Dave Hansen is global vice-president and general manager of sales, marketing, and services for Dell Software. He leads the sales and marketing teams that handle solutions for data center and cloud management, information management, mobile workforce management, security, and data protection. Before joining Dell, Dave served as president and CEO of SafeNet Inc., a leading global provider of data protection.

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I invited Dave to Marketing Smarts to talk about managing large brand communities, as well as the importance of training channel partners so they can better serve your end users.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Different (key)strokes for different folks (03:14): "What I have found...is that people look at using so many different methods for accessing information. There are people that love going on the website and doing research. There are people that like the outreach. There's inbound, outbound, all these different combinations, and then there's all the social media feeds that we use. There's no right or wrong answer to this. Historically, people always felt that marketing was advertising, or very focused on one or two things, but now the creativity that goes into it and different applications that people use to consume information have changed. So, we have to keep on bringing in new, younger talent that's been exposed to these different [channels] so that we can reach them. The customer base is so big, they're used to way different methods of communications and how we sell and market to them, versus when you get into those millions of customers in those small, midsize companies. They're all looking for different things through Web searches, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and really you're [using] a lot of different aspects of the social media that exists today." 

Before you try to market to different audiences, make sure you can actually serve them (04:53): "First, you have to make sure your portfolio is geared towards those different levels of customers. That's number one. There are a lot of companies that'll  try to market products to the wrong market segment...so what I'm very, very clear on with our team is that, when we build a product, acquire a company, we really have to study who's the customer that we're really focused on, so that we know how to market effectively and sell effectively to that customer.... Really knowing that the product is...suited for that market, because if it is, it becomes a lot easier for your sales and marketing teams to be able to do that. I can't overstate how important that is: You have to be designing purpose-building products that actually fit that market [segment] you're trying to penetrate."

Build interactive user communities, then listen to what your users say (07:27): "There's many different ways [to tap your community for insight]. We have advisory boards with a lot of different customer segments and different verticals.... We did an event in Dallas earlier this week, and we had a really broad spectrum of customers at this, and hearing from them is just as critical. Sometimes it's bad news and sometimes it's good news, but it's taking those learnings, and making sure that you can use those ideas and philosophies with those customers going forward, and how you interact especially. To me, it's one of the most important critical things is how any technology company does interact with their customer base. Because (you know the adage) you'd rather make sure you maintain your existing base. It's hard to add new customers."

One of the ways Dell builds community among its employees is to take "Dellfies" (Dell selfies), like the picture that accompanies this post. To learn more about Dave Hansen and Dell, visit software.Dell.com or follow Dell Software on Twitter: @DellSoftware.

Dave and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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