Most of us, given the chance to chat with an Intel engineer, might hope that such a conversation would happen over a few beers and quickly turn away from microchips to, say, football.
IT professionals are not most of us. So, most of us probably haven’t really noticed that for some time now, Intel has been unleashing its engineers in an ongoing effort to let them mingle with
the IT community. In so doing, it is transforming itself from a company whose best-known previous marketing initiative might have been those bunny-people ads into one that embraces the listening
So what is the listening model? It’s a form of marketing that employs social media, embracing the idea that listening to what a company’s target market discusses, and
even the language it uses to discuss it, is as important, or maybe more so, than making sure the launch campaign for a new product gets the right amount of gross rating points.
digital agency MRM Worldwide, part of Interpublic Group, Intel began in late 2006 to sponsor live chats with engineers — but not on the Intel Web site. Instead, the live chats were promoted and
even conducted in-banner on the sites where IT people like to congregate, such as news.com, Slashdot and Giga Om.
IT professionals who moused over the banners would see a much larger chat
window open up, where they would be greeted with a live stream of questions and answers, and a queue of upcoming questions.
But the interface also served as the portal to a knowledge base,
including a glossary, white papers, podcasts and archived Q&A. As Intel continues to listen, its archive is turning into an ever-expanding resource. “The archive to such engineer-to-engineer
chats will not only provide a trickle-down effect to others who have similar questions, but also builds value over time so that future visitors benefit from all the previous interactions,” says
Augustine Fou, MRM senior vice president, digital strategist.
Now, two years later, that first chat has also turned into a strategy. Says Fou, “[It] was the ah-ha moment, that this
kind of direct dialogue and the listening model was the way to break through to this highly savvy, informed and skeptical set of customers — the IT professionals.” In fact, Fou says, the
first participants were so skeptical about whether they were actually talking to engineers that they blatantly tried to stump whoever was answering the questions. “They were trying to figure out
if it was a real person or a marketing person,” he explains.
Intel’s IT outreach has made the company realize that in this kind of marketing, there may be a beginning, but
there is no end. Once a company starts listening, its customers probably won’t let it stop, and thus Intel not only continues to conduct those in-banner chats, it has also been sending engineers
into third-party forums, letting them blog, and posting demos on YouTube. Other marketers should be all ears.