According to Statista, “the global developer population is expected to reach 28.7 million people by 2024, an increase of 3.2 million from the number seen in 2020.”
With this number in mind, it seems unreasonable to think that developers aren’t an important segment to target your marketing efforts towards.
To get a better understanding of how to do this, you must first improve your knowledge of both developer marketing and developer relations.
In this article, four expert panelists from the Developer Marketing Summit share some of their best wisdom, knowledge, tips, tricks, and hacks for a productive collaborative approach between developer marketing (DevMar) and developer relations (DevRel).
They’ll specifically cover:
- Do developers hate marketing?
- How developer marketing and developer relations show up in their orgs, and how it impacts them.
- How collaboration between developer marketing and developer relations can help us prove the value of our functions.
- Their thoughts on establishing branding for developers.
- The future of developer relations and developer marketing.
But first, let’s get to know the panelists, including their experience in both developer marketing and developer relations.
About our panelists
Arabella David, current* Head of Developer Marketing, Global Business Messaging at Meta: I've been doing developer relations for a pretty healthy amount of time. I've been with some startups and also some companies like Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, and Nokia, which is where I got my start. I'm building a developer relations team and initiative for WhatsApp.
I've always been passionate about developers because, in marketing especially, they'll tell you what they want and they're explicit about what they need to be successful.
*Some panelist titles have changed since the release of this talk. We have put ‘current’ next to those that have changed.
Ben Lloyd Pearson, Director of Developer Marketing at Mattermost: My background jumps back and forth between engineering and marketing, but most of it has been centered around open-source technology.
When I first got into software development many years ago, it was one of the most empowering things I’d ever experienced. I've loved being able to take the creative and communication skills I have and apply them to this field that I find really interesting.
Cherry Manrao, current VP of Developer Relations and Community at DocuSign: I'm the Vice President of Developer Experience at DocuSign. That covers several teams, including developer relations, developer marketing, and a few other functions. I've been in the space for about a decade in various functions. I've done the marketing function and some of the other pieces within DevRel.
I love the developer space. There's so much creativity and excitement that comes out of engaging and enabling technical audiences of builders and creators. Career-wise, I’d say it's really fun to be working at the intersection of product, engineering, and marketing. No day is the same, and it's a really fun space.
Ricardo Navarro, current Developer Community Marketing, Global Lead at Stripe: I'm Head of Developer Relations and Community at Marqeta. I've been in DevRel for about eight years and, like many of us, I stumbled into this career. I actually started my professional career as a reporter. When I decided to switch over to tech, I really wanted to land a marketing gig just because the skill sets that you get in reporting are very similar to marketing.
I got the first job that I could in San Francisco, at a small developer relations agency, and little did I know how much marketing I was going to be exposed to throughout the different roles that I've held. I love that about developer relations – we get to redefine how this traditional well-known established industry works for our users, and that's pretty exciting.
Do developers hate marketing?
Ben Lloyd Pearson: Your typical developer is on a mission, usually to solve a very specific problem. You need to meet them where they are on their journey and provide tools and resources that help them.
I've always had the opinion that all technical content that you generate should feed into persuasive narratives, whether that's a website page, blog posts, documentation, SDKs (software development kits), code examples, or tooling.
Whatever it is, developers are gonna dive super deep into everything when they're investigating their problem, so if you save them time, if you provide a useful tool, if you educate them, they'll naturally grow to appreciate you.
I think discussions like this are happening more because we're collectively realizing that we need a more holistic approach to marketing to developers. Marketing doesn't necessarily need to own every single one of those technical content pieces that I was describing, but they do have a major stake in making sure that it's successful.
Doing things like educating, pitching, not blocking important information behind requests for personal information, and avoiding spamming with irrelevant information will make developers love you and grow to embrace you.
Learn what you, as a product marketer, need to know about engaging developers in this article. 👇
Ricardo Navarro: For me, the question isn’t “do developers hate marketing?” It’s “does anybody love marketing?” Does anybody love to know they're being marketed towards? I don't think so. I think developers don't like bad marketing when it's aimed at them.
That being said, if you can leave with one thing today, make it this: if you're not an engineer or a developer and you're doing a marketing campaign but you’re not quite sure about the copy you're using, just Slack one of your engineers and say, “Hey, does this make sense?”
It's happened to me many times where they're like, “I have no idea what this is,” and I have to change things. I want to be really intentional with the communication that I'm putting out there.
All communication that we're sending to developers is some sort of marketing. We have to be a little bit more aware of this persona than traditional marketing teams, who can blanket their marketing campaigns per segment and not think about technical audiences.
That's how I think about it. I've seen very successful marketing campaigns that developers love because they had the right tone and were directed to and intended for developers.
Arabella David: Are there any examples you can think of?
