In 1996, I received a call from a sales rep from Citrix. At that time, their flagship product was WinFrame which was designed for thin client computing. At first I didn’t understand what it did. He explained that it was designed to connect remotely over any connection, on any device, from anywhere and get in-office performance. All the applications and data were on a single server (or server farm) and remote offices and users could access without ever having to load anything on their computers other than a small piece of Citrix client software.Â I installed their demo CD and it failed. I figured it was just another startup software application that was unnecessary.
In the morning, our client was provided instructions on how to login from their remote office. They had old PCs and a fractional T1 connection from Newbury Park to Santa Barbara. WinFrame worked perfectly. Their users experienced better performance on the remote Citrix connection than they did in their local offices. They were amazed. So were we. Citrix would become our focus for the next several years.
At that time, we were a Citrix Silver reseller. To become Gold, you simply needed to pay a fee and have a certain number of certified Citrix engineers. My CTO, another tech and I became Citrix certified, fast. We became Gold.
One morning, my top sales rep walked into my office and asked, “Are we going to Thindex?” Of course he meant Comdex, the big annual computing event in Las Vegas that later was replaced by CES. His slip of tongue was a result of our company’s focus on “thin client computing” with Citrix. I immediately logged on to Netscape Navigator and looked to see if thindex.com was available. It was and I grabbed it.
I sat with my design team and my CTO about building our conference called Thindex, Thin Client Computing Conferences. We built an invitation system, a website and created the structure of the event. This would prove to be our best customer acquisition idea in our company’s history.
We started by inviting partners. We got Citrix, Microsoft, Raptor/Axent (Symantec), Packeteer, Hewlett-Packard and Wyse. Each partner represented a different key aspect of the thin client world. We gave each partner a six-foot table in the exhibit space and an opportunity to speak at the event.
The next step was to market the event. We sent an email to all of our prospects and customers, ran a few ads in the local paper and spread the word fast. We ended up with 85 guests at our first event in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Red Lion Resort (now the Hilton).
At the event, we had two rooms: the exhibit room and the presentation room. We allowed our guests to enjoy a continental breakfast in the exhibit room and talk to each of our partners and learn how their products fit in. Shortly after, we began the presentation with a demonstration of Citrix MetaFrame, which had subsequently replaced WinFrame. We showed the potential IT administrators how they could access applications and data from any device and manage applications on the server. For example, a single installation of Microsoft