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More Than Just Calculators: TI Defines Its Community


When you think of Texas Instruments the first thing that probably comes to mind is the brick styled TI-83 (or 80’s series) calculators that cost too much and is probably somewhere lost in the matrix. Well not necessarily for me. Texas Instruments has been a central part of my life and incidentally helped me through college. My dad has been a part of their organization for more than 30 years. So when I saw that they would be presenting at Blogwell Dallas I was admittedly surprised.

What could a micro-chip, calculator, semiconductor company be doing with social media and blogging?

Shaking off the question and I answered myself and thought, “Oh yeah, exactly what the rest of us are trying to do.” But like the rest of the attendees today, I came to hear the how not the why. Representatives from Texas Instruments are Aimee Kalnoskas, Worldwide Manager, Community & Social Media and Forrest Lymburner, Worldwide Community Program Manager and they bring with them the knowledge of how to harness the power of the end user.

ROI. The dreaded three letter word that is on the tip of every project manager’s tongue.  ROI is an elusive dream for some and a disease that keeps social media out of the boardroom for others. So how exactly did Texas Instruments develop a sales strategy around a community?

Well we don’t have to wait long for an answer as the session starts promptly at 1:30.

Understand

Before they got started they needed to know who they were so they asked themselves these questions:

  • How do we sell?
  • What was the process?
  • How are our sales forces organized?
  • Where are the sales offices?
  • Did we have any central sales? Support?
  • What tools was our field using?
  • Who were our largest customers?

How did TI answer these questions exactly? They began looking at the sales strategy and how customers were communicating with their salesforce. The result? Pages on pages of emails that contained what TI thought was a rich source of content, a lost treasure. But how were they going to put a program together to incorporate this new ontent.

First they had to get rid of their old way of thinking. They knew that they needed to emphasize that this was not just an additional thing to do but a part of the job. The goal was to become an integrated part of their sales processes but they knew if it became too much “extra work” the project would fail out of the gate.

Even the presenters admit that this is not an easy task and it’s a constant part of their strategy.

Integrate

Start with internal. Whenever you’re starting with a sales implementation, start behind doors and work out the kinks before putting it out in front of people. TI started first by focusing on field to factory support. They then launched a subsequent external pilot with a handful of product segments – more like willing test subjects. The third phase of their plan included a story. A way for them to embed this new way of thinking into their company culture. They reached out to everyone from upper management to the engineers to the customer base. The results?

  • Social media is scary
  • Solve a problem, use the gratitude
  • Use the momentum
  • Never stop selling

I’m sure you’re familiar with the first one but have you ever thought to build on the momentum of a solved problem?

Amplify

TI did and they added to the value of their community, Engineers2Engineers (E2E), as interest grew. They began rewarding participants with money, awards and recognition, even encouraging competition. Not only did it heighten involvement, it gave the community platform the air it needed to take off.

What They Implemented

The coordinators combined their internal and external sites into one. Solving the problem of the email masses and creating a single source on a URL.  The pilot was expanded to include all product offerings. It included their social media principles and conversation agent training to teach employees how to engage within the community.

TI decided to move globally with the platform but they quickly discovered, “if you build it they will come” didn’t work. The same platform that was adopted in the states lost its footing in China and after two weeks, it was scrapped. And its a good thing they did. They were on the verge of creating  dating site called Engineers Love Engineers. The number two in China is synonymous with love. While its good to promote a communal bond – love wasn’t exactly the idea.

They had to do a full evaluation of the cultural aspects that surrounded what they wanted to do. Leaving the cookie cutter’ed launch in the past, they created regional communities.

Where are they today? They realized field sales is different regionally. If you have a multi-regional business strategy, create a social platform to fit it.  But above all – if you’re going to do a social media strategy in another country – get there first.

 

This was one of the best presentations I attended at Blogwell. Check out the E2E community for more on how it fits into the TI strategy.

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