CMO interview: How Dell EMC’s marketers coped with ‘biggest tech merger in history’
As head of marketing during one of the biggest tech mergers in the history of IT, @DellEMC ’s @HelenDean has had a pretty big and intense year. And while it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, she describes it as a surprisingly smooth transition thanks to a strategic approach to communication and culture. “There was a lot at stake and there was a lot we had to do, hard and fast,” she tells CMO. “We had to launch very quickly the new brand and the combined value proposition – what the new company meant to staff, customers and partners. We had to educate analysts and press so that it was clear what we were doing and why, and what value it would deliver for all stakeholders. At the same time, our competitors were going out and saying, as you would expect, that the merger was doomed to fail.” Communication became “absolutely critical”, Dean says. The process initially kicked off with staff events and culminated in customer roadshows and educational sessions among industry stakeholders. “We launched a whole new partner program, and we took that out via a roadshow across A/NZ, we took our message out to customers, via our big flagship event, Forum, held every year in Sydney,” she says. “We then rolled that out to other parts of the country. We went very hard and fast.” The marketing team conducted roadshows, industry sponsorships, customer stories, videos, and digital campaigns in order to further deliver the message to market quickly. As the company started to see successes, Dean says it became important to communicate those messages back internally and externally. “It was important to communicate those successes to provide those proof points around the merger, in terms of why it made sense, and how it was succeeding,” she says. Different rhythms What also became apparent was the need to wholeheartedly focus on blending together people from the two separate marketing teams. “It was quite a leap of faith given it was two different companies with two different ways of doing things,” Dean says. “Unless we got that right, and came together as a team, then none of the other things were going to work. If we could get that right, then all the other elements would come together.” Helen Dean The challenge was two different operating rhythms. Dell’s matched that of a volume-based organisation, while EMC was about volume, and more about larger deals with longer sales cycles. Getting them to gel therefore, had to be about the people. Given the team had so much to do in such a short period of time, the spirit of goodwill was alive and well among the staff, Dean says. “It was a great way of bonding and having a shared goal that we were all trying to work towards and make happen,” she says. “It’s that old adage, ‘teamwork makes for dream work’, which was definitely the case in the last 12 months for us.” Changes put in place last year mainly involved ensuring consistency across programs and fine-tuning strategy. “We tried to take the best of both organisations. There were some areas where one side was doing a really great job, and was more developed in data insights and analytics. So we tried to take the best practices there and applied that where it makes sense across the board,” Dean continues. “In other areas, we had some really great ways in approaching content, and making things very engaging for customers, so we tried to get that consistency across the board, regardless of which product or solution that we were taking out.” Asked about overlap and redundancy in terms of the two marketing teams, Dean says there was very little movement in terms of staff cuts. “Both organisations were operating pretty lean to begin with, so it was more a case of most people’s jobs had to be restructured to some degree. They were largely similar to what they were doing, but they were serving different people now,” she says. “Again, the way they were doing it needed to change and in many ways it was like watching a startup, but just a very big one. “We had to let go of how we had done things in the past, and what we used to look like, and just embrace that things were different now. That happened to pretty much everyone, to varying degrees, and everybody just had the right mindset and embraced that this was new and this is different and this is what’s required in order to make it work. We got through that pretty quickly.