Creating an Army of Advocates with Tessa Kriesel

Sponsored by:

TextExpander logo

Let me tell you about my friend Tessa. She is very passionate about her work. And what’s her work? Well she finds people who are passionate about products! In this episode Tessa will give us tips and tricks for building an advocacy program – where you can connect with people who LOVE you product. And further…you know what? I’ll just let Tessa tell you about it! 

Show Notes


Intro: Let me tell you about my friend Tessa. Actually, if you’re a longtime listener of the show, you will know that Tessa is a repeat guest. We talked about teaching web development to people who don’t know web development. We’re both very passionate about that. But she is in general very passionate about her work. That was true then, and it may be more true now. What’s her work now? Well, she finds people who are passionate about products.

In this episode, Tessa will give us tips and tricks for building an advocacy program, where you can connect with people who love your product or service. And further… you know what? I’ll just let Tessa tell you about it. Let’s get on to the show.

Sponsors:  This episode is brought to you by Yes Plz Coffee. Upgrade your morning with Yes Plz. This fantastic coffee subscription will send freshly roasted beans to your door with no fuss. Pick your size and how often you need beans and they’ll ship you a unique blend of expertly sourced and roasted coffee beans. I’ve been drinking Yes Plz Coffee for a few weeks now and I have been loving it.

Each week I get to try a new blend of flavors that helps me mix up my mornings. And the best part is I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to go to some new roasters website, look at all the flavors and wonder if I’m actually going like it or not, and then finally order. Every week, Yes Plz just send me coffee, and it’s new and different, and delicious.

Each shipment even comes with an info card about the beans and some other information, like playlist and extra stuff that I just enjoy getting in the mail with my coffee. So if you’re ready to upgrade your mornings with unique blends of coffee beans, sign up today. Head over to, and use the code HIBI for $5 off your subscription. And don’t worry if you’re going on vacation or you have a little too much some weeks, you can skip shipments or cancel anytime. Again, upgrade your mornings with coffee, great coffee from Yes Plz at, and use the code HIBI for $5 off. Fantastic, delicious coffee beans shipped right to you.

And now back to the show.

Joe: Hey everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built it, the podcast that asks, how did you build that? Today I am so happy to have back on the show my good friend Tessa Kriesel. She is the founder and consultant of Devocate. I will let her tell you what  Devocate is because that’s the topic of our entire episode today. Tessa, how are you?

Tessa: I am fabulous. How are you, Joe?

Joe: I am fantastic. I’m glad to have you back. I made it seem like I don’t know what you do at  Devocate, but like I do. We just talked about it in the pre-show. We’re going to talk about building an army of advocates today. Now, I like this topic because I don’t feel a lot of or enough…That was a confusing sentence. I don’t feel like enough people are talking about it. Maybe not a lot of people at all are talking about it. But in this season, as we focus on growing your business through content, I think it’s important to know that you are not the only person that needs to be the hype person for your company. That’s what we’re going to get into today.

So Tessa, the last time you were on the show, we talked about teaching development. I’m pulling that out of my brain. I’m pretty sure that’s what we talked about, right? Yeah. But today, we’re going to be talking about something totally different. And you’ve kind of switched paths. I don’t know if you’re developing every day still. I’m certainly not. But maybe you can tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing these days.

Tessa: Yeah. Well, I’m like let’s say a Jackie of all trades instead of a jack of all trades. I enjoy doing a lot of things. So yes, we did talk about teaching developers. Super huge passion of mine. It still is. I’m very passionate about teaching people things that I know and sharing that knowledge. But these days, I am spending a lot of time focusing on…I wouldn’t necessarily say marketing to developers, because that feels gross to say that. I’m sure as a developer you feel that grossness there. But more around how to approach developers and how to be where they are, bring them into the things that you’re working on, try to attract them in ways. And a lot of times I do that through advocacy programs. I do that through community work. It just really depends on the situation and exactly what we’re working on.

Joe: Yeah, that’s great. What you said about marketing to developers just reminded me since we are a week out from WWDC ending. Did you watch WWDC at all? I’m like an apple fanboy at this point, which like seven years ago me would be very disappointed in today’s me. But whatever. So did you watch any of that?

Tessa: I didn’t watch it, which is actually sad because as the person that I am, promoting that people talk about the companies and the products that they love more. I didn’t watch it, but I’m also an Apple fangirl and admittedly of all Appleified on all of my technical products, for sure.

Joe: I thought of that because, I mean, they’re very good at hyping themselves up and then getting other people to hype for them. Case in point. If you go and look at prer-2015, you will find a – what’s it called? Hate click articles that I would write about how terrible Apple is and how they steal all of Android stuff. Now I’m like, hold on, “Let me tweet from my iPhone and then talking to my Apple watch on my iMac Pro or whatever.” AirPods Pro. I have all three versions of the AirPods. All three.

Tessa: Me too. Me too

Joe: So sorry. 2014 Joe. 2020 Joe is very happy to not be fighting his technology every day.

Tessa: He still loves you.

Joe: Yeah, we got married. That’s cool. We have a kid. I mean that when this comes out, we’ll have two. In any case, that was a little bit of a digression. But you mentioned advocacy programs, you mentioned maybe in-person events versus just general programs. Let’s start here. What led you to follow this path of creating a developer advocacy program, which…? Devocate is like a portmanteau of those two words, right?

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: I just used the word portmanteau correctly.

Tessa: It is. It actually is. So it is the combination of developer and advocate and kind of bring them together. I think some people say devocate like in terms of like advəkət versus advəkeɪt. Both of those words actually work. So you can really pronounce it however you’d like because it works in both ways.

Joe:  Nice. Love it. So what started you on this path?

