Roundtable with Michael Dell: Social Media, Reaching out, New Products

Above: This is the video that I took at the Roundtable with Michael Dell

Dell reaches out to the community in a interactive roundtable
Just got back to the BlogHaus, and there are a few Dell folks here Emily Price, Sherrie Smith from AMD, Michelle Bowman, Brent Wampler. I was telling them how the roundtable went with Michael Dell. Reaching out to the community is key, both as goodwill and strategically being able to build better products using near real time social media tools.

Who was there

There was a mixture of folks there, some from the traditional press, Peter Rojas of Engadget, Bloggers, and some customers. Some of the customers were really quiet, while some were very vocal. Of course, us bloggers were very engaged and conversational. There was a handful of Dell staff around, some sat in the back of the room.

Conversation highlights

The first question from the audience was telling: “Why are we here?”. Michael responded he wants to be part of the community.

Peter adamantly asked the good question to Michael: “Why don’t you blog?” Michael didn’t give a strong response to this, and I suggested that he consider a weekly video blog that would be more time efficient, and really convey his spirit. Peter, even offered to setup a blog for Michael that afternoon.

Michael suggested that his voice was already present in much of the company and it’s communications even without having a direct conversation with the market using social media tools

Questions were asked about how ‘hands on’ Michael was with the acquisition of Alienware. Other than logistics they were very handsoff, interesting.

I sensed some frustration from customers, concerns about drivers, adware, excess software, quality of content in the forums.

Michael was very tuned in, was listening and was asking followup questions. One interesting conversation revolved around customers requesting that additional ‘software’ that high end users may not want. Michael asked “How much would you pay to not have it installed”. Real time customer feedback, nice.

Michael touched on a few of his latest Dell products from his Keynote, some new machines, data backup services, and improved service. In his wisdom, he didn’t push his products, this was really about him listening and reaching out to the community. Here’s a list of some of the CES Dell announcement.

I read a question that was asked on the comments on this blog
I was able to ask a few questions and make some comments. Yesterday, I polled the Web Strategy Community on what would you ask Michael Dell. I ended up asking Daniel Sweet’s question:

Depending on how confrontational you want to be, you could ask the obvious question:

“Dell’s strength has always been business margins and the direct-to-consumer, every-order-is-a-special-order website. In the last decade, business margins have become much tighter and most consumer PC manufacturers have a configure-to-order website now. What is Dell’s dominance strategy going into the next decade?”

Michael’s answer was a bit long, so I’ll put a link to the video as soon as it’s published on the network.

TrendSpotting: Many CEOs are reaching out to Bloggers and Customers
This trend is just starting, I’ve had blogger related dinners with the CEO of Hitachi Data Systems, Seagate, Dell, and Robert met with the Cisco CEO and Bill Gates himself. If your CEO hasn’t reached out to your community, please send him this post.

Here’s some high level Web Strategy recommendations:

Based upon some of the feedback from bloggers, press and customers, I recommend the following Web Strategies for Michael Dell. Since Michael says he reads blogs, I highly suspect he’s going to read this post, as he said he reads blogs, it would be great to be a web strategy resource to Dell.

  • Michael, most importantly, we want you to come to the “edge” of the company where customers and prospects are talking on the web. As a CEO you ma not have time to write a blog. Perhaps consider doing a weekly video blog where you can quickly capture your thoughts and share with the world. It doesn’t cost much either.
  • Deploy social media features into your forums and networks from users. Empower them to vote up and down useful information, and to suggest additional features.
  • Require all product managers and marketers to have a login and listen and learn about each product. Before you or any other message creator launches a message, be required to listen to the voices of your customers before saying or launching anything. How is this product meeting the specific needs of your marketplace? They’re talking back to you so this should really be a cost savings in R&D.
  • Great job listening to bloggers that talk about Dell. Folks in the room said that some bloggers were obtaining preferential service and support. That’s a good sign, as it means that Dell has woken up and is paying attention. Of course, the next step is to provide equal service and support across to those that don’t vocalize. My research indicates that 5% of any community is very ‘active’, another 10% is ‘sometimes active’ and the final 85% just watches and listens. Bloggers and active forum members are in that 5%.
  • Keep on having customer roundtables, it was great for you to come out and meet the community to have an open discussion. We look forward for you and Dell to join the ‘edges’
  • Update: I just talked to Robert Scoble, the former top Microsoft blogger and not Podtech Video blogger. He recently interviewed John Edwards, presidential hopeful, the CEO of Seagate, Sun, and Cisco. He would love to interview Michael on his show.

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    Michael Dell

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    Michael Dell

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    The Roundtable

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    Eric of Blog Ars Technica, a popular technology blog

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    Michael and a customer

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    Enrique Dans is a popular technology blogger in Spain

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    Lionel was the Blog Evangelist and Customer Advocate at Dell

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    Roundtable attendees