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Compaq's new marketing boss faces challenges

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More than 20 years ago, Douglas Fox was Procter & Gamble Co.'s product marketing manager for Top Job floor wax. Now, less than a month after taking the top marketing job at Compaq Computer Corp., the 52-year-old executive is looking to tidy things up a bit.

He's started a review of every executive's job function, public relations contract and advertising agency relationship throughout the sprawling company.

In his first major interview since taking the job, Fox provided a glimpse into Compaq's next generation b-to-b marketing efforts and discussed his role as a computer-industry outsider.

BtoB: How have you made your presence felt at Compaq so far?

Fox: We've always used a combination of employees, agencies and part-time people in marketing both domestically and abroad. Getting a handle on what would be the equivalent of a marketing department headcount is something we've got folks working against right now. We're trying to better define not only what those people are doing but also how they perceive their roles and responsibilities.

I think we're asking the right questions. If you are going to go from point A to point B, you have to know where point A is. We're working on point A.

BtoB: What's the No. 1 issue in Compaq marketing?

Fox: The burning issue facing Compaq is to take the bushel off of the light. It's from a Midwestern figure of speech: Don't hide your light under a bushel.

The reality of what we do, and the breadth of what we have, is one of the best-kept secrets in American industry. If we looked at the sum table of what we bring to the marketplaceÖmost people would say, `Damn, I didn't know that.'

We're a much healthier company than the business press has written about in the past. The perception is just a little late.

BtoB: Your responsibilities not only include marketing but also corporate strategy, development and global alliances. You didn't have those responsibilities at International Paper. What's the idea behind the expanded role?

Fox: We view marketing and strategy to be two sides of the same coin. Many businesses start with themselves, and march off to the customer. They provide a single-minded solution for the customer. That's good to a point, but our business model is shifting to a full embrace of the customer and the customer's marketing dynamics, and integrating back to our organization. We think that will ensure we design the right products and services and best-in-class solutions to help them improve their enterprise.

BtoB: So strategy and marketing never begin nor end?

Fox: Right, it is a yin and a yang. Strategically, we see our role more externally driven than internally driven. In the process, we can draw on a broader set of strategic partners than anyone else in the technology industry.

BtoB: International Paper is in a low-margin business. Will that help you in the computer business, where the last several years have seen margins squeezed?

Fox: In understanding the b-to-b customer, International Paper is complementary and analogous. It isn't analogous at all to the computer industry in the sense that a paper mill costs $1 billion, but in technology the components and development of high-end PCs are really developed by others. Paper companies own more land than anyone else. They are integrated back to the tree. We don't own any beaches, and therefore we own no sand to make chips.

BtoB: The computer business has always been a small group. Are you going to care whether you are accepted by the industry?

Fox: Of course, I care. I cut and bleed, too. But I'm not the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. I am just one of [Compaq CEO] Michael Capellas' people who is going to try to make a contribution. There's plenty of opportunity if you walk before you run. And, most important, it isn't about me. It is about the team that Compaq puts on the playing field.

BtoB: How close is Compaq to managing one-to-one marketing effectively across the enterprise?

Fox: There's a natural tendency to look at a single strategic approach that will be the silver bullet for one-to-one marketing, but one size

doesn't fit all. It depends upon the customer needs in the specific market segments we serve.

For high-end servers, Compaq is absolutely one-to-one. They have specific and extraordinary needs. As you start to move into other areas, there are opportunities. When you move into industry segments, whether medical, engineering, scientific or educational, you find that in many respects there are things in common with groups of people. There, you just need to let the customer control it from the center.

BtoB: Can you tell us how you might approach Compaq b-to-b marketing in general?

Fox: Insight of the customer's benefit expectation is critical. It is the ante to get into any product development, channel management or marketing initiative. You have to execute with elan. You've got to be provocative and intrusive. Those are some of the principles that stand the test of time handsomely.

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