Case Study: Texas Instruments — live from Word of Mouth Supergenius

4:40 — Jim Lovelady introduces Telligent‘s George Dearing and Devashish Saxena of Texas Instruments.

4:41 — George introduces Devashish, saying he’s a great example of a guy who’s really in the trenches.

4:41 — Devashish starts by dispelling some rumors, including that only people who own calculators own Texas Instruments (TI) products — but in reality, anyone who owns electronics probably owns something from TI.

4:41 — Devashish: At the end of the day, marketing is about connecting with people and influencing them. Our customers just happen to be engineers.

4:42 — Devashish says they’re focusing on the moment when the engineer is planning out their next gadget — that’s when they can potentially decide to use TI products.

4:43 — George: Why do we need an online community? How is it going to drive the business?

4:43 — Devashish: Right, looking back to the engineers, we really have a lot of data about these customers. Colleagues are a huge influence on engineers.

4:44 — Devashish: So we look at that data and say: Is there a way we can help connect them to these colleagues? It turns out, the main reason they’re trying to do it because these are complex issues and they rely a lot on their colleagues to solve these problems.

4:45 — Devashish talks about how Texas Instruments launched their E2E Community (Engineer to Engineer) to help connect these influencers and customers — with the big selling point being that their community offered access to TI’s engineers.

4:46 — Devashish says that internally, he found the people who were passionate about the idea and started by building something small. They went from a beta site to something live in 2-3 months.

4:47 — Devashish explains how from there, he was able to collect some data and take it back to leadership to show the potential.

4:48 — George: It’s interesting that you guys went external first. If you had to do it again, would you try to sell it more internally first?

4:49 — Devashish: No. It’s a large company, lots of businesses — if you try to take an idea and build consensus across a broad community of marketers, then you’d be spinning and wouldn’t make much progress. It’s better to build something small and put it out there and then you have real data. And it may not work, but that’s OK because you started small.

4:50 — George: Can you distill down some metrics?

4:50 — Devashish: Our use of metrics has evolved over time. Devashish explains how he started by looking at “activity,” but now look at desired behaviors that they measure. The key question they seek: Does engagement in the E2E Community drive more conversions?

4:51 — Devashish: After about a year of their community being out there, they pulled out the average engagement profiles of their community members. Devashish says the results blew them away — their members were requesting six times more samples across three times more of the product areas.

4:52 — Devashish: It made us step back as marketers to realize that traditional campaigns usually resulted in one request from one product area, whereas the community did so much more. We started to question if we should use our other marketing tactics to push the engineers to the E2E Community.

4:53 — Devashish: For us it’s about finding the business people internally that are willing to experiment and try stuff on a small scale. If there is genuine passion and excitement, then stuff can happen. But if you’re the one trying to lead, then it’s tough.

4:55 — Devashish: A big change for us was just a willingness to try it. We’ve really shifted toward that over the last few years.

4:56 — George: What’s next for the community? What’s your road map?

4:56 — Devashish: Our marketing messages start off in their first phase as being not the major influencer, and it gets smaller and smaller as they proceed along their purchase track. The basic marketing problem is the same for us all: How do I get my engineer to be an ambassador for me? I want to help them find and share this message in a way that allows them to take it externally. This is one of the big things we’re focused on.

Q&A

Q: From an HR standpoint, what kind of training to you give your engineers on the rules and standards that TI has?

A: It was an evolutionary process. The first thing we did was involve the engineers who supported outside engineers anyway in a customer support role. This just made it easier to help more people faster. We’ve since moved on to creating our own engagement guidelines. Not just on E2E, there are conversations happening everywhere.

Q: How much time are engineers allocated to interact in this space?

A: I don’t think we’ve defined it yet. In the support area, it’s very defined. But on the other side, we haven’t really defined it, and my thinking on it is you kind of want to keep it a little organic. Because if you start saying you “must” spend an hour on this — maybe 30 minutes is enough?

Q: Can you talk about how you have to integrate the feedback you receive back to TI?

A: I don’t think we’ve cracked that one yet. Our product groups have these “inner circle” meetings to learn about what customers want — and more and more they’re pointing to how our customers are telling us how they want. Now they’re finding how to channel this feedback to the R&D teams.

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