Michael Dell's Per Diem

What do you do for an encore after you've reached the point of selling $10 million worth of computers online-per day? Michael Dell is one of the few able to answer that question. His response? Half of Dell sales will come via dell.com in three years or less.

Now sit back and let him show you how, When the top executives at Dell Computer Corp. gave presentations to journalists and financial analysts at an October meeting, every slide had two elements in common: the name of the company and the address of its web site. The former was routine; the latter part of a strategic campaign.

If such a strategy seems decidedly rudimentary, circa Q4 1998, it should come as no surprise. Dell has never been known as an innovator. If ever there was a group of practical marketing scientists in the PC industry, this is it. Likewise, Dell has never been much of a technical innovator. But in a business where customer satisfaction has typically been an afterthought, the company has taken an almost unique path: building a machine the customer actually wants, and then selling it in the most direct possible way. Only in the tech industry would pure common sense sound visionary.

Point A to Point B: Dell finds the most efficient route to its customers. And now that Dell has decided that the Internet is the best route of all, it's relentlessly embedding cyber-commerce into everything it does. Its foray into Internet sales began as an experiment just 30 months ago, when "Internet commerce" was mostly an interesting and unproven phrase. Customers flocked to dell.com. When Dell reported, just a few months later, that it was selling a million dollars of hardware online per day, the technology world was agog. That milestone, of course, was only the beginning.

In its most recent earnings announcement, Dell declared that it was pulling in more than $10 million per day on the Net. Now, in an audacious prediction for a company whose growth has been spectacular for years-including during this past quarter, in which it showed 65 percent year-over-year growth on $4.82 billion in sales at a time when the industry grew at 15 percent-Dell says it'll chalk up more than half its revenues online within three years. Actually, says a confident Michael Dell, who founded the Austin company in 1984 and serves as chairman and CEO, "I think it could happen even sooner."

Michael Dell has evolved with his company

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