Catchy often works with some of the biggest names in tech to enhance, support, and optimize existing developer programs. Recently though, we had the opportunity to map one out from scratch.

Our start point was to examine what the landscape for developer programs looks like. Well, it very much depends how you define ‘developer’. For mobile developers, the landscape is a bustling metropolis, there is so much choice as OEMs, carriers/network operators, and third party API providers hustle for the next big app. However, if developers are in the server space for example, the landscape is closer to a barren wasteland. They might, if they’re lucky, get offered some free tools and webinars, but there definitely isn’t the array of goodies on offer to the mobile developers or the burgeoning IoT developer base.

Next, we wanted to define ‘the best practices for a developer program’. Once again though, it depends on who the audience is – and crucially, as the program owner, what do you want them to do? Engaging new-to-platform developers with your offering is different to increasing the productivity of an experienced, more mature user base. Defining the objective of your developer program is key. Having one for the sake of having one, or because X competitor has one, isn’t enough. Objectives may change over time too, the objective for the first 6 months of the program won’t (and probably shouldn’t) be the same as the objective for the program in its third year of operation.

Our next step was creating a tiered model of 8 developer program components: 

These are the core elements of any successful developer program, but the weight of each within a particular program will be defined by the answers to the previous questions. For example, if your objective is to generate more robust apps for your platform, you may choose to focus initially on providing extensive technical support to developers. This would lead you to weight time and budget towards your dev tools and libraries, evangelists, and Meet Up attendance. In this scenario, you probably wouldn’t need a full scale loyalty program from day one.

The important thing to note though, is that you should consider an element of each of the above even from the start. The success of a developer program relies on the seamless interconnectedness of each component, although they may look different from one program to another.

Think laterally when you need to, and consider the following:

Speakerships & sponsorships: Defining your audience, but also the audience of the event, is very important. Even if you’re offered a killer discount, don’t underestimate the cost of resource, travel, and not focusing on other things. If you can’t see how it fits, politely pass. The flip side of the coin is that sometimes you will have to spend the money to reach the developers you need to be talking to – take a deep breath, if it’s right, you will get a return on your investment.

Meet Ups: A fantastic way of reaching smaller groups of highly dedicated developers. But again, don’t underestimate the effort and planning needed to really make these work for you. A clear content plan, call to action, and event follow-up are vital for making the most of Meet Up attendance.

Own brand conference: Think carefully about how your keynote, tracks and break out activities could contribute to your overall program objective. Tie your content – including swag and giveaways – back to this wherever you can for a joined up approach in everything you do.

Evangelists: There are a number of approaches you can take to evangelism, again depending on what you’re aiming to achieve. Of course, costs are also a key consideration, but you might be surprised at what can be achieved with a relatively modest budget. 

Incentives & gamification: Have a read of this post for more details on what to take into account when it comes to incentivizing developers.

Dev tools & libraries: Helping developers get started with your products, and catering for the more advanced user, is really important. 

Loyalty: Keep developers coming back to your program, and make it their ‘go to’ place by recognizing the contribution they make to your business. As with evangelists, costs need not be prohibitive when implementing a loyalty element to your program. Early access to your own brand conference, and other in-house titbits, can be just as powerful as high-cost hardware giveaways.

CRM: Developers want to stay up-to-date, and you can provide a variety of ways to keep them in the loop. Personalized emails, outbound calls, and social channels all come together to form a strong CRM component for a developer program.