What is DevRel? A beginner’s guide

June 29, 2022

What is DevRel? A beginner’s guide

Short for developer relations, DevRel is an umbrella term covering various strategies used by businesses to develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships with the developers who use their products.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a crash course in all things DevRel, covering the following key points:

But first, let’s start with a more detailed explanation of what we’re talking about.

What is DevRel?

DevRel is a broad term that encompasses various strategies designed to build strong relationships with the developer community, including:

These activities can exist alongside more conventional developer marketing strategies. For example, developer marketing might be used at the top of the funnel to generate awareness and interest, while DevRel could be used further down the funnel, helping to add value to existing customers.

DevRel takes a different approach to developer marketing when it comes to communication. Where the latter generally involves one-way communication, the former is a two-way street with a focus on open dialogues and feedback. 

In this regard, DevRel sits somewhere at the intersection of marketing, community management, and product management.

What are the goals of DevRel?

Together, the different elements of DevRel aim to nurture long-lasting relationships between a business and the developer community. While both sides have different goals from this dynamic, any good DevRel strategy is mutually beneficial. 

Goals for the business

For the business, DevRel is a chance to connect with developers who use your product and build long-lasting relationships. This allows you to: 

Goals for developers

For developers, DevRel offers a chance to: 

Who should use DevRel?

The simple answer is any business that builds a product that’s used by developers. 

And when we say developers, we don’t just mean people working on front-end or back-end development, we also mean anyone involved in similar tech-related roles – data scientists, AI developers, and VR developers, for example. 

DevRel is also a useful approach for any business that’s looking to employ top developer talent. By nurturing strong connections with the developer community, you’ll establish yourself as a trusted leader in the space, making your business an attractive proposition for developers seeking new opportunities. 

Why is DevRel important?

At this point, you may be wondering, why does all this matter? Why do developers need their own special approach to marketing? In this section, we’ll focus on some of the key reasons why DevRel is important.

DevRel targets a key (but sometimes neglected) user group 

With the explosion of SaaS and tech businesses, more and more companies count developers among their core customers. This is particularly true for companies that build open-source software, where developers play a primary role in realizing the product’s potential.

At the same time, traditional marketing and advertising rarely target developers – and even when it does, it’s often ineffective. 

DevRel essentially fills this marketing gap with a different approach based on relationship-building, two-way communication, and mutual benefits. In this respect, DevRel is similar to online community-building – but specifically for developers. 

DevRel builds trust and loyalty

Like community-building, DevRel establishes a degree of trust and loyalty between the developers who use your product and your business. Over time, those developers will act as external marketers for your products, advocating them throughout the developer community.

The developer community is incredibly discerning when it comes to the products they use – and given the impact that tech has on their ability to do their jobs, they have to be. Developers are likely to trust what other developers say, making product advocacy a particularly potent marketing tool.

Developers need long-term product relationships – and DevRel makes this easier

Unlike other customers, developers rarely switch between tools on a whim. The nature of their work requires consistency and continuous learning with the tools they use. Any decision to adopt new technology is a huge one. DevRel helps develop the long-term relationships and support developers need to do their jobs effectively. 

The key components of DevRel

DevRel is a notoriously difficult idea to define, not least because each business approaches it differently based on the specifics of their product and the size and maturity of their organization. 

That said, there are four key pillars you should look at covering in your DevRel activities. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail. 

Outreach

Outreach covers the activities you undertake to engage potential customers and raise awareness about what your product does. You can do this either online or in person. But in today’s digital world, there is a stronger emphasis on online outreach. 

This pillar is all about helping developers to understand your product, turning them into committed users. It’s also about helping them to overcome any obstacles that might be stopping them from adopting your product. 

Community

Online communities are a powerful strategy for building interest around your product. They also bring many practical benefits for developers, such as a chance to share best practices, success stories, feedback, and advice among other users. 

Communities help you to build lasting and meaningful relationships with developers, turning regular users into product advocates. A vibrant community will also help persuade potential customers to commit to using your product.

Product

Through your community efforts, you have direct access to the developers who use your product day in, day out. Tapping into their knowledge, experience, and expertise is central to building a product that meets their needs and expectations. 

While you should be advocating your product to developers, you should also be listening to their feedback and what they need. DevRel is a two-way street. Asking developers for their feedback shows them you care and helps build trust and loyalty. 

Education and support

The last pillar is about helping developers get the most out of your product. This should be an ongoing process involving high-quality content, hands-on support and guidance, and learning opportunities such as workshops, webinars, and events. 

The goal is to maximize developers’ knowledge and experience of your product, ensuring that they are aware of new features, and helping them to achieve their goals.

How to get started in DevRel

While DevRel is a relatively new practice, an increasing number of businesses are realizing that they need to implement DevRel strategies to help grow their business and product. 

If you are new to DevRel, here are some general tips you can use to get your efforts moving in the right direction.  

Set expectations from the start

DevRel is notoriously difficult to pin down and define. There is still debate about where DevRel professionals should sit within an organization – marketing, product, or engineering? 

To avoid confusion, it’s important to set expectations from the outset. DevRel will mean different things to different organizations, so define the scope of your work with a manager, and outline the business goals you are working towards. 

Understand your product inside out

To empower developers to use your product, you have to know what you are talking about. Consume as much product-related content as you can, including:

You should also talk to the people within your company who are building your product. Once you understand what it is and how it works, talk to your data team about how customers are using it. Meet your marketing and sales teams to understand how they are selling it. Ask a lot of questions. 

Getting information from multiple stakeholders will give you a holistic view of your product. This isn’t something you can do overnight. In fact, you’ll be learning about your product continuously, as your developers continue to improve and grow it. 

While it certainly helps to have a technical background, the key is to become obsessed with your product, how it works, and the benefits it offers. 

Hone your DevRel skills

DevRel requires a distinct set of skills to be successful. So before you embark on your DevRel journey, you need to make sure you have the necessary skills and experience to make it work. 

In many ways, DevRel is like a hybrid of other existing roles. Ideally, you’ll need: 

Of course, you can’t be expected to be an expert in multiple complex fields, but having a solid grounding in all these areas will help you realize your DevRel goals. 

Build lasting relationships

At its heart, DevRel is all about relationship-building. In the process of becoming an expert on your product, you’ll have to make connections with people across your organization. Then, you’ll be in a great place to connect with external developers who use your product.

Your role here is to understand the people who are using your product inside out. Here are some questions that might help you along the way: 

As we have already touched on, the relationships you build with developers should be a two-way street. You should be continuously educating them about your product and its capabilities while also listening to feedback and ideas. 

Measure the impact of your DevRel strategy

No two companies will have the same DevRel strategy. As a result, there’s no single metric or process to measure its success. So how do you know if your efforts are having a positive impact? 

One way is to tie your DevRel goals to wider business goals. So if your underlying goal is to reduce user churn, acquire more customers, or boost revenue, make sure your DevRel activities move you further towards this goal. 

That said, unless you have a way of understanding exactly how your DevRel activities are helping you achieve your wider business goals, it can be difficult to know how to improve or fine-tune your strategy. 

This is where it helps to use a dedicated DevRel community management platform, like AhoyConnect. With AhoyConnect, you get a complete view of your developer community, allowing you to: 

Together, this provides valuable context around which DevRel activities are working and which aren’t, allowing you to fine-tune your approach for maximum impact. 

Conclusion 

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article on what can be a tricky subject to define and understand. So, before we wrap things up, let’s go over the key takeaways: 

If you’d like to learn more about how AhoyConnect can help you understand the impact of your DevRel strategies, why not get in touch and book a demo? 

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