The subtle art of marketing to developers with Christie Fidura, Director, Global Developer Marketing at Salesforce
On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, Christie Fidura, Director, Global Developer Marketing at Salesforce, shared the inside scoop of how her developer marketing team functions, and how to build trust with developers by catering to their needs.
This episode covers:
- About Christie and her role at Salesforce
- How developer marketing functions at Salesforce
- The importance of building trust with developers
- The attributes of developers that Salesforce takes into account
- Why trust is so important to build with B2B tech buyers
- How to build long term trust while ensuring short term targets are met
- How to communicate with developers at their level
- Why being agile is one of the key elements in developer marketing
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hello everyone. And welcome back to the FINITE Podcast, where today we have a great guest on the show. Christie Fidura, who is currently director of global developer marketing at Salesforce. Christie specialises in marketing aimed at developers and knows the ins and outs of developer marketing, what attributes set them apart, how developers think differently from other audiences and the challenges that come with talking to them at that level.
And fundamentally really building trust is at the core of developer marketing and lots of other B2B marketing in the technology space. So whether you are marketing to developers or more broadly, this could be an interesting one for you. I hope you enjoy.
The FINITE community is kindly supported by The Marketing Practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing demand, generation channel, and customer marketing programs, head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.
Hello, Christie, welcome to the FINITE Podcast. And thank you for joining me.
Thank you, Alex. I'm delighted to be here.
Looking forward to talking, we are talking about an interesting area in terms of marketing to in and around developers and development communities. And I think this is one that's relevant for more and more of our listeners, as the kind of developer ecosystem grows in so many different, interesting ways and with so many different tools and technology.
So very excited to hear your perspectives and all about your experience. And I think we'll start there with a bit about maybe your experience and you can tell us a little bit about everything you've been up to up until now and a bit about your current role selecting some of the highlights.
About Christie and her role at Salesforce
So I've been in the technology industry for a long, long, long, long time, about 27 years. And in that time I have pretty much focused on developers and that's fairly unique for a marketing professional. I didn't start out as a marketer. And in fact, a disclaimer here for any of your listeners, I'm not a traditional marketer. I don't have any qualifications or degrees in marketing, everything that I know I've learned by doing.
And when I started my career in IT all those years ago, I started as a technical writer. And so it was my job to translate for lack of a better word. And it actually, it is the perfect word, translate deep technical content into layman's terms for understanding and comprehension and usage. And so over the years, my role has evolved. I've had a pinball career moving from one place to another, as far as roles go.
But in all of those roles, I specifically was focused on developers and they've taught me a lot. And I appreciate them as a type of individual. I understand them, I understand their wants and needs, and I really enjoy working with them and for them. So over the years, as I progressed through my career, I eventually came into a marketing role, a traditional marketing management role, and working in that particular role. Again, I learned by doing, I talked to people around me, I talked to my community and I ask them how to market, where should I market? What should I be doing? How should I spend the budget that's been allocated to me?
And so I've always had this sort of crowdsource kind of mentality towards marketing, and I've really enjoyed it. And over the past five years, five years ago, I joined Salesforce as a developer marketing professional. And I had been in developer marketing for a bit. And this particular role is very interesting because we have at Salesforce, a very passionate, thriving, enormous ecosystem and community of developers who build and sale our platform. And it's incredible to work with these innovators. And I'm really excited to be with them on a daily basis and see what kind of great things that they're doing.
That's a great intro. I think I'm always amazed at how many marketers we have on. Actually, I'm not amazed anymore, but that very few come from a kind of traditional studied marketing at a university kind of level. I've had everything from like nuclear scientists, nuclear physicists through to no degree at all and everything in between.
And everybody seems to have worked their way into marketing from so many different directions, which is great. And I think that's one of the great things about the space that we're all in. Obviously, Salesforce needs no introduction, I think for our listeners, I'm sure everybody will know the name. I don't know how big the marketing organisation is globally, but I'm sure it's significant.
Maybe you can just give us a very quick sense of like where your role in develop marketing kind of just sits into like the marketing org within Salesforce and how things are structured. I think it's always really interesting to hear how a business of the size and scale of Salesforce approach to structuring kind of a global marketing team.
