Gregory De Jans Particulars How TomTom’s Developer Engagement Technique Helped it Pivot to a B2B Firm


Gregory De Jans, TomTom

In right this moment’s enterprise local weather, the necessity for corporations to be agile, modern and in a position to scale is bigger than ever. These wants are pushed by an rising demand for related experiences and APIs are key enablers. However earlier than a company can reap the advantages of APIs, it should arrange an API technique.

Creating an API technique could be damaged down into 4 levels: establishing your online business technique, aligning your group and tradition, putting in the expertise wanted to assist the technique and interesting together with your ecosystem. This sequence of articles examines the fourth stage.

All profitable API suppliers make it a precedence to actively interact with their developer communities. Doing so helps construct vibrant ecosystems of builders and companions who, in flip, can prolong the attain and success of these API methods. ProgrammableWeb has spoken to quite a lot of suppliers about their finest practices for partaking with builders. This text will deal with TomTom, a supplier of location expertise companies. We spoke with TomTom’s head of Developer Portal Gregory De Jans.

TomTom was lengthy generally known as an organization that constructed navigation units to be used in vehicles. However within the final a number of years, the corporate made the change to a software program supplier targeted extra on the B2B market. With that shift, TomTom reinvented its advertising and marketing and engagement efforts to take intention at builders as a substitute of customers in most people. De Jans mentioned how his crew was in a position to not solely change its technique, but additionally overcome the stigma that builders can’t be marketed to. He talks about how the techniques that work for a shopper viewers don’t essentially work for a developer viewers and factors out that conversion metrics want to vary, even when the top outcomes could also be comparable.

Providing strong types of assist is among the finest methods to make sure nice engagement together with your developer viewers and De Jans outlined some methods. Through the years TomTom has realized that any assist they provide must be backed up by its professionals. For instance, boards ought to be monitored by specialists as a substitute of counting on the group alone, for instance. 

TomTom additionally acknowledged how completely different audiences that come to study its merchandise could have completely different priorities. De Jans defined that TomTom made the selection to characteristic SDKs as equal to its APIs because of the completely different developer personas that go to the portal. In recognizing its audiences’ completely different wants, TomTom has come to understand that it isn’t vital to fret about whether or not to serve every with completely different internet channels. As a substitute, it ought to deal with the person journey whereas ensuring that the best content material is served to the best developer on the proper time.

To seek out out extra about how TomTom approaches developer engagement, learn the transcript of the interview beneath.This interview has been edited for readability and size.

Be taught from main suppliers the right way to interact together with your builders

ProgrammableWeb: Yeah, Gregory. In the event you wished to start out, I might love to listen to just a bit bit about you and possibly somewhat little bit of your background and what you are doing at TomTom, and little bit about TomTom, for individuals who haven’t heard about…

Gregory De Jans: Okay, let’s begin with a little bit of my background. I began working for TomTom in 2010. That is already 11 years in the past, and I used to be primarily lively for, for example the primary 5 to 6 years in supporting our bigger clients, B2B clients in Europe, but additionally on the West coast. Particularly I’ve been concerned in the whole lot associated to our API merchandise. Throughout that point, I used to be working with clients like Uber, Microsoft, who had been utilizing our expertise and who wished to study extra about APIs as a result of it was fairly a brand new product for TomTom. Then, after studying extra in regards to the APIs, ultimately there was a possibility to handle the developer relations crew.

I had been carefully concerned with the whole lot which pertains to APIs. I used to be additionally within the gross sales and advertising and marketing group, in order that was sort of a pure subsequent step for me to take. So, I managed the developer relations crew. That included work on the developer portal that we now have at TomTom, our developer assist actions to assist our group, and our improvement engagement campaigns. After all, we’d work carefully with our advertising and marketing division to execute these. To today I’m nonetheless fulfilling that function. I’ve been lively in that function for about 4 years now. To present you a little bit of background on TomTom. I believe, after all, everybody is aware of TomTom from the early days once we had these very good usable DMV or navigation units as we referred to as them.

