About Texas Instruments
An” ingredient” brand within the world’s most recognized “host” brands such as Dell, Sony and Apple, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) is a B2B company with a diverse history. Founded in 1930, TI began as a small oil and gas company. In the 1940’s, the company shifted its focus to the development of defense system electronics. In 1958, they moved into the semiconductor business, followed by development of microprocessors in the 1970’s and digital signal processors in the 1980’s. Today the company is a global Fortune 500 company, traded on the NASDAQ exchange (NASDAQ:TI). The company manufactures analog and embed processing products, as well as DLP technology and education technology products.
With its’ long history of success in developing leading-edge technology, it’s clear that innovation is part of the company’s DNA. According to the TI corporate web site, the company expects “…innovation in every organization and from every person. Our commitment to innovation is embodied not only in the products we engineer, but the more than 40,000 patents we hold. We are continually pushing the boundaries of the impossible to create differentiated products our customers can’t live without.”
Products from Texas Instruments are extremely sophisticated and complex. When the company’s customers, who are typically design engineers, would begin designing new products, they often had very technical questions about the use of TI products. Customers’ choices in how to have their questions answered were limited, restricted to either contacting TI’s customer support center or conduct their own research via online engineering communities.
Texas Instruments realized that by providing customer support to one customer at a time, there was no method for sharing that information with a larger audience of engineers who may have similar support requests. While the customer support team was extremely knowledgeable, they weren’t easily able to tap into the vast knowledge held by its internal staff. And for those customers who reached out to online engineering communities, most often they still weren’t gaining access to the best experts on the subject matter: Texas Instruments’ own engineers.
The Solution: The TI E2E Community
As a first step to finding a solution to their customers’ innovation, design and support challenges, the company took a traditional marketing approach: it engaged in customer research. Via direct contact with its’ customer’s engineers, Texas Instruments was able to better learn about and understand their customer requirements and needs for support.
The company, already involved in social media for marketing, customer and employee engagement purposes, looked to social media to address their customer needs. In early 2008, TI launched its Engineer to Engineer (E2E)online community.
Listen to Mike Guillory, Worldwide Corporate Brand Communications at Texas Instruments, discuss TI’s E2E community in this CMO Radio interview.
Engineers get social
Hosted by TI, the E2E site is comprised of a global community of engineers with a common interest: using Texas Instruments chips in the products and solutions they are creating. Members have the opportunity to create their own identity on the site by selecting from a predefined set of 90 avatars and then post questions, answers, comments and opinions on subjects related to TI’s products. During the development lifecycle of a customers’ potential product, TI’s engineers contribute their knowledge to the discussions.
According to Rohn Jay Miller, a blogger for Social Media Today “The brilliance of the E2E community is that it took this huge number of client engineers and moved their questions and dialogue with TI engineers into this community. Not only does this get more brains contributing ideas, and not only does it build the TI brand in the minds of those client engineers, but—here’s the true genius: instead of answering a question once, the answer gets indexed by the search engines and 100 engineers can find the answer when they begin their research.”
Resources and Recognition
The E2E community provides a wide spectrum of resources to its members, including videos, research documents, design tools and support. It also hosts forums and groups, creating a crowdsourcing approach to solving member problems. On forums with topics as diverse as power management, RF and digital radio and blue tooth low energy, members can exchange ideas, contribute to discussions and offer suggestions to TI and other members. It also recognizes the contributions of its members through a system that assigns points to members and TI employees, based on their engagement and contributions to the community.
Success Performance Indicators
According to Mike Guillory, Worldwide Corporate Brand Communications at Texas Instruments, “We created a measurement framework and identified the metrics that we wanted to track. Using a dashboard that’s available to TI management responsible for the E2E community, we can easily monitor activity and behaviors in the E2E community. Via the dashboard, we’re able to track “health metrics” of community members, including the total number of users, number of postings, and number of views.”
Among the notable gains the company has realized since the inception of the E2E Community are the following:
- After one year of the E2 community going live, membership grew to 8,000. Now in its seventh year, the E2E community has close to 200,000 members, 80% of whom are TI customers.
- E2E members request six times more samples across three product categories from TI than non-members. These samples are used in customer product designs, and if the samples are embedded early in the design phase, it increases the likelihood that the TI sample will be used in the final product, resulting in increased sales for TI. Watch the following video from SocialMedia.org to learn more about the success of the E2E Community:
- Forrester research group nominated Texas Instruments’ E2E community for its Groundswell award. While not a metric derived directly from engagement on the E2E community, it is an indicator of the impact that the community has had on design engineers and the use of social media as a tool for product design and innovation.
Lessons for Others
Start Small. Texas Instruments began their E2E community with a goal of helping to improve customer support and access to product information. Over time, the E2E community has grown significantly, and today this online resource is a key tool for helping TI and its customers to innovate and design new products. TI has realized the benefits in other areas of its business: It now has an additional platform to support product launches and to sell product samples, which in turn results in tangible sales of its products.
Harness the expertise within your organization. By engaging its engineering staff to participate in the E2E Community, customers have direct access to knowledge experts. One of TI’s mandates to its employees is to “innovate” constantly. By harnessing the knowledge of its employees, customers have the opportunity to delve into the intricacies of TI products with the support of the TI engineers who designed them.
Make it easy to participate. It’s easy to sign up for the E2E community. A single online form requires only basic information in order to join. The registration, validation and welcome process is fast, with members gaining access to a large engineering community with multiple forums, groups and resources…normally in less than one minute.
Recognize the work of others.
TI regularly recognizes its E2E community members for the work that they have done and for their involvement in the E2E community. Through this recognition, members have the opportunity to learn about the work of their peers and benefit from that work. Recognition programs server as a reminder to the E2E community of their benefactor, and help to foster an ongoing sense of community.
Texas Instruments has created a spirit of innovation that lives within the organization and is supported externally through educational and end-customer engagement programs. Whether it is the mandate to employees to always find ways to innovate, the annual TI innovation contest for students, or the vibrant E2E community for engineers, TI continually enables innovation.
Submitted by: kcress, University of Waterloo
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