How developer marketing functions at Salesforce
The developer marketing function is a component or a piece of developer relations, which actually sits underneath audience relations. And at Salesforce, we have different personas that we target and focus on these particular types of individuals within our ecosystem. Admins are people who administrate for lack of a better way to put it the Salesforce instance within an organisation.
And they do everything from creating a new user to building forms for users to input information into setting security permissions. So they're an incredibly important part of the ecosystem. And then we also have developers and we'll talk more about them as we go, obviously. So I won't spend time on that. Now further, we have architects who create and sort of, they act like orchestra conductors. So they'll look at all of your systems and figure out how they work together in a really efficient and effective way for you.
So audience relations now reports into the global marketing function. It didn't used to, we were under the Trailhead division previously and Trailhead is our free online learning platform. And we built this particular system actually originally for developers to learn how to build on the Salesforce platform. So it's incredible now because it's for every type of person and not just Salesforce professionals, you can learn all different kinds of skills on Trailhead, like equality and building businesses for good and helping the environment and the ecosystem.
So there's all different kinds of things there, but fundamentally we are now within that global marketing function, the global marketing function is quite large. We have 75,000 employees at Salesforce at last count, and they are a great thriving sort of incredible function within the company. There's all different kinds of marketers. There's industry marketers, there's B2B marketers, there's corporate marketing, there's customer marketing, there's trailblazer marketing.
So there's a lot of different marketing functions. And I try and pay attention to everything that they do. I get inspired by all different kinds of content and ways that we're connecting with our customers and our potential customers. So it's incredibly exciting.
Now, here I am based in London, this is where I chose to move back in 2000. So I've lived here for a long time and my role is actually based here. However, I report into the audience relations function, which is based in California, and I do have a global remit. So I look after global developer marketing.
Cool. So I imagine you have a fair number of late evenings and eight hours, nine hours time difference calls to join.
Well, yes. I don't mind that though. I really don't.
I think when we were planning this episode, we were kind of exploring effectively kind of marketing to developers. And I think maybe marketing to developers is not the fair description in terms of, this not really being about a buying or a selling process. You know, it feels very community focused and education and elements of content. And fundamentally trust really seems to sit at the core of this.
And I think when we talk about developers and you can maybe tell us a bit about the kind of audience that you focus on, but trust seems to always be such a key component in terms of whether it's, maybe it's a bit of a stereotype of kind of our developers are skeptical people and trust is so important to them. Maybe trust is key within, I think most kind of enterprise technology, buying decisions, whoever the persona is, that's staring them. But yeah. Tell us a bit about that kind of trust-building focus.
The importance of building trust with developers
I think you hit the nail on the head. Trust is at the heart of everything we do. And I'm really lucky to work for Salesforce because trust is our number one value as an organisation, but when you are dealing or working with developers, you know, and again, I will try really hard not to stereotype, but I have been in and amongst them for so long that I do know what they respond to and how they and what they like to respond to.
So developers are effectively artists instead of painting with a paintbrush, they create their art with code, and it's incredibly inspiring to sit with a developer and watch that person work, being able to tie intricate systems together in an integrated fashion that's sufficient and scalable and beautiful to look at. It's so exciting. And I'm, I guess, a technologist at heart.
And so I really appreciate and value what they do. But trust is really important to them. And when you are in a situation where you have the opportunity to share education as a fundamental concept with someone else, I always think it's really important to value that individual's perception and understanding and what their tolerances are.
And I know and understand those tolerances really well with developers. They like to puzzle things out. They're puzzlers. They are people who like to find their own way. They don't really want things, sugar-coated. They don't want technical, marketing jargon to be used. They don't want it to be too easy and they don't want it to be too hard, which I think is a fair kind of thing to say about most individuals on the planet.
But with developers, it's incredibly important that they trust you as a person who is delivering content to them, because that means you have their best interest at heart and you're the person responsible for giving them content, that's gonna help them improve themselves or improve the systems that they're building.