Ricardo Navarro: Recently we launched our developer community, and this was the first time we had a launch for our developer audience. We created different code snippets within GIFs and animations, kind of teasing the launch. If you were a developer, you could decipher what it was that we were saying, but if you weren't a developer, you were like, “What’s this?”
That was intentional. We wanted to make sure that developers knew that we were communicating with them and that this was specific for them. I think those teasers and launch animations were the most highly engaged-with social media assets we had last year. That was really exciting to see.
How do developer marketing and developer relations show up in your organization? How does that impact your company?
Cherry Manrao: As I mentioned, I've got a few different teams under the developer experience umbrella. Developer marketing is one function, developer relations is another, and we also have an ISV (independent software vendor) focus. All of this lives within product and engineering. Our marketing organization is separate.
A lot of the time, we’ll work with our corporate marketing teams and leverage the same tech stack. We don't want to compete on our paid search campaigns, so we work in harmony together.
Arabella David: Is it optimal for you? I don't want you talking trash about your employer, but do you think you're very effective where you are?
Cherry Manrao: Today, we’re effective where we are. However, having the ability to scale with our broader marketing organization and get their buy-in on the developer piece would give us a tremendous amount of scale and a tremendous amount of growth.
Right now, it feels a little bit like something we're pushing from one angle. I think that’s worked for us as we’ve gone from a startup to where we are today. However, as we evolve, I think there's some exploration to be done on how we ensure that all marketing thinks about this persona and ensures that it shows up in everything that we do.
Ben Lloyd Pearson: DevRel falls under developer marketing at our company. We’re focusing on three things: awareness, engagement, and nurturing, so attracting new audiences to our ecosystem, engaging them with content that resonates with them, and then nurturing them to deepen their involvement. We have open-source projects they can become involved with, they can become a user of our free products, or they can become a paying customer.
The biggest benefit I get from being on the marketing side is we have a pretty mature marketing organization that freely grants me access to all of the support that you would typically get.
We have wonderful designers that help me produce super attractive visual elements – this definitely helps improve engagement with the content we publish. We have a content management team that handles the content strategy, publication process, and copy editing.
Our growth marketing supports us with paid advertising; we advertise community events and developer content. We have a pretty successful email program as well.
Thanks to data operations, we have very good tracking of everyone who comes into our ecosystem, whether it's a website visitor, a contributor to one of our open-source projects, or a user of our product.
Then, product marketing helps me craft messaging that we inject into every piece of technical content we produce. I'm constantly referring to the strategic messaging docs that they've produced because they help me make the connection between the developer audience and where the traditional purchasing center might be within an organization.
It's honestly a wonderful place to be because we’re able to illustrate the value of our work. We understand our entire marketing funnel from top to bottom; we know that my team’s activities affect the top and middle of the funnel, and we know there’s a direct correlation between the work that's happening here and the company’s bottom line growth. It's put me in a place where it’s really easy to communicate this value to our executive leadership.
How can collaboration between developer marketing and developer relations help us prove the value of our functions?
Ben Lloyd Pearson: Since we have such a strong focus on our marketing funnel, if we produce content for developers, I can calculate the long-term value that it’s going to provide to us at the bottom line.
Of course, every content piece doesn't perform the same, so it's not always consistent, but when you look at the average across all content, you can pretty well estimate what percentage of the traffic coming into a developer piece of content is going to turn into some sort of dollar amount for us.
Being in marketing, most of my focus is around things like digital content, experiential activations, using our products, clicking on the download button or the Deploy button, running the docker command, and that kind of thing, and we're constantly tracking all of this.
The metric that we share with our leadership is organic and direct traffic because developers are our company's primary target audience. We’re looking specifically at non-branded traffic and bringing in tons of fresh developers that aren't yet aware of our product or ecosystem. There's probably no other team in our company that is better equipped to move the needle on that.
Internally, we do a lot of things to track content engagement, such as click-through rates on content, email, and paid advertising.
We can't do this at scale, but we monitor things like site path navigation to see how many pieces of content someone is consuming. I've seen developers consume 10 or more pieces of content and then fill out a contact sales form.
We can also do things like referrals from developer resources. I've published technical demo apps in the past, and within those apps, we had referral links to specific areas in our documentation. I could then count the number of developers who were using those links to come to our website.
And then, of course, we also have an open-source community. There are a lot of metrics we can also track with that, but that's a whole rabbit hole in itself, so I don't want to dive into that one too much.
I think that if you’re part of a mature marketing organization, it's very easy to put a bottom line value on the work you’re doing.
Cherry Manrao: I think the impact of DevRel is in the top-of-funnel content creation, driving awareness. To build trust and credibility with developers, you've got to create content that’s solid and meets the developers’ needs. We do a ton in terms of top-of-the-funnel content creation.
