Developer advocates face two key challenges in their role on a marketing team. The first challenge is the internal perception that their job is limited to marketing to developers. Selling your own development team on the significance of your product can be incredibly important for a tech company’s success, yet this initiative is often misunderstood or even ignored. The second challenge comes from outside the company. It’s the natural skepticism developers have of marketers who often don’t understand their needs.
That skepticism is precisely why developer relations and advocacy should be an integral part of any tech company’s marketing department. Adopting a bottom-up, developer-first strategy helps build better products and more effectively define their value for customers. In this article, I’ll explain why developer advocates are an important asset to any tech company’s marketing team.
The Growing Need for Developer Advocates
The need for a developer advocate comes from two primary pain points: a need for more technical knowledge among marketing personnel, and the related need for marketing and development teams to work closely with each other. This collaboration helps an enterprise create successful technical products and communicate their value to customers.
There are a number of activities a developer advocate can engage in to foster a collaborative environment between these departments. These activities might include:
- Running tech discussions so marketing can receive much-needed feedback about the developer experience.
- Communicate the customer experience to developers so they can create tools that meet the needs of tech experts.
- Enable greater customer success with the company’s products by helping the marketing team confidently relate to tech experts through content and other media.
A good developer advocate knows what makes developers tick. They can connect with them and help them define product strategies and effective narratives about new products and features.
And while marketing teams are responsible for the content that leaves the company, the success of that content relies on how it’s technically packaged. If marketing teams understand the technology they’re selling, they’ll be better able to anticipate their customer’s needs and questions.
This works both ways. Development teams often need to simplify their content so that customers can fully understand the products and services being offered. Once this synergy between marketing and development happens, goals and objectives can more easily align with the company’s overall strategy.
Expected Results and Guidelines
Now that we know the pain points that go into the developer advocate’s role, let’s dive into what this position entails, including practical guidelines and expected results.
Here are several methodologies and approaches for how to elicit the results you want:
- Developer tools: These include outstanding documentation, product demos, tutorials, code samples, and other reference materials.
- Informal content: This includes blog posts and content strategy for engagement, talks, meetups, and anything else that falls outside official documentation but helps to develop your brand.
- Community engagement: This encompasses forums, common development channels (such as Stack Overflow, Hacker News, Reddit, etc.), and Slacks/Discords.
Integrations/partnerships: These are relationships that can be formed with relevant tech companies to help you gain insights about how your product will be used.
Developer advocates don’t just create engaging content, they should be able to do so while explaining the complexities that come with highly technical products. Developing technical product demos, creating tutorials, and utilizing code samples and examples within a company’s product documentation are all methods of achieving this balance.
Developer advocates should also be on hand to listen to developers’ needs, provide them with valuable domain expertise on products, and advocate for them internally.
Part of a developer advocate’s role is to put out informal types of content as well. As one developer advocate has noted, in the wake of COVID-19 “many companies are shifting to digital engagement via blogs, live-streaming, webinars, and third-party social media platforms as their primary means of communication and user support.”
To succeed in a tech-driven world, marketers need to gain a deeper understanding of tech-related material and engage the community. This includes tapping into actual users, getting in front of them, staying relevant in a fast-paced and changing industry, and receiving real feedback about products so they can continue to improve.
Tech marketing can also include participating in forums, helping to enhance existing community-focused programs (such as user communities and hackathons), and being actively involved in commonly used development channels. Developer advocacy additionally includes establishing feedback loops with users in the development community, ensuring that developers receive the information they need to do their jobs more effectively.
In tandem with community engagement, developer advocates should help their organization form ongoing integrations and partnerships with other tech companies. Developing products internally is one thing, but working with partners helps provide an understanding of how your products and technology will perform in the real world.
Today’s technology challenges are about integration, not innovation. The more tooling you integrate with, the more likely your product is to be adopted.
Becoming a Successful Developer Advocate
An important part of succeeding as a developer advocate is creating relevant, engaging technical content and supporting the marketing channel with a deep understanding of the tech ecosystem and product values. They can be thought of as leading the way to a new and more innovative type of product marketing for technology consumers.
Ultimately, however, the goal of a developer advocate isn’t just to promote products to developers within the company, it’s also to convey enthusiasm about a company’s products and services to external users. Developer advocates can be viewed as liaisons who help close the gap between a product and its users.