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Dell takes a more direct approach

Dell's director of marketing for emerging markets explains the part he'll play in fulfilling CEO Michael Dell's goal of 40% worldwide PC market share.

Can Dell really achieve its CEO Michael Dell’s goal of 40% PC market share worldwide within a few years? It might be the world’s no.1 PC vendor with 14% market share, but that’s a long way from 40%; and in the Middle East, the company doesn’t even rank number one, according to market researcher IDC. That honour belongs to Compaq.

If that 40% goal is to be achieved, so called ‘emerging markets’ like the Middle East will have to chip in their fair share of business. That’s why the new marketing director at Dell’s emerging markets group is plotting a Middle Eastern strategy that will emphasise more one to one interaction with customers in the coming year. “What we’re going to be concentrating on over the next few months is bringing a direct approach to the UAE and the Gulf,” says Eric Semanne, marketing director for emerging markets, Dell.

Semanne’s use of the word ‘direct’ does not mean that Dell’ famous direct fulfillment model, which relies on the Internet as a sales channel and completely cuts out local resellers, will be rolled out in the Gulf. Resellers will remain a key part of the equation and will continue to process and fulfill orders.

Instead, what he means is more direct and one to one marketing through flyers, e-mail shots, and other database building exercises. The aim of this approach, Semanne explains, is to, “try to generate demand before we stuff the channel.” He compares that with rivals that he believes fill channels with inventory and then try to sell it, often discovering that they can’t.

This year’s marketing plans are still being finetuned, since Semanne has only just moved into his current position, but he rebuffs suggestions that Dell, always low profile in the Middle East, is not focused on ‘emerging markets.’ “I’m heading the marketing for Dell emerging markets and this is definitely one of our big markets,” insists Semanne. “No market is small for us.”

One area where Semanne says Dell could do better is PR. “We’ll be making substantial investment in PR because we feel that we’ve been lacking it in the past,” he says. Semanne met with agencies on his visit to the region, but no decision had been made on an appointment at the time of writing.

A more direct approach to marketing will also mean that Dell will be looking to better measure the return on its investment in advertising. Worldwide, Dell attaches a unique phone number to adverts in a particular magazine so that it can then measure the response to adverts in that title. “As we invest more in this region, that is definitely what we will try to do here,” says Semanne.

Semanne says that local marketing efforts will be particularly focused on the SMB (small/medium business) segment of the market. Dell is already present in large accounts in the region and the majority of its growth is likely to come from the smaller accounts that cannot be covered effectively by a direct sales force.

“The SMB market is a market where marketing makes a difference,” says Semanne. “That’s where return on investment in terms of marketing dollars will come.”

In line with the rest of the world, the Middle East is likely to hear a lot more about Dell’s server and storage products in the next year. Semanne describes servers as, “the last place today where Compaq is hiding.”

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