September 9, 2020
Founder of Hoopy, the developer relations consultancy. Need help with your developer relations? Get in touch.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
We all (well almost all of us) love events. We love getting hands on and helping developers. But as we build out our program are we actually helping developers succeed? What are their actual needs, and are we taking the proper steps to make sure that we can help the most developers?
In this session Mike Stowe looks at the Hierarchy of Developer Needs, and how you can use it to balance your efforts and ensure your users are successful.
So, I’m Mike Stowe. If you can’t tell, I work for a company called RingCentral. I was trying to be very brand agnostic this morning, so hopefully no one can see that. And, I want to talk to you about kind of a model that I’ve been work with over the last four…really programs I’ve developed, and try to figure out how do we focus, and where do we focus our efforts and energy, and of course, money to build a strong program.
By the way, for those of you interested in speaking and interested in getting in develop relations or developer evangelism, stay tuned because I also have a couple giveaways at the end, and one of those is going to be my new book on developer evangelism. For those looking to get in developer evangelism, or those looking to really learn more about this marketing thing, or, you know, what develop relations is and if you can’t tell from my title, my focus is on developer marketing these days.
All right. So about me, again, I do develop relations at RingCentral, the rest of the stuff really isn’t important, except for the last bullet which is “Pun teller extraordinaire.” If you need a good pun, please text “pun” to 507-208-7802, and I promise you that the jokes you hear today will be far, far worse, and far less funny than the jokes on there.
When we talk about the programs and kind of the advice in this session, first, please, understand this is still learning for all of us. So, I’m learning, other people are learning, and Tamal Hadit [SP], you know’s an expert. I consider her to be the expert, and I’m really looking forward to learning from other people here. But, this is the same tool I’ve used going from stealth startups that nobody’s ever heard of, to public companies, you know, with hundreds of thousands of customers.
And, the latest being, of course, RingCentral. Now, if you haven’t heard of RingCentral, RingCentral is actually a telecom communications provider. So, we provide what we call “unified communications,” which is voice, SMS, team messaging, meetings, fax, all with one app and contact center. On top of that, we have APIs for all these solutions.
So, you can do APIs for voice, SMS, fax, etc., etc., embeddable widgets, a large community. But, kind of, RingCentral’s interesting because RingCentral was a $20 billion company. It’s been public since 2015, and so coming in, we really want to take advantage of these APIs that have been built and build a strong community around it.
And that meant we had to ask some basic questions, and those are the same questions we’re going to look at today. And that is, “How do you actually build a develop relations program?” You know, I think there’s a lot of ideas going out there, a lot of different suggestions, a lot of different areas of focus. Should you be focused on community, should you be focused on events, should you be focused on evangelism or education, should you be focused on open source?
What is it that makes a good develop relations program? Where do you invest for maximum impact? Now, RingCentral is an amazing company, I’ve been very, very blessed, but I have yet to find the golden parachute company that says, “I want to give you $10 million to do whatever you want to do with it.” Instead, I typically see, we love the ideas, we think it’s great, now prove the concept so we can, you know, invest in it and invest in it more.
So, where do you invest for maximum impact? And then, how do you grow and expand your program in a scalable manner? How do you grow it without having to hire 40 developer evangelists on a daily basis? How do you grow it without having to hire 10 community managers to try to manage your forums or your community?
And, last but not least, how do you go a step further and take your developers and convert them into advocates? And so those are the questions we’re going to look at in this presentation. We’re going to try to look at, again, two different frameworks for doing that, and how to measure it. But, before we get going, I want to start with a very simple question I’d like you to answer to yourself, and you can answer this in the Slack if you’d like, but the question is, “If you were asked to start a global meetup program, what would you need to do in order to accomplish that?”
And, the reason I’ll ask that question is because chances are, everyone has a different answer. If you are an established company like SalesForce, you already have a global meetup program. It’s already there. If you’re at a program like MuleSoft, where we built the community first, we were able to launch a meetup program, and I think we launched, I think roughly 40 meetups in about 12 months.
You know, but we were able to do that. If you’re a brand new startup, you’re probably saying, “I don’t know if I can have a global program. Maybe I’ll start with one meetup. Maybe I need to start on something else. Where’s my focus going to be?” And that’s the whole point of this talk and this exercise is helping you understand where you’re at today, and what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be tomorrow.