I believe oftentimes whenever you ask individuals in the event that they know TomTom, they nonetheless bear in mind these units. After all the world’s moved on, and I believe TomTom additionally moved on. As a substitute of being that hardware firm that folks know us for, we’ve transitioned over the previous few years. That transition began round 2015 to maneuver to being extra of a software program firm. After all, that not solely meant a transition from hardware to software program, nevertheless it additionally meant a transition from offline to online-first pondering. That requires a little bit of a change in mindset as properly, not just for the people who find themselves promoting the merchandise, but additionally the people who find themselves creating the merchandise. You are transferring from, for example a navigation gadget, the place all of the expertise was truly inside to an internet world the place you are providing companies to B2B companions, who after all use all that expertise and that data that you’ve got constructed up over the previous greater than 28 years.

I believe it is vital that, for the individuals who do not know what TomTom is, we’re nonetheless that very same firm who’s constructing nice location expertise however as a substitute of exposing that for our personal shopper units, we’re now exposing that by our companions who’re then integrating our companies. So we’re sort of a B2B firm. The good factor that we see is that truly there’s extra individuals utilizing TomTom expertise right this moment than there have been for instance, 5 years in the past, nevertheless it’s simply not that seen anymore. For instance, in case you’re utilizing the Uber app in your iPhone, there’s all TomTom location expertise inside. However not as many individuals nonetheless acknowledge the model as a result of it isn’t that shopper model than it was earlier than.

PW: Okay. Let’s discuss developer engagement, as a result of one of many belongings you talked about was you made a transfer from hardware to software program and from offline to on-line. As you guys made that change, how did the technique for partaking builders have to vary throughout that point interval?

De Jans: Yeah, I believe it not solely needed to change, it needed to be fully reinvented. We weren’t used to speaking in the direction of builders, to advertising and marketing in the direction of builders, to promote in the direction of builders. I believe it is a fully completely different skillset, and it is a fully completely different world in case you’re promoting advertising and marketing to builders. You usually hear it does not work in case you market to builders, or it does not work if you wish to promote one thing to a developer, however we realized that is truly not true. It is only a completely different approach of selling to builders and a special approach of promoting to builders.

I believe one thing you actually need to concentrate on is that you just’re speaking to a very completely different viewers and that viewers comes with completely different techniques, other ways on the right way to method them and the right way to interact with them. What works, or what used to work for a shopper viewers, doesn’t essentially work for a developer viewers. We needed to construct up a crew with the best talent set, with the best data, the best backgrounds, with the intention to assist these builders, and to persuade these builders to truly use our merchandise. That’s one thing I believe we sort of understood fairly early within the course of and what additionally made us profitable.

PW: You stated that there is a conception that you would be able to’t market to builders, however in reality you may. How do you try this? Even when it is high of the waves, what are a few of the ways in which one would truly go about advertising and marketing to a developer viewers?

De Jans: Yeah. I believe there’s a number of choices there to focus on by a developer viewers. The normal digital advertising and marketing executives are working with builders, however we do see variations. For instance, in case you’re investing in Google commercials on Google search, what you see is that builders aren’t actually tempted to click on on an commercial, nevertheless it does stick of their minds. What occurs is, they see the commercials, they will not click on on it, however maybe the subsequent day or two days later, they’ll attempt to discover it themselves. One thing that they’ve seen by some sort of a visible commercial, for instance. The conversion metrics that you just had from, for instance a shopper viewers, aren’t essentially the identical as these conversion metrics for a developer viewers, however you do see that they’ve an affect and that they labored, these sorts of commercials. It is simply that builders aren’t tempted to click on straight away on these commercials. I believe that is an fascinating story value sharing, that conventional advertising and marketing engagements may not have the identical sort of conversion metrics, however ultimately it might need the identical outcomes and also you’re in a position to attain your viewers. 

