There’s no question that developer marketing and relations requires a unique and multi-faceted strategy just as B2B or B2C customer marketing would. But what strategies and tactics make the most sense to start with and what metrics matter most for measuring success?
Last month at Developer Marketing Summit, Mike Stowe, Director of Developer Marketing at RingCentral, shared his insights on developer marketing, collaborating with product marketing teams, how to define metrics and KPIs, and more!
In conversation with Zhenni Wu, Director of Marketing and Community at Dgraph Labs, here are a few highlights from Mike’s fireside chat discussion.
Tell us how the Developer Marketing function came to fruition at RingCentral
Prior to having a Developer Marketing function at RingCentral, we had fallen into the trap of “build it and they will come.” In other words, the team did an incredible job building out the RingCentral Developers platform, but we didn’t do a great job communicating it to our customers who didn’t know about our APIs or even thought about how they might use communication APIs to improve their businesses. Like many companies, because we do not sell directly to developers, we had to craft a strategy that spoke to two distinct audiences: non-technical decision makers (buyers) who needed top-of-the-funnel content and developers who needed to implement our technology and required more bottom-of-the-funnel content.
I was hired into a product marketing function, mainly to handle go-to-market launches and strategies, but recognized that we needed to take a different approach as the content typically produced for sales doesn’t always resonate with developers. To reach our developer audience, we started engaging developers through events (both in-person and now virtually) and focused on educational content to help our developer audience become industry subject matter experts. We also established safe harbour communities such as our forum and Game Changers community to allow our developers to collaborate with our teams and each other while ensuring we were active in the communities they already inhabited, like Github, StackOverflow and more.
How do you define developer marketing?
That’s a tough question because everyone defines it differently. From RingCentral’s perspective, developer marketing is focused on awareness, acquisition, and advocacy. To help us accomplish these goals, we focus heavily on building vibrant communities, thought leadership and overall evangelism. We also work closely with our product team responsible for our APIs, SDKs, and documentation. Both teams stay in constant contact with shared KPIs and weekly meetings, and share content creation responsibility (allowing us to ensure we’re providing our developers with relevant, technical content.
Ultimately, developer marketing is about building and fostering symbiotic relationships. If your program is purely focused on lead gen or pipe (and not relationship building/ communities), you will not be able to create a genuine program that speaks to developers, and it is very unlikely you will be successful.
What KPIs and metrics do you measure?
Your KPIs need to be multi-level and multi-faceted. Start with company objectives, then infuse them into your departmental objectives (in our case, marketing goals). These will roll into platform team goals, which are shared with our product marketing, and developer goals.
At RingCentral, we apply a developer marketing lens to the traditional marketing funnel to form our developer marketing KPIs:
- Awareness: what’s our website traffic and share of voice?
- Interest: are developers accessing and consuming our documentation?
- Consideration: have they used the documentation to create an app or sandbox to try things out?
- Adoption: are they using the app or sandbox? Have they graduated or moved into production (this includes partners and customers)?
- Advocacy: are they engaged in our advocacy program, Game Changers? What is the dollar value we attribute to customer-generated content?
It’s important to focus on tangible metrics that impact your business. While vanity metrics like API calls or the number of apps created are great for storytelling, they don’t tell your C-suite how your work impacts revenue or moves the needle.
What projects or initiatives do you have in play to drive adoption amongst developers?
We started by taking a hard look at our messaging from the perspective of our audience. Our initial audit concluded that we needed to speak more clearly about our solutions, add tangible metrics to show customer success, and be less ambiguous with expected outcomes. We also needed to make sure our documentation and onboarding was clear and easy to follow. After all, if developers cannot use your product, not only are your marketing dollars likely being wasted, but you may be paying to build a negative perception amongst developers. To do this, we hired a technical writer to revamp our documentation, which helped improve time to first app creation.
In terms of community initiatives, we worked hard to increase our social following from 300 to 50,000 followers in about 3.5 years. We prioritized posting relevant content, engaging our audience with a fun and enthusiastic tone, recognizing the work of our developers and partners, and followed that up with social share activities within our Game Changers program. Our goal was to build a network of trust, keep our audience up to date on new announcements and any changes, and show our developers that we value their contributions and value them as members of our community.
What one piece of advice you’d like to leave the audience with?
Any time you are doing developer relations or marketing, keep these three principles in mind:
- Empathy: take the time to understand who they are and what is important to them. Don’t lead with selling. People tend to trust strangers over companies, and developers are a very social and collaborative bunch.
- Integrity: be honest about your company and product shortcomings.
- Authenticity: be yourself and be real with the community.
Influitive is proud to power RingCentral’s Game Changers advocacy program. Want to learn more about developer advocacy and engagement? Check out our 2020 Influitive Live fireside chat featuring William Du, Developer Community Manager at Agora.io.