All right. Now, before we can dive into anything, I think the most important thing is the purpose of developer relations. And I’m a strong proponent that developer relations is a symbiotic program designed to help both the developers and the company. After all, the company’s paying you, and they’re investing money and, you know, RingCentral’s a great company, we do a lot of amazing community initiatives, but at the end of the day, when a company invests in something, typically, they expect a return on that investment.
At the same time, we need to be advocates for the developers. We need to make sure we’re putting the developer’s success first, and helping our developers in everything that they do, and not just trying to sell them technology, but help them grow their careers. And so, that means bringing new technology to the developers, and in a lot of cases, it’s our company’s technology which, hopefully, we think is pretty amazing.
I joined RingCentral because, while there’s some really awesome communications companies out there, I didn’t see a company that was capable of doing the things that RingCentral could today. And, for me, it was really exciting to be able to say, “I don’t have to wait on hold for four hours when we can use artificial intelligence and improve business phone calls,” or take advantage of SMS, especially with, you know, COVID-19 and the way that’s changed this world.
It means helping them utilize, adopt the technology, and then of course, evangelize your company’s tech. Ultimately, you want them to be so happy with the technology that they’re talking about it to others. You want them to see the value in the technology that you see in the technology. So, if we break that into two parts then, the first being your company has to be successful, and your developers have to be successful, the first part is, “What does your company need to be successful?”
And, for this, I like to use the standard AIDA model marketing funnel. And that is, that DevRel or dev marketing is really responsible for the developer journey. We’re responsible for raising awareness. If you go to a developer event and you’re talking about your company, you’re raising awareness for them, all the way to adoption advocacy.
So, what that looks like, and again, what our responsibility to the company is. And, this may be shared across multiple teams, but in a way, I think we’re all each responsible for each one of these segments, and we have to own each one of these segments ourselves. The first thing that we’re responsible for is generating awareness. Without awareness, developers can’t find our technology, they can’t learn about our technology, they can’t use our technology, and they certainly can’t advocate for our technology.
When I was at Tigera, one of my big responsibilities there was to take a stealth startup that, again, no one had heard of, and drive the awareness, so people could understand how important network security was. And, Tamal does an amazing job, we worked a very similar thing, and they do an amazing job in saying this is why this is so important, and this is what our technology can help you with.
Of course, once we’ve raised the awareness and they know that our company exists, for example, you probably now know that RingCentral exists if you haven’t heard of us before, the next stage is really driving interest, or helping them understand what we do. You know, I told you that RingCentral is a communications company, but again, with the APIs, we’re able to change the way every business communicates.
And, if you’re on hold for four hours and you’re frustrated, that’s not a great experience, and you’re probably going to try to find another company to work with. Where APIs can change that and help you, not only retain business, but get new business and have happy customers. So, driving that interest of why should they use your technology, why is it important to them.
And, of course, that leads to consideration, which is, “Okay, I’m interested. I’m thinking about using this.” Giving them the tools to understand, whether it’s developer documentation, whether it’s a sandbox environment, whether it’s the ability to create a POC, by giving them the opportunity, again, to learn more about it, and of course, eventually, they’re going to adopt the product and assist them through the adoption process of becoming a customer.
That may be, if you have free APIs, using your free APIs and using the freemium model. Or, if you have paid APIs like RingCentral, that may be adopting the paid or premium model. And, of course, advocacy. And that is how we now take this developer who’s using our technology, and change them from being someone who loves our technology, to someone who’s willing to tell others about our technology.
You know, it’s kind of funny when I was at MuleSoft, I received one of the greatest compliments I’ve had across my career for develop relations. And, I had an individual come to me, and he goes, “Man…” he goes, “How have you grown your team, like, so quickly?” He goes, “You must have, what, eight dedicated developer evangelists right now. I mean, everywhere I turn you guys are there.”
The amazing thing was we actually had just lost our community manager, and it was just me. So, we had a very small team, but because we’d empowered the community and transitioned them to become advocates on our behalf and evangelists, they were out there singing these praises, telling about our technology and helping MuleSoft grow its program, even though that we didn’t have the resources staff-wise.