One thing else after all is you want to go the place your developer viewers is. We tried completely different channels. We tried LinkedIn, we tried Twitter, we tried Fb. What we realized was that the channel that works finest is dependent upon the viewers, after all. You probably have, for instance, an important B2B product, which may be very shopper oriented or gaming oriented, then it’d work in case you do campaigns on Fb. In the event you do these sorts of selling actions for one thing like a maps API, we realized that Fb might be not the perfect approach for us, and that there are different social media platforms, that are higher for us by way of engagement. In order that’s one other factor. With social media, some platforms work higher than others. 

Then the final half is there’s additionally a variety of builders that are partaking and are looking for assist. Then after all you want to assume, “Okay, can we make use of the prevailing assist platforms like Stack Overflow and all the opposite platforms that you have already got,” the place individuals are truly looking for a solution, or does it make extra sense to construct your individual assist group, for instance, the place you might have a devoted discussion board that helps builders discover solutions about your product?

We additionally did a few surveys and analysis to seek out out what is going to work finest for us. It isn’t essentially a provided that this is able to additionally work for different corporations, however by speaking to our viewers, we came upon that they recognize posts which have our personal builders working to assist them in comparison with sending them, for instance, to Stack Overflow, the place they sort of lose their approach they usually do not precisely know what tag that they need to add to their questions.

So one vital requirement that they’d was, it must be backed up by TomTom professionals. In the event you solely permit the group to change, then we’d as properly go to Stack Overflow. However in case you’re setting one thing up which is supported by TomTom professionals, then this is able to be an important added worth for us. We see additionally within the engagement metrics that folks actually just like the assist that they get by the discussion board, that there are a variety of engagements taking place there, and even builders who assist them, who assist one another out. However normally, I believe they recognize it if a TomTom knowledgeable might help them with answering the questions.

PW: That is fascinating. You might have that then on the developer portal, your inner instruments, like your discussion board and questions like that?

De Jans: Yeah precisely. There are a few ways in which we offer assist. One is thru the discussion board, however there are additionally builders who’ve maybe extra confidential data that they need to share or are engaged on a confidential undertaking that they need to get details about. We nonetheless permit them to succeed in out to us immediately in order that they will get some private interplay. 

What we see is that if a developer has a query about the right way to combine a particular characteristic on the iOS SDK, for instance, then they’re extra more likely to share that on a discussion board as a substitute of sending a direct query to us. The benefit, after all, is that very same query might assist one other developer as properly. We encourage builders to share their questions on the discussion board, as a result of from an engagement perspective, if different individuals have the identical query it’s useful to have the ability to discover the solutions on the discussion board, as a substitute of reaching out to us for each technical query that they’ve.

PW: Who in your crew is offering that assist that you have talked about your clients actually worth?

De Jans: There are a few groups which are offering the precise assist. If it is a purely technical query, then we’ve builders who’re specialists in integrating our SDKs and our APIs. The developer assist is given by builders, and I believe that is vital that you just permit builders to speak to builders as a result of in any other case you’ll lose the reference to them and they won’t really feel they’re understood. Then there are the extra business associated questions and some questions in regards to the phrases and circumstances or about our pricing mannequin. For instance, we’d have individuals who do not essentially need to pay with their bank card, however they’re thinking about signing a contract the place they get the bill, that kind of scenario is handed over to a gross sales crew so that a gross sales consultant is reaching out to them. If we had been to permit the gross sales consultant to additionally interact with builders to reply extra technical questions, I am certain that might not be very a lot appreciated by the developer group.

PW: So that is fascinating since you’ve been speaking about how you might have the inner assist on the portal. As we all know, a good way to assist builders who’re new to your API is to supply SDKs. I truly lined the TomTom portal a few yr in the past. One thing I highlighted had been the SDKs and the way you actually deal with SDKs as first-class residents equal to the API. You do not at all times see that on a variety of developer websites. Are you able to communicate to a few of the selections that you just made within the portals? Why have you ever chosen to characteristic SDKs on equal footing to the APIs? Speak in regards to the portal somewhat bit. I am very curious to listen to about that.