At DocuSign, we also see a significant amount of bottom-up purchasing. We often see developers start a trial, kick the tires, and build a proof of concept. We’ve trained a dedicated sales team to engage with the developers as they're building a proof of concept.
Don't sell them, don't call them, but maybe give them some resources and helpful links. If they hit a roadblock, connect them with someone in developer support to get them over that hump.
More broadly, we're looking at usage and adoption as the ultimate metrics. How many new integrations are being built? How much traffic is being sent via developer-built integrations?
Today, close to 60% of our transactional volume in a given month is sent via developer-built integrations. So it's a strong metric for us, and it's the primary one that we focus on.
Ricardo Navarro: In terms of how to prove value, I sometimes struggle with being within the marketing organization because of the focus on the top-of-funnel metrics. If we're tracking the same types of metrics that other folks are tracking, it’s harder to see our impact.
I want to make sure that I'm communicating and reporting metrics that are unique to this new industry, so I’m focusing on the feedback that we get from our developers, the time to sandbox, and the time to dashboard. And, yes, we're also providing all these content pieces and we're tracking the views and the engagement.
What’sbeen most impactful is to show after we did X amount of blogs on this topic, the time to dashboard has decreased, so we're just we're making their lives a lot easier through all these content pieces. That is where we're showing the value of developer relations and why we must have this specific focus.
I think it's very important, especially for new DevRel teams out there, to identify metrics and KPIs that no other team is tracking or able to impact, because then you're going to be able to stand out.
However, before anyone takes what each of us said and starts writing down these KPIs, you first need to figure out your company goals, the way your team is structured, and the maturity level of your program. All of that stuff influences what exactly is valuable and what's going to be the most impactful. That’s such important legwork to do, then you can figure out the rest.
What are your thoughts on establishing branding for developers?
Ricardo Navarro: This shouldn’t be the first thing that you focus on if your program’s new. This is definitely a “nice to have”, so don’t feel pressured to focus on developer branding.
However, developer branding gives that little bit of oomph to your campaigns. When developers see that you've created this unique set of assets that is specific to them, they'll feel special and you'll start to create a sense of community and a sense of developer-first communication.
I first experienced this back at Visa when I was brought on to launch the developer community and DevRel program. I worked closely with the product marketing team to create a developer voice playbook. Now, this was Visa, so there were by-the-book guidelines on exactly how to communicate with developers.
We were guiding sales, marketing, and product representatives that’d never really communicated with developers before. Now they can go to this playbook and see how they should phrase things, what they should say, what text they should use, and all those things. It’s been pretty impactful.
That spun out into several initiatives for us to build a look tone feel. We worked with agencies to create this different type of experience, still using the Visa brand but specifically for developers.
After maybe like six months, developers started to email and say, “It’s pretty cool that Visa is doing this. Who would have thought that they were gonna focus on the developer audience?”
I brought those learnings to Marqeta. We have this awesome creative team who has been super pumped to help bring this to life. We've been testing things here and there, and you can see that the assets talking about developer events are slightly different.
They're still within the brand, but you can tell that they’re meant for the developer audience. It's also something fun to do, and I think that's where that collaboration with marketing and DevRel is super powerful.
What’s something exciting that you're looking forward to in the world of developer relations and developer marketing?
Ricardo Navarro: We’re defining how this industry plays out and what it’ll look like tomorrow. I've learned so much over the past eight years, over the past year, and even during this conversation, and there’s so much more to learn.
That’s what's super exciting to me – it's not a defined industry from a textbook; we get to figure it out as we go along. When you have successes, they’re just that much sweeter because you were the first one to try this out. I'm looking forward to having a lot more of those.
Ben Lloyd Pearson: I'm excited about the normalization of marketing as a critical component of DevRel success, and the recognition that the practices of the past don't really work on this audience.
I think we'll see more marketing teams embrace DevRel and make it a central component of their strategic success. I'm also loving how marketing teams are increasingly focusing on education and enablement over sales attempts.
Cherry Manrao: For me, at a macro level, it's exciting to see that developers have taken on more authority, not just influencing budget decisions, but actually deciding how money gets spent in their organization. I think this shift and the empowerment of developers is really powerful, and we're going to see it more and more.
To Ricardo and Ben's points, there's going to be more emphasis on how you market, how you talk, and how you make it easier for developers to do what they're doing. We're starting to see more traction, and I think it's exciting.
Arabella David: I agree with you 1,000%. Just look at the innovation that's coming out of this field, especially globally.
Someone in a region that isn't typically known for being like Silicon Valley can come out of nowhere with the next world-changing invention. I want to be a part of that! I want to help those people be successful, and if that's by raising awareness of this location API, or this messaging API, I'm doing what I can.
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