And so it's really important that you take that as a very strong value and keep that at the heart of everything that you do. Yes, developers do not like barriers to entry, making them sign in, for example, to a system, to access the content that they want, that could be perceived as a barrier.
So you've got to make it worth their while and in order to make it worth their, while they have to understand that you're doing it for their benefit. And so luckily for an individual like myself, I always refer to myself as an overexplain or an overcommunicator. I work really hard to communicate to people that I am doing this for their best interest. And it's exciting to see whether it works or not.
And I think we'll probably touch on this later, but I think that staying agile, when you are working with developers is incredibly important. You don't want ever stay in the same lane. You need to try new things. You need to mix it up and keep them engaged.
Interesting. You touched on developers not liking barriers and maybe being quite independent, wanting to get stuff done without being held back. I wonder if that's kind of in technology buying generally, in terms of like, particularly in enterprises where we're seeing you see more and more companies kind of letting people directly into the product, more kind of product-led growth approaches to letting people in giving them free demos, even in enterprisey environments.
Do you think an expectation for everybody that we all just wants to get into the doing sooner rather than later, and not be held back by too many conversations or having to go through salespeople and, or is it you, maybe there is a more kind of a developer-specific trait there as well.
The attributes of developers that Salesforce takes into account
I think it's a hundred percent accurate to say that it's impossible to sell anything to a developer unless that person can try the system out and giving them tools that enable them to quickly get up to speed on a system is also incredibly important. Now I don't have as a developer marketing at Salesforce, this is specific to my company, my role, my position, we do not have a financial, transactional relationship with developers.
I'm not selling them anything. I don't have a quota to hit. I don't know a skew number. I don't know the price of anything. I can't affect a sale. Right? However, it's my responsibility to make sure that these individuals can get their hands on to that technology and try it out for themselves.
We know through our developer research that developers actually can affect whether licenses are sold up the chain in their own organisation to Salesforce because they have a strong, their opinion is very well valued by the technology organisation and then fundamentally by the rest of the organisation as well.
So if they are advocating on your behalf within their organisation, you not only have a foot in the door, you're sitting at that table with the C X O who's gonna be signing that check, right? You already have the wait and the positive impact of the developers within your own organisation, telling you this is the right system for us to use. We've tried it out and we've tested it. And we think that will work for us. And it's gonna give you the benefits that you are looking for business person.
So it is very valuable to us to give opportunities for people hands-on with our technology. Additionally, it gives you the extra of making sure that you're constantly innovating your platform. You're getting constant feedback loop from the people who are using the system who are trying it out, who wanna extend it in a different way, who brings to the table situations and instant of complications that maybe you haven't considered, or that you are unaware of.
So there that constant innovation, constant feedback loop, it's incredibly valuable for us as an organisation to make sure that we are enabling our customer success. And we can do that with developer success.
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think we see that more and more across. I think sometimes people refer to it as like bottom up selling or Trojan horse of kind of getting in at a base level or with the users. And then it kind of expand. And I guess at Slack and those types of companies are often their titles, examples of one small team starts using slack. And then suddenly they've sold 10,000 license since to the CTO or CIO or whatever at a group level.
It's a really interesting way of doing things, which I think a lot of enterprise is heading more in that direction. They're recognising that are removing friction and letting people into the products. Cause traditionally with more enterprise sales motions, it used to be, fill out a form, talk to someone, schedule a call, three days later, you get a chance to have a demo.
Then if you're qualified, they might give you access, you know, the keys to the car for a bit. And I think we're going through a really interesting positive shift on that front, which is great. And I think probably driven by developer communities or at its core, maybe the developers were kind of at the forefront of that kind of positive change. So yeah. Interesting.
The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.
We've touched a bit on, I guess like the trust side of things already. I guess we see it across FinTech everywhere in tech trust is I guess, because tech companies are just often at the forefront of what they do and they're pushing boundaries and maybe there's sometimes a risk of using things or there's a risk of moving solutions.
