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The Online World According to Dell

Apr 18th 2011 at 6:40 PM

Bob Pearson, Vice President of Communities and Conversations of Dell Inc., shares what he learned about the Internet.

1. Cyberspace is undergoing an extremely significant transformation so far, and this is in terms of growth. The Internet is growing every second, and we have very little data detailing this growth. For instance, recently China surpassed the US with the number of people online. That translates to around half a million people going on line for the first time every day. But do we know their search habits? Do we have an idea of their search habits? No.

2. The amount of online conversations is exploding exponentially (no, this is not an exaggeration). In fact, it has increased six times over the past few years.

3. Customers want companies and service providers to speak with them in their first language. English is spoken by one-third of the world in any day, but the other two-thirds speak other languages. People want to do business in their first language, the language they are comfortable in.

4. New countries are frequently formed but are not given the full respect that their nation’s population deserves. If MySpace were a nation, it would probably be the 11th largest nation in the world. Thus, would you treat this country like you do in MySpace by putting up banner ads?

5. Content pushers refer to people who place dozens and dozens of pages in their website so they would sound smart and cool. However, this method is not very effective. Do not put up a lot of pages just to put something up. Prospects, businessmen, and clients will enter your company and converse with you rather than solely rely on the tons and tons of information in your website.

6. You have the most beautiful home page, but do you know where it is in the forest of the Internet? The universal home page of today is a Google search results page. Thus, an effective SEO campaign is an absolute must; traffic matters.

7. If you build it, meaning your website, people won’t necessarily come, unless . . . see above.

8. Less than 1 percent of personal time online is spent on online shopping. 99 percent of the time is spent outside the purchase path—on gathering information, creating opinions, criticizing errors, and interacting with people.

Given all these learning, what does Dell’s actions to address these issues?

1. Helping your customers with their problems when using your website, product, or service is the simplest, best, most important thing you can do. By helping them, you are engaging in relevant conversations with your customers.

2. Make your website available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Norweigan, etc.

3. Focus groups are now becoming quaint. Online communities are now predominant. Just think about it: would you listen to 10 people or to 100,000 people who debate ideas and opinions while you ask them what they want? These 100,000 people, who are your potential customers, are directly telling you what they want. Remember, the closer you are to your audience, the more data you will acquire, the better your offers are attuned to their needs. Listen to them and encourage ideas, dialog, and feedback.

5. Online communities are more powerful than individuals in the sense that they want to help each other improve. Thus, take advantage of social networking to build up a supportive community of customers, suppliers, investors, analysts, third parties, etc., around your company. Join your customers’ communities so you can be a part of the solution.

5. Your customers and you are partners in business. Treat them as such, not as money-producing machines or lines of business. Companies and customers can make a difference. For instance, you can create a program wherein each time a customer buys a computer from you online, he also buys a tree to be planted somewhere in the mountains for a reforestation project sponsored by your company.

6. Online experience at work should be similar to that at home. Dell recommends allowing employees to use the Internet (with reasonable restrictions, of course) so they can access wikis, blogs, forums, review sites, etc. This allows them to gather more information and generate more ideas for your company.

7. Should you deal with a particularly sensitive issue, be sure to deal with it in a truthful, transparent, and diligent way. And you have to need to create your responses in real time, responding within an hour or so.

8. Do not speculate on your position in the Internet through “that weird feeling.” There are now tools (notably analytics) that can provide you with a more factual, objective, quantitative view on how your website is doing.

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