Tessa: So I worked where we met. We met in WordPress at WordCamps, which was awesome. Wonderful time. It’s been lovely to know you.

Joe: Quick side note. This month as we record this, it’s like four years ago.

Tessa: Whoo. That’s crazy. That’s really crazy to think about.

Joe: It was WordCamp DC 2016.

Tessa: I would say till to date my favorite WordCamp I’ve been to.

Joe: It was so good.

Tessa: It was very good.

Joe: Sorry to interrupt.

Tessa: No, you’re good. That’s actually very interesting to think about because I have learned a lot, and I’ve adopted my career and changed a lot in a matter of years, which is really cool. So it started because I was working at Pantheon, and I started as a developer advocate. If you’re not familiar with a developer advocate is it’s usually someone who works at a company. They’re developers, they’re technical in nature, but they really enjoy the more transparent kind of, I would say, authentic form of communicating with folks. So you’re not really a salesperson, you’re not really a marketer, but you are someone who is out there talking to people.

So I attended lots of conferences, talked to people who could have been prospective Pantheon users, gave presentations, wrote technical content, documentation, trainings. You know, kind of anything that really evangelized the product and allowed for someone to understand and really get a good grasp on what that product can do.

So, started at Pantheon a number of years ago. I ended up figuring out that people super, super, super loved Pantheon. If they didn’t know about it, they might have just been like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of Pantheon or whatever. But if they’ve used it, and they’re continuing to use it, it wasn’t just like, “Oh, yeah, I like Pantheon.” It was like, “I love Pantheon.” It had very developer-focused tooling. It was definitely built by developers for developers. There was this very strong passion.

For me, I was like, “This is a missed opportunity. We have all these people who are saying all these amazing things about us, they talk about us in social, they talk about us, they’re building conference presentations on our behalf. They’re already out there advocating about our product.” And I was like, “What if we amplify this? And what if we just showed a little bit of care and grace and appreciation for these people? Like what could this turn into?”

That dream turned into a full-blown advocacy program for Pantheon, which today you can go find it. I believe it’s still at It’s called the Pantheon Heroes program. When I did that, it was really just me realizing that there was this love for the product and these people who are already saying things. And I was like, “Let’s turn them into a program, let’s incentivize them, let’s reward them. And on top of all of that, let’s be there for these people. Let’s create this kind of army of advocates, as you say, and let’s really show them support.”

So it’s one thing to say, “Hey, I want an army of advocates” and you ask them to do things for you. It’s another thing to support them, provide them resources, be there for them, give them the things they need, and then hopefully benefit from some of the outcomes of that outreach. So that’s essentially what the Heroes program was. I’m sure you have a million questions. But to just add one little sentence, that role really made me realize how much I loved what I was doing, how much I loved taking that situation and then working with people who are like me—I’m a developer by trade—and giving them something that I wish I could have had for the products that I love.

So I think selfishly I was like, “This is so great because this is something I would love.” But it ended up being that it was so great because everyone else felt that way too. So it was just like a very, very rewarding program on both ends. I made it my dream. Like, “This is my career, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to figure out ways to continue to do this.” And that’s kind of where  Devocate came from.

Joe: That’s awesome. And I will say, as somebody who is also embedded in the WordPress space…I need to add an editor’s note because it was actually 2017 that we met. 2016 I just came back from Italy and wasn’t traveling. So as somebody in the WordPress space who has seen a bunch of different developer advocacy programs or a lot of them are called Ambassador programs or whatever. Ambassador is that just psych round or that might just be psych round. But they’re all very similar, right?

You have GoDaddy’s version of it and SiteGround. I was a SiteGround ambassador for a little while. But Pantheon’s, the one that you helped develop is one of the most in-depth ones. You had a dedicated website that I got to work on.

Tessa: Thank you for that.

Joe: My pleasure. Thanks for hooking me up because it was a while since I did front end dev at that point. I’m like, “I miss this.” It was a while since I did front end dev at that scale, I should say. There were other incentives besides just paying your heroes to go to WordCamps. It was like a gamified thing. I thought it was really cool.

You gave your heroes or Pantheon gives their heroes all of the stuff that they need to be a proper advocate I think. Just like in an affiliate program, you can have an affiliate program where it’s like, “Yeah, you’ll get 20% of everybody sent towards me.” Or you could be like, “Hey, affiliates, I’m launching a new course next week, and here is copy I wrote for you, here are pictures and graphics I put together for you. If you want to do an interview with me, I will make myself accessible to you, whatever, if you want access to the course. Whatever you need to make your job promoting this course easier is what I want to do for you.” So I think that the difference there is so important. And what you just said really speaks to that.

Tessa: There’s definitely a huge difference. I think there is nothing bad to say about other programs like that. It can work for companies, and that’s really great. I don’t think that that always works to 100% in exactly all capacities. So yes, I would say definitely different in that it was way more about how can we give and less about how can we take. So it was more about, “Hey, these are our power users. These are people who truly love our product. They’re already advocating on our behalf. Or they’ve opt in to the program.”

So the early part of the program was invite only, then we opened it up to the public and people could apply. But even then, there were some standards. You had to be a user for a set amount of time. You’d have so many projects. I think that was really it. There was some other varying things that we would think about. But we wanted to make sure that it truly was those folks who did really love the product. It had to be that focus of “we love open source, we love Pantheon.” And that kind of mix in between was who we were looking for.

The thing about that is that those people are arguably the best customers. They’re the ones who are talking about you. So why would you take your best customers and not treat them correctly? Why would you make it about money? Why would you make it about, “Hey, can you just do these things for us?” That’s a selfish ask to say, “Do, do, do, do? Oh, we’re going to hand you some cash” or “we’re going to hand you some whatever.” Whatever that might have been.

