Saw this spicy take:
Spicy Take 🌶️
You shouldn't have devrels. Your customers should be your devrels 😬
— Stefan (@StefanTMD) December 13, 2023
If Twitter goes away, this is from Stefan Avram, who said “You shouldn’t have devrels. Your customers should be your devrels”. (Stefan is a cofounder of Wundergraph and head of growth. Good on him! It’s hard to found a company.)
I wanted to talk about this statement because, well, I’m a devrel (a developer relations professional) and I don’t agree with it.
First, let’s rule out a few obvious points.
- If you aren’t targeting developers as users, you shouldn’t have devrel as a function.
- Even if you have a devtool, if your main sales channel is top-down, devrel is not super useful.
- If your product doesn’t have some kind of free version, devrel is going to have a tough time. Not everything has to be free, but it’s really tough to get a developer to offer both time and money to learn about your product.
I hope this goes without say, but it is fantastic if your customers are advocates for your product.
However, I think this approach is a bit naive. It’s a bit like saying “You shouldn’t have sales people. Your customers should be selling your product.”
The truth is that there will be some subset of your users who are enthusiastic and advocate for your product if it is good enough to buy. I have interviewed some for FusionAuth. You should do everything you can to encourage this behavior, including:
- talking to them
- learning about their companies and successes
- giving them swag
- sharing their stories far and wide
But these folks’ job isn’t to promote or support other users’ use of your product. They’re busy building their product, company or project. As they should.
A high functioning devrel team can offer:
- quality content
- support for a community
- up to date, relevant code
This team should be working to improve all of these and make the experience of all of your potential users better and better.
And they’ll care about the company’s overall mission. And they’ll have inside access to the codebase, the engineering team, and the product roadmap. And they can offer reified, constructive feedback from users to your teams.
That’s a large number of important business functions. If they are performed by customers, who are, again, busy working on their own stuff, they’ll be done at best haphazardly and at worst not at all.
Think about it. How many blog posts have you written about a product? How many of them were deep dives?
I can say that I’ve done it for a few products (stripe, zapier, AWS, lob) and none of those are deep enough to qualify as anything other than the briefest introduction to a product. A developer who encounters posts like these will either be intrigued and want to dig in further or bounce, but they certainly won’t have enough info to make a decision or use the product.
By making documentation, community and code examples the developer relations team’s problem, you’ll get more focus and better results.
And more users and happier customers.