CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities

Written by on March 4, 2010 – 6:52 am -

erin-nelsonmanishMy CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, the CMO at Dell, came with a bonus in that Manish Mehta, the VP of Social Media and Community for Dell joined us as well. I hope you will enjoy this CMO 2.0 Conversation as much as I did.

Erin is responsible for Dell’s Global brand strategy, social media, global communication, as well as for the talent development of the Dell marketing teams – where she focuses on reinvigorating the way Dell marketing works. She has been with Dell for 11 years, while Manish has been with them for 15 years. Manish is in charge of social media and communities, including dell.com, their intranet and their extranet.

One of the first things we discussed was the role of social media and communities within Dell’s business strategy – and how they got to become one of the leaders in social media adoption. On the one hand, dealing with customers directly through social media is a natural extension of what the Dell brand has been all about for the past 25 years – having a direct relationship with the customer. On the other hand it was also precipitated by what has come to be known as “Dell Hell”, when prominent blogger Jeff Jarvis and others had some not too flattering things to say about Dell in public forums. The latter incident gave them no choice but to jump full force into embracing the social on a large scale. As Erin said, it wasn’t a question of test, learn, and measure, it was actually a question of survival – with their brand under severe pressure. In hindsight, Erin believes that this has been a huge benefit for Dell, saying that you cannot get into social media by just putting a toe in the water – you are either all in and it becomes part of your culture, or you’re not.

As we argue in our upcoming book, the Hyper-Social organization, we could not agree more. Companies that successfully embrace the social are those, like Dell, that make it part of the fabric or DNA of everything they do – it cannot just be managed as bolt-on programs to existing strategies. It is also interesting to note how companies like Dell and IBM, which have managed to totally transform themselves, were able to do so only after “near death” experiences (and those are my words/observations, not Dell’s). Dell truly rebuilt itself with the customer at the core of everything they do – how they sell, how they market, how they service and support, how they communicate, and how they design new products.

The scale at which Dell interacts with customers online is staggering – with billions of connections every year through the purchase path, the support path, and through the community path of learning how to use technology and achieve more with it. All that cross-functional customer interaction required them to set up a cross functional governance council, with member representatives from across the entire company – business units, marketing teams, service organizations, and product organizations. They meet on a regular basis to share the learnings, and to make sure that the learnings become embedded within all company processes.

Next we talked about the lessons learned from listening to what is being said about the company in the marketplace and from deciding how and when to engage in those conversations. As many other successful Hyper-Social organization CMO’s told us, they do not always engage. Listening is incredibly important, but often times hearing, learning, and acting upon what is being said are the real keys to success – not direct engagement. It is also important to realize that in this new world, notwithstanding that you can have a common brand spirit, you cannot really have a singular voice of the company anymore. At Dell they have 100,000 team members who are experts in what they do and who will speak out in their own voice.

We also spent a fair amount of time talking about how best to measure the impact of social media and community initiatives – especially in view of the recent announcement that Dell sold $6.5M worth of products through their Twitter channel last year. Obvioulsy being engaged in social channels such as Twitter is not all about generating revenue (although that is a nice side effect). At Dell they try to gauge many other things, including level of engagement/connectedness, sentiment, the value that they are adding in the customers’ buying decisions, and whether they add value in how customers utilize their technology better.

Lastly we talked about some of the recent changes that Dell made to their IdeaStorm environment, and how they felt the need to expand their successful online suggestion box concept with directed and time-bound innovation jams called Storm Sessions through which they ask the community questions in real time, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks, and sometimes for hours. They have found this real time learning capability, which they use both inside and outside, to be extremely powerful.

Other things that we discussed include:

  • The importance of assigning roles to employees who engage in social media – making sure, for example, that technically unqualified employees do not attempt to respond to tech issues
  • The challenges associated with integrating acquisitions within your corporate culture (specifically the acquisition of Perot Systems, which increased the number of employees at Dell by 40%).
  • How making the social part of the fabric of the way they do business changed the way they think about market segments – thinking more about customer clusters or tribes rather than classic demographically based segments
  • The importance of ratings and reviews in leveraging the social as part of your business
  • The two types of customer interactions that happen online – disgruntled ones where you need to turn their sentiment from a negative to a positive, and fans, who are brand amabassadors and who you want to engage to influence the influencers
  • The importance and risks of status in communities
  • How talent acquisition shifted from looking for people with existing expertise to people who can develop new capabilities

As usual, you can listen to the full podcast below.


