Jack: Hi everyone. This is Jack and you're listening to Scaling DevTools, the show that investigates how devs go from zero to one. I'm joined today by Ronak Ganatra, who is the director of marketing for Lano and was previously the VP of marketing at Hygraph, which is a content platform for developers. I'm so glad you joined us Ronak.
Ronak: Likewise, I'm happy we're finally speaking.
Jack: Ronak before you joined Hygraph, you were working mostly B2C marketing for a VPN. What was it like on your first day working at Hygraph versus three years later?
Ronak: Lots of context to put to that one. Three years, that's a, that's a long time span. I think it's important to set the why. Hygraph or back then it was called graph CMS, not Hygraph. So I was working at ZenMate, which is like you said, a VPN, very heavily focused on, on B2C. And at the time we were, our office was actually just across the hall from content's office, which as you know, is. One of the largest, head, the CMSs or content platforms. And I remember getting really interested into the concept of what this content API and, content platform was because of course, as ate, we were using, WordPress, along with PI core, which was also another CMS with, a sort of folder page structure. So I got really interested in this idea of a content API and omnichannel, content delivery, which is, I would say a strong reason why I was definitely on board when I decided to join rap CMS. And now going to your question of how things look like on, on day one versus year three. I still had a very B2C mindset. I joined somewhere in September and we were a small team. We were about 15 to 18 people at the time. So there wasn't a marketing team per se. There were or three people on the team at the time who were working in developer relations, developer, advocacy, and a mix of those. So a lot of it was foundation work in terms of marketing with SEO, with CRM, with looking into what the channel mix was and so on and I've had no experience with marketing two developers or working with such a technical product. So in a classic marketers gullible sense. I joined in September, in October, I thought, okay. Numbers could do better. I'm used to a much faster feedback loop coming from B2C. So I spoke with my CCO, who was my boss.
We said, okay, October Halloween, let's run a campaign. It's worked for us before. why not? Seemed like a really good idea. We didn't really discuss it with the engineering team or try to get like a developer's opinion of what this could be for our first marketing campaign. We launched a, Halloween campaign on Friday. First mistake. And, I don't remember much about the details, but I'm sure it was some cheesy 31st October. Here's 31% off, kinda a thing, right? Like, banners, website, popups newsletter, the whole, package, went away for the weekend, came back on Monday thinking. Okay. Worst case scenario. We've got a couple of more hundreds of thousands in Mr. How bad could it be? Yeah, it turns out don't do.
We came back, we had somewhere close to 40% of our, user subscribers, unsubscribed. Uh, we had like this huge backlog of, Intercom messages saying just don't contact me, just leave me alone. And of course we had zero, zero MRR. It's not like even one person redeemed that offer.
Right. It was, completely zero. So we sat down, we're like, okay, I think we need to figure out like what this whole developer marketing and developer mindset thing is all about. There weren't a lot of resources I could find at the time. I mean, of course there were great companies, like odd zero, like Twilio, like Versace, which back then was Zeit, who were creating content.
But for me, I really have to start. With the basics, right? I came from knowing maybe how to edit a JSON file. I had no idea how APIs really work or what this whole GraphQL thing was so I sat down with our devel team who really. Open, in letting me know what the developer mindset looks for.
Right. So they told me a lot about the companies they admire, of course, tribe being the golden standard in, terms of content and website, what they look for with tooling, why they care about things like the visuals or the developers, developer topics, the documentation. That they actually spend a considerable amount of time reading docs and reading guides, which as a commercial marketer is something you would think like, okay, that's just the user manual.
Right. I'm not really gonna read it. I'm gonna look for the pictures. Let's get on. So I started to, to understand a lot more about what they look for and how they choose tools. I'm not a developer by any means, but they took the time and had the patience to really walk me through how to work with, with our APIs.
How do I grab QL queries? What happens in, a gaps be front end, if you change the structure of your schema in, in a graph API. So a lot of these, Foundations are things they, helped me with. And that helped me. Hopefully become a better marketer, but it definitely helped me, improve how I was doing things at craft CMS.
So that's when I really started to focus a lot on SEO on quality content. Uh, not so much on the quantity. I started to care about, the visuals of the website and what the whole design language Of the company was, what we could do in collaborations, and how we could interact with the community.