Do you think that's why trust is just more important than ever. And is that just like a multiplier effect with developers in particular? You know, that going back to that slightly stereotypical, I feel like I can use the stereotype cause I'm a bit of a developer myself by my background. So I'm allowed to say it, but you know, developers are slightly skeptical people.
Why trust is so important to build with B2B tech buyers
Yes. I think that's true because I think they traditionally have been sold a bill of goods, right. Or even worse. They show up at work one day and their boss says: "Oh, by the way, you have to work on this brand new software system that you've seen before." And that is a huge undertaking. It's very offputting. It's very awkward. It makes you feel unsure and vulnerable.
And so you immediately approach those things with a certain level of potentially hostility, right. Or aggression towards that new software. Or you might be a totally different type of person approach it with curiosity and excitement. But I think it's really important to let people see what's under the hood. We used to have this phrase called under the hood because it did used to be really difficult to see what systems actually were written on.
What's their codebase? What is this function doing? How is it interacting with that function? And so letting them see what's under that hood and having a play with it for themselves, then they come to appreciate it and value it more because they're invested in it. As opposed to it just showing up on their desk one day. You know, I think developers just have this really innate ability to instantly judge, but the instant judgment is actually based on their experience to date. Right.
So, you know, if I'm reaching out into the developer community and I want them to try something new, it's on me to make sure that know that I've done that before. And I valued that interaction. And I came as an approach with education and commitment in mind, right? So I'm reaching out into the community with a bridge of trust, but they know that it's a bridge of trust because I've been building that bridge for a long time.
So reaching out to a developer, know what they're interested in, know what their challenges are, which is true. This is marketing 101, I assume. Not that I ever took that class, but know your customer. And just being interested in them and understanding what challenges they're trying to overcome automatically makes you a more trusted relationship partner, as opposed to, oh, this, woman's trying to sell me something. I'm not trying to sell them anything.
And I tell that story a lot. I stand on stage and tell that I'm not selling you anything. Don't come at me with your credit card. Right. If you are not interested in buying that's okay. But I'm gonna tell you why this might be really interesting to you. And I would love for you to give it a try. Right? You try it yourself, try it, buy it.
Right. So I think again, that's we have to go back to those old, you know, the first sort of shopkeepers 300 years ago, how were they successful? Right. They were successful because when you walked in the door, they knew that you liked this brand of the whatever, and that particular type of vegetable. And that's what was offered to you when you came in. And so that's kind of where we're going to now, right?
With personalisation, people are demanding. People are absolutely demanding that you stop bombarding them with useless information. That's not relevant and it's not personalised. And you start telling them or giving them options for, but we are interested in, and I think that's incredibly empowering as well.
Definitely. So you said obviously that you are not measured on like, you know, leads, pipeline, revenue, et cetera. But I assume there are of people within Salesforce who are, or do have those types of targets in different ways.
Are there other times where more kind of demand gen performance-led marketing and short term KPIs, maybe pull slightly in a different direction to what you're trying to achieve, or you, maybe you see it and not suggesting this happens to sales potentially you see an advert target developers.
You're like, I wish that hadn't a LinkedIn ad, that's a bit too salesy or aggressive from a sales angle, positioning messaging angle. And you are thinking we need to build trust. We need to kind of go slowly. We wanna, you know, we'll get there, but this is just too short term. Is there ever kind, a slight conflict of two different things pulling in different directions?
How to build long term trust while ensuring short term targets are met
We're quite lucky because we are under this audience relations function and everybody in the organisation, as a whole knows that we're looking after the best interests of our audience personas. So they appreciate and value and respect our opinion and our insight. And they're careful and cautious.
So I might get a call from a colleague in Italy saying: "Hey, you know, we'd love to organise an event for developers. What should we be doing? How should we be doing it? What should we be thinking about what kind of content would they like? How do we get them actually to show up?" You know, I did an event in Germany and I worked with the German, my German colleagues who were incredible. And it was an on the ground activity, which I held at a brewery.
And why wouldn't you obviously in Germany? And it was so incredibly exciting because after the event where 150 developers showed up, they came to me and they said: "How did you get 150 developers to show up?"