De Jans: Yeah, after all. The portal has been fairly a journey. To start with, I believe the portal was only a approach for individuals to know how our merchandise work. It was extra like a gathering of all types of technical Documentation that we uncovered, and naturally we offered entry to our APIs. The following step occurred as a result of we noticed that folks had a variety of curiosity in utilizing our APIs commercially as a part of their functions. What we discovered was that sending each developer to an account supervisor did not actually go properly, and we did not have sufficient account managers at the moment to assist all these questions. Then we began occupied with the right way to discover a totally self-served approach for individuals to judge our APIs, but additionally to commercially use our APIs.

I believe this was in 2016, 2017. At that time we targeted on ensuring that we might present a totally self-serve, automated approach for individuals to get began with our APIs, with out even having to contact an individual at TomTom. The purpose after all was to make it simpler for individuals to get began, with our merchandise. 

What we did not actually put money into earlier than was constructing all types of consciousness pages. Ensuring that a non-developer, whether or not it was a CTO of an organization, a product supervisor, actually any product individual might additionally perceive how our merchandise may benefit their use circumstances. We began including product pages. We began including use-case pages, trade pages so that folks might relate as to whether our APIs had been match for his or her use case or not. I believe that is an vital half within the consciousness section that you want to cowl in order that the non-developer viewers understands what your merchandise can do for them.

Then after all we’ve to consider our API documentation. Does it have the best construction? Does it comprise all of the rights elements with the intention to serve the builders and might they discover their approach by the documentation? Though we’re revamping it infrequently, we’ve made the selection that the SDKs are equally vital to the APIs. That is as a result of there are mainly two kinds of builders. One kind of developer is aware of a particular expertise they usually look instantly for that expertise. They need to know the right way to combine that expertise, for instance, with the TomTom APIs, and that’s true in SDK. If you’re a JavaScript developer, then instantly you need to go to the JavaScript SDK. In the event you’re an iOS developer, instantly you need to go to the iOS SDK.

Then there are the opposite kinds of builders who’re extra within the core performance they usually need to construct one thing across the API that they will handle, that they will personal. That’s the developer, for instance, who’s extra aware of Python or with C/C++, and they’re wanting particularly for that API performance. These builders want entry in a really quick and fast approach, whether or not you are a JavaScript developer or whether or not you are a Python developer. That is why we determined to place the APIs and the SDKs on the identical stage, as a result of they’re serving completely different audiences. These audiences may have a choice relying on the background and  programming expertise that they’ve. However most frequently individuals know, earlier than they even land in your portal, what expertise they need to get entry to and what expertise they need to use.

PW: You stated that there are completely different audiences, some who need to interface with the API immediately and others that need to interface through the SDK. Even inside that SDK viewers, they’re segmented. What was the journey to deciding to serve these audiences in numerous methods?

De Jans: I believe one thing that we began specializing in as of 2017, 2018, was doing a variety of person analysis. That was one thing we hadn’t actually accomplished earlier than, however we began realizing that there isn’t any such factor as a single developer viewers, proper? You are focusing on particular builders from particular verticals, in our case that was builders who’re thinking about fleet and logistics functions and on demand mobility functions, the place we all know that we’ve a very good product match for these use circumstances. We began constructing some personas and it is vital whenever you’re constructing the personas that you already know who your viewers is and who you may goal. Then after all you want to outline their person journey. Every persona that you’ve got recognized must have a person journey for a way they’ll discover the data that they want, how they’ll combine the merchandise, and person analysis actually helps with that.

There are a variety of on-line instruments, but additionally by establishing some face-to-face person analysis initiatives, we have realized lots and we truly noticed how builders had been interacting with our portal. We noticed how they might get misplaced at some second in time and the place they perceived some friction. I believe it is vital then that you just begin prioritizing crucial friction factors to unravel them and to just remember to have a greater person journey, that you’ve got a greater person movement. Then after all, all this suggestions from the person analysis section is taken into consideration by what you name a UX designer, however we name it the DX designer, proper? As a result of it is developer expertise, which is a bit completely different than Consumer Expertise.

Then the DX designer takes all that data into consideration to create new person flows that might assist to take away a few of these friction factors. It is a steady train that you want to do. You may’t clear up all of the friction factors in a single go, it is an iterative course of and you want to deal with these friction factors one after the other to just remember to have a person journey the place builders do not get misplaced and the place they do not understand any friction after they need to get began together with your merchandise.

PW: So on the level the place you’ve rolled out your portal and also you’re proud of the documentation, how do you measure in case you are efficiently partaking together with your developer communities?

De Jans: From a developer engagement perspective, I believe that there are a variety of KPIs and a variety of metrics that you’ve got. One in every of my favourite ones is the time to first API name. That mainly means if any person registers on our developer portal, after how a lot time does he execute his first API name. Nicely, we have seen that we have come a good distance there. At first it was a few days at minimal. Generally we noticed that folks, particularly when there wasn’t a self-serve course of, needed to signal some sort of an analysis settlement. Then we needed to manually present them entry to the guides.

These had been the early days, however after all now it is a matter of hours, generally even minutes for builders to register on the portal and a few minutes later have already made their first API name. I believe that is an vital metric to see how properly you might have outlined your person journey, and the way profitable you’re together with your developer merchandise and together with your engagements, as a result of the longer it takes for a developer to make use of your APIs, the extra danger there may be to lose them. I believe that is considered one of my favourite metrics that I at all times attempt to attempt for, to reduce the time to first API name.

PW: Completely. I hear that from different suppliers. That first contact expertise that you just give to builders is such an vital entrance door. I need to take a step again since you talked in regards to the consciousness pages and the way a product supervisor or a CTO could go to the portal and need to know in regards to the product they’re and the way it advantages their use case. I’ve heard either side of the argument. On one hand it is best to have these pages to assist non-developers perceive the advantages of your API, however I’ve heard that the non-developer viewers is so small that it’s a must to optimize your portal for builders. Clearly completely different approaches can work for various corporations so are you able to discuss the way you guys landed on the choice to have product pages inside your developer portal in order that they may clarify use circumstances? As a result of I believe that is actually an vital factor.

De Jans: Yeah. I do know that there is generally debate round whether or not it is best to have these consciousness pages in your developer portal or whether or not it is best to have them on the company web sites. I believe what issues essentially the most is that you’ve got these consciousness pages in some section of your journey. So you possibly can, for instance, ship your entire builders first to your company web page or to your company web site, and there the attention pages are immediately accessible to them. It may very well be that that is the best method, however I do not essentially assume you want to give it some thought as, you might have a company channel after which you might have a developer channel. You must consider it as a person journey in your personas. So if considered one of your personas is a product supervisor, then you want to ensure that wherever they land on, whether or not it is on the developer portal or whether or not it is on a company web site, that they discover the data they want and that is the attention constructing content material.

We have now chosen to ship each the product managers and in addition the builders to our setting. After all, you additionally must just remember to have that consciousness constructing content material on that web site. I believe for different corporations, in the event that they resolve to ship each developer and each product individual to their company web sites, then you want to ensure that that consciousness constructing content material is on the company web site. 

You can even outline a person journey that overlaps between a number of channels. Take your company web site as one channel and your developer web site as one other channel. In the event you outline your person journey, it could movement from one channel into the opposite. It is perhaps as a result of you might have an consciousness section, you might have a consideration section the place individuals think about to make use of your merchandise. Then you might have that use section the place individuals are truly utilizing your product.

It is perhaps that you just say, “Okay, for the attention section and for the consideration section, this channel is ideal for them.” However then if they really need to get began and use your merchandise, then you definitely would possibly transfer them to a developer portal. I do not actually see it like, “Ought to we put the whole lot on the developer portal, or ought to we put the whole lot on a special channel?” I at all times take a look at it from a person journey. If individuals, throughout their person journey, are served with the best content material the place they want it, then I believe you should have a profitable product and also you’ll have a profitable person expertise. To me it issues much less on the place precisely you set it, so long as it is smart for the person journey that you’ve got outlined in your audiences.

