Dell's transformation

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Dell is aware that consumers might not be wholly familiar with its cloud computing, IT management or business intelligence services. During a telephone interview, Crawford Del Prete, EVP of worldwide research at IDC, said there hasn't been a “Dude, You're Getting a Dell”-level campaign to promote specific Dell products because “they didn't want to steal the thunder of its services business, which it spent billions on.”

In fact, “The Power to Do More” campaign may have never existed had Dell not acquired Perot Systems two years ago for $3.9 billion.

“What changed was all of a sudden they have feet on the street that can have a very different conversation with a healthcare provider or with a manufacturer or with the government or with an energy company, where they can now come in and say, ‘We can help you build an application or consolidate your applications, or create a new set of functionality for the way you handle patients,” Del Prete said.

“Quite frankly, as is almost never the case in technology, the capabilities have kind of gotten beyond Dell's message,” he added.

Now Dell is playing catch-up with a global campaign that pushes the idea that Dell is an end-to-end technology supplier. The problem is Dell's customer base cuts a wide swath: large enterprise, public (government, education and healthcare), SMB and consumer.

Traditional tactics with branding

To grapple with the diversity of its consumer bases, Dell has in part relied on the direct marketing model it pioneered online in the 1990s. “From a targeting perspective, one of the biggest advantages that we have is our direct model. We know more about our customers arguably than sometimes they do,” Quintos said. But given that “The Power to Do More” is a brand campaign, Dell designed it to be flexible enough to reach its customers from various angles.

While “The Power to Do More” primarily targets business customers, Dell hasn't isolated consumers from its messaging. Monique Bonner, VP of marketing for Dell's consumer and small and medium business, and key architect of Dell's brand identity, said Dell developed the campaign with its business customers in mind, but tested the initiatives with general consumers because the general segment threads all the others. For example, a CIO is as likely as an educator to see the blue banner touting the slogan above the escalator to baggage claim at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; and an IT manager and a small business owner might both have seen the TV spot promoting Dell's XPS line of consumer PCs during January's college football championship game.

“We don't think about [customers] just in their individual silo,” Quintos asserted. “[We have to] think about them as they want to buy a new system for their son who's going to college [while] at the same time they're also responsible for the security of [their company's computer] network during the day.”

To meet the needs of the multidimensional consumer, Dell arms its sales and marketing teams with the ability to understand various products and solutions across the entire enterprise so that they can cross-sell products and solutions back and forth, Quintos said.

That the consumer segment can serve to thread the various business customer segments is a popular talking point among b-to-b marketers. Dell is no different.

“We may market to someone like Carnival Cruise Lines, but you're still dealing with an individual CIO or IT decision-maker,” said Russ Fujioka, VP of marketing for Dell's public and large enterprise business. “You're still dealing with individuals. So we have to find out where they are, what they're interested in, capture any piece of data, and map that data together to give us insight,” he explains.

Fujioka — whose customer segments comprise CIOs and IT decision-makers in the healthcare, education and government verticals, as well as clients such as Deloitte, General Electric and Boeing — is particularly interested in leveraging customer touchpoints. Whether consumers are browsing Dell.com or interacting with the company's social channels, Fujioka must connect that data with publicly addressable data sets, such as credit information from D&B. Dell then correlates the resulting profile with its predictive analytics model to determine “where this person is in the funnel, where they are in a company, mapping disparate IPs to companies, to accounts, to whether they do business in that [segment they had visited on Dell's site],” Fujioka said. The employee in charge of demand generation and marketing automation is an MIT-educated rocket scientist who attended Harvard Business School.

“It's all of these pieces of disparate data that we're trying to model to give us some lines of predictive analytics to give us just a small hedge. When you're at this scale, you're just looking for small hedges,” Fujioka said.

Structural changes

While Dell divides itself and its roughly 100,000 employees into four global customer segments, the marketing department's reporting structure combines public with large enterprise and SMB with consumer. That arrangement could institute paralyzing levels of bureaucracy for many organizations, but Dell has actively pushed against the possibility.

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