There’s a huge opportunity there, and that’s really the responsibility of us to the company, is again, to drive new users to the company, to drive the awareness, the consideration, the adoption, and the advocacy. Now, again, this is based on the standard AIDA model for marketing. With that said, there’s tons of great models out there, and not every model is going to look like this.
Your company may have a different model. You may use Phil’s model, the R model which goes into more things like retention. But, again, the idea here is to understand to have a model for what your responsibilities to the company are, because that’s going to help us gauge what we’re doing, and measure the success of our activities as we go. All right. So, with that said, your program should also be crafted with the purpose of leading the developer through this journey.
Again, measuring each step to determine where the developers are getting stuck. The reason this model becomes so important is because you can look at this model and say, “Where are we being successful, and where are we failing?” If you have a bunch of awareness and you’re doing a fantastic job but you have no adoption, where in the funnel are they falling apart? Are they making it to the interest stage?
Are you seeing people look at your pages, read different resources, follow you on Twitter? Are you seeing people dig into your documentation, create an account? And then, of course, if those are happening, what’s the drop-off between consideration and adoption? So, again, the idea here is build to measure every aspect of your program to see where are we being successful, and where are we failing?
At the same time, in order to help developers go through this funnel, we have to make sure that they’re successful. If a developer is not successful in any stage of the marketing funnel, then we’re really not doing our job. And, this is one of the biggest challenges I see with companies in general when they build develop relations programs is we see develop relations as a buzzword, and we go, “This is great, we need it,” but then they immediately run and say, “Well, let’s build a meetup program.”
I’m not going to name names, but I remember consulting with a company, and asking them, you know, “What’s your goal?” and they said, “We need to have a meetup program.” And, I took a step back and said, “Okay. Well, what about this, this, and this?” They said, “Nope. Meetups. Meetup is the goal.” And, if you go with a siloed approach, where it’s meetups, or it’s events, or it’s only one component, you may be spending a lot of money and not getting a lot in return.
And that’s, again, why we have that vaulted measure, and why we all look at what developers need to be successful. Now, I had this realization, literally last week, and Tamal helped me with this, and I appreciate it, because I was thinking what do developers need, and I realized developers are people. It only took me 15 years of being an engineer and, you know, another five years of develop relations to realize this, but developers are people.
And, what that means is that people have basic needs. You know, we’ll use the Maslow hierarchy of needs here very quickly. People have basic needs, they have psychological needs, they have self-fulfillment needs. When we say basic needs, what we’re really talking about are the physiological needs and safety. They need food, water, warmth, rest, security.
In other words, they just need to survive. The basic needs mean, I can do the bare minimum. I’m living. I’m not ecstatic about it, I’m not happy, we care about it is, but my basic needs are being met. Then you have the psychological needs, and that’s going to be the longingness, the feeling of love, having relationships, friends, feeling accomplishments, building esteem.
I like to call this purpose. So, people need, obviously, their basic needs, and then the next step is purpose. This is important because you can have a purpose, but if you don’t have food and water, it’s not going to do you a lot of good. You know, you can only go so long without your basic needs being met before, unfortunately, you’re unable to survive. And, of course, the last one is ability to become self-fulfilled, and that’s self-actualization, or really realizing one’s full potential, or I like to say, being self-happy.
You know, having that drive, being like, “Hey, I can do this. I own this. This is me.” Those are really the needs that, you know, Maslow described people as needing. And if we look at developers, we can do the same thing in our approach to what do developers need to be successful and live on our platform because there’s different degrees of being successful in our platform.
We can have developers that they’re surviving, we can have developers that feel like they have a purpose with their platform, and we have developers who say, “This is why I’m a developer, is because of this platform.” You know, our goal at RingCentral is not just to help people use the APIs, but to create RingCentral developers who want to grow their careers around RingCentral, who want to go in as communications experts, or API experts to help their company succeed.
And so if we look at it, I try to break this down, there are some basic needs I think every developer has when trying to use a platform. The first is basic enablement. They need documentation. You can do everything in the world to drive people to your website. You can have the best messaging, you can have the best marketing, you can have the greatest customer service, but if you don’t have documentation, your developers are not going to succeed.
It’s as simple as that. If they don’t know how to build something, or use your platform, it really doesn’t matter what else you do because their basic needs are not being met. They may be super excited about your company. They may want to support your company, but eventually, they’re going to fizzle out because there’s nothing that they can do. Community.
And community I like to put both under basic and psychological needs. And that is having a place for support. And, yeah, with our programs I’d like to refer to something as safe harbors, which are safe places for developers to go to get help, to get support that we know they’re not going to be misled, we know they’re going to get the right information, we can monitor what they’re being told. So, creating that place of security and safety for your developers, whether it’s Slack, whether it’s forums, social media, etc., and we’re going to talk more about this.
Education. Beyond the basic needs, we want developers to grow. The last thing you want for your program is a developer who’s using your technology but holds no influence, and doesn’t go anywhere in their career. You want to help developers grow. And, this is something that a lot of companies miss, in that they like to talk about their technology and what they do, but they don’t really tout how their developers can be successful in their careers, or promote education that’s beyond their technology to their industry.
For example, in RingCentral, talk about things like WebRTC, instead of just talking about our APIs. Expand enablement. This is the one that we like to do right away. We like to do webinars, and workshops. We like to talk about online trainings, and, of course, we like to go for the all out and do the in-person events, conferences, meetups, get-togethers, drink-ups.
But, again, a lot of programs I’ve seen have run to “in person” without focusing on basic enablement. When I joined RingCentral, that was actually one of our challenges, is I came, and they said, “We need to do the MVP program, we need to do in-person events, we need and…” it was, “Okay, this is great.” We need to do this. I agree, but let’s understand why we’re doing it because if we don’t have the basic enablement, then everything we do at the in-person events is we have to be very tailored, very differently.
And, we need to make sure we’re pointing the focus on the basic enablement in the community, before we try to go extreme on the in-person events. By the way, the great news is if you’re building a brand new program, or you’re a newer program or smaller company, the lower you are on the hierarchy, the cheaper it is, the easier it is to accomplish. Basically, you want something you can do yourself, versus with in-person events, you typically have to find a venue, hire caterers, or sponsor an event.
And, even if you’re just speaking, unless the conference is paying for your travel, T&E Again, if your program does not meet your developer’s basic needs, it doesn’t matter how great your other programs are. I cannot emphasize that enough. I feel like that’s critical, just drill in there, and that’s why we use this model.
And this is why we took this model into MuleSoft, we took this model into Tigera, and we took this model into RingCentral was so that we could be successful and know that we’re focusing on the right things from the start. Again, understand that your foundation is everything. You know, I like to say that you can’t build a house on a bad foundation. Well, you can, but it’s going to tumble and fall.
You want a strong foundation for your program. And, understand your foundation is going to let you invest wisely, it’s going to let you perform the right activities, and it’s going to let you focus on the right messaging. With RingCentral, when we went out to events initially, we went out with the messaging that we’re a newer program, these APIs have been around.
RingCentral’s been around, you know, for, at the time 18 years, but this program is new. And so we’re working on our documentation, we’re improving it. And, we want the developers feedback, we want them to help us make this a better community. So, right off the bat it was understanding what our strength was, understanding what our weakness was. And our weakness really was basic enablement. And, because of that, that’s where we put most of our effort, was to take our ecosystem and change it from 40 hours to use our API which nobody wants to do, to be able to use your API in less than 5 minutes.
So, when it comes to basic enablement, look at things like your messaging. Does your developer website clearly state what developers can do with your technology? Does it clearly state how they can use your service to be successful? If I come to your website and I don’t understand what you do, it really doesn’t matter anything beyond that point, because I’m going to leave. I’m going to bounce.
Navigation. I’m not going to name names, but I did an audit of a website the other day, and with navigation, every time I clicked a link, I ended up on a different site, a different area. There was nothing conjoined, and it was very difficult to navigate. And, eventually I got frustrated and said, “Okay, I’ll come back to this later.” So, instead of spending the free day, I had to build an app. I went, played video games because that seemed like a better use of time.
That’s a terrible thing to say, but again, getting frustrated with navigation. Account creation. Is it easy to create an account with your provider? If your account creation requires four steps just to create an account, that’s probably too difficult. Access to credentials or app creation. One of the things I love, love, love that we did at RingCentral was we created these quick start guides.