PW: I assume that your information backs up your pondering and reveals that the person journeys are being extra totally accomplished?

De Jans: There are all types of conversion metrics that can be utilized. I believe we measured the conversion from a customer to any person who registers. Then from a registered developer to a developer who’s truly utilizing our merchandise. We additionally measure the churn charge after they begin utilizing our merchandise. And we are able to see that once we add these consciousness pages that extra individuals are registering on the portal. 

One undertaking that we did final yr was to optimize the registration movement. Now, we instantly give individuals an API Key. Up to now we had our customers register first after which they might undergo one other movement to create an API key. We now mix these two steps into one, and we’ve seen that the time to first API name was truly decreased by greater than 40-50%. I believe these conversion charges are actually vital to measure. Really, earlier than you begin implementing a undertaking, it is best to already know what you are making an attempt to enhance, and ideally by how a lot you need to enhance it.

PW: Completely. Couple extra questions right here. We’ve chatted lots about your developer portal, however I’m wondering in case you’ve accomplished different strategies of exterior outreach to builders? Be that weblog posts, occasions, webinars, hackathons, something like that, that actually works for you guys?

De Jans: Yeah, I believe we have accomplished all of them, however some work higher than the others. One of many issues that TomTom is after all now targeted on is to make individuals conscious that we’ve transitioned from a B2C to B2B firm. We noticed that, particularly hackathons, weren’t perfect for that. From an consciousness constructing perspective, a hackathon will not be nice as a result of more often than not you’re reaching a particular viewers, fairly a restricted viewers. So for consciousness constructing, it isn’t the perfect return on funding. Nonetheless, by way of getting early adopters suggestions, a hackathon is a good occasion. What we noticed is that once we had a brand new product that we wished to launch into the market, earlier than launching it we’d provide it to  a hackathon group or hackathon occasion. That may give us nice suggestions for that particular new product.

We have accomplished occasions as properly, and naturally we’ve all types of native occasions. We even have greater occasions. We’re primarily specializing in the larger occasions, as a result of we need to improve that consciousness constructing. The extra builders we are able to attain the higher for us. I do assume that is a bit technique or firm particular, I’d say. By way of occasions, I believe we’re fairly selective, and we are attempting to focus on the most important occasions in Europe and North America the place essentially the most of our goal audiences are as properly.

PW: Final query, if you’ll be able to share, what number of builders do you presently have in your group?

De Jans: I haven’t got these numbers in entrance of me however I need to provide you with some background on why I’m not targeted on that variety of builders anymore. Up to now, after all we wished to succeed in a sure group that you would be able to construct. I believe the extra, the higher. However from a method perspective, we’ve determined that we do not need to deal with that mass market of builders anymore, what we actually need to deal with is getting prime quality leads into the developer portal. We try this by specializing in some vertical particular industries. Like I stated, fleet and logistics, mobility on demand. These are actually vital verticals for us.

We might moderately have 500 builders who’re lively in fleet and logistics, then for example 500 builders who’re utilizing our merchandise without spending a dime only for displaying a small map on their web site, after all. I believe that group constructing is vital however ultimately TomTom is after all, additionally an organization that desires to generate income. We imagine that we are able to generate essentially the most income in fleet and logistics mobility on demand. I believe it is extra beneficial for us to see and to know the place are builders coming from, that we’re in a position to appeal to, than wanting on the quantity per se.

I’d prefer to thank Gregory De Jans for taking the time to talk with me and share TomTom’s method to developer engagement. That is a part of a sequence of interviews with developer relations specialists similar to Raphael Assaraf at Aircall and Ryan Boyd at Databricks. Be sure you preserve a watch out for future interviews coming quickly.