Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dell Twitter Case Study

First adopters of social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and blogging understand that their success can be measured and based on audience engagement, recognition, and involvement. Yet, Social Media’s Achilles heel, in the eyes of corporate decision makers who still utilize Web 1.0 analytics and measurement for their marketing, sales, and promotion efforts, is the lack of compelling ROI case studies: until now.

The fundamental recommendations from Twitter can be summarised in four simple steps
- Listen to what people are saying about your brand on Twitter
- Set up your own presence and be honest about who you are
- Follow people that are relevant to you
- Respond to discussions about your brand and business

Dell leveraged Twitter perfectly to generate sales. In December 2008, InternetNews reported that Dell has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts via Twitter. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company’s Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.

Dell Outlet faces a common but vexing challenge. A division of the giant made-to-order computer business, Dell Outlet carries refurbished equipment and other inventory that it needs to sell quickly. Because the division has to get the word out fast, it doesn’t have the luxury of hiring an agency and developing an ad campaign. Instead, the outlet relies primarily on email marketing, paid search results, search-engine optimization and affiliate links to raise awareness and drive sales. It’s always looking for new, cost-effective ways to reach people.

Dell's worst problem had been that customers were having too many of the wrong conversations with too many service technicians in too many countries. "It was a real mess," confesses Dick Hunter, former head of manufacturing and now head of customer service. Dell's DNA of cost-cutting "got in the way," Hunter says. "In order to become very efficient, I think we became ineffective."

Hunter has increased service spending 35%, cut outsourcing partners from 14 to 6 (and is headed to 3), and retrained staff to take on more problems and responsibility (higher-end techs can scrap their phone scripts; techs in other countries learn empathy). Crucially, Hunter also stopped counting the "handle time" per call that rushed representatives and motivated them to transfer customers so they would be someone else's problem. At Dell's worst, more than 7,000 of the 400,000 customers calling each week suffered transfers more than seven times.

Today, the transfer rate has fallen from 45% to 18%. Now Hunter tracks the minutes per resolution of a problem, which runs in the 40s. His favorite acronym mantra (among many) is RI1: resolve in one call. (Apple (AAPL) claims it resolves 90% of problems in one call.) He is also experimenting with outreach e-mails and chatty phone calls to 5,000 selected New Yorkers before problems strike, trying to replace the brother-in-law as their trusted adviser.

What did Dell do to make it happen, while others are still playing the wait and watch game.

- Fast to adopt:
While its competitors watched how the new entrant to the social media scenario would perform Dell set up its strategy and used Twitter as a channel of distribution to sell their products, taking the leadership stance and approach.

- Segmentated users:
Dell had a very clear strategy and focus to leverage Twitter, its stretegy revolved around studing the model and its users. Dell segmented twitter users demographically by setting up different twitter accounts ( ie. They started Dell Twitter for NZ users , Dell Twitter for UK users, Dell Twitter for Canada users ) Each of these twitter accounts spoke to users in a different country with localised product offerings.

- Created special offering for each of its segments :
With the segmentation strategy was adopted for different markets, it backed it up with special offers for each of these segments. Thus adapting the ‘Think Global, Act Local’ approach for their overall Twitter marketing strategy.

- Created a following and build a trust factor :
Companies that have built communities have always been succcessful in selling their products. Dell leveraged its online brand identity and trust factor to create and build a large community on Twitter. They built a strong and loyal following of more than 2000 users.

- Targeted Sales messages to the community :
Once they had a following they strategically leveraged their offers and promotions in form of Tweets or messages on Twitter to their following.

Holding Conversations: When company employees discovered Twitter at the South by Southwest conference in 2007, they thought they’d hit on a good channel for pushing out information.

“We thought, ‘Great—this has a really short lead time, and it will let us communicate our message effectively,’” says Stefanie Nelson, manager of demand generation at Dell Outlet. “We started using it for one-way communication.” The company was surprised when people responded. “They wanted to ask questions. They wanted to share their experiences, good and bad,” says Nelson, who’s based in Austin, TX. “We realized that people were really interested in talking with us.”

Raising awareness: So instead of using Twitter just to let people know about deals, the company has come to think of it as a good place to interact with customers—and to raise awareness about the brand. “When we respond to people on Twitter, they get really excited, and we gain advocates.”

That doesn’t mean Dell Outlet has abandoned the deals. In fact, the company often posts offers that are exclusive to Twitter. They twitter only a few times a week so as not to spam their followers, and they use tracking URLs to gauge what followers find most appealing.

Increasing sales: Do the coupons work? Big time. Not only do they get retweeted and picked up by coupon sites—both of which spread the brand name—they also drive sales. Dell Outlet has booked more than $3 million in revenue attributable to its Twitter posts. In addition, the division has done research showing that awareness of the outlet has grown, too.

“The uplift has been more than we dreamed,” says Nelson.

Connecting with customers: Dell now has more than 80 Dell-branded Twitter accounts (including @dellhomeoffers for new system deals) offering everything from videos of new technologies to promotions for Asia-Pacific customers. It also encourages employees to twitter, and has well over 100 employee accounts. Dell uses many of those accounts (with names like @StefanieAtDell), primarily for customer service exchanges that require direct messages (Twitter’s private channel) and to reach out to people who are twittering about Dell (which they find via Twitter search).

@DellOutlet now has over 15,000 followers who are receiving these marketing messages from Dell. So while Twitter is trying to figure out how to make money from its service, it is interesting to see that Dell recognizes that Twitter is a marketing channel, and more importantly, it is a channel that can increase revenues.

- At start of program, 49% of blog posts were negative. Today, overall tonality is 22%negative.
- Direct2Dell currently ranked about 700 on Technorati, among the highest corporate blogs.
- Direct2Dell gets more than 5 million unique views per month
- Over 7000 ideas have been submitted via IdeaStorm
- Studio Dell is gets more than 200,000 views per month

Dell has over 650,000 followers on Twitter. Although they are only following 23, they are known as a value provider:
Coupons: Dell distributes valuable discount coupons through Twitter
Customer Service: Dell answers questions and solves problems by engaging with their audience
Crowdsourcing: like their efforts at Ideastorm, they crowdsource their Twitter network for ideas on products, services, processes, and anything related to making their consumers satisfied
Network: Dell brilliantly and seamlessly integrate their Twitter network of followers with their Facebook fans for their Facebook company page. They convert many Twitter followers to Facebook fans and vice-versa

Nelson has learned when starting a new account on Twitter, it’s smart to reach out to your current customer base. They’re already interested in chatting with you, and they’ll tell other people about you. But no matter who’s following you on Twitter, she says, “offering relevant information that people are interested in is key.”

No comments: