It didn’t take a pandemic to compel Dell Technologies to transition its channel marketing program to a digital model. At least a year before Covid-19 rendered popular partner marketing motions – especially in-person events – virtually impossible to implement, Dell had begun to expand its menu of partner-focused digital demand gen practices.
Without a doubt, the shift to digital helped to contribute to Dell’s sales success these past many months. This August, Dell reported its best second quarter in company history, with a 15% bump in revenue to $26.1 billion.
And there may be more good news from the company. Financial analysts believe Dell’s third quarter won’t disappoint. For example, Zack Equities Research wrote that with “earnings history in mind, recent estimates have been moving higher for Dell Technologies. In fact, the Zacks Earnings ESP (Expected Surprise Prediction) for the company is positive, which is a great sign of an earnings beat.”
At the end of October, Channel Marketer Report had an opportunity to chat with the executive behind the digital evolution of Dell’s partner program, Cheryl Cook. As Dell’s SVP of Global Partner Marketing, Cook is an innovative and collaborative leader creating compelling business solutions that accelerate partners’ success.
As Cook explained, Dell had been making its own digital transformation inside marketing before the pandemic emerged. An “incredibly data centric endeavor,” Cook said the company was eager to build and maintain a digital data science culture focused on gleaning insights to create a far more personalized experience for all of its customers and partners too.
The outbreak of Covid-19 accelerated the company’s digital initiative. Carefully listening to the concerns and needs of their partners, the channel marketing team discovered that its partners were more eager than ever to embrace digital strategies, but were concerned about its effectiveness, as well their own teams’ ability.
“Out of necessity, we all had to come together and figure out how to plan and deliver pipeline growth and against our business revenue objectives. First and foremost, we wanted to help our customers and our partners as we all were navigating a bit of the uncertainty.”
One key objective was to address partners’ misconceptions about digital marketing. “As marketers, we absolutely couldn’t be timid about adoption.” Her team had to “demystify” many of the partners’ impression that digital marketing is “this big mysterious thing. It’s a lot of the same marketing fundamentals we’ve been doing, but the variance is just in a far more automated and engaging personalized way.”
The channel team prioritized identification of best practices and lessons learned to understand how “we as a really large organization could mobilize in response to what our partners were experiencing,” said Cook. Without a doubt, many of Dell’s partners did not have sufficient resources to manage pandemic-raised hurdles. The company needed to determine “what could we externalize and bring to bear for them to just help them navigate through,” she continued.
The channel marketing team hurried up development of “a host of resources, digital marketing forums, a lot of assets, executive briefings, how-to guides, playbooks – guidance on how we were pivoting what once was in-person activities and events to now virtual activities and events, and what we were learning and how can we share that with partners.” Encouraging Dell’s channel team’s efforts, the partners “were very receptive to it, they needed the support and the help,” said Cook.
Dell immediately shifted its marketing spend more toward digital activities. Partners stepped up and took more advantage of the support provided by Dell, including MDF allocations. “If you look back pre-pandemic, we were on a run rate with partners leveraging maybe 15% of their MDF resources,” said Cook. “Last fiscal year, we saw that pivot and grow up to 25%. And we are just now in our fiscal Q3, so half our year is done and we’re already trending up above 30%. By the time it’s all said and done, we will, with the help of the partners’ efforts, have doubled the amount of digital marketing activity.”
The results are encouraging, “The POI (pipeline on investment) and ROI are way up above the results that we had previously,” said Cook, “especially if we just look at our own data which is our partner MDF dollars and where they’ve leveraged those resources against digital activities. Our year-on-year POI is up from $97 to $164, and our ROI is up from $14 to $38, and that’s just on the data we can garner from MDF utilization from partners.”
Cook is especially excited about the nimble response of its channel partners to the last 20 months’ business climate. “I’m really encouraged by just the pace of the adoption, but especially by the pace of learning. We’re all getting better at it. But our partners are as well and they’re just getting more comfortable with these kinds of techniques.”
More partners are meeting Dell along the way on its digital transformation, she added. Partners are putting their budgets into digital alternatives, “leaning in to that digital body language. They’re taking that intent data to inform and allow them with dynamic content and experiences that our prospects or our customers have shared with us that they’re interested in to create a more loyal experience.”
Cooks said Dell’s investments in digital capabilities will continue to go up. “I think we’re going to get better at it. We’re going to learn how to be more tailored, and we’re going to certainly learn what is most effective. We will let our customers and partners share with us where the equilibrium lands, if you will, on. We’re a data-driven companies, so we do a lot of measuring to ensure what’s most effective.”
She also expects partners to continue to embrace digital marketing activities.“ If you look at conversion and customer acquisition, I think increasingly those customer life cycle measures are going to be as important to us on the stickiness of the relationship,” she explained.
“You’ve got to still feed the pipeline and feed the engine with these kinds of measurements and results,” said Cook. “It’s why I’m confident it’s forever changed, and I think our partners can speak to this level of return and results as great evidence that it is effective and is working.”