Are You Building Developer Trust?

Jana Iris
3 min readJun 16, 2022

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*I no longer work at PlanetScale as of July 2022.

This week, I got to hang out with my colleagues in Austin, TX, for the PlanetScale Marketing Summit, which was an absolute blast.

I had a 20-minute speaking slot where I was going to present the developer marketing team’s accomplishments from last quarter and plans for the next two quarters. For those who don’t know, I lead developer marketing at PlanetScale, so community, developer relations and experiential marketing roll up to me. I prepared a very detailed deck for my talk the day before. The next morning, I woke up and decided that wasn’t the message I wanted the entire marketing team to take away. Instead, I deleted all of the slides except this one:

Does this build developer trust?

Building developer trust is something every company that is building tools, products or services for developers should care about. This is the crucial question you should always ask yourself, and this thinking shouldn’t be limited to marketing organizations but people and teams across all parts of the company. Does this program, action, product change, email marketing campaign, tweet, support response, initiative, etc., help you gain and build developer trust?

I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in driving MQLs to the sales team or focus on short-term wins, but building community is a long game. I was lucky enough to experience this over my seven years at HashiCorp. I still think about the first HashiConf we organized in 2015. Those 350 community members that attended that first user conference years later became our largest customers, biggest advocates, employees, core contributors, and friends. We didn’t take the attendee list and start treating them as leads. Instead, we treated them as people we wanted to nurture, get to know and support. I could write a whole book on how we approached community building at HashiCorp but that’s for another day.

It takes many touch points to gain developer trust and one action to destroy it completely. Once you’ve lost trust, getting someone to give you another chance will be difficult. If you’re focused on building a long-term business, you need your community to grow and mature with you. You need them to adopt your tool or product into their daily development flow. You need them to talk about your product to others and suggest it to new companies they join. That’s the whole point of building community.

Here are some ways to build developer trust

  • Build a product, tool or service that solves a pain point for them. (Obvious, I know)
  • Be transparent and honest with your community
  • Launch programs and initiatives that benefit the community
  • Focus on education and knowledge sharing
  • Have up-to-date documentation and helpful guides
  • Communicate with your community like humans. Developers hate marketing jargon and buzz words.
  • Don’t spam your database
  • Make your community feel like they are being listened to and their feedback is influencing product roadmap
  • Be helpful
  • Be kind and empathic

So next time you go to launch a program, send an email or suggest a campaign, ask yourself if this helps you and your company build developer trust.

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Jana Iris

Builder of developer communities. Ex-early at HashiCorp, from tenth employee thru IPO. Investor at TQ Ventures.