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CMO Close-Up with Kim Johnston of Parallels

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Kim Johnston is VP-marketing for the desktop virtualization and Mac product lines at software company Parallels. In her conversation with CMO Close-Up, she discussed how the company is taking advantage of the trend of more Apple products moving into the enterprise, as well as how her experience at Symantec Corp. influenced her current approach. CMO Close-Up: How is your marketing team taking advantage of the increasing presence of Macs in businesses? Kim Johnston: We saw this evolve over a period of time. It's been coming in bits and pieces ... and all of sudden the IT guy woke up and said, “Oh, golly, I've got a lot of Macs in my environment.” That phrase “the consumerization of IT” comes to mind. IT folks are really looking for answers. They're kind of amazed by this movement. They're looking for education, so there are actually quite a few things that we're doing. Across all of social, we're turning on quite a few efforts. One is Apple and the Enterprise, a blog where we're talking about the trends and what's happening. We're also turning on a site that's an evolution of our existing product site. We're changing it to be much more educational, pulling as many resources as we can from our own customers as well as from the marketplace, to be a source of information and education for IT. We also make reprints and research available to our channel partners and to our sales organization. CMO Close-Up: It seems content marketing is central to your marketing communications. Is that true? Johnston: That's definitely true. When you're dealing with a trend, a change like this, content is important. One thing we're focused on is content that's educational and actionable (that) comes from very credible sources, even from our own customers. We're pulling best practices from our own customers. CMO Close-Up: Another marketing technique you're using is to take advantage of your net promoters via social media. Can you discuss that? Johnston: We have found that social is a really powerful and insightful tool. We've been listening to customers for a long time; it was the customers who told us that this movement was coming. They told us what they needed, and it essentially resulted in our delivery of Parallels Desktop for Mac Enterprise edition (which allows IT departments to support Windows-based applications for Mac users). Social for us is very two-way. We learn a lot from them, but it's also a vehicle that we offer back out. In terms of customer advocacy, we turned on an advocacy program a couple of months ago through an agency called Zuberance. That program yielded well over 1,000 reviews, where business customers in their own words are talking about the impact that Parallels Desktop for Mac has had on their businesses. They're not hesitating to share that with one another, too. The dialogue is so rich that the customers are sharing with one another. It's been really nice to see that authentic word-of-mouth marketing is working and doing quite well. CMO Close-Up: Where exactly are the reviews being posted? Johnston: The way that the program works is that the (customers) give the reviews to us. Also, of their own accord, they will post them on Amazon; they'll post them on Apple.com; they'll post them on BestBuy. They give them to us, and we show them on our own website. They also show up on Facebook. Again, these are all in their own words. We haven't prompted; we haven't paid them. We haven't done anything other than say, “Tell us what you think.” That's where this very rich insight, and feedback and the referrals are coming in (from). CMO Close-Up: What did you learn at Symantec that you are using at Parallels? Johnston: One of the key things I learned at Symantec was a content marketing program called “give to get.” It's very similar to what we've done here. We offered the business customer, an IT professional, the opportunity to tell us a little bit about themselves; and in return, they would get some information. That was something we did at Symantec. At the time, it was their profile or what they thought about their IT risk. In return, we gave them a benchmark about how they compared with some of their peers in the industry. If that was of interest to them, we'd be happy to have a conversation with them to explore that further. That became a really important demand-generation program there. We've done very similar things here. Right now—and it's in its most nascent form, because the trending is just starting and we're gathering more information—if you go to our website, you might be asked to fill out a survey about your usage and what's happening to you regarding Mac and the enterprise. As a result, we learn a lot; so we can then respond back to the customer about, “Here's how you might be looking at things. Here's how we can help you.” It's similar to the Symantec program, but at this time it's a little bit more nascent and will get much richer as we get more information over time that we can share.
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