4 Powerful Models for Your Developer Champion Program

Champion programs are a new way to interact with your developer community, and there’s a reason that plenty of big tech companies — Microsoft, Salesforce, and Docker included — have created their own. These developer programs can easily feed into every aspect of your business, making money go further both in and out of your developer ecosystem. Matthew Revell from Hoopy was at our 2019 Austin API Summit to talk about developer champion programs, aptly calling them “a lever for [all] your efforts.”

Today, we want to run over some of the highlights of Matthew’s talk; in particular, we’ll discuss the four “archetypes” of developer champion programs and when to use them. Depending on your overall platform strategy — whether you prioritize awareness, education, retention, or growth — at least one of these four models will definitely be a fit for you.

1. Reward and Motivate

Matthew dubs this first model “Reward and Motivate.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: identify the greatest contributors to your developer ecosystem, reward them, and encourage them to continue adding value. One of the benefits of the Reward and Motivate approach is its flexibility. There’s no need to set out with clear expectations for what exactly developers can do to become champions; instead, you leave developers to contribute however they please, rewarding them as you see the fruits of their labor come to life. This way, you can be sure you’re not holding back your developer ecosystem with the limits of your imagination.

When to choose this model:
Matthew says this model works best for mature communities, where the organization is more interested in developer retention than anything else. In particular, the Reward and Motivate approach can be an effective way to save several-year-old developer ecosystems which haven’t quite been looked after. Another reason you might choose this approach is if you don’t have the resources to comprehensively flesh out the tasks and rewards of your program; this way, the developer takes the initiative.

2. Force Multiplier

The “Force Multiplier” model is also self-descriptive. It involves incentivizing specific tasks all across your developer ecosystem, effectively allowing you to “multiply” your internal efforts. Imagine you want to host meetups, run webinars, and create SDKs, but you simply don’t have the resources necessary to accomplish that within your organization. That’s when you might use this model. Get the word out about what your organization is trying to accomplish, create a broad rewards program, and show your appreciation for contributors who are quick to take on the challenge.

When to choose this model:
Opting for the Force Multiplier approach is much less a strategic decision for your developer ecosystem; instead, this universal model is about amplifying all of your efforts with the help of the community. As such, it works particularly well for organizations with a lack of resources or the inability to hire top-notch developers (as Matthew explains, the ability to hire isn’t just about the resources you have — it’s about your reputation in the development world).

3. Content Factory

The “Content Factory” model is very similar to the Force Multiplier model, but with extra gamification. The basic premise of this model is to give contributors pre-defined rewards for completing highly specific tasks. These tasks can be anything, but they should be small, specific, and almost “commoditized”; for this reason, content-related tasks are some of the best. Whether it’s blog posts, support articles, or video walkthroughs, developers will be happy to create content for small rewards or points they can cash-in later.

When to choose this model:
This model is very effective if you’re prioritizing awareness and education for your developer ecosystem since content naturally lends itself to both of those strategic priorities. With rewards clearly laid out in advance, you might find that developers are significantly more willing to participate than in other champion programs.

4. Land and Expand

“Land and Expand” is the fourth and final model for developer champion programs. With this approach, your goal is to identify the most engaged community members in specific geographical regions or tech communities and have them become your on-the-ground reps. You’ll support them in hosting activities appropriate to the location or the community, and they’ll sign up new members for you. The end result is that you’ll be able to build a presence in areas you’d have otherwise never reached. Remember, though — this isn’t an MLM scheme!

When to choose this model:
Land and Expand is the model of choice for improving growth and awareness. It allows you to get into new areas or communities without needing the massive resources to do so internally. Contributors might expect some kind of concrete benefit from you — monetary or otherwise — but you’ll find that many of them value the social capital associated with running events themselves, so it’ll definitely be cheaper than an in-house approach.

Final Thoughts

There you have it — Matthew’s four models for effective developer champion programs. To recap, they are: Reward and Motivate, Force Multiplier, Content Factory, and Land and Expand. Matthew recommends the Reward and Motivate for retention, the Content Factory for education and awareness, the Land and Expand for awareness and growth, and the Force Multiplier for a bit of everything.