What sort of events could we get involved in? This whole new let's say channel mix is something that was. What I was getting really interested in and iterating on and creating a lot of content around. And even as we grew the team, the focus was always in these areas, we had developer relations, we had SEO and content.
We had sales enablement. We had product marketing and it's at a very late stage at late stage. In terms of my time, I have Hygraph that we started having more and more resources for ads or performance marketing, which usually would come much earlier. In the marketers life cycle. So fast forwarding to year three, I would say the difference between day one and year three was I was not running a Halloween campaign anymore.
Jack: That's really interesting. And I think one of the most vivid illustrations that I've ever heard on your journey, is amazing. You mentioned that sitting down with, developers and, learning to use GraphQL and stuff yourself made you a better developer marketer. What do you think it means in terms of being a better developer marketer?
Ronak: I think it, on a very fundamental level. It's to me it's if, I'm selling you something, I should at least take the effort of speaking to you in your language, or at least on terms that you understand. Right. So I think. A lot of the times when we look at any resources about developer marketing, everyone's really quick to say, yeah, skip the fluff.
You know, developers don't care about fluff, which is fair. But what is that fluff? Is it just, they don't care about a certain messaging or a certain channel. so that really comes down to how you communicate with these, with these developers. Right? And if I, as a marketer, if I'm selling a GraphQL API, if I'm selling. Flexibility in your stack with, I don't know, next JS or whatever tooling you're using, then I need to make sure that I know what I'm talking about. I am not going to code an entire open source example for you, but the least I can do is be honest. When I say, okay, if you are using our GraphQL API, if you've got an next JS front end, they go well together, you can query content. Your content and marketing team is happy there you. Figure it out. I'm not gonna do it for you. We have docs for this. So I think that's, what it really comes down to is that if you can get this technical context and understand why developers use certain tools, or why would they would wanna use certain, platforms, it makes your life, as a marketer, a lot easier for sure. But you also feel, a lot more honest when you are, when you're pitching a product.
Jack: That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned moving away from things like performance marketing, or maybe you, you weren't really ever doing it, but in terms of it's a lot further away, but then that also may become harder to measure whether you're doing a good job. And I wondered how you approach that.
Ronak: That's a good question because I mean, as marketers, we're always chasing numbers and, dashboards and metrics. It really depends if I stick with the performance marketing example, whatever experiments we did, do you have a very quick feedback loop, right?
Whether it's a campaign on search, purely example, headless CMS, you know, how many clicks you're getting, you know, how many of them convert to leads or sign?
On the flip side, a lot of developers use ad blockers. How much could you really trust those numbers is something that we kept asking ourselves. And that's also when we figured, okay, let's just assume that whatever we know about our traffic may not be true. Let's assume half of them use ad blockers. And we know from our own developers that they like to consume well written documentation, they like good guides. They like, examples or reference applications. So let's use that as a starting point and start to create really good high quality content. And that's kind of the mentality we went with. Right. So if, for example, it could be something like using , GraphQL mutations with, a spell application. So let's take that example. What we would typically do is have a blog post on how you can do this. Have a repo on GitHub with a full rundown on how the API works and how all of this would be structured within an application. You would maybe talk about it over a couple of tweets or even had a meetup, right?
These are all things that, to get that collectively you would expect to drive impact, but you don't know how you'd measure all of them. And that's the mentality we went with and we were okay with it because not everything can be measured and that's fine. And. Over time, what we would use as signals to the success of this content would be are people in the community talking about it when we share it with them?
Is it helpful? Has someone found us. Via SEO or social from this content and signed up for the product, or even if someone's, just having a conversation with someone on support on the live chat and saying, I was looking at this post trying to do this. I couldn't out help. That's sign. You're not a click to me, but you're actually engaging with the content that's helping you. And things like this have a much longer feedback loop and you can get this even six months later. Right? So another interesting example is, and the reason why I mentioned the SELT example is we had the sales team speaking with a prospect. Way late into the conversation. They had been demoing us and trying us out for weeks. and just out of curiosity, we were like, okay, well, it's getting kind of serious now. How did you hear about us? What was the whole process like from your side? He was like, yeah, we were thinking about moving this spelt. It's a relatively new framework. It's not too much, content around SEL.