And I said: “What do you mean?" They said: "We've tried to run events before for developers. And nobody came." I said: "Well, did you actually ask developers what they were interested in?" Did you make sure that the content was relevant and appropriate for them? Did you hold it in a brewery? Because that was cool.
You know, like what are the things that you thought about now just shift everything slightly like 40 degrees and think about it from a developer perspective. You know, I have a colleague who focused solely on swag, right? Salesforce is a big swag company and you'll see on, it's such a cool job. You'll see, on social media, our mascots plushies, all hundreds of items of swag that people love to collect or earn and share.
And my colleagues said: "Oh, Christie you know, I found these really beautiful leather notebooks with like a pen holder and know we could get these made for developers." And I said before we make that commitment to that supplier, let's just ask a few of our developers if they write anything down, because I would really love to get them a piece of swag that's useful for them.
Right? Like if they are writing stuff down, that's totally cool. But in my 25 years of experience, I haven't really noticed that. Right. So, yes, I would love a leather branded notebook, but I'm not sure my community would. So let's think about our people at all opportunities.
Yeah. And when you brought it down, as you say, it kind of is marketing 101, it's like, understand people, identify what they want. I think, you know, we often overcomplicate things right. As marketers, and sometimes going back to basics can be a big benefit.
I'm interested if there are other areas where you can talk a bit about like how you talk and communicate to developers kind of at that level. I mean, you've touched on a few different areas already and a bit about, you know, it sounds like you've got a kind of content background yourself, and I assume content is a big part of things, but you know, what else is there that goes into the mix in terms of the kind of engaging with developers day to day and regularly.
How to communicate with developers at their level
That's a great question. And I am gonna step back a little bit and tell you how lucky I am that I have the ability to ask my community how things are with them. So we regularly survey our developers and because they are part of this passionate, thriving interest, engage community, they actually respond, right? Not a lot of companies could say we put out a developer.
So, people actually took it right, but I'm very lucky. So our community tells us how things are going. And over the course of some surveys, we were noticing that our people were gathering on YouTube, but we weren't really there in a positive, meaningful way. We had a YouTube channel dedicated to Salesforce developers, but it was not a place that we put, we created specific content for that particular channel. And again, keeping in mind, we're looking at educational or inspirational or a mix of both type of content.
So we know that that's the kind of content that they want. And we know that they're gathering on YouTube, but we're not really there. So we need to be where our people are, right. Go where your people are gathering and give them what they're asking for once they get there. So I took a look at our YouTube channel along with some incredibly vibrant, knowledgeable expert colleagues who are running our YouTube channel at the time.
And we decided to make it a more welcoming and friendly place for developers. And we decided to change the type of content that we were putting there. So all of that is a background of a story to tell you that, yes, I still need to be a marketer. I still need to go out and reach these people with this content. So once we freshed up the page, we then started thinking about our developers on a really deep level.
So what is it that they are looking for? Well, we had our survey is telling us some of the things that they were interested in, but more importantly, we've got all, I mean, we're Salesforce, we've got data, right. Data out, out the crazies. So we are so lucky we can have a look at our web data, what keywords are being tracked.
So we did an in-depth SEO analysis, and we could see that they were looking for these keywords. We know they're going to YouTube. Okay, let's go get them. Let's go tell them what we've got going on. So yes, I did run in order to reach out to these people with this content, I've ran a paid media campaign, which is my responsibility at Salesforce. And the paid media campaign was specifically to help raise awareness to come to our page and experience this particular content.
And that was based on keywords, right? So again, I'm not selling them anything, but I used budget to reach them. And once they could see the keywords and they saw that that keyword was pointing to a particular video, which was gonna help them solve a specific challenge. They were interested enough to go there. Once they got there, they saw that the page was fresh and it was lead and it was playlist driven and it was metadata heavy and it was keywords specific.
And so suddenly they had an action plan of needing to fix this one problem. But actually that's led me now to six or seven different videos, which is also helping me learn or explore new ideas and concepts and inspiring me as a developer to keep going. Right. So it's fantastic to be able to use budget in such a positive way. We weren't planning for this campaign to get us YouTube subscribers.