And, in this quick start guide, there’s a button, and you can see it on the bottom right of the screen it says, “Create SMS app.” And you click that button, it creates the account for you, it creates the app for you, and it gets you your credentials. In one click, you now have an app set up with your account, and you have client credentials that you can use, and then if you look right above it, you can have copy and paste code, where you can just copy that code into your environment, and you can now send a SMS.
It’s not five steps, not six steps, one step to create the app and the account. Access to documentation. If your documentation is behind a paywall, or it’s in a pdf, or it’s not accessible, your documentation is one of your best pieces of marketing. Mailchimp’s CEO, one of the greatest things he said was, “The API was probably the best single piece of marketing that we did.”
Again, if I can’t look at your documentation to see how I’d use your API, or what your API can do to see if it meets my needs, you’re losing me right off the bat. You’re losing me at that very second stage, which is, “I’m interested. Now, help me learn more, so I can consider using you and eventually adopt you.” Usability and searchability, getting started guides, as I mentioned, tutorials and examples.
Is there something for me to quickly get started, or do I have to figure out every aspect myself? Error reporting and analytics. If something goes wrong, is there a place I can see what went wrong? Does your API return proper status codes? And, of course, how easy is it to get access to production? Now, I wish I could say that our program is perfect. We’re not.
These are things we’re still focusing on and still working on. We’re still working on creating better tutorials and examples. We’re still working on universal searchability throughout the developer’s site. We’re still working on improving the process to what we call graduation, or getting production credentials, and making that flow easier. We’re still improving the process to get into our app gallery, and getting your company highlighted.
So, this is a ever-evolving process, but understand that, again, if you’re not doing these things and focusing on these things, it really doesn’t matter what you do after this because your developers are not going to be successful. If a developer cannot create a account with you and build their first basic app, and that may be something as simple like RingCentral, sending a SMS message. If they can’t do that in five minutes, your platform is too difficult to use.
That should be the bar, five minutes. Community. Community is another piece that often gets missed. And, community is, again, a way for developers to obtain support, network with each others, and be recognized by your company. And we look at community, there’s really two different components. You have internal community.
Your internal community is what we’re going to call your safe harbor. That’s your developer forum, that’s your team messaging solution, whether it’s Slack or RingCentral, that’s your MVP program. And at RingCentral, we have our Game Changer program. But, you also have external communities. That’s going to be Stack Overflow, that’s going to be social channels, that’s going to be GitHub. And, that’s when that you’ll only focus on as well as, “Are you meeting your developers needs where they’re at? Are you providing both the safe harbors where they can come and learn, but are you also making sure they have easy access to information elsewhere?”
And, with social, there’s a lot of things you can do. Social isn’t just for awareness. And, here’s what’s new, at RingCentral, we like to post articles that our developers wrote, so we can highlight them and say, “Hey, look at this great article by so-and-so.” Or, “Hey, look at this great video, look what this developer is doing to help the community.” Working with Weaver to create weaver boards so that we can highlight all of our community content in a single place, where developers can go and see, this is something I did, and RingCentral values what I do.
Again, find different ways to build the community. And, if you go to developers.ringcentral.com, you can actually click on our Community tab, and you’ll see exactly what we’re doing today to try to support our community. And again, we’re just really getting started. If you do not have a community for your developers to go into, your competitors gladly will.
What I mean by this is if they can’t find help, if they can’t find resources, they’re going to go somewhere else. And, for a lot of large enterprises, community’s actually one of the most crucial parts of their decision-making process. We had a deal, when I was at MuleSoft, that kept getting held up, wouldn’t go through. And, a man who I respect very much, Charles Cole, the sales rep called me one day, and he goes, “Mike,” he goes, “do we have a program that this company can join, and they can learn more about our program, and get rewarded for doing so?”
I’m like, “Yeah, you know, that’s our MuleSoft Champions Program.” He goes “good.” I told them that we had it, and they just signed the contract. That was a single sticking point for a million-dollar contract, was our community, and whether or not we could support them in that matter. All right. I’m running a little bit behind, so we’ll speed up just very quickly, but I promise you, we’re almost done here. Education.
