Do you want to know who are the most visible and targeted people inside organizations? Communications professionals.
Whether you call us public affairs, public relations, communications or marketing communications in the title, we are usually listed on the corporate Web site. We are the ones who answer angry letters from customers, prospects, or anyone with a gripe against the company and its products and services. We are the ones with a mandate to get all employees on the same page. We answer the phone to every sales call from media to ad agencies to partners, write the CEO's speech, talk to the press, and massage that brochure so it has less fluff and more meat.
Superheroes we are not, although with the budgets that are left over these days, I might contend we are definitely in the running.
There is another communicator who has become very important to Dell's social media outreach program and that is Richard Binhammer. Richard @ Dell -- how he signs in blogs' comments -- and I have been exchanging emails for a couple of months. He's been extremely patient and forthcoming with me during this time, even volunteered customers if I needed to talk to them directly for a story. No pushy pitches, no corporate speak, just conversation and straight answers to my questions.
Today's FC Expert blog post is about how Dell is using social media to regain its mojo. I won't give you the payoff, you'll need to take a peak at the story there. According to this recent article, due to competitive pressures from HP, the company has done a 180 on its direct built-to-order sales model and started selling its products retail at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.
According to research firm IDC, HP had a worldwide PC market share of 19.3% for the quarter ending June 30 compared to Dell's 16.1%. In 2005, Dell dominated the playing field with 18.2% market share compared to HP's 15.7%.
On August 16, HP reported fiscal third quarter earnings of $2.1 billion on revenues of $25.4 billion, up 16% from the same quarter a year ago. HP also projected its annual revenues for the year ending October 31 at between $103 billion and $103.2 billion. Wall Street analysts expect Dell to report revenues of about $60 billion for its fiscal year ending January 30, according to Thomson Financial.
Quoting an interview with Wharton faculty:
Dell's biggest challenge is that the two pillars of its business model -- supply chain efficiency and direct build-to-order sales -- don't provide the advantage they once did.
The company's competitors have been busy closing the gap and Dell found itself without a specific plan to appeal to consumers; a weakness given the recent growth in the sector. Indeed, Dell was in the geek and not in the fashion business. Not taking risks is risky and now the company will need to wade into uncharted waters if it wishes to grow.
Among the challenges that lie ahead for Dell going directly to consumers are:
- Production -- painting a laptop is like painting a car, it discovered
- Online ordering errors
- Shipment delays
- Customer support
Dell thinks of its products in terms of microprocessors, disk drives and frames-per-second graphics; we don't care, all we want is for them to work, make us look cool and be easy to use. On the other hand, they do offer preinstalled Linux on consumer laptops and desktops.
What's Dell's advantage? They do have at least one. As for the company's social media outreach, I give them a ten. After all, I could be Richard @ Dell.