This is Peter O'Neill (often the name is not displayed when you get a blog alert). I was in Austin, Texas, last week, meeting Dell executives at their 2011 Analyst Conference. We analysts always compare notes and discuss our impressions at these meetings and we were pretty unanimous this time about Dell’s consistency and clarity of message. Some of my illustrious research colleagues were quicker than I in documenting our impressions, so I’d refer you to Ray Wang’s comments. Colleague Roger Kay even got his blog into! My personal highlight was the fact that the whole event was introduced and moderated by Dell’s SVP and chief marketing officer, Karen Quintos. This is not a given at these events — often I get the impression that marketing is not really part of the vendor’s story or strategy at all. Karen even had a keynote presentation on her plans for the Dell brand and marketing initiatives in 2011 — I have never heard the word “brand” used so often by a tech vendor in the B2B context. Kudos to Karen.

I also liked Laurie McCabe’s event blog this week because it focuses on Dell’s SMB story. This is particularly important for me because I’m currently preparing to go all over EMEA with Dell — I’m to moderate their two-day partner certification events each time, which will also give me the opportunity to meet with over 1,000 IT resellers over the next six months. In preparing for the tour, I am trying to make sure that each slide I show is local and relevant to each country or region where we are presenting. To quote Stephen Murdoch, VP and general manager, Dell Public and Enterprise EMEA, my other favorite speaker in Austin (also quite a raconteur at dinner), “EMEA is a complex and variant region that covers both poles and speaks over 200 languages.”

This complexity is not only about Eastern European or Middle Eastern business practice or the number of languages in Africa. It already applies in what some people call “Old Europe.” So when Edwin Schalk, business development director at Dutch CAD software vendor Stabiplan BV, posted this question in the LinkedIn "B2B Marketing Europe" Group a few months ago:

“Being a market leader in the Netherlands on CAD software for engineers we want to enter the French market. Any suggestions on adapting our marketing collateral? How to prevent big mistakes?”

the resulting discussion thread was extremely illuminating. As well as several agencies that promoted their services, there were many pieces of great advice from experienced practitioners on the required cultural fit:

  • Find a good marketing partner who knows the French market well.
  • Do not copy-paste your Dutch go2market (sic) to France — 100% failure guaranteed :):):)
  • Remember, there is higher respect for titles and good education in France.
  • French negotiators tend to like to engage in evaluation of alternatives, so do not come with only one alternative — always give a choice (and do not be fooled by how much they may argue in favor of B before choosing A; they like to give all possibilities a fair chance).
  • Never assume that, since it worked elsewhere, it will work in France. And especially never say it.

Join our group in LinkedIn (B2B Marketing Europe) and see this discussion and others. I thought it was very interesting and a great demonstration of how complex marketing in Western Europe is — let alone EMEA. I also had an inquiry this week with an EMEA marketing manager of a US-led tech vendor who has had his budget cut drastically by headquarters — so I’m providing him with arguments and data to push back and justify more spending in international markets.

Are you involved in European tech marketing, and do you have similar issues? Please let us know; perhaps you have executed a best practice that I can share with other Forrester clients. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you on this.  

 Always keeping you informed! Peter