This is like a year ago. But we came across this one example you had, and we were playing around with it. And it was a really interesting approach to structuring the schema. We were like, great. So we had no idea you've ever interacted with this. You've never clicked on an ad. You've never been part of the same events we were. But you heard from somewhere. That graph CMS or high graph was working with pelt, and GraphQL that got you interested, and to me, that's, that's a really strong validation point, cuz I could never measure that on a dashboard. But you just have a feeling that you're creating good content it's high in quality, and some way or another, I don't know the universe manifests and it comes back to you, in feedback in some shape or form.
Jack: That's really, very interesting You mentioned there about working with the sales team and how you were able to like figure out where some of the deals came from maybe an surprising source. , how should developer marketing teams be working with sales teams?
Ronak: It depends a lot on the product. Right? So with high graph, we were a free SA product. So the sales team had little to, nothing to do with the, with the free side of the business. So sticking with just the enterprise side. I would say that the structure of the marketing team is something that impacts how marketing and sales work together quite heavily. So the way I saw the marketing team growing was, uh, there were three essential, pillars, right? You had developer relations who. Very focused on community and product adoption and helping developers succeed with the product. you had the growth function, which was things like demand generation, SEO, CRM, the very numbers side of, of market. And then you had the most strategic side was things like. Partner marketing, product marketing, events as well, where it's, a lot more strategic and more about creating, different formats of content. and I saw these functions interacting very differently with the sales team. So. For example, the product marketing side would be responsible for understanding what's happening within the product, what the new capabilities were, what the feature set, what the new use cases were translating that into a commercial value prop that the sales team could use in the conversations and really having this one to one, Relation with the sales team where they're fully, on the same page with what the product's trying to ship.
And they're also creating a feedback loop where they can give this prospect or lead feedback to the product team, to constantly improve on. the partner marketing side would have a direct relation with the partners team to work with our ecosystem partners like Versace or cloud Mary or our implementation partners to constantly have. Some co-marketing activities, right? This could be whatever webinars case studies, eBooks doesn't matter. on the growth side, again, it's a quicker feedback loop. So here it would be a lot more regular and, to the point where, okay, The head of growth would work very closely with the head of sales to understand what kinds of team, companies we wanna, we wanna speak with on an ABM campaign or what ad campaigns we're running are translating into leads and prospects down the funnel.
How can we improve, uh, why are these leads dropping off? Can SEO career help the content team create better topic on these content pieces that are, kind of a weak point down the funnel? So the growth team and the sales team working very directly. and then again, dev is the tricky bit, right? Cause no one knows what they do.
No one knows how to measure DevRel, but they all have an opinion. so at one point we also thought Well's great. You know, the product inside out. You can also help the sales team, right? Like help close some big customers, see what their developer problems are. and this, this quickly goes in either direction, right?
At some point I think the DevRel team was also helping out so much that they were just, a lot of that time was going and doing product demos. and then we figured out collectively, okay, this is not the best use of DevRel time. Let's maybe take this resource away. And then the sales team should have their own technical resource. So I would say dev and sales didn't necessarily have the one to one relation in as a sustainable long term plan, versus the other functions of marketing. So, yeah, that I also went off a bit there into the, into the three, three functions. But what I was trying to get at is that marketing and sales should always be aligned.
Especially if you've got a paid product or an enterprise tier, but what's important to me is rather than just having regular. Weekly marketing and sales syncs and updates and presentations, and, really identifying stakeholders from each team who are the most relevant to stakeholders in the other team and trying to get them to some crossfunctional way, on an operational level, as much as possible.
Jack: That makes a lot of sense, amazing.
Thanks so much. Ronak that's all, we've got time for. If you've enjoyed hearing what Ronak has to say, you can follow him on gunny G attra on Twitter. So that G U N N Y G a N a T R a and Ronak runs a developer marketing community that I'm in, which is amazing and would love it if you joined. So it's marketing two.dev.
So if you just go to marketing to.dev, you will find a link to join the slack channel. Thank you so much for joining Ronak.
Thanks everyone. We'll see you very soon.
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