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50 Comments to “CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities”

  1. CRMTrends Says:

    Q&A: CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Comm… http://bit.ly/98NP7n (#Marketing)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. utollwi Says:

    CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities: My CMO 2… http://bit.ly/98NP7n

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities Says:

    [...] As usual, you can listen to the full podcast on the CMO 2.0 site. [...]

  4. DC Says:

    Just a point of correction, but Dell acquired PEROT SYSTEMS – not PRO SYSTEMS.

    (specifically the acquisition of Pro Systems, which increased the number of employees at Dell by 40%).

  5. Shannon Batson Says:

    Typo: (specifically the acquisition of Pro Systems, which increased the number of employees at Dell by 40%).

    Should be: Perot Systems

  6. lovettjj Says:

    Awesome article – CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell & Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media & Communities – http://bit.ly/9rx0I9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  7. Hadel Says:

    RT @TrendTracker
    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. edeality Says:

    RT @TrendTracker: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. codrington Says:

    RT @TrendTracker: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. pramitjnathan Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media | http://bit.ly/cToDOe | RT @TrendTracker @Hadel

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  11. TBsocialmedia Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media | http://bit.ly/cToDOe | RT @TrendTracker @Hadel (via @pramitjnathan)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. PAMELLA_ART_PIC Says:

    RT @pramitjnathan: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media | http://bit.ly/cToDOe | RT @TrendTracker @Hadel

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. pandeypunit Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media | http://bit.ly/cToDOe | RT @TrendTracker @Hadel @pramitjnathan

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  14. HowellMarketing Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm /via @TrendTracker

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. MarisaCorser Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm /via @TrendTracker @HowellMarketing

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. theyolkdigital Says:

    RT @TrendTracker: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. mcaplanCMO Says:

    CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities…http://tinyurl.com/ybsrb5a

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. percebus Says:

    RT @TrendTracker: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  19. bgaustin Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe /via @IamPramit @TrendTracker @DrJeffersnBoggs

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  20. RichardatDELL Says:

    RT @TrendTracker: Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe Rt @IamPramit #sm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  21. merihall Says:

    Great article with the CMO of Dell re social media: http://tinyurl.com/ybplxzn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  22. LauraKlebek Says:

    RT @merihall Great article with the CMO of Dell re social media: http://tinyurl.com/ybplxzn

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  23. AmberatDell Says:

    CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities: My CMO 2… http://bit.ly/98NP7n

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  24. SchlegelSaid Says:

    Dell shares insights on how it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  25. socialEspeaking Says:

    RT @SchlegelSaid Dell shares insights on hw it does Social Media http://bit.ly/cToDOe :)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  26. marcosnahr Says:

    RT @bgalera: CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities: http://bit.ly/9rx0I9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  27. brunogalera Says:

    CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities: http://bit.ly/9rx0I9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  28. cristianosantos Says:

    RT @bgalera: CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities: http://bit.ly/9rx0I9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  29. dannywahlquist Says:

    CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities http://ff.im/-hgACw

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  30. StPeteratDell Says:

    A great conversations with Dell CMO and VP of Social media http://bit.ly/bVHoRa

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  31. Kris10Dell Says:

    RT @StPeteratDell: A great conversations with Dell CMO and VP of Social media http://bit.ly/bVHoRa

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  32. lazy_nerd Says:

    We use Goog’s ProtoBuff for the same reason on Hadoop. More flexible, space and time efficient than thrift.

    This comment was originally posted on Hacker News

  33. nathanmarz Says:

    Thrift’s compact protocol is a fairly recent addition and is both dense and fast. What are the flexibility advantages of Protocol Buffers?

    This comment was originally posted on Hacker News

  34. lazy_nerd Says:

    Protocol Buffers are flexible because they support ‘optional’ fields. So we can change the structure of Protocol Buffer without breaking the system.

    This comment was originally posted on Hacker News

  35. nathanmarz Says:

    Thrift has the exact same feature as I discussed in my post.

    This comment was originally posted on Hacker News

  36. Mike Fruchter Says:

    the value of social media/communities in large companies, connecting with customers, measurement and more

    This comment was originally posted on FriendFeed

  37. Richard Binhammer Says:

    the value of social media/communities in large companies, connecting with customers, measurement and more

    This comment was originally posted on FriendFeed

  38. PaulAtDell Says:

    Podcast interview on our social media approach with Dell CMO Eric Nelson & VP of social media Manish Mehta – http://bit.ly/biWzCA

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  39. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities | hypersocialorg.com Says:

    [...] As usual, you can listen to the full podcast on the CMO 2.0 site. [...]

