Kendall Hershey is the current Growth Marketing Lead at MongoDB, and former Head of Developer Marketing at DocuSign.
I've had a lot of hard-won lessons about product feedback in my career, and I'm sharing some of those lessons with you, as well as teach you how to build your credibility and turn your community into fanatics.
Let's start by saying that this isn’t a quick wins program. Feedback is a really long game. I'm also just going to scratch the surface.
There's a lot of depth here, but I want to focus on some strong starting points for anyone who's looking to start a program, and share some nuggets that I've been able to uncover throughout my career.
The developer persona: Top things to keep in mind
There are a few things to keep in mind about developers as a persona.
Firstly, they have really high expectations for the companies that they engage with. Companies have learned that working with the folks that are building with your company to provide them with a strong experience is a really beneficial partnership for both parties.
So, they've really worked to improve that experience, and that's given developers a really high set of expectations for the companies that they're building with. That's not a bad thing at all, it's just something for us to note as we go forward with how we gather and collect feedback.
They also have a high degree of influence in sales and technology decisions. This is something that's often overlooked because they're not a persona we traditionally think about being at the sales table, but they make a lot of those technology decisions and oftentimes it's based off of that development experience.
In their opinion, this holds a lot of weight to the folks that are sitting at that sales table.
They also prefer to self-serve first. When they come to you, they're going to try to get as far as they possibly can in their development journey or their buying journey before they ever engage with anyone. That's just a good thing to keep in mind.
And lastly, they’re a very direct set of folks and they’re not shy when it comes to feedback. I’ve encountered feedback on a very regular basis at every company I've ever worked for.
Some folks might look at the tweet below and get a little bit scared or nervous because it could come off as really negative:
They very clearly outline the anxiety that it's causing them, and they give us a recommendation of how to improve it: ‘Make it appear by default. Make it easier to find.’
I look at something like this and am really thankful that they took the time to share this with us because it gives us an opportunity to improve a subpar experience that we might not have known about otherwise.
All feedback, even when it's really direct, is a good thing. Take that directness with a grain of salt as you're going through this and really see the positives that come through.
Who should be involved in the product feedback cycle?
Let's talk a little bit about who should be involved in the product feedback cycle because it's probably more than you might have originally thought.
First and foremost is product management, and they get a big gold star here because product feedback is something that they need to own and have a really large stake in. They’re the folks that are going to ensure that the company's committing resources to those community sourced requests, so they have to be on board with a program like this.
They're also going to be the ones that are scoping the requests, understanding what it would take to implement, and doing things like prioritizing bug fixes.
You should also be working with your developer evangelism team if you have one. They represent and communicate with the community. So when they're talking to product, they represent your developer community, and when they're talking to the developer community, they're representing your company and your products.
Because of that, they have strong communication skills and a really deep understanding of your technology and what it means to build with you. They can be a really great bridge between all of the different functions that are involved in this feedback process.
And then there’s developer marketing. Our role here is really around communication and content creation. Whether it's responding to feedback when you get it, that PR aspect of relationship management, or helping to spread the word when feedback’s been implemented and you're communicating that back out to your community, that's something that we’re part of.
And then, of course, content creation. As you're doing that communication, it’s the content that you’re creating and driving as part of that program.
If you have a separate function for product marketing, that's also a group that you're going to want to have involved here. Say you have a technology offering with an API available, they represent that core product.
They need to understand the point of view of the developers building with their product in order to fully represent that product and make sure that all of the assets and materials that they're creating include that strong developer experience.
Maybe you happen to have a product marketer that’s specific to your developer experience. Maybe they own your APIs or your platform company and they’re responsible for product marketing for your platform.
Obviously that's someone that's going to be really closely tied in with this entire group, and they also need to have a really strong point of view of how people are reacting to your products and what sort of feedback you’re all collecting.
They should also be involved in that content creation process as they have that deep understanding of the product that you're talking about.