DevRel, short for “developer relations,” is a marketing technique that ensures a company, including its products and developers, establishes good, continuous relationships with external developers through mutual communication.

So, what is DevRel? Think of it this way, if public relations means maintaining good relationships with the public, DevRel is the company-to-developer equivalent of that.

Other interesting terms…

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The developers that benefit from DevRel are external developers who use a company’s products and services.

Why Is DevRel Important?

It’s not common for manufacturers to advertise products and services for developers’ use. The market is such a small niche, after all, so targeted marketing may work better. That gave birth to what we now know as “DevRel.”

DevRel emphasizes creating relationships built on trust with developers. You see, developers patronize products and services for years because knowing how to use them often takes a long time. As such, disposing of products or services immediately and shifting to others is difficult, so they need to be very careful when choosing.

What Is DevRel For?

DevRel brings about several advantages, including:

  • Increased revenue and funding
  • Enhanced user growth and retention
  • More significant product innovation and improvements
  • Better customer satisfaction and support deflection
  • Strong technical recruiting pipeline
  • Improved brand recognition and awareness
  • Better product building, especially for organizations that rely on developer communities to build their technology
  • Enhanced product-market fit
  • Stronger developer enablement
  • Improved developer perception

How Did DevRel Originate?

Apple is considered the creator of the first DevRel program way back in the 1980s. Mike Murray coined “software evangelist” to encourage third-party developers to create software and applications for the Macintosh platform.

Mike Boich was Apple’s first software evangelist. The company also hired Guy Kawasaki to serve as Chief Evangelist and popularize their DevRel program.

DevRel gained mainstream adoption in 2013 when companies like New Relic, Twilio, EngineYard, and SendGrid popularized the developer-first approach.

What Are Common DevRel Tactics?

Organizations that wish to take DevRel to the next level can rely on these techniques:

  • Webinars: You can improve DevRel by regularly hosting webinars that cover specific topics developers are interested in to enhance their work.
  • Workshops and training: Developers learn most by doing. That’s why workshops would appeal to them, as these serve as places to learn about new optimizations or tools.
  • Ask me anything (AMA) sessions: Developers want to learn from fellow developers. They trust peers to answer specific questions with direct answers based on firsthand experience, minus all the marketing fluff.
  • Regional in-person meetups: These come in the form of conferences, which present great opportunities for developers to network, share tips, and have in-depth discussions about projects and challenges.
  • Surveys and community inputs: These don’t make developers feel they’re being spoon-fed. Instead, they get to share their insights as well.

Why Is Feedback Gathering Important to DevRel?

Relationships are not one-way streets. If you want to build trust with developers, you need to make them feel you value their inputs. Note that their feedback would also mean better products and services for you.

Effective DevRel means getting developer inputs on:

  • Product releases: Asking developers for feedback on each product or service release can clue you into what they are missing from your solution.
  • Messaging: Developers hate marketing fluff. So, you can test your messaging with a small group to ensure you won’t turn off your target audience by not focusing enough on how your product or service benefits them.
  • Content: Developers are straightforward. They will tell you directly what content they prefer. Optimizing content by understanding what topics and formats developers find most useful will yield better results.

What Are the DevRel Approaches?

Companies approach DevRel in various ways, primarily:

  • Developer first: This approach is used by business-to-developer (B2D) companies that primarily cater to developers. Examples include Twilio, Auth0, and MongoDB.
  • Developer plus: This approach is used by business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) companies that primarily cater to the developers of businesses and consumers. Examples include Microsoft, Twitter, and Amazon.

One of the biggest DevRel program mistakes we see is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to developer engagements. Marketing teams must understand the developer’s journey and provide actionable strategies and valuable resources in all phases of the development cycle.