Maybe it’s because “Death of Dell” has a catchy alliteration, but if you Google the phrase, over 100 million hits come up. That – or the fact that, by many accounts, Dell has been suffering a long, painfully slow sunset as its share of global PC sales continues to shrink. The tech giant’s fourth quarter 2012 revenue was $14.3 billion, down 11% from the same time last year and it’s now in the final stages of a privatized buyout.
What’s less well known, though, is that Dell isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, revenue numbers would have been worse, but for an important bright spot in its corporate success. While consumer revenue endured a 24% fall from one year ago, sales from its enterprise products and services actually grew 6% to $5.2 billion. Even Dell’s detractors have to admit 6% growth in any company subset is nothing trivial.
B2B to the Rescue
Encouragingly, much of those gains have been attributed to Dell’s reliance on enterprise or B2B social media outreach, according to Richard Margetic, Dell’s global director of social media and community. Communicating via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, he said, increased sales among consumers but was an even better vehicle for encouraging B2B loyalty, as those relationships tended to last longer. Real-time interaction via SMS, tweets, video chats and the like helped cultivate professional relationships. Often those relationships began when IT personnel from other companies contacted Dell wanting to know more about the competitive advantage of its B2B solutions.
Dell’s social media outreach has been so successful that, since 2006, roughly 12,000 employees have taken its Social Media and Training Center courses on topics such as privacy laws and proper tone in written copy. Although not a specific loyalty program, Dell’s B2B success demonstrates two things when promoting the loyalty experience:
- Social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest, etc. – can drive valuable conversations that spark loyalty just by being the democratic (nearly everyone can use them) and transparent channels that they are.
- Already-established high user engagement means the B2B ground is ripe for specific loyalty program adoption.
So, if enterprise users are already interacting with brands via social media, why not incorporate a tiered loyalty structure, similar to B2C models, that encourages enterprise employees to join – and benefit from – a B2B loyalty push? Together, B2B and B2C loyalty programs can help make enterprises – and employees – feel like omni-empowered members, able to engage across multiple channels simultaneously while earning rewards that speak to their corporate or individual needs. In Dell’s case, doing so can have an important effect on its weaker, consumer-facing business.
Thankfully there are examples of B2B loyalty augmenting other companies as well as their employees – especially when it comes to fitness. Take Leap4Life, a company which describes itself as an “integrated engagement program, which brings together social media, personal teaching, loyalty technology and a vast rewards suite to deliver a proactive approach to preventative healthcare management.” Leap4Life incentivizes employees’ physical fitness by linking their efforts to social media sharing (a Facebook-like interface) and points-toward-rewards discounts on a host of products, based on how many footsteps they take and calories they burn. Considering the global obesity epidemic – more people will die this year from overeating than under-eating – and cost impacts an unfit staff has on worker productivity, Leap4Life is a particularly good example of a B2B loyalty rewards program with hybrid B2C elements.
Too often, B2B programs are the unsung heroes of the loyalty landscape. But as evidenced by the above, enterprise loyalty can and should be priority one. Maybe, in the near future, instead of encountering millions of hits for “Death of Dell,” we’ll find “Dell’s B2B loyalty discovery” trending just as prominently.
Until then, in what ways is your business experimenting with B2B loyalty initiatives and how can you better engage employees so that traditional enterprise loyalty influences B2C applications? Share your comments below and continue the conversation.