Again, education isn’t about educating developers about your technology. Education is about educating developers about their industry, about technology in general, and helping them become thought leaders. And that can be done through blogs, video, podcasts, open-source initiatives, education centers. People call them resource centers, a lot of times resource centers are simply white papers, case studies, they’re not really helpful.
So, I wanted to use the term educational centers, where again, they can find resources that are valuable to them, that are going to help them. If you look to the right, you’ll see that we do a lot of blogs. We do one to two blogs a week. But, our blogs aren’t necessarily RingCentral specific. Or, if they are, they partner a lot of times. For example, here’s how to use DocuSign’s API.
We have a new Micro Frontend framework for Webpack JS. So, here’s this Micro framework that you can use that’s open source. Has nothing to do with RingCentral or our APIs, but we want to support the community of thought leader there. Of course, you know, Google Sheets and others. And, you’ll see that through our blog, we have a lot of different types of content.
As we move the chain, we try to do a lot of different thought leadership to help developers expand just beyond RingCentral, into technology as a whole. Everyone goes after influencers. And this is, I think, one of the biggest mistakes that’s made in developer relations and developer marketing is we identify 100 influencers. It’s the same 100 influencers that every single competitive artist has also identified, and we all go after them.
And at the end of the day, we all get three, four of them. Fantastic. We’re all at the same playing level. If you can create new influencers, if you can help grow developers, you’re basically creating a brand new pool of influencers who believe in your product, who believe in your technology, who believe in your thought leadership, and are going to continue that for you. So, yes, it’s important to go after the influencers out there, but build your own influencers by providing thought leadership and education.
Expand enablement. Again, this is one of the first things we like to do, and this is the first task I got at RingCentral. Let’s create webinars, let’s create white papers, let’s create case studies, let’s do online workshops, virtual events, certification. And we do that now. We did our first white paper last month, our first white paper for RingCentral developers.
Really ecstatic about it. You know, we started webinars about a year ago. We didn’t do those first because we knew we had to focus on basic enablement, and making sure people could use our platform first. We had to create the best onboarding process first, versus pouring all of our effort into this. But, we have a guide that says this is why it’s so important to understand communications day, and this is how it’s changing, and this is how you can use the API to be successful, and we have more of that coming.
But, again, we’re getting towards the higher part of the tier, where developers will certainly want these things. Developers would love to go to a virtual event, or have an online workshop, or get certification. But that’s not critical to their success using your platform, and that’s why we need to keep those things separated. Help developers go to the next level with your technology. Help them understand how businesses are using your tech.
That way, they can be the person who goes to these businesses, they can be that thought leader within the business, and they can help drive their business to, again, the direction you’re trying to help them go. Last but not least, in-person activities. Again, this should be the top of the funnel, or it’s not at the top of the funnel, the top of the hierarchy here. They’re great to do, they’re important.
And that’s meetups, that’s summits, that’s hackathons, that’s conferences. At RingCentral, we threw our developer conference for two years in a row on a cruise ship, just to thank our developers and reward them. However, that wasn’t the focus. The first focus was let’s get the basic enablement done. Before I joined RingCentral, they’d run a couple hackathons. The first thing we did was kill the hackathon because we knew the issues we had.
We knew where we had to improve. We didn’t need developers to tell us what was wrong and have a bad taste about using our API. Again, build a personal connection with your developers. Build friendships and make sure they understand they are vital to your company and its success. So, what that looks like, again, use the developer hierarchy of needs to audit your program.
Make sure that you’re being successful. And, again, I’m running on time here, so I’ll make sure these slides are available, but make sure that you’re focusing on what needs to be focused on. Plan. Once you understand where your challenges are, understanding how each one of those activities you’re working on is going to help drive developers through the developer journey or the developer funnel.
Focus. Again, be specific in your approach. The worst thing we can do is to take a scatter shot approach, and try to do everything, or focus on the wrong things, or get distracted by shiny objects, which we as developers, we like to get distracted. And, of course, measure. To be truly successful, measure everything you do.