That's not what the goal of the campaign was. The goal of the campaign was to drive people to these videos, which we created specifically for our developers, but once they got there, they surprised us by subscribing to the channel. So we ended up getting a large volume of subscribers, which is fantastic. And it's because the content was right. It was relevant and it was engaging. And actually that campaign, which was specifically built on trust.
Trust was our number one value for that campaign, as it should be for every campaign that particular campaign has earned developer marketing function, a bronze award at the DMAs this past December. And I'm incredibly proud of that because it was not a carrot and stick kind of approach. It was what do our people need? Where are they and what do we not given them?
And what can we do, make sure that they are getting what they need the great part about doing something like that is the amount of transparency that you achieve with your audience, because they know that you're doing it for their good, and they engage with that specifically.
And I love to see the comments that people put on the video. I go shopping on our YouTube page all the time, just to look at the comments that people are, oh, I watched this video yesterday. This has helped me so much. And, and then they will raise interesting points like, oh, you know, to the expert, who's delivered that particular video, Hey expert. That looks really great. What if I wanna do this now?
And our experts are monitoring the comments as well, and they will respond. So it's broken down a barrier. It's created a relationship between our experts and our community in a totally unique and different way. And it also means that our experts are getting expired to create different content or new content based on what those individuals have said. So it's so exciting. It's just the best feeling in the world when it works.
It is. Yeah. And it sounds like there's not many marketing teams. I think that are that empowered to just focus on adding value, educating, just raise a sharp on what do people want from us and how can we help them without being to hide down by performance targets and MQL and SQL and other things.
So it's such a, I think that's for learning for me, it's like this, and we can take that approach. And when marketers are kind of freed up to think like that, and just to focus on really fundamentally, what do people want and how can we help them? The value can be huge and hard to measure sometimes, which I guess is the challenge, our measurement obsessed world. But, yeah, so much, so much value there, which is great.
Well, I mean, I have to say I haven't measured how many comments we're getting on our videos. I haven't measured how many responsive videos we've created. I haven't measured all of those things. What I've measured is how effective the paid ads were on YouTube, which we're generating this traffic.
And that's quite a powerful thing to be able to see I put in this dollar and it got me this out of the back of it. I'm a numbers person. There's even a hashtag Christie loves numbers. I'm a numbers person. And I love to see the numbers because it's only by looking at the numbers and the performance. And this goes back specifically to your question, but up performance marketing, you have to be agile, right?
You can't just throw some money into a campaign and walk away. You know, that you might as well throw that money out the window, because if you're not learning from what's happening right now in the moment you can't make a change.
Being agile is one of the key elements in developer marketing
And being agile was one of the best things about this. Can we state agile through the whole thing? So we put up some, you know, we might have 10 ads running at a time. Oh, actually these two, aren't doing very well, but these three are skyrocketing. Okay. So let's pull those two, let's try two more and let's change the keywords.
Let's make sure that, you know, this particular piece of content is still doing what we needed to do. And if it's not, let's try something else. Right. And we even, we're able to stay agile enough to change the bracketing or the targeting for where we were looking. Let's try some geo stuff. Let's go regional. Let's put this much budget into this country and this much budget in this country and see what's happening. Okay. Well, too much is being spent here. Let's balance that back out. We were constant balancing and rebalancing and justing and readjusting. And that's fun as a marketer that is super fun to do that.
So that's one of the things that I really enjoyed most about the campaign was staying agile, staying fresh and making sure that our developers weren't getting bored. Right. Who wants to see the same advert every day? Nobody.
Exactly. Got to keep things fresh for sure. Cool. We are pretty much out of time. So we've had a very deep and insightful discussion, I think for anyone that's considering. Well, I think anyone in technical environments where trust is, but particularly developers, you shared some great insights. So thank you for your time. Thank you to Rufus the cat for making an appearance. We're grateful for that.
Sorry about that!
Well, he's very welcome. And yeah, thanks again for joining me.
Thank you, Alex. It's been a pleasure.
Thanks for listening. We're super busy at finite building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow along with our podcast. We host monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe. Head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.