[“Edges 7”. Part of The Edges Series. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
My buddy over at Dell, Richard Binhammer left me some food for thought in the comments section of my latest Dell-related blog post. Worth checking out.
Richard points out that yes, although Dell is best known for its “Efficiencies” i.e lowering the cost of making and selling computers to people, he personally thinks there’s another primary drive of Dell which he feels often gets overlooked: “Getting closer to the customer”.
That direct connection with customers contributed to the impetus for much our involvement with blogs, Ideastorm, Twitter…and so much more.
Well, as we all know, human beings don’t scale. Micahel Dell can’t have a friendly game of golf with EVERY PERSON who wants to buy a $450 laptop. Maybe if your company is buying 25,000 servers off him globally next year, he’ll free some time up in his diary, but…
Doc Searls brilliantly quipped in the Cluetrain, “Markets are Conversations”. But markets are also about getting stuff done. Often by lots of people at the same time. In the real world. Harder than it looks.
I take Doc’s use of “Conversation” primarily as a metaphor. Take it too literally and the metaphor starts losing its power. Religious metaphors often run up against the same problem: Virgins have babies, really? Gosh, I did not know that! Wow, dead people rising from the grave after three days? Cool, where can I get some?
That being said, for large companies like Dell there is a sweet spot in here somewhere- a place that allows your company to “converse” like a human being, that lets you [within reason] get closer to the customer, while still allowing you to scale. It’s devilishly hard to get there, though. If it were easy, case studies wouldn’t be so thin on the ground as they currently are.
The good news is [and from my first-hand observation, Dell have also found this to be the case], that “Marketingspeak” doesn’t work very well on the internet. That acting like a drone doesn’t work very well, either. That human beings respond far better to other human beings on the internet, than they do to faceless, corporate spokesmen. And as more and more of large businesses’ communication moves to direct, two-way online conversations with their their end-users, companies will have no choice BUT to act increasingly human.
And this increasingly human voice won’t just affect the marketing, it’ll affect the entire organization. For the better, I believe.
Sure, corporate conversation may never scale to the level of intimacy some of my crazier blogger friends hope to live to see. That being said, today there’s still a tremendously large opportunity for the people who can lead the way, who can, like the cartoon above implies, keep pushing the edges. That’s why Dell interests me. Same with Microsoft. As far as big companies are concerned, in this department, they’re leading the pack.
[Afterthought:] None of this is anything new to those who read the Cluetrain in the early days, of course. What pleases me is, how Cluetrain is gradually being proved right over time. And I remember vividly how, in our hearts, we all wanted it so BADLY to be right, even if proof was somewhat lacking, all those years ago.
[Bonus Link: My old advertising buddy, David Carlson, who now lives out in Vietnam, writes an interesting and upbeat blog post about attending Barcamp Saigon.]
I sent this in an email but I figured I’d repost it here.
When I saw this this morning, I thought “Why is he picking on Hugh? What an asshole.”
Then you wrote this a few hours later: “Same with Microsoft. As far as big companies are concerned, in this department, they’re leading the pack.” That’s not even remotely true and you know it. Microsoft has been the weight around the pack’s neck, literally, preventing it from doing anything. Last week, Balmer was in the news saying Google wasn’t a competitor.
Anyways, c’mon. Don’t you think this is a little ridiculous?
Crazy? Hope so…
Get your guilt-free, back from the dead over here at KAPITEL.
Dell must be on the right path because they`ve managed to resurrect popster Dave Stewart as a cultural engineer on the nomad site!
An, I am not aware of Microsoft doing anything that prevented any other large company from using the blogs to get closer to their customers. Where I could name scores of examples of Microsoft doing exactly the latter.
I find your phrase, “Microsoft has been the weight around the pack’s neck”, utter, uninformed hyperbole.
That being said, I have always seen a paradox at Microsoft= they seem to got blogging so well, why can’t they get other parts of the net as well? How come they didn’t invent Firefox? Or Google? Where’s the disconnect?
That Umair guy seems to think it’s a DNA problem. I can’t think of anything else. Firefox succeeded as a business basically in spite of itself. Microsoft has been a great business because its good as business. Maybe that’s the problem online. They aim too much?
After purchasing the Mini a few weeks ago I sent an email to Lionel Menchaca (Dell’s Chief Blogger) mentioning how pleased I was and how I blogged about.
He not only linked to my blog post on one of Dell’s blogs, he also apologized for taking a scant 6 hours to get back to me. I was shocked at the level of intimacy and personalization someone in such a high position as himself was able to provide.
By the by, I’ve been on the Mini all day today (just got it yesterday) and it’s safe to say, I’ve found the new love of my life.
“…they seem to get blogging so well …”
They do? In what parallel universe?
“How come they didn’t invent Firefox?”
Okay, I think I see where the disconnect is.
IE vs Firefox, Office vs Google Docs, Windows vs OSX, Live vs Google, AIM vs Instant Messenger… the battle of next generation, cloud-based software is going to make all this stuff look like pretty small beer. I think Microsoft’s preparedness for this battle will surprise a lot of people. But I’m not ready to go public with this stuff yet…
Almost all commercial copy increasingly sounds like something from the 1950’s when compared to the bazaar of the live web. The example I use is one very close to my heart – Arseblog, the super-popular blog about Arsenal FC.
While Arseblog offers insightful, balanced football analysis his colourful language is very much of the terraces – not the boardroom. For instance, here’s a description of the morning-after his return to Dublin, following a long stay in Barcelona : “My brain is discombobulated and I have had to send Blogette off to her new school wearing my runners which are at least 4 sizes too big for her because all of our stuff is in a box coming from Spain. I now have no shoes at all but I am wearing her fleecey red dressing gown. So all of you who might have a hangover today at least be thankful you have some shoes. I have no shoes. I am like a bag lady in a red dressing gown without any bags.” You would be forgiven for thinking that such rhetoroic wouldn’t ingratiate him with the club, a famously conservative organisation. In fact, the opposite is true and the Arsenal Chairman, an old-Etonian, and Amy Lawrence, a journalist at the Observer, are both regulars on the blog’s Arsecast podcast.
The Saigon BarCampers will sure be happy. Here’s a note I posted on their site: http://www.BarCampSaigon.org
Just a note to all Saigon BarCampers: BarcampSaigon has been picked up by http://www.Gapingvoid.com . Gapingvoid is written by Hugh MacLeod, an old buddy of mine, and is rated as one of Technorati’s top 1000 blogs worldwide. Hugh is a gifted writer and cartoonist and has worked as a consultant and artistic motivator for Microsoft and Dell. His “Blue Monster” has become an underground in-house sensation for MS and whatever he does for Dell is sure to be interesting as well. Hugh’s book “How To Be Creative” will be published by Penguin next spring and his overall take on the tech business is both refreshing and revolutionary.
Check into the Gapingvoid and go to the bottom of the post to see the “Bonus Link” on BarCampSaigon
how do you guys see corporations changing into something that promotes sustainability and morphs into a creature serving mankind not having a life of its own?
in other words how can we stop taking the gifts of Earth, making trash out of it and piling it up faster than Earth turning our trash into its gifts…
Thanks for the post… you already know my reaction to the cartoon. Love it. I’ve lived our reality in the blogosphere since the early days. We’ve seen some success so far, but we have a lot of work to do on the social media front.
I’ve always believed that social media has the power to transform companies, and more importantly, how we interact with customers. That’s the game changer. I’ve seen it work on a small scale. Our focus moving forward is to get more Dell folks beyond our teams to be actively engaged in social media.
I’m starting with the folks who live on the edge and will work my way in.