Navigating the blurred lines between DevRel and marketing


Gary Gonzalez

Job title

Managing Partner




DevRelCon London 2023

In this talk from DevRelCon London 2023, Catchy’s Gary Gonzalez discusses the importance of distinguishing between developer marketing and developer relations as two distinct practices within an organization. He emphasizes that without a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities, organizations often struggle to succeed in both areas. Gary highlights the need for clear communication and buy-in from stakeholders to support and invest in both developer marketing and DevRel.

Watch the video

Watch the video on YouTube >

Key takeaways

  1. Clear delineation of roles and responsibilities is crucial for success. Organizations that treat developer marketing and DevRel as one thing often fail at both. It is important to have distinct practitioners for each role.
  2. Developer marketing focuses on facilitating organizational success by driving developers to take action. It involves increasing awareness, website traffic, and growing the number of developers in a program.
  3. DevRel is about supporting, nurturing, and engaging with developers to facilitate their success. It includes activities like support, education, managing feedback, creating events, and building community.
  4. Both developer marketing and DevRel are interrelated and feed off each other. They should work together for the best results. However, they are distinct disciplines that require time, attention, and investment.
  5. The ability to clearly communicate the distinction between developer marketing and DevRel is essential, regardless of the size of the organization. This helps stakeholders understand the different goals and requirements of each practice.


Ramon Huidobro:

It is an extreme joy to introduce Gary Gonzalez. I spent the last couple days getting to know Gary, a fellow American Latino. I’m very, very excited about that on the other side of the world, Gary is a managing partner at Catchy, loves himself some leisure sports. I’ve heard how much he’s been loving his first ever DevRelCon, but don’t take it from me. Take it away. Gary,

Gary Gonzalez:

Thank you so much. I appreciate the introduction and thanks to all of you for being here. It’s always kind of late on the day on a Friday. You’re always kind of curious if people are going to be there for your session and it’s great to see everyone out here. So I really appreciate you taking the time, especially considering me and a few others are probably the last thing, standing in between you and going home or a pint or whatever that is. So thank you for that lightning round. We got 15 minutes for this, so let’s jump into it. A few things I think just to know about me as we jump into this session. So personally I love public speaking. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. You are not getting me at my best for several reasons today. We’re going to go over those just to kind of set the stage. As mentioned, I’m from Seattle and I do not do well with jet lag at all. It is a wonder that I’m awake and standing up here in front of you. So again, thank you for that. Possibly an issue that’s contributing to this even more than the jet lag is it is actually our founder and CEO Richard Hurring. It was his birthday yesterday. He’s over there hiding in the corner.

If you see him, ask him how it feels to be 35. I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it and he kept me out way too late last night. But we are going to persevere. And the final thing, big Spurs fan here, and if any of you are football fans, you’ll know that if any team is going to bottle it at the end of the day at the the session, it’s going to be us. So I will do my best not to spurs this as we get into it, but let’s talk about what we’re here to get into. So we are catchy. We’re leading developer marketing agency. We’re a consulting firm and an agency that does a lot of marketing delivery. We’ve kind of worked with the good and great around the world of developer marketing. So when you think about the big tech companies, Google, Amazon, Facebook, we work with them on a lot of projects.

We work with a lot of emerging industries, NLP, we work in ai, metaverse, Web3 crypto, and we’ve also started working with a lot of what we call legacy tech companies that are now working to modernize. So we’re talking about banks that are trying to open their ecosystems, manufacturing companies, anyone in those kind of older industries, telco that are trying to modernize, we work with them on quite a few programs. The interesting thing for us is we’ve positioned ourselves as a leading developer marketing agency for over 13 years. At this point, it’s very specifically who we are and what we do. We get a ton of clients who come to us asking for DevRel, and it’s not something we market ourselves as really interesting to us and we’re quite good at it. We have some really strong DevRel practitioners, but it always strikes me as interesting as a company, again, that fully puts itself in market.

As a developer marketing agency, we get so many customers who actually come to us asking for DevRel. It’s kind of where the whole idea for this session came from. And it’s this interesting thing to know that we’re probably not alone in this. I was looking up some stats to begin this. We’ve got, if you look at the state of developer marketing report that the Developer Marketing Alliance puts out, you’ve got 40% of developer marketers saying that they do DevRel as part of their job. You go to the other side, look, Carolyn Lewko’s state of DevRel report that she does every year. You’ve got 20% of DevRel saying that marketing is part of their job or that they do. Marketing is part of their job. So although it’s comforting for me to know that it’s not just us in this space, it is always kind of interesting to think about how we got here, where we’re at, and to know that a lot of other people are in this space.

The overlap in between in the middle is also very large with so many of us all saying that we do content as well. You talk to dev marketers, content’s the biggest part of my job. You talk to DevRels content, huge part of my job. The amount of overlap here is extraordinarily large. So why is this right? Kind of the next question for us. I think it happens at organizations of all sizes. You’re probably all too familiar for those of you who work at startups, you end up wearing a lot of hats. Doesn’t matter if your job title is dev, re dev marketing, you’re being asked to do everything across the full spectrum because you are typically the full team, you 1, 2, 3 other people. Then we get into scale ups in mid-market companies. The graphic choice here was either going to be a rocket ship or a fire depending on what your experience has been at a growing company.

I went with mine for my experiences at a scale up in the past where everything’s on fire all the time, and your job may be DevRel or your job may be dev marketing. But again, there’s so much growth and so much happening that they fully expect you to go in and do all of these different roles. And finally, we get into the enterprise level, scale ups, fire, we get into the enterprise level and that’s when things turn into all of a sudden programs turn into items on a spreadsheet. So you’ve got this large organization that just puts developer and they treat developers as these unicorns, right? That someone has to go find and we don’t understand and they’re mysterious. Someone go figure out developer. And all of a sudden you just become an item on a spreadsheet trying to figure out the developer equation.

And that’s how a lot of people here end up these mythical unicorns that do everything and are expected to operate across a lot of different areas, which is all good and well. But as DevRel practitioner, when you’re doing this, it gets really difficult when the expectation, this was talked about in an earlier session as well. When you start getting asked and measured on these really hard marketing questions, why aren’t we generating more qls? I don’t know because you hired me to build a developer community. What is our conversion rate on our paid social? Again, you hired me as a DevRel, I’m not running campaigns, but you’re expecting and asking me to do all this. The list goes on and on and on here. It’s a really tough spot to be in.

The problem, at least from the way we see it is when organizations treat developer as one thing and they don’t break it out, there’s no distinction between dev marketing and dev rails. And for everyone in this room we live in breathe this, right? I’m a dove rail practitioner, I’m a dev marketer. I know that. I understand that. But at that large organizational level, that message usually gets lost and that’s when the expectation gets put on everyone here to wear all the hats and do all the things. And then next thing you know, you’re being asked to report for things you didn’t even know existed or were part of your job. So the solution for us, and I think for a lot of you here, which you’re probably on the same page with and believe is to have that balance and to really delineate that these are two distinct different practices.

They’re interrelated, they feed off of each other, but they’re two completely different things that need to be imbalanced at all time. So the next set of slides is a lot of what we, I think everyone knows. I don’t think anything in the next couple slides is going to be new for everyone, but it’s the framework that I hope you can all take because a lot of what catchy does and what we get brought into organizations as consultants to do is to go tell people this at an organizational level. You need dev marketing, which is one thing. You need DevRel, which is another thing, and they need to interact together and we use a lot of this language and these slides to get buy-in from executive stakeholders and able to make that happen. So the Dev Mars are not held to the wrong thing, and so DevRels are not held to the wrong thing.

So take these slides. If they’re not sent out, follow up with us and we’ll send ’em out. Really starting with simple definitions, right? Developer marketing, again, we know this, but we like to give this to the organizations we work with. This is the practice of facilitating organizational success by identifying, finding, driving developers to an action earlier session. Went over a lot of this today in a lot of detail, but this is where you’re tied to those hard metrics, right? Increasing awareness, website traffic, growing the number of developers in your program. And when you look at this, this is how it at a very simple level lays out, this is half of the equation. When you go to your bosses and your organizations and they’re like, what is dev marketing? When you’re like, I’m not a dev marketing person, they’re like, okay, what is dev marketing?

This is the half of the equation that is it’s awareness, it’s consideration driving action, and it’s a lot of those hard measurable KPIs that drive the business forward that the organization cares about. On the other side of the equation, and this is what happens when you end up in the scenario where you don’t have dev row, you don’t have product, right? You can do all the marketing in the world, but if you bring people somewhere where there’s nothing for them, there’s no support, there’s no community, it’s a bad look. And we all know you only get one chance with developers.

The other side of it, DevRel, again, everyone here knows this, everyone here practices this, but it’s helpful to give this message out across the organization. It’s the practice of facilitating customer success by supporting, nurturing and engaging with developers. And it’s all the metrics that a lot of you are very used to, right? Support, education, managing feedback, creating events, building community, all of those sorts of things which are a bit trickier to manage but are very important for that community, for the growth of your developers, for the growth of your product, whatever the goals might be. And that’s where you end up with the second half of the equation. You have DevRel, which is all about the try the build and the scale. You’re looking at satisfaction, you’re looking at engagement, you’re looking at community growth. These are all things that we’re very familiar with, but again, it’s helpful to have this language to delineate those within an organization so you can get the support you need to build these programs out.

How does it all come together? And of course we have what we’re all very familiar with. You can build all of these, but if you don’t have marketing and you’re not bringing people in, you can have a great dev role program, but you still need to get people into it. We’ve had, we have a few clients that we’ve worked with before that have great products and they’ll look at a competitor and be like, I don’t understand how this competitor with an inferior product is doing better than us. And there are some simple answers, sometimes not in every case, but in some cases it’s because they spend $200,000 a month on paid search and you don’t do any paid marketing. And that is going to make a difference, at least in bringing people in. It’s important to know those things. The big takeaway, the most important thing to take with you and the slide that we share the most, again, to get organizational buy-in when you’re trying to work with your org, when your boss, when you’re trying to explain to people what you do and why you need help or why you’re being asked to do something, that’s not your job.

It’s this, it’s developer marketing is one half of the equation. DevRelations is the other half of the equation, and they’re both interact, they both feed off of them, but they’re distinct practices that need distinct practitioners that need support and have different goals that they’re trying to achieve, and they’re interrelated, right? It’s not to say that dev rails don’t do marketing and don’t impact. It’s not to say that dev marketers don’t impact the dev rail process. These are of course, interrelated and the best things happen when these teams work together, but they are very distinct, different disciplines that require time and attention and investment in each of them.

What to take away from this, right? The final three things. Without this clear delineation of roles and responsibilities, organizations typically fail at both, right? Too much pressure is put on someone to do everything. One cannot be successful without the other. In some cases it does happen, but it’s very rare. And that’s when people get burnt out. That’s when people get asked to do things that aren’t necessarily their job, their wheelhouse or something they love doing and want to do. And finally, it’s the ability to clearly communicate no matter the size of your organization, it’s the ability to clearly communicate this model to stakeholders and move on. So thank you. Appreciate the time. We’re catchy. You can find us if you have any questions. We’ll be around.


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.