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Citrix corporate marketing exec sits down with ‘ITM’

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Kim Woodward is VP-corporate marketing at Citrix Systems, a $1.6 billion supplier of virtualization technology. Woodward recently spoke to ‘ITM’ about business, branding and the adoption of social media as a marketing tactic at the technology company.

ITM: What’s the top challenge for Citrix this year from a business and a marketing standpoint?

Woodward: Let me start from a marketing standpoint. Citrix is a 20-year-old company that really got its start by virtualizing applications. And as virtualization has become a really important technology infrastructure, letting people know that Citrix has this virtualization technology—not only for applications, which has been our history, but also across server and desktop—is a challenge for us. Basically [we have to] let the market know, ‘Hey, you’ve known us for a long time; you’ve been happy with us; we’ve got over 230,000 customers; but, at the same time, you need to think about us differently.

ITM: What is the end point? How do you want the market to see Citrix?

Woodward: The market needs to understand that Citrix has a variety of virtualization and networking technologies that help deliver applications to users on any device, in any location. [We want our] enterprise customers to know we can help them be more cost-effective and efficient.

ITM: Have you had to make any adjustments to your strategy for marketing spending, marketing channels this year?

Woodward: I wouldn’t say adjustments to our marketing strategy as much as really being cognizant of what plays well in the marketplace right now. And some of that is, you know, what you can’t do … I’m going to call them boondoggles. Not that we ever had [them] in the past, but you really need to be smart about how you engage your customer and what you ask them to do as part of the marketing and sales process. For instance, we do an annual conference called Synergy. This year it happens to be in Las Vegas, which you know has gotten a lot of bad publicity [regarding] corporate excess. So what we’ve had to do is make sure we articulate the value of that conference by combining four events under one umbrella, by offering some really attractive pricing for the event and by working with our potential attendees to show how Vegas is actually a valuable business location because it’s 20% less than other conference cities, like Chicago.

ITM: A year ago, BtoB wrote about Citrix’s use of dashboards to manage the operations based on real data. Can you give us an update on that?

Woodward: Absolutely. We’re a big believer about a company using data, making data-backed decisions. So as we look to the areas of marketing investment that are driving the most outcome, that helps us direct funds. You need to look at what are you getting, if you do an in-person event, in terms of attendance and follow-up? We can take a look at our dashboards and see that [events] are good, but we get much better attendance and much better follow-through from virtual events, particularly in this economy. Then we direct more money to those online opportunities versus the in-person opportunities. That’s just one example. Another is the work that [public relations] is part of, which shows us that working with people such as yourself is a very effective way to get the word out. So it’s an area that we continue to invest in.

ITM: It’s worth mentioning that Citrix has its own virtual meetings product, Go to Meeting. Are there marketing plans around that product, given the market’s current interest in cost-avoidance around travel expenses?

Woodward: It’s a sister part of the company to us. I don’t have personal responsibility for that, but I do work very closely with the marketing team that does. And one of the things we’re really emphasizing with our online products, especially Go to Meeting, is their cost-savings aspect and how you can have multiple meeting without traveling. If your travel budget has been cut 44%, or whatever the number might be, you can still have that personal touch and that real engagement across the phone line with a Go to Meeting session. They’re going to continue to do some advertising. You’ll see a lot of that, and you might see a lot of that going through airports like San Francisco, and O’Hare and so on—reminding people that there is an alternative to air travel, which just isn’t as fun as it used to be.

ITM: You have a concept, a strategy around what you’ve been calling the consumerization of IT. Can you talk about that a bit?

Woodward: If you think about what’s happened in our world today, younger folks really have grown up using technology. They’ve grown up with cell phones, and Internet and so on; and because of that experience, as they mature and enter the work force, they have different expectations as to how computing should be and how it should work. For example, people who have graduated from college within the last five or so years, they use cell phones, Internet. They Twitter; they do social networking as a matter of course. But typical enterprise IT departments tend to give some of these technologies [a pass], because bringing in some random piece of software that you downloaded from the Internet or an iPhone or your own personal device can be a threat to these departments; they can’t necessarily control them. So what we are trying to do at Citrix is work with out customer base and let the market know, you don’t need to be fearful of these technologies. They can actually teach you a lot about how to run a more efficient department. And our technology has in mind serving applications securely to any device. If it happens to be, you know, your iPhone, we have software right now that can let your iPhone connect to some services that we offer in the cloud.

ITM: You mentioned Twitter earlier. Is Citrix using Twitter as a communication channel for customers or prospects at this point?

Woodward: Absolutely. One of the big things—you talked about changes in marketing strategy—one of the big things that we believe in at Citrix is the use of the community and social networking to let the community talk to each other about what their experience has been. So we have a variety of blog posts and we also have a large community starting around our May Synergy event in Las Vegas. So if you’re on Facebook, you can go be a “fan” of the event. We’ve got people Twittering about preparation for the event. You can get there via LinkedIn, which we believe is a really effective and authentic way to get the word out.

ITM: Finally, is there anything that you as a technology marketer generally or someone at Citrix specifically think is important to talk about?

Woodward: The most important thing right now is sticking to your strategy. Even though it’s a down economy and there are lots of questions going on, sticking to your strategy is really important. But at the same time, what you emphasize to the market needs to be something that’s important to them at the time. So even though we’re continuing down the path of application delivery using virtualization networking technology, the message that we’re putting in the market right now is much more about the efficiency and cost-savings that you can achieve and less about performance enhancements, speed and so on. Nobody’s worried about speed right now; everybody’s worried about cost. It’s really important to be cognizant of what’s on the minds of your market and to address it in a very straightforward manner, and that’s something Citrix is very good at doing.

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