For many tech brands the target is fairly narrow. At Dell, the opposite holds true.
COVID-19 disruptions have amplified the already formidable task of guiding strategy. I recently asked Dell CMO Allison Dew how she has been approaching the challenges of steering marketing strategy forward.
Paul Talbot: In what ways has the pandemic prompted you to revisit and revise your marketing strategy?
Allison Dew: The pandemic has brought about a lot of changes. But what has remained consistent is our business strategy and our commitment to our team members, our customers, partners and communities. Those continue to guide every decision we make.
That said, what we did revisit was the content, focus and tone of our marketing activities. For example, we had some small business creative going into market focused on celebrating small business success. This was no longer the right moment to do that.
As an essential technology provider, we saw our customers – from consumers at home to small business owners to large enterprises – facing new challenges almost overnight. We knew we had solutions to help them with their business continuity imperatives as well as learn from home/work from home initiatives.
So, we repivoted our creative to quickly respond with solutions to meet those needs. We have hosted virtual forums with customers from around the world to provide guidance and advice and came up with creative ways to conduct virtual customer briefings.
The tone of all these marketing activities was essential. It was critical that while we wanted to show that we are here to help, we did not want to appear in any way that we were trying to profit from the crisis. We spent a lot of time making sure that the tone of our message was appropriate and sensitive to what our customers were dealing with and that has made all the difference. You’ve likely seen some of the spoofs of cringeworthy communications; we don’t want to be a mash up of ‘in these troubled times’ type messages.
In addition, communications has always been a key part of my job and it has never been more important than it is now. A significant portion of my time very early on was pivoted to communicating with our most important audience – our employees.
We have completely changed the way we engage with our team members from cadence, style and platform perspectives. Right now, 90% of our global workforce continues to work from home. Effective communications has been a very important part of our strategy to make sure our team members have the information, tools and support they need to stay engaged and productive.
Talbot: Your brands include VMware, Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, Secureworks and Virtustream. Which one of these presents the most interesting marketing challenges?
Dew: Over the past four years, we have transformed the perceptions of Dell by going to market as Dell Technologies which includes all the brands you mention. We have observed through our own internal data that people see us in a very different way than they did three or four years ago.
For example, we have brought more and more solutions to life with VMware and have done a lot of work to show up together as one family.
That said, VMware also has partnerships with others in the industry. There are times when they need to go to market without us. That is something we continue to work through.
Also, we are one of a very small number of technology brands that needs to be relevant to an incredibly wide audience, from consumers to the largest enterprises. We are very focused on how we land that consistency and relevance across all those important audiences.
Talbot: When your team considers the opportunities presented by different marketing capabilities and platforms, what is capturing your fancy and what’s been falling flat?
Dew: I have always believed that marketing is at the intersection of data and creativity. When you get the data, creative and business acumen right, that’s when the marketing magic starts to happen.
I spend a lot of my time looking for ways to bring the data inhouse while building our own proprietary models so we can get faster, more targeted and more effective.
I think there is still a tremendous amount of work to do with marketing technology in how these things work together. Too many solutions are solving one individual problem. We have had to spend the last two years unwinding the complexity in our own martech stack. I’m not seeing any vendor stepping up to solve this holistically. That is where the opportunity is.
Talbot: Any other observations you would care to share?
Dew: I think what we will see as marketers and leaders is that this is a career-defining moment. People are watching to see how brands are responding to their customers, employees, partners and communities. There’s no way to sugar coat what we are all going through – it’s tough! But how to combat cynicism with realistic optimism is the leadership challenge of a lifetime.