So it was not only just, “Hey, let’s create this awesome advocacy program because we know it’ll help our business.” It was also about how can we build a program to make sure that we’re showing our favorite and best and top customers, maybe it’s not the best because you can’t always validate that, but at least a lot of our key and important customers, that we appreciate them, and that we are there for them, and that we are supporting them in everything that they’re doing.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. What you’re saying reminds me of Pat Flynn’s book “Superfans” where he talks about that.

Tessa: It’s true.

Joe: It was really good. I took extensive notes, and I really need to implement it better. So I’ll link to that in the show notes and everything that we’re talking about over I think what you’re saying is so true. Because I’ll say as a way to really validate my fandom of something, quote-unquote, “this isn’t even an affiliate link.” Because it’s true. I just put out a post today as we record this, where it’s like, ways to improve performance on your WordPress site, and these are all things I recommend. And they are affiliate links because it helps me put out that kind of content. But I feel like when I say, “This isn’t even an affiliate link,” its like I am so stoked about this that I don’t even need a kickback.

Tessa: That’s what you want. That’s the customers you want. You don’t want the ones that are like, “Pay me, Pay me. Pay me. Pay me. Pay me,” because it’s not about the money. There is no reward with the Pantheon. There is no work that is financial at all. Not a single one, unless they’ve changed it. But it wasn’t when I launched it for sure.

Joe: I think this is why I might not have been a good fit for the SiteGround ambassador program. Because when I signed on it was pretty low commitment. There was some travel expenses reimbursed but I was still pretty much going to WordCamps for me. So I don’t feel like I was doing right by them to say, “Well, SiteGround paid for me to be here, but I’m still going to promote my stuff mostly.” I told them that and the way that they had imagined it with me was like okay that way. But as they wanted to change their program, I was like, “This is not a good fit for either one of us anymore.” So I still recommend SiteGround, but I can’t say that I’m the superfan that they need to be going to WordCamps. So I think it’s really important.

Sponsors:  This episode is brought to you by iThemes. Did you know that 60% of website breaches occur because a vulnerability could have been patched but wasn’t? That means having software with known vulnerabilities installed on your site gives hackers the blueprint they need to take over your site. Every day it gets harder and harder to keep track of every disclosed WordPress vulnerability. You have to compare that list to your plugins and themes by version and make sure you’re constantly updating.

To solve this problem, the iThemes Security Pro plugin created a better way to protect your site’s against software vulnerabilities, the number one culprit of WordPress sites. The new improved WordPress security site skin powered by iThemes performs automatic checks for known website vulnerabilities and automatically applies available fixes so you don’t have to. That’s some peace of mind. I could speak personally to this because as somebody who has repaired hacked websites, I know that it could be costly and dangerous to lose information, especially when it’s personally identifiable.

iThemes Security Pro also includes a ton of other features to help you keep the bad guys out. Brute force protection, two-factor authentication, password list logins, uncompromised password protection. Plus, a whole lot more to keep you safe. If you want to start securing your sites today, head over to to get the best WordPress security plugin to secure and protect WordPress. iThemes is giving How I Built It listeners a 20% discount by using the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout. Again, that’s That’s, and use the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout for 20% off.

And now back to the show.

Joe: So let’s talk about this then: how do you find those super fans? You didn’t prep this at all. So sorry for my blindsiding you?

Tessa: No, no, I love this actually. Whenever there’s conference presentations, and someone’s like, “Can you speak at my conference?” I’m like, “Can I be on a panel? Like all in AMA?” I love getting put on the spot because I feel like I’m more intelligent if I don’t think about it. Which is so weird, but it’s true. So one quick thing I was going to say in terms of affiliate versus advocacy is that anyone who’s listening, I’m sure that this is something that might be of interest to you, or something you’re considering or something that is like, “Okay, let me learn more about this.”

An affiliate program is not an advocacy program. And I do not recommend that if you’re building an advocacy program that you also ask them to be in your affiliate program. That’s different. Affiliate programs are for a different use case. Especially when you’re thinking about developers, I would think about what motivates them as your way of deciding where they should land. So that actually kind of leads into this question, Joe, where you’re talking about how do you find these people.

You’re going to have a lot of people who are going to love your product. A lot of them. And it’s going to be difficult to decide which ones are going to be the ones that you want to elevate into an advocacy program versus the ones that you might say, “Hey, we’re really happy to have you in our affiliate program?” I think there’s a lot of things to think about here. I think product knowledge in general is one of them. How long have they been using your product? You can get the absolute most amazing advocates from someone who’s a new customer. I think that has happened a lot.

I know that Joe, you and I have specifically passed along recommendations for products or things. So when one of my friends tells me about something, I’m like, I’m instantly at a promoter level. If you’re familiar with the net promoter score, it’s a range where it’s like a 1 to 10 score basically. Promoter level is like a 9 or a 10, which means that they’re very likely to recommend your product to a friend or colleague. If I hear about it from someone I trust, I’m instantly a promoter because I trust the people that I’m friends with, and I trust those that are in my circle to tell me about a product I care about.

So it is very hard to figure out whether or not that person is going to be your best advocate. So there’s a lot of things that I like to look at. So product usage, how long have they been using your product? Again, there’s a caveat there. They could be really excited and they could be a new user.

I would say the next thing is really about just dependent on your product. So let’s say that your product is social sharing or something. If you’ve got a customer who maybe they’ve only been in customer for a month, but in that month, they’ve used that product very heavily, then that still might be something that you want to consider. So it’s kind of weighing those back and forth.

Outside of that, there are some other things to think about. Things like social followers might be something that you’ll consider. But again, there’s a caveat there too in that some developers don’t spend a lot of time on social, but when they do post things on social, their resonance is higher. So I actually have a couple of tools that I like to use. Trackr is one of them. So it’s T-R-A-C-KR. Amazing platform. It’s a pretty heavy investment. It is very worth it. If you are looking at building out any type of an influencer or advocacy style program, their software is tailored for influencers.

So what it allows you to do is it allows you to take a couple of candidates that maybe you think are good influencers. And they don’t even have to be customers of yours. Like let’s say that your product is in a very niche market. You can say, “Oh, I know that there’s a couple of thought leaders in this market.” And then from there, you kind of take those thought leaders, and you put them into this tool. And then this tool shows you like, “Here’s other people that are like them.” Then that allows you to start to see like, “Oh, are these people my customers? How do I find some of these folks?”

However, when you’re doing that, there’s a lot of scoring and information that that product gives you. And the resonance score is what I’m trying to get to. So a resonant score really kind of sits with, I don’t have tons of followers, I’ve just over 3,000 followers, but my resonance score is actually really high. Because when I post something on social, most of my followers engage with it, or I get a decent chunk of followers to actually engage. That’s more important than followers. So having some way that you can start to break down those social networks and not just look at followers. Because it’s one thing to have 20,000 followers who don’t actually care about what you’re saying. And if you have 3,000 followers who all care about what you’re saying, then that’s completely different.

I’m trying to think. There’s so many things that I do but it is so dependent on their product and their service. If you have any questions in this area, you want to ping me, I’m always happy to give out a couple of free tips on Twitter or wherever else. So if you have a certain product and you’re thinking about it, hit me up. But I would say product usage for sure.

But I think at the end of the day, if you start actually social listening to your company. So if you’re not doing social listening right now, I cannot stress enough how important it is. or, both awesome tools. There’s tons of other tools out there. You can build your own tool if you really wanted to dive into the API’s of some of the social networks and just figure out what people are talking about you. Mention specifically gets you alerts. I assume Awario is the same way, where you get alerts when someone’s talking about you.

So I have one set up for me personally. So anytime that a new podcast comes out or a new blog post comes out that someone mentions me in, I get an email that day, and it’s like, “Hey, you’re on the internet. Someone talks about you.” If you do that for your company, you will start to see some very decent trends there. And you might start to see that there are the same people who are starting to say those things. And specifically actually showcases them. In every email you get, at the bottom of the email, it says your top five influencers this week. And Joe, just so you know, you’re in that email quite frequently.

Joe: Hey, for you?

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: Nice.

Tessa: I think it’s communicating on Twitter. So anytime that there’s anyone who tagged me on Twitter, if you respond, obviously, I’m directly tagged then that shows up. So there’s a group of lovely WordPress people that I feel like I chat with a lot who usually end up in that fitter, and it makes me happy.

Joe: Nice. I’m going to just go ahead and say that your Minnesota accent came out very strong there when you said the word tag.

Tessa: Awesome. It rarely comes out. So that’s actually awesome.

Joe: Nice. Nice. I try to keep my New York accent on a low burn. Otherwise, people won’t understand what I’m saying.

Tessa: I know.

Joe: I did have Jason Resnick on the show earlier this year and he’s from…he’s going to kill me. He’s from Long Island, not Staten Island. Jason, don’t kill me if I got that wrong. I’m pretty sure it’s Long Island. So my accent came out pretty hard when we were talking.

Tessa: I’m going to have to listen to that one.

Joe: Yeah, it’s a good one. So you mentioned and Awario. Is that A-W-A-R-I-O-?

Tessa: Yeah, that is correct.

Joe: Sweet. Cool. Again, those will be in the show notes. You talking about all this makes me want to get it and look it up. It looks like Mention has a free tier.

Tessa: I think I bumped up to the $20 a month one. But I have clients that I use that I sign up for free ones just so I get the minimal alerts. So that if my client is listed somewhere I can be like, “Hey, did you know that someone’s talking about you?” Oftentimes that they do because I’ve already told them you need to do socio listening. But it’s nice to be able to use that. And you can actually get quite a bit with the free tier.

Joe: Nice. Is this a little bit more in-depth than let’s say like a Google Alert?

Tessa: Yes and no. I would say Google Alert, you get things that happen on the internet. But admittedly, I have Google Alerts set up and I did not get notified the last time that Mention told me. So Vanilla forums, which is a really awesome community too, they wrote a blog post I think just a week ago, or two weeks ago that I was mentioned in, but I didn’t get tagged in it in social because the way they posted it on social, they didn’t tag the actual individual contributors directly. But Mention told me about it, but I did not get a Google Alert.

So I would say that Google alerts are subpar at best because I don’t think I’ve gotten a Google Alert in months. And I definitely got tons of alerts. But they also do social and Google Alerts do not do social. So it just depends on the level of applications. You could turn off some of those socials. I do have to admit if you’re using the free tier and you’re a heavy Twitter, you’ll be through those alerts in no time. So then you probably want to turn off Twitter. But kind of up to you on how you want to use it.

Tessa:  Got you. That’s good to know. Because the Google Alerts are pretty much like if you’re mentioned on a web page, like in an article or whatever, right?

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: Honestly, I’m pretty active on the internet. And the times that the Google Alert comes through for me is usually when one of the stories I would share on the now-defunct became popular. I’m like, “I know that. I submitted that story.” That’s interesting. I’m like setting up this Mention account as we speak right now.

