The Importance Of Developer Advocates For Startups

A developer advocate is a role that goes by many names – DevRel lead, developer relations manager, developer community manager, and even developer evangelist (our personal favourite). This can make the position seem overly complex, yet it has one simple aim at heart: to help software developers excel at using a particular technology. Often, they will act as a liaison between developers using a product day-to-day, and the product team that provides the solution. Above and beyond that, developer advocates have an advanced understanding of the developer eco-system, and keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to current trends and requirements. This allows them to provide effective and constructive feedback, as well as advocate for the preferences of developers to be taken into account within product design. Due to the highly communicative nature of the position, they never work alone; they are very active in attending networking events and conferences, and are likely to be highly connected within the wider tech community. In short, they wear many hats. 

As recruiters within the tech space here at GR4, we’ve been witnessing an explosion in the popularity of this position, as its many benefits become widely recognised. So, in this blog post, we wanted to take some time to discuss the importance of developer advocates for startups, and almost any tech company that cares about getting its product right.

Developer advocates: tech’s micro-influencers

As we’re all aware, the challenges faced by fledging companies can be immense. From securing initial seed funding to hiring the right team that can take a product to market, making any venture a success takes dedication, hard work, and serious financial investment. There’s also more competition than ever, with almost 20,000 tech startups being launched annually. This means that more and more organisations are looking for ways to gain a competitive edge, as well as save on unnecessary costs – which is where developer advocates come in. Here are some of the ways they can help.

Perfecting your product

The product development lifecycle for startups is not always a smooth road. Most organisations won’t have the thousands it typically takes to conduct comprehensive market research – an essential ingredient in curating the perfect product. Luckily, a developer advocate can be incredibly useful in bridging the gap in this respect. Because they’re so in touch with the developer eco-system, they can easily bring a startup product to the attention of other developers to establish reliable feedback loops, which can then be implemented by the development team. If hiring someone purely for DevRel purposes still seems like too costly an investment, consider that many will be open to contracting whilst your product is in the development stage. 

Publicising your product 

Developer advocates will have spent years working as developers themselves, so they know what works and what doesn’t. Their skills can enable them to create code examples and work on proofs of concept to show others within the field exactly what can be built using your product – something that other developers will certainly want to see. Because they’re often also highly skilled communicators, they might also help to finesse the messaging and language you’ll be using to market your product, write blog posts about its benefits, and speak at industry events to let other professionals in the field know there’s a new development tool to be excited about. Because they’ll have established a level of trust and a significant reputation in technology networking circles, their word will be taken seriously in a way that traditional marketing techniques won’t be able to compete with. They’re also likely to be active in GitHub and Slack communities, can monitor social media to see what people are saying about your brand, and can respond to comments and reviews in a confident and knowledgeable way. 

Scaling your product

As previously mentioned, a good developer advocate will be extremely well connected within the wider tech community, and have a stellar reputation to match. Once they’ve got other developers on board with your product, these early adopters are likely to recommend it to others. We know that word of mouth is one of the best (and cheapest) marketing strategies out there, so this is another excellent technique to help grow your company in a cost-effective manner. Good developer advocates will also be able to help create API documentation, as well as starter guides which will make your product more user-friendly. After your product is established, a developer advocate can also spend time on Stack Overflow helping to resolve any user issues, and continue to feedback to the product team accordingly. Remember: software is adopted, not sold. 

What makes a great developer advocate?

If you’re considering hiring someone to specialise in DevRel within your team, it pays to know what qualities you should be looking out for. Naturally, you’ll need someone who’s an expert in your area of specialisation, and who’s well connected. Aside from that, you need to be looking for someone who:

  • Has a flair for building relationships
  • Is naturally persuasive, and a great communicator
  • Is personally invested in the developer community, and can understand and advocate for their needs
  • Is technically sharp with an eye for precision.

Hiring a developer advocate

If you think your company would benefit from hiring a developer advocate, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. For instance, will you need to take someone on board permanently, part time, or simply to work as a contractor until you feel your product is ready for market? This will depend on your personal requirements and preferences, as well as your budget. You’ll also need to consider the type of person you’re looking for, and develop clearly defined expectations and success criteria. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, because this position is still fairly new, good developer advocates can be hard to come by. This is why it pays to work alongside a dedicated recruitment team who have developed connections and understand the tech space well, and will be well placed to find someone who’s the right fit for your company.

If you’re interested in hiring a developer advocate for your company, get in touch with one of our experienced consultants today. 

Download our complete recruitment guide for startups here.

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