. do let me know a little more about your product... and also who you see as the primary respondents from whom you need responses - demographic description as well as geography. then let me see how i can help you. i work in the field of market research... so will be happy to help at least in terms of offering you some guidance - should you still need it. regards, Nita Gopal +91-98204-16237

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

July 24th, 2015

Hello Michael,

However, if you ask your customers "hey, if I build this, will it be valuable to you?" and they say "no, I'm not interested", you should proceed with extreme caution.

I agree. However, the thing is, that there's also evidence that many products have ben successful despite focus groups telling there were not good products. Go figure! :-)

A case in point is Sony. During the 70s, RCA made a focus group to query weather or not consumers wanted tiny portable B&W TVs. Sure enough, the result of the research was that indeed people didn't want this kind of product. By its side, Sony didn't bother making a focus group, they just designed it and starting selling it. They sold thousands in the first year, which motivated them to continue making it, until Sony became the leader -among many of its product lines- of portable B&W TVs.

Another great example of this is the Walkman, fortunately, that history is available from Sony itself.