When I use this funnel, I like to have two KPIs for each aspect of the funnel. Now, I measure every program, and at RingCentral, we actually measure, I think over 140 different metrics right now just on our developer program, to make sure we’re moving the right direction. But the idea, I look at two KPIs for each aspect of this funnel, say, “Are we doing a good job at awareness?” Fantastic.
If so, are we driving them down the funnel? Are we getting them through this successfully? And if not, I can identify, okay the issue we have is in consideration, and people are getting stuck on our documentation. And, by the way, Byrne Reese who does our documentation has done a fantastic job, so this is just purely a hypothetical example. People are getting stuck on our documentation, let’s focus on that because that’s a basic need in the hierarchy. To recap, again, how do you build a developer relations program?
You audit your program, you see where you’re at, and you understand where you need to focus on, in terms of, do you have the basic enablement, are you ready to build that meetup program, does it depend on where your program is today, and if developers are successful today. Where do you invest to maximize impact? Again, identify the blockers.
Where are people not being successful with the funnel today? You may not have the nicest, fanciest program, and there are programmers who like to invest on redesign, and redesign, and redesign, but if their being successful, you’re accomplishing your goal, and you can focus your efforts and focus your energies on the redesign later, again, keeping the flow of developers coming in, proving the concept, showing your success to the company, and, of course, getting more buy-in.
How do you grow and expand in a scalable manner? I feel like I’m, kind of, iterating the same thing here, focus. Again, focus on the easy things that are scalable. You build a forum, you can have your developers moderate the forum and help you with that. Your developers can answer questions for you. You don’t have to manage the forum completely by yourself. Again, working through and understanding what’s most important to developers, what are their basic needs, their physiological needs, and, of course, their self-fulfillment needs.
And, of course measuring, to make sure that as we do this, we’re successful. And, how do you convert developers into advocates? The answer is simple. You do all of the above, you guide them, you work with them, you create the safe community, you create the enablement, you create a wonderful experience, so that when they look at your API compared to your competitors’ or anybody else’s, they go, “Man, this company got it right.”
That’s one of the greatest compliments we have at RingCentral, is people are saying, “We love your API. You got work to do, there’s things to improve, but we love the direction you’re going, we love the innovation, we love the care, we love that you care about us as developers.” All right. With that, I’m getting close. There’s one last thing, and that is, I cannot leave without goodies.
So, I mentioned first and foremost, our Game Changer program. Ringo is far better picture than I am. If you like your very own Ringo, you can get your very own Ringo by going to gamechanging.dev, sign up, just ping me, and we will send you your very own Ringo via mail as quickly as we are able to. So, again, that’s gamechanging.dev.
Also, if you’re interested in developer evangelism, if you’re interested in learning more about the marketing funnel, the three-core model, the developer hierarchy of needs, you want to learn more about marketing and how marketing thinks, you want to focus on building a strong community or developer documentation, that’s all going to be in this book. It’s a work in progress, it’s on Leanpub, but you can get it absolutely free with this link, and it’s bit.ly/evangelismbook.
By the way, please feel free to tweet, and share this with others, and I would absolutely love if you don’t mind including at @ringcentraldevs or the #ringcentral in there. Again, they’re the reason I can be here today. All right, with that, I am done.
Tamao: Excellent. All right. Well, we only have a few minutes left for our fairly lengthy Q&A, so I will have one eyeball on the Slack. Please post. I do see people typing. Let’s kick it off with this…we could talk an hour about this, so thank you so much. That was really, really helpful.
Let’s talk about docs, because that’s really the basic need, right? And I do think it’s often seen as an afterthought, and I thought I’d also add…I’ve had, let’s say, experiences where the handoff to docs, or people who own docs, there’s a sense of hierarchy, let’s say, within the org, too. Have you dealt with that?
Do you have ways to say, “Hey, this is actually the most important thing,” you know, show appreciation for the people who do the docs, give visibility, you know, what have you done for that?
Mike: Yeah. I think that’s always a challenge because people want to understand where do we focus our money, and how important is it? And, there is this misconception…well, there’s two misconceptions. The first is, if you build it they will come. We’ll just have an API, people are going to use it. That’s not how it works. And, the second is that as long as we have docs, developers will figure it out.
I’m not going to name the company, but I worked at a company where, when I came in, the initial reaction that I got was we don’t have to worry about the user experience because developers have to use our API. And so it really was, let’s change that mentality all together, and let’s start getting the buy-in.
And, at the one company, the first thing I did was do an exercise. And that is I built an app with them, I built an app with their competitors. And I walked up to them, and said, “Hey, I built an app, and it took me 40 hours. I built an app with your competitor, and it took me 20 minutes because they forgot this part of the documentation.
And the other competitor took me 15 minutes because they did this, you know, thing differently. And they’re like, “Oh well, yeah, I just don’t think you understand…” That’s literally what I was told, “I don’t think you understand APIs.” Now, I’m a little bit arrogant if you can’t tell, and so I handed them my book on API design, and said, “If I can’t do it, no one can.” And that’s a philosophy my father passed on me is, first app I built he said, “Can I use it?”
I said, “Dad, like, you can’t even turn on the computer.” He goes, “Exactly. Can I use it?” And, again, I think it’s showing them that without this documentation, if they can’t be successful here, they’re not going to be successful. And, RingCentral, again, where they had an idea of what they wanted to start with, it was, “We’re going to do these things, but here’s where we need to focus first, and if we focus here first, we’re going to be successful.”
And, we measured it and we proved it. So, we had to get the buy-in. Same thing with MuleSoft, when we did the Game Changers program, I spent three months trying to convince them to let me do the Game Changers program before I got the buy-in. It was kind of that minimal buy-in, we proved the concept, and, you know, by the third year they’re like, “This is the best thing since sliced bread.” And, I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s worked with the stakeholders, showing them the challenges.
Doing usability testing is another great example.
Because a lot of people don’t realize that they aren’t being successful.
Tamao: Yeah. I’m going to jump in, because that’s a perfect segue to somebody who is asking about, a little bit more information about the Most Valuable Community Members program. Yeah, how does it help both the company and devs? Like, what are some of these metrics? It’s great that you had to really fight for it, so when they said this is the best thing since sliced bread, what did that mean, in terms of numbers, or in their metrics?
Mike: So, the MV program does two things. One, it shows your developers that they’re valued. Number two, it provides an avenue for them to continue contribute to the company. I might go through it quickly, but in the slides, one of the things is you want developers to be able to contribute autonomously, you know, with your guidance. One of the crazy things I had working at a nonprofit as developer, because we’re all asked to collect donations, and I don’t like asking people for donations.
I’m like, “I’m not a sales person.” But our CEO said, “People want to help. They just want to be asked.” With the MVP program, you’re asking your developers for help, and at the same time, you’re rewarding them and recognizing them for doing so. So, it helps them in that it’s going to help them grow their career, it’s going to help them build their reputation. You look at people, at their resumes all the time, I’m a Microsoft, you know, MVP. Or, you know, I’m an Oracle developer.
At MuleSoft, we actually had a company, one of our partners, force their developers to try to become MuleSoft champions so they could say, “Hey, we’re the partner with the most MuleSoft champions.” And it became a huge selling point. In turn, with MuleSoft’s program, I don’t have the number on top of my head, but I can tell you that our MVPs create over a million dollars worth of content in less than two years.
That’s all the content we’re talking about that we’d have to create otherwise. At RingCentral, you know, our program has…our developers have been absolutely amazing, and create hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of content. And, again, we try to reward them for doing that. So it’s symbiotic. It’s to help them grow their careers, help them gain recognition, help them advance and be hireable. And, at the same time, it helps us get the word out.
And the other thing that is crazy was at Constant Contact, Gail Goodman, made the point that “People will trust a stranger far more than they’ll trust a company telling them something.” You know, if you look on Yelp with stranger reviews, it doesn’t matter what the restaurant says, if the food isn’t good, you’re not going to go there. So, I’m going for the long answers to try to answer as few of the questions as possible.
Tamao: Exactly. Well, thank you so much at that. We are, yeah, a minute overtime. I know we started a couple minutes late. So, thank you so much for that. I have a million questions myself. I’ll be posting them on Slack as well.
So, reminder to everybody, make sure you join our Slack channel. Ping Mike, and, yeah, it would be great to see what kind of discussions we have there, and otherwise, you shared your various links for the book, the elephant, and more. So, thanks so much, Mike. It’s always great to see you.