  40. Interview with Marty St. George (@martysg), CMO at JetBlue | Human 1.0 Says:

    [...] media as an experiment, they now have truly made it part of the fabric of their company. Like Dell, they realize that you cannot just play by putting a toe in the water – at some point you [...]

  41. Interview with Marty St. George (@martysg), CMO at JetBlue Says:

    [...] media as an experiment, they now have truly made it part of the fabric of their company. Like Dell, they realize that you cannot just play by putting a toe in the water – at some point you [...]

  42. CMO 2.0 Conversations » Blog Archive » CMO 2.0 Conversation with Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell Says:

    [...] previous CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, the VP of social media and communities, during an earlier CMO 2.0 Conversation. Karen confirmed that social media absolutely has to be built into the fabric of the company and [...]

  43. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell Says:

    [...] previous CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, the VP of social media and communities, during an earlier CMO 2.0 Conversation. Karen confirmed that social media absolutely has to be built into the fabric of the company and [...]

  44. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell | Human 1.0 Says:

    [...] previous CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, the VP of social media and communities, during an earlier CMO 2.0 Conversation. Karen confirmed that social media absolutely has to be built into the fabric of the company and [...]

  45. Commentary on “Principles for Building a Successful Social Business Strategy” Says:

    [...] But I do not agree with Point III. I think that when successful, social needs to become part of the fabric of the company. If you give “ownership” to a department then you will end up with one more silo. Customer support needs to embrace it, IT needs to embrace it for their knowledge management and innovation, HR needs to get on board, product development. It is not just marketing and communications. You want to be like IBM, where there is no corporate twitter feed, no corporate blog, but where the employees — all employees — are encouraged to be the face of the company. See my interview with Erin Nelson, the former CMO at Dell where she talks about that http://www.cmotwo.com/2010/03/04/cmo-20-conversation-with-erin-nelson-cmo-at-dell-and-manish-mehta-v…). [...]

  46. C-Suite 2.0 - Commentary on “Principles for Building a Successful Social Business Strategy” - C-Suite 2.0 Says:

    [...] But I do not agree with Point III — A Single Department Should Own Social Media. I think that when successful, social needs to become part of the fabric of the company. If you give “ownership” to a department then you will end up with one more silo. Customer support needs to embrace it, IT needs to embrace it for their knowledge management and innovation, HR needs to get on board, product development. It is not just marketing and communications. You want to be like IBM, where there is no corporate twitter feed, no corporate blog, but where the employees — all employees — are encouraged to be the face of the company. See my interview with Erin Nelson, the former CMO at Dell where she talks about that http://www.cmotwo.com/2010/03/04/cmo-20-conversation-with-erin-nelson-cmo-at-dell-and-manish-mehta-v…). [...]

  47. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell - C-Suite 2.0 | C-Suite 2.0 Says:

    [...] previous CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, the VP of social media and communities, during an earlier CMO 2.0 Conversation. Karen confirmed that social media absolutely has to be built into the fabric of the company and [...]

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  49. CMO 2.0 Conversation with Erin Nelson, CMO at Dell, and Manish Mehta, VP of Social Media and Communities - C-Suite 2.0 | C-Suite 2.0 Says:

    [...] This article was originally posted by Francois Gossieaux on: http://www.cmotwo.com/2010/03/04/cmo-20-conversation-with-erin-nelson-cmo-at-dell-and-manish-mehta-v… [...]

  50. Commentary on “Principles for Building a Successful Social Business Strategy” - Human 1.0 | Human 1.0 Says:

    [...] But I do not agree with Point III — A Single Department Should Own Social Media. I think that when successful, social needs to become part of the fabric of the company. If you give “ownership” to a department then you will end up with one more silo. Customer support needs to embrace it, IT needs to embrace it for their knowledge management and innovation, HR needs to get on board, product development. It is not just marketing and communications. You want to be like IBM, where there is no corporate twitter feed, no corporate blog, but where the employees — all employees — are encouraged to be the face of the company. See my interview with Erin Nelson, the former CMO at Dell where she talks about that http://www.cmotwo.com/2010/03/04/cmo-20-conversation-with-erin-nelson-cmo-at-dell-and-manish-mehta-v…). [...]

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