Using Employees to Demo Your Products. Brilliant!

Sabrina Stoffregen has been running Intel’s employee advocacy program globally, since its inception. She brings amazing perspective as the leader of a program that is far ahead of most programs in this space. We are very lucky to have her sharing lessons from her program at the September 15 Employee Advocacy Summit in Atlanta.

Below is an interview I did with Sabrina last Spring at SXSW 2014. Transcript is below the video.

CHRIS

I know you’ve done some interesting things around moving away or augmenting in historically using people who demo your products as professionals who are trained and very good at that, to using more regular employees, and had some interesting success with that. I would love to hear what you guys did, and how that played out.

SABRINA

We did something a little bit different last year. We created pop-up experiences, these short-term installations all around the world. We were in Beijing and Sao Paolo and London, and lots of great places, where we wanted to re-introduce the brand and our products to the consumer. Normally what Intel would do, as most companies, I would suspect, is to hire local demo experts to demo our products. And they’re brilliant. This is what they are trained to do. But we had this idea, that I had Intel Ambassadors at every single one of these places where we were going to have these pop-up experiences, and I thought, what if we were to activate our Intel Ambassadors and to train them to be demo experts? What I thought would be different about that experience is that they would be able to tell the Why story of our product and our history and our brand. They are the employees who actually made the product, marketed the product, engineered the product, and the results were spectacular.

What we found was that when we surveyed the customer experience these pop-up experience stores, they (consumers) really engaged longer and more deeply when it was an Intel employee versus a demo expert. From the consumer perspective, that was wildly successful.

From the employee perspective, the Ambassadors were honored that they were chosen to have this experience — a direct experience with the consumer. That was outside of their normal day job. Instead of being in a validation lab, they were out talking to the customer. They got a fabulous trip to Beijing, and they got to speak to the customer.

Also, what we noticed, was that they brought back that information, that experience with the consumer, back to the labs. They brought that first-hand knowledge of what the consumer was asking for and looking for, back to the labs, which influenced our product development.

CHRIS

That’s fantastic because so many brands talk about being connected to the customers, but then they stick these things in between themselves and the customer to create that connection. It’s kind of crazy, right? Why don’t we just let the employees talk to people? Brilliant.

Looking Forward, How Will Employee Advocacy Add Value to Intel?

CHRIS

More strategically or longer term, as you develop your program — and you’ve been working on this for two years — how have you seen and how do you see, going forward, the thinking of the organization around how this needs to relate to the rest of the business, the value of this, what should it do or how should it create value, and how should it tie into the business… what are you seeing as you look forward?

SABRINA

One of the things that we want to do with this program is to scale. We started small with 300 people out of 100,000, and we grew that when we had the Tablet Smart Squad, and we’ve done four other Smart Squads since then. We’ve done all-in-ones, two-in-ones, smart phones, so we have expanded. I think we’ve had about 2,000 employees who have been engaged in that process. But we need to scale more.

If you look at the adoption curve, you’ll note that you need 16% of the population to hit that tipping point. That would be 16,000 people at Intel. I’m not close yet.

So I have to think about how do we scale in a way that makes sense and will have impact. One of the things that we’re thinking about is how to tap into those passionate employees. At Intel, we have something called Employee Resource Groups, which are like-minded people that come together because they have a common interest or passion point. It could be women at Intel, as one example. Those people tend to be extremely passionate about Intel, our brand and our story. So we’re thinking about how we tap into them, to expand our Ambassador base.

Our new CEO has given our employee groups a challenge, saying that he loves the energy and synergy of what happens in the employee groups, but he wants them to tie whatever they’re doing to the business. That’s something that they haven’t done before. So we were thinking, from an Ambassador perspective, we really have that connection back to the business, and we could really engage the employee groups, and activate them that way.

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