Dell cheapens its image at HP channel event

Dell Computer might want to rethink a recent channel recruitment promotion.

During a recent channel conference hosted by Hewlett-Packard Co. at the Las Vegas Caesars‘ Palace, I was lined up for a taxi and approached by two rather attractive women who claimed to work in casino promotions.

One of them asked if I had just attended the HP channel event inside the hotel. I said, “yes” and was then handed a paper flyer.

I initially thought I’d been given some sort of exclusive invitation to one of the many night clubs on the Las Vegas strip. To my amazement I’d been handed a Dell flyer that told me the company was driving some US$9 billion in channel business and claimed more than 30,000 solution providers in its North American partner network. Let me speak to the marketing tactic presently. The Dell flyer itself cited numbers that were at best somewhat inflated. I’d heard Dell worldwide channel chief Greg Davis say there were approximately 15,000 partners in the U.S. while in Canada, local channel manager Frank Fuser says there are about 2,000 partners here. If you also add in the 5,000 Equallogic partners then the total sits at around 23,000, significantly below this stated 30,000.

The bigger surprise perhaps was that Dell had resorted to such a seemingly low-brow marketing tactic. Sure it was Las Vegas and you might expect a bit of showgirl sizzle. I am sure the idea of attractive women handing out Dell flyers was intended as an innocent enough grabber – to draw HP partner attention to Dell’s new channel mission. But, I can’t help but think this sort of thing does more damage than good. It seems a bit Las Vegas trashy and it doesn’t pique my professional interest, but rather makes me question the company’s seriousness as a meaningful channel player.

I’d further argue that this sort of tactic diminishes the good channel efforts made so far by Davis. He has a serious plan in place, but this sort of stunt, in my mind, makes a bit of a mockery of the serious messaging he’s been trying to convey. Judging by all the discarded Dell flyers I saw laying all over the ground near the taxi stand, the Dell promotion wasn’t – pardon the pun – being picked up.

Frankly it seemed like a bit of a desperate approach and certainly not in keeping with the Dell stated message of “building a channel base one VAR at a time.” That’s the declaration of both Davis and Fuser.

If I’m one of the 1,000 or so HP partners that attended the HP event from Canada, the U.S. and Latin America, I’m sold on HP as my partner and that’s why I’ve made the trek to Las Vegas. Better that Dell should try to grab my attention by offering me the hint of something similar to the HP opportunity – or better. Consider that HP has paid out more than $350 million in rebates to partners this year alone. It you use the 80/20 rule, which means the top 20 partners typically earn 80 per cent of these dollars then the average pay out for many of these 1,000 partners in attendance at the HP channel event is more or less $280,000 in rebates alone. Handing me a flyer from an attractive casino representative isn’t going to turn my head like these sorts of numbers.

There’s a popular adage that says what happens in Las Vegas should stay in Las Vegas. It’s something to keep in mind if Dell is inspired to repeat this sort of messaging.

One quick hit before I go. PR practitioner Lawrence Cummer, who at one time was a staff writer at IT World Canada is leaving his job at Environics to pursue freelance opportunities. I have known Lawrence for a very long time and he has done a great job for his clients CA and Xerox particularly. I wish him all the best in his new career path.

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