Tessa: If everyone else does that, now see, like I am an advocate for Mention, because now I told you. So anyone who’s in this podcast who is thinking about joining you have instantly been exposed to an advocate of a product. They don’t know it because they don’t know how many people like to tell them to use the product. I should probably get an affiliate link for them actually. They have no idea that I’ve probably referred over hundreds of people to them at this point. So if you’re feeling the need to go sign up for, then you are already experiencing what it would be like to have an advocacy program.

Joe: See, that’s amazing. I feel the same way about former sponsor of the show, Hover. I wish that they had better tracking because they ended their investment because the direct number of coupon codes that were being used didn’t jive with their ROI. Makes perfect sense. But what they didn’t know is that I recommended Hover to Chris Lemma. And now Chris Lema recommended it to everybody. I know I can because he was like, “What’s Hover?” And I’m like, “Oh, Chris, you need to know what Hover is.”

Tessa: You actually told me about Hover. And I love Hover. I use it on all of my domain names. And I have a million business ideas. So I tell you what? My Hover list is ridiculous. I have to go in and turn off auto-renew on so many ideas and then I’m like, “Wait, should that be an idea again?”

Joe: Like, “Do I want this?” One is a domain I constantly renew because I’m like, “But this is a good idea.” Not right now, but in the before time when we could go places.

Tessa: I think that could even be helpful for someone who is local. Because sometimes when you’re local, you forget how to be a tourist. I actually literally just went to a park yesterday that I had never ever been to. My husband and I were like, “We got to go on a date. We got to do something.” And we went to this park and it was so romantic. I’m not romantic at all. I’m like so not a feeler. But I got there and I just had this sense of like, “This is just great.” And it’s literally 10 miles from my house. I’m like, “How have I not been here?” So it’s still valid even if people aren’t traveling further than their local areas.

Joe: Yeah, that’s so true. I tell my wife all the time, like…we live in a place where lots of revolutionary war stuff happened.” Like our wedding pictures were taken at Valley Forge. I’m like, “We don’t take advantage of that enough.” So you’re absolutely right. Oh, man, see now you’re starting my head again.

Tessa: We’ll do it together.

Joe: Sweet. It’s because I’ve always envisioned really nice graphics. And I’m just like, “I don’t have that skill.” When I bought the domain, I was like, “I don’t want to pay somebody else to do this when I can do it myself.” Even though I just told you I can’t do it myself.

Tessa: But you could have it like crowdfunded. Not really funded, though. I bet you know enough people that travel but you could just be like all contributor based.

Joe: Yeah, that’s true. And it doesn’t have to be…Oh my gosh, we’re hashing out an idea live here. We’re talking about how I’m going to build it. That’s like a new segment on the show. I guess. Let’s do it.

Tessa: That’s what happens to people who are similar personality types, which we were just talking about before the call, together because we’re like both high-level picture people. And we’re like, yes, we’ve got ideas. That’s what happens when you put us together.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Well, in this time, I am now a person. So I’ll report back on this in a future episode to see what I think about it. I’m doing the two-week trial of the solo plan since there’s no credit card required.

Tessa: Smart on their part too. Because then you’re like, “I want all these alerts. Don’t make it pop.”

Joe: Yeah, exactly. Very smart. So we talked about finding advocates. Now, as we approach the back half of this episode, what are some things that our listeners can do to…maybe some high-level things to build their advocacy program? What are some generally good low hanging fruit ideas for them to start this? Let’s say they found two or three people they want to be advocates for them.

Tessa: I mean, that definitely depends on what their goals are from a business standpoint. But I have this three-step thing. I really just established this a few months ago, but I keep bringing it up everywhere I go. So I’m like “There might be something to this.” So I have this three-step process when it comes to working with developers. If you’re building an advocacy program for non-developers, this could still be very applicable, but this is more of core things I try to think about with more technical folks.

So the first one is build trust. So we’re going to have a conversation, I’m going to get to know them and I’m actually going to get to know them. I want to know if they like dogs or cats. I want to know if they like coffee or tea. I want to know if they like Marvel or DC. And I say that which is kind of funny is that that was actually a survey that I sent out to folks in the Pantheon Heroes program. And really all it was was I was just trying to figure out like what are really quick ways. Like ice-breaking games really. Like what are good ways to get to know somebody.

And I landed on this or that survey. And it was like, chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea? All the things I just mentioned. And I was like, “Wow, you can really get a pretty high-level picture of someone when you ask them like 20 of these This or That thing. Because before you know it, you find out they like the mountains versus the beach. They like to be indoors versus outdoors. They like to be watching TV versus being social and out.

All of a sudden, you’re like, “Okay, I have this great picture of this person who really loves to go mountain climbing, they like to be a little bit more indoors. When they’re not doing that they prefer the mountains. They like coffee. They’re really into Marvel Comics.” At that point, you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got this little bit of data and I can start sending things I know they care about.”

So I did that because if someone were to go out of their way and say talk about your product or say do something kind for you or what have you, and you don’t have an advocacy program, there’s really no reason why you can’t think of it in that way and reward them accordingly. So we had someone who did something really cool. Well, actually they named the program, and that we ended up landing on their name. Instead of me sending them just like a $200 gift card, I got to know this person.

I was like, “Okay, what does this person care about?” It turns out he loves Legos. He also loved I want to say it was DC Comics. He actually had, I believe he made some like really cool custom Lego things. Then there was another thing that he commented about where he loved to mix peanut butter with something else. I think it was chilly and peanut butter. You would never even think about mixing them together. Right?

Joe: I thought I knew who you were talking about until you said that. Because the person I’m thinking of is a pretty picky eater, and I don’t think would ever do that.

Tessa: Brian Richards?

Joe: Yeah.

Tessa: That’s not who it was.

Joe: Friend of the show—Brian Richards.

