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ICYMI: Takeaways from Developer Relations 2018

April 3, 2018 - influencer content marketing, Practitioner Marketing -
By: Yolanda Fintschenko

Last week we had the opportunity to participate in Evans Data Corporation’s 14th Annual Developer Relations Conference in Palo Alto, CA. With an impressive lineup of sponsors, workshop contributors, and keynote speakers, it was like drinking from the firehose. There were parallel tracks, so it wasn’t possible to hear everything.  However, we thought we’d share some of the highlights from the material we heard.

Lessons Learned

The lessons we learned could equally apply to creating a developer community and a customer community. To apply these lessons to your business, you can replace the word “developer” with “customer,” “scientist,” “engineer,” “biologist,” you name it. This advice rings true for anyone trying to create a committed community centered around products. Ecosystem, anyone?

1. Focus on Developer Success

It was a pleasure meeting Kris Chant, Salesforce Developer Relations Director.  In his presentation, “Using Community to Grow your Developer Program,” we learned how Salesforce built one of the largest, most vibrant developer communities in the world, using strategies you can incorporate into your DevRel program. One of the principles that we walked away with is that the inspiration for much of the SalesForce DevRel program was a relentless focus on customer and developer success. We heard this echoed by Intel’s Roger Chandler, VP and General Manager of Developer Programs and Initiatives, with examples of successes, and a misfire that they were able to turn around by keeping the developer front and center.

2. Follow a Persona Journey, Not a Buyer’s Journey

Kristen Scheven, Chief Marketing Officer of Angel Hack, had so many good points in her workshop “Sustainable Growth Marketing, Building a Developer Ecosystem that Lasts,” it’s just not fair to offer them here for nothing. However, there is one principle behind their strategy that underpins the successful approaches of their programs and other programs: By focusing on the personal and career goals of specific developer personas, rather than just a buyer’s journey, Angel Hack has been able to create content that supports their participants’ career and personal goals. Consider this as you develop your content marketing, event, and communication strategy. By offering material to help developers where they may lack skills rather than just engaging in a technical arms race, you can create experiences that last longer than one event, with participants coming back to your community again and again.

3. The power of “block”

Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s Chief Evangelist, gave a keynote address that covered a wide range of topics. One of the most startling takeaways, perhaps because of its misleading obviousness, is the power of “block” on social media. Brought up in a different context, Guy pointed out its application in curating the conversation in your community. Don’t be afraid to block the vocal minority that can hijack your community conversation if the “contribution” is petty, needless, and damaging the spirit of community and communications you want to support.

The takeaway

We tried to play fair—to extract the most benefit from an event like Developer Relations, you really need to attend. But, we know that we will be taking these three key points as principles for our own practitioner and customer community as we go forward. We expect they will be as valuable to you as they are to us.


Yolanda is a scientist, writer, marketer, coach and avid runner who lives and works in Livermore, CA.  She founded Common SciSense, a marketing company for technical products, and co-founded founderTRACTION, lean marketing services for startups.