A Reflective 3×3 on Dell’s One2One Blog

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A few readers have asked I comment on Dell’s new One2One blog. My opinion reflects my personal journey on blogging…

I started a personal marketing blog in September 2003, inspired by John Porcaro from Microsoft (Note: I left Dell in January of this year). I didn’t tell anyone at Dell because there was no reason to — it wasn’t about Dell. But I didn’t expect it to take over two years for anyone inside of Dell to find it (and it was Developers who first found it, not Dell marketers). All the while I was getting good traffic, links and kudos other bloggers and marketers.

I didn’t really know what I was doing in 2003, but over the years I learned a lot and connected with great people I never would’ve met otherwise. There are several reasons I launched a blog —  one of the most important reasons was that I sensed this ‘something’ was happening, and I wanted to learn by doing.

In fact, blogging contributed to my conclusion that marketing is changing. It gave me reason to lift my head up and see what was going on, and participate. I realized that today customers know more than the company, they believe marketing messages less, and are more in control in an economy with a lot of product and channel choices. So, great products and word of mouth rule. So what does the marketing profession look like 5 years from now!?

I think Blogs are one visible manifestation of this tipping poing. I left Dell in January to help launch Bazaarvoice to focus my journey to learn and master the changing role of marketing. Transparency, authenticity, credibility, relevancy are difficult concepts to put into operational practice, and this way of thinking is new to corporations (although shouldn’t be new if more were acting on Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999).

How does this relate to Dell’s blog? Because the outcome of my personal journey from starting a blog may be similar to outcome for a corporation. Can a corporate blog help a that corporation learn, internalize and evolve a culture to adapt to this new "paradigm"? Ask Scoble.

So, as for my feedback…

My father is an executive communication coach and I’ve learned his philosophy of giving balanced 3×3 feedback: three positives and three areas for improvement. I could always say more (as some already have)…but less is more, so here is my 3×3 on Dell’s blog…

Positives

  1. They launched it. It’s a move in the right direction. (although they’ve had a Linux blog for years, I don’t think it got much attention). Given the visibility of this, there’s no turning back. It’s a seed that may blossom — and I mean internally. It will create a stir, and that’s good. Just having critics comment on the blog is a great thing. Since Dell now has a blog, they have to respond and participate (or at least should).
  2. Real managers and execs are writing. For example, Manish Mehta is the guy managing global Dell.com initiatives. He’s not a spokesperson. Question is, how much time will they spend on this and will they converse, participate, react and evolve?
  3. It has a simple design and key blog features. Except for the stoic header, the design and layout is simple and usable and attractive. Comments are open, RSS feeds present, blogroll, etc. More important than the design point here is that it shows people who are paying attention to how to do it right in phase 1. And mark my words, this is phase 1 — anything Dell does has to either be optimized or orphaned/closed. Per my point above, they can’t back away from this now. If they started with attention to the design and features, it’s an indication they will get better (don’t ‘force’ the blogroll though…is Dell Techcrunch friendly?).

Room for improvement

  1. Don’t dip the toe on this one. This blog would pass several years ago as a start. Unfortunately the late timing raises the bar for them. . So, being late, they could go ‘bigger’. Dont’ consolidate to one blog, and if you do, put a Dell personality behind it (not necessarily Michael). Then let a thousands flowers bloom via employees. Microsoft, Sun and others have hundreds of bloggers. Why can’t Dell?
  2. Open up more, listen more, converse more. So far the blog entries are on Dell’s products, web site, etc. Except for the Laura Bosworth’s latest post — great!
  3. The name for the blog is ‘corporatish’ and is a url they don’t own (and wouldn’t want to!)

I know there’s a lot of ‘constructive criticism’ about this blog. But if you look at this from a longer term or higher level perspective, this is a move in the right direction. The alternative is they don’t participate.

7 Responses

  1. Peter Kim says:

    Great point – starting a blog resembles a personal initiative, different than any traditional marketing campaign. Traditional marketing communication typically avoids using real people to deliver a personal message (e.g. Dell Dude or Interns) and almost never involves a dialogue.
    Blogs require marketers to step out from behind the curtain and speak. To paraphrase the Wizard of Oz, “Why, anybody can have a [blog]. That’s a very mediocre commodity.” Dell had the courage to take the first step, now they can learn from your lessons and others to take the next.
    BTW, a few years ago who would have envisioned all of this free consulting being freely given to corporations?

  2. Sam: A bit off topic but thanks a million for the introduction to your dad. His blog has awesome (I was sadly unaware of it and I am now going to religiously read it!). 🙂
    -Avinash.
    PS: Oh and you are totally on point with your 3×3 on the Dell blog. I have a Dells at home for a few years, and while their service could use improvements, I am quite pleased with the machines and would buy again. I am glad they have a blog now.

  3. Ravi Kiran says:

    Sam
    I went to the Dell blog after reading your post, and frankly, I am not impressed at all. Should we celebrate every time an elephant takes a one inch step? Isn’t this something they should have done years ago?
    Why does it take mammoth organisations so long to start a blog? Fear?
    P.S. U have terrific blog yourself. I plan visiting it often.
    Also in the Dell blog, I didnt see a single post started by a non-Dell guy. Am I missing something?

  4. Sam Decker says:

    “Why does it take mammoth organizations so long to start a blog? Fear?”
    Yes, fear and culture. Fear is fear of loss of control and fear of the person or people contributing content that could be held accountable. I’ve found the higher level you get (if still in middle management) the less risks they take. And culture plays an effect to. Dell is very measurement-oriented. There is no direct connection of a blog and revenue, margin or opex within the quarter. But this is typical of any large organization. Every employee is measured by performance that can be measured to organization performance. What is the performance measurement that can tied to a blog? I don’t think many people would deny Scoble’s blogging had an impact on Microsoft? How long did it takefor it to have an impact internally and externally for Microsoft, and anyone point to a precise EPS or revenue impact? I don’t think so.
    Yes, Dell should’ve done this a long time ago. I don’t think this anyone is celebrating, but it’s worthwhile to recognize they are doing something that is overcoming the culture and fear that have held them back for so long and as a result may have a larger impact than the blog itself.

  5. Digressions says:

    Dell to Cut 70% of Promotions

    What do you think about the pricing changes announced in the spirit of customer service – especially when looked at in conjunction to the blog launch? Do you think think this is all part of a greater company shift in

  6. cgm says:

    CGM Week in Review: Dell Enters the Conversation

    In this first to know, first to tell blogging world, it’s hard to resist the temptation to drop commentary the second news or a key development breaks. On one hand bloggers often maximize their so-called social-currency by being the first

  7. The link to the cluetrain manifesto is broken – links to a domain squatter. I think the domain needs to be http://cluetrain.com
    Cheers,
    Dave

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