Editor’s note: We asked Eric to write about the role of developer evangelist because of his work as founder of the Technical Marketing Manager Practice at Red Hat. The cross-organizational group focuses on bringing best practices and standards to the role of technical marketing within Red Hat.
Developers’ curiosity drives them to constantly be on the lookout for new tooling, new technologies, and new ways of working that help them be more successful. They play a critical role in choosing products and services that help their organizations thrive. But marketers sometimes struggle to connect with them. It takes more than an understanding of programming to engage developers effectively.
Developers are a sharp, no-nonsense group. They work under deadlines and stress that comes from being asked to deliver on the (next to) impossible. They create our banking systems, telecom frameworks, and logistics solutions.
And, they can smell jargon and insincere messaging from a mile away. Since they play a critical role in choosing tools and solutions, it’s essential that we learn to approach developers with thoughtful, engaging, sincere, and helpful marketing messaging.
A good first step is to identify and empower technical marketers. A technical marketer is an experienced developer that has spent time on the commercial side of product delivery. Years of development in the trenches, mixed with a few years of solution architecting, is the perfect recipe for a person who can relate well with developers.
Once you have identified your technical marketer (or team, if you are a larger enterprise), here are four marketing tactics you can arm them with to ensure they successfully engage developers and build your community.
Goal No. 1 is to share their knowledge. The technical marketer will need skills in writing, including blogs, articles, documentation, and other collateral. They should establish a regular cadence of content delivery.
For this role, specialization can be very effective. Their aim, at least in the beginning, should be to develop a topic and consistently publish about it in a variety of channels. This will ensure they build up a voice and become a trusted advisor on the subject.
Have them start with basic (101) content about your technology. The basics should cover topics such as how to install (locally, in the cloud, etc.), how to configure, how to start the first project using the technology, and best practices for beginners. This content ensures developers can easily find, use, and become efficient with your technology.
Your technical marketing team needs to love writing. They need to write, write often, and write some more. It’s core to getting a message out.
It sounds almost too obvious to mention, but technical marketers must have a voice in the digital world. Social networks are a great way to reach your audience quickly, conversationally, playfully, and frequently. The standard tempo for publishing long-form content (e.g., blogs, articles, collateral, etc.) is about once a week. But social media is an avenue where technical marketers can be engaged with the community throughout the day, every day. It provides a communication and interaction channel that’s unparalleled elsewhere.
The developer community should be able to find the technical marketer for reactions, comments, and questions. Encourage them to share their daily work, give a glimpse of code they’re working on, or preview and hint at upcoming events.
A note of caution: Sharing and reposting others’ comments and content is valuable, but not if that’s all developers see from your technical marketer. Ensure that their social posting strategy includes a healthy balance of original content, reposts, and shares.
When they provide the community with a steady stream of thoughtful, useful content and comments, their influence and following will increase – and so will the positive relationship between the community and your company.
Evangelist (or advocate) is part of the job description for many technical marketing roles. And while publishing and socializing content is a key part of evangelizing, it’s also imperative that they speak publicly to (or with) groups of developers.
This is also a great platform to test your content before publishing. Start with small venues such as meet-ups to test workshops, talks, or labs. Developer feedback in a smaller venue will help the marketer hone their content to be more meaningful when they hit events with hundreds or thousands of attendees. The open technology adage of fail fast and fail often works here too.
Developing the technical marketer’s skills in this area takes practice and research into how they can best reach your audience. Their practice should include a focus on learning good storytelling skills – that’s one of the most effective tools for marketing to developers. Help them learn how to build and consistently deliver a story.
Demos are critical hands-on content for developers. Devs want an easy way to get started with your technology, and the demo experience is essential to their decision-making process. If you provide a bad demo, though, they won’t look at your technology again.
It sounds simple, but again, the trick is to move the developer from the getting started to up and running. So, even though demoing advanced concepts might make you look like a rock star on stage, the truth is that the vast majority of developers need a more introductory pathway into your technology first.
Keep it simple, repeatable, and fast when developing demo content. Focus each demo on a single aspect or piece of functionality. It’s easier to switch between a series of shorter demos than it is to work through a complex one to get to the functionality you want to explain.
Workshops and labs need to be easy to use even without your technical guidance, so again, step-by-step and clear for all developers. Test this content on audiences that are not native speakers, as they might find inconsistencies that you don’t notice. And making content easy to find online is the secret to generating interest, providing valuable insights, and gaining a following.
These four approaches are the basic foundational aspects that can help your technical marketer increase developer mindshare of your technologies. If you hold your technical marketers to these, you should make effective headway with your developer communities. And the marketers will become trusted resources and advisors to your developers.
Want to contact Eric? Reach out at twitter.com/ericschabell.