Tessa: I only found that interesting because of his love of Legos. So I specifically found a new Lego set that was DC themed and had just been released. It was a higher investment for those Legos and I was like, “The odds of him having this are pretty slim because it’s new, it’s kind of high value, high price, and it’s DC.” So I was like, “Okay, cool, I’m going to do this.”

Then I also was like, “Okay, he likes these kind of weird foods mixed together. So I’m going to add that. So I basically took these things together, and I made them this little handcrafted gift. I sent it to them, and I was like, “Hey, we really appreciate you. Thank you for everything.” And yeah, sure anyone can send an item. But when you send an item that is like, “I truly got to know you, I dug into who you are.” And I feel like a stalker sometimes when I’m doing some of these things. So you’re going to feel the same way. But do that.

When you can get to know someone at that level, you can actually deliver them something that is going to be invaluable. So the reaction for that type of thing is much stronger than if someone just flings a $200 gift card your way. So if you want to get started…Looks like you’re going to say something, so I will let you chime in.

Joe: Oh, no, I was just going to say I think that’s a great idea. But I would like you to finish your thought first because this sounds like number one of your framework. So let’s get all that in.

Tessa: Yeah, yeah. So to build trust. So when you can build that trust, then those folks are instantly like, “I like you. You made me feel good, how can I help you more?” And you’re building that trust. You’re making sure that they know that you truly value that relationship.

Number two is provide a value to them. Sure, Legos could be a value to them in some way, but it’s not a value that is going to further their career, or further their aspirations, or further something that they’re doing. So the next one is provided value. Oftentimes this might be as simple as introducing two people who have been looking forward to the other type of person for a very long time. Maybe it’s a developer who would really love to find a designer that they’d love to work with. That’s probably not example that might happen in this advocacy program. But it’s a great example for us to relate to and for any user to relate to.

Finding that kind of co-person that you can work with or finding a business relationship or someone who can help you answer a problem is invaluable. I would say, mentioning Chris Lema again, I think that he does a really good job of that. He’s really adamant about introducing people that he thinks that will provide value to each other. And just keeping that in mind. So it can be as simple as, “Hey, you should get to know so and so.” But it can also be, “Hey, I know that you’re building a new SAS product, can I give you the stage to share your new product? Or can I give you the space to write some content?”

Right now—we haven’t talked about this yet—I’m the developer community manager at Twitter. I’m focused solely on the API team. I actually just talked to a developer who’s building a SAS product with the Twitter API. So for me providing him value is making sure that folks know about his tool. Because it’s twofold, right? I can talk about the Twitter API and the use case and how you can do some super awesome things with it. But then I’m also giving this person a space to talk about his product. I’m giving him a stage with, I guess, in terms of the Twitter dead following like, hundreds and thousands of followers who could possibly see that content.

So provide that kind of value. Figure out what motivates your advocates, what do they care about, what just gets them excited and makes them want to do something more. And when you can figure that out, then you find that value. So just as a quick example, for him, he’s building a business. He’s trying to have a profitable business where he has built a software tool that is going to possibly fund his life or whatever he needs in terms of actual day to day finances. So a value for him is that the more customers he has on that product, the more that he is going to find success in that product and be able to have that as his financial stability. So when you find that thing that motivates them, then you dive into that and tap into that. And that’s where you provide that value.

The third step is, finally, make the ask. You build that trust, you provide them a value, and then you can say, “Hey, I’m working on this new project, and I would really love someone to write a technical blog post for me. Would that be of interest to you?” You’ve built that relationship. They already feel like they trust you. They want to work with you because you provided them a value.

Their answer is going to be, “Heck yes, I want to do that. I absolutely want to do that blog post because I know that you have my back and that you care about me.” And that blog post is going to be full of passion and full of good information and full of awesome content because you’ve groomed that relationship and you’ve built them to this place where they feel like you have them on a pedestal of greatness. And they can feel it. And that’s when you’re going to have the most successful advocates.

Joe: I love that. So, build trust and actually get to know them, provide them a value, and then make the ask.  And can I tell you that this happened to me through a company that I reached out to. So sponsor of the show, Yes Plz Coffee, I reached out to them, and I was like, “Do you want to sponsor my show?” And they were like, “Hey, we’re interested. Let’s talk.” We talked, they got to know me and my show. “We think you’re going to be a good fit.” They sent me some coffee to try that. They want to make sure I actually liked the coffee that I’m going to be promoting. Now I’m just like, “I need to do everything for them to make sure that they are happy with the investment that they’ve made.”

Tessa: Exactly.

Joe: It was just really exciting, and it left a good taste in my mouth. Pun kind of intended. I was about to say no pun intended. But it was like a little intended. Versus some…not brands that have promoted this show. I don’t want to speak poorly of anybody who is financially supported the show. But brands I’ve seen where it was more about them than a partnership. Anytime somebody reaches out and says, like, “Hey, we want to make you a partner.” And I’m like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “Well, it means that you get 25% of any sales that you send our way.” And I’m like, “That’s an affiliate program. That’s not a partnership. I’m doing all the work and you’re giving me money after the fact.”

Tessa: On top of that, money does not…I will tell you this, it is very unlikely that money motivates anybody. Sure, don’t get me wrong. I like money. Everyone likes money because we can buy the stuff that we like. But if you have advocates who love your product, they’re going to be much more happier if you sent them actual product items. Like give them access to your product, give them…Let’s say that it was Apple, and let’s say that I had a Series 3 Apple Watch, and I didn’t have the latest Apple Watch, which is actually valid. So Apple, if you’re listening, I wouldn’t mind the latest Apple Watch.

But what I’m saying is if you have that kind of product, there’s odds are that they…not all of your advocates are going to have the latest and the greatest of your product. But they’re out there and they’re talking about it and they care about it, they’re passionate about, they love it. Make sure they have all of your product offerings and make sure that they have everything that they can. Because if they’re out there talking about you, then you want them to be showing off the most amazing product they possibly can.

Sponsors:  Today’s episode is brought to you by Smile and their product TextExpander. Save time typing and boost your productivity with TextExpander. You know I’m all about automation, and TextExpander is a great way to get started with automation. It allows you to create your own snippets for a repetitive text that you tend to use everywhere. Add the text, create the snippet, and boom. Save precious time and keystrokes. One of my favorite snippets is for my address. So instead of typing out my full address and risking typos, I simply type #addr and my TextExpander does the rest, filling in my full address for me. I also have snippets for my street, my city, and my zip code.

But that’s not all TextExpander does. With its advanced snippets, you can create fill-ins, pop up fields, and more. You can even use JavaScript or AppleScript. Another one of my favorite and most used snippets is when I type “PPT”. That will take whatever text I have on my clipboard and convert it to plain text. So I’m no longer fighting formatting when I copy from a Word document, a Google Doc, or a plain HTML page, like a website.

I also use it for common links, email messages, which I can completely customize with fill-ins and drop-down menus, and even date calculations. I’m currently writing a book and TextExpander has been instrumental with that. TextExpander is available on Mac OS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. So pretty much anywhere you do computing. If you’ve been curious about trying TextExpander or automation in general, now’s the time. As a listener, you can get 20% off your first year. Just visit and let them know How I Built It sent to you. That is for 20% off your first year.

Now back to the show.

Joe: Can I tell you another story?

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: Do we talk on air about how I’m an Apple fanboy? We did. I wrote it down here.

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: Okay, great. So the reason that I made the switch is because I tried an iPhone for two weeks and blogged about how I didn’t like the experience. Because I wasn’t all in. Like I didn’t turn iMessage on because I didn’t want to break my text messages when I invariably switched back to Android.

Tessa: Sure.

Joe: A product advocate for Apple reached out to me, sent me the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, let me use it for…it was like three months or five months or something like that, gave me a bunch of accessories and an iTunes gift card so I can download the apps I wanted. And he goes, “Here’s the deal. My mission is to make everybody switch from Android to Apple. And I know that it’s pie in the sky, but if you go all-in on this platform, turn on iMessage and do everything and I promise you, you will be happy.”

Tessa: That’s incredible.

Joe: Yeah. I did it for three months and I was like, “Oh my God.” I switched. I switched. I wrote a blog post about how I switched; it got picked up by BGR, Boy Genius Report, and Phil Schiller tweeted a link to the article with the words “Joe switched.” And I’m just like, “Phil Schiller.” If you don’t know who Phil Schiller is, he’s the VP of Product at Apple. Senior VP. So I just like they turned me from a hater to a fanboy very quickly. He’s the Senior VP of Marketing at Apple not of product. I think. Maybe Craig Federighi is product and software engineering. I should just stop. I’m just going to stop naming titles for Apple executives.

Tessa: But the thing about that Joe is that you were not a fanboy, and they noticed you. And not that you’re not amazing. The whole world needs to know you. I think you’re absolutely awesome. But the thing is, is like you’re kind of in the same boat. Like you have a decent amount of followers, but you don’t have like thousands and thousands where people are like, “Yes, let me listen to that person.” And your best advocates are not going to be the ones that have thousands and thousands of followers. They are going to be the true people who are walking around to our neighbors, who are at the grocery store with us. Just your average Joe as I say it, who are actually going to turn into those best advocates. Because when…

I work at Twitter now. So before that, I was like, “Oh my gosh, if Twitter were to say anything to me like, that would just be absolutely incredible.” But at the end of the day, I’m working at Twitter now, and I’m like, “Okay, it’s still great, and I still love them as much as I’ve always loved them.” But I’m also starting to realize that a lot of us put these really big companies or these really great products up on this shelf that we can never acquire. Like we can never get Apple to talk about us. We can never get Twitter to talk about us. But the thing is, is like those companies do want to talk about you because I being someone who works at Twitter and literally looking for developers right now who are building things with the API so that I can showcase them in our developers’ showcase. And I would rather find people who are going to get that super emotional, “Oh, my gosh, Twitter cares about me,” and they want to talk about me.

Because those are the people that I want because I will change their life, at least for that day, that I get to give that opportunity out. And not only does it feel good for them, like it literally makes my life. I love giving people those opportunities. So companies need to think about it in that way. Sometimes you just got to give stuff away. Or sometimes you have to try to find someone who may be talking bad about something and say, “Hey, let’s share something with you. Can I give you my products? Can I show you something else? You’re clearly passionate, and I would love to change your mind.”

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s worked. That has worked on. I mean, we talked in the pre-show about how I’m very direct in my feedback. But that’s worked out a lot on me where I was maybe meaner than I should have been, and they just like killed me with kindness.

ConvertKit is another company that they were just really nice to me, even though it’s kind of a wad on the internet. I met both Nathan and Barrett in person, and I was like, “Sorry, I was such a debug to you on the internet.” Like I actually said that to them. So those are cool guys. And I think that I can definitely learn a lot from their humility and their kindness.

Tessa: Yeah.

Joe: Man, this has been such a great conversation. I’ll just say one more thing. Like you said that changing their lives, making their day, just that day, the Phil Schiller tweet happened five years ago in August, and I’m still talking about it today. I should really do a five years with the iPhone.

Tessa: Do it. Do it.

Joe: I got to write that down. That post will be published by the time this episode comes out. So I’ll link it in the show notes, too.

Tessa: You know what’s probably happening right now, Joe, that is making me so excited, is that I am guessing that there are people who are listening. They’re not listening yet because we’re pre-recording. But when they are listening, they are going to have all of these opinions. They’re going to start thinking about their favorite products. They’re going to start thinking about things they love. Maybe like brands that they change from. Maybe they switch from Android to Apple or Apple to Android or whatever it is that they’re doing. I don’t know why you do Android to Apple or Apple to Android. Why you would do Apple to Android. But hey to each their own.

But there’s people who are thinking about that. So what I really, really want to encourage those folks to do is talk about the products you love. Because if you love them, and you can advocate for them, they are going to have more positive action from that. Like you’re telling other people about it, right? So if you tell me that you love something, I’m going to be like, “I trust Joe, I’m going to go try that.” So talk about the products that you love because you’re making their business stronger, you’re making their product opportunities stronger, you’re providing them insight into what they’re doing. So talk about the things that you love, because that’s absolutely what I hope that everyone will start to do with their products.

On top of that, we could use a lot more kindness in this world anyway. So let’s start praising and talking kindly and sharing things that we love about all of the things that we love.

Joe: Man, that feels like a really good way to end this episode. But I can’t be almost 200 episodes in and not ask you the question. It seems like you just gave it to us though. Do you have any trade secrets for us? I can edit this. So I asked that right before you talk about the products you love, if you want.

Tessa: I mean, we definitely could. But I would say I think that’s more of from a consumer angle is like as a consumer, as a person who thinks things talk about your love. I would say in terms of as someone who maybe wants to build out an advocacy program, or specifically someone who’s thinking about developers directly or what have you, I would say that three-step process is probably what would be my trade secret. Build trust, provided value, make the ask.

Outside of that, if you’re working with developers…this is not a trade secret. Anyone who works in PPC or in top of funnel marketing, I would say kind of another trade secret there is, literally stop investing in PPC. Like just stop. If you are marketing to technical people, you are not getting the folks that you want for your product from that anyways. And I can guess that right now you’re like, “Well, our PPC doesn’t work anyways, so I don’t know why we’re doing it.” So just stop and start investing in developer communities, start investing in open source software, start investing in libraries or tooling that developers have come together to build maybe individually or a group of contributors have done that.

I would say that from a technical side, that would be my strongest advice of everything that I’ve learned with advocacy programs and working with developers. That it has to be authentic, you got to build the trust, got provided value, and then you got to make the ask after that. So that’s my trade secret.

Joe: I love it. Absolutely love it. I mean, this will be the follow-up. In the post-show, if you have some of those built trust icebreaker questions handy, I would love if you asked me some of them in the post-show. That will be for members if I ever create a membership program. If you want one, let me know.

Tessa: Sure.

Joe: But stop investing in PPC. I assume that’s because most time people are using an ad blocker. Is that accurate?

Tessa: I think a multitude of reasons. But yes, they’re using an ad blocker. Sometimes they’re not even getting that content to begin with. I think also, developers can see through it. I’m sure you can relate to this, Joe. But like anyone who tries to pitch me on anything, I’m like, “Nope, nope, and Nope,” unless you have built that trust first. It’s just naturally in anyone who is technical to just avoid anything like that. And I really don’t know what makes it that way with the personality dynamic or what have you. But I think developers are notorious for wanting to streamline their work and, stay on task, and try to optimize things

And when things like that are kind of distracting, they tend to try to avoid them. I don’t know, their brains are just like automatic ad blockers if they don’t already have one. So it just usually doesn’t work. And most of my clients have come to me and they’re like, “PPC is just not working.” I was like, “I know. You don’t have to tell me that; I already know.”

My current client, which a whole bunch of people should check out because literally, their product offering blows my mind. The product is called HarperDB . Technically, I don’t usually talk about my clients, but I know that they wouldn’t mind in this case. I actually told them, I was like, “At least take whatever your investment level was and decrease it down hugely.” So they dropped it to nothing. They stopped all their PPC ads, and they started investing in and started investing in developer communities and content in that way. And they’ve actually seen a 50% signup increase, even in just the two weeks that we started doing that.

So it’s very important to really think about who your audience is, what motivates them, and where they’re spending their time. Because if they’re technical, it’s definitely not looking at ads.

Joe: Wow, that’s fantastic. Well, Tessa, this has been fantastic. As usual. Thank you for your time. Where can people find you?

Tessa: I’m pretty much all over the internet. But my username on Twitter is @Tessak22. And that’s pretty much my username anywhere else. So if you’re looking for me on GitHub, Twitter, wherever, you’ll find me. Devocate is I don’t take on a lot of clients. If you are interested, you’re welcome to hit me up and we can have a conversation. But it’s pretty exclusive I guess in terms of there, but I’m always happy to chat with someone if they’ve got questions or want to discuss further.

Joe: Awesome. I will link to that and everything we talked about in the show notes over it Tessa, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

Tessa: Of course it was great being on the show.

Outro: Thanks so much to Tessa for joining me this week. It is always a pleasure talking to her. I love the advice that she gave us. I actually started using and it’s really interesting to see some of the information that is available to me based on people who are mentioning me across the internet. I also, since we recorded this, wrote a blog post called My 5 Years with the iPhone where I referenced that Phil Schiller tweet. I will link to that and everything we talked about including how to find Tessa over at

Thanks so much to this week’s sponsors: Yes Plz Coffee, iThemes Security Pro, and TextExpander. Those are three brands that I am very passionate about and I think they’re great and you should check them out. If you want even more tips, tricks, information about when the show is published, advice I’ve gotten from the show, and generally things that will help you build something, you can subscribe to my Build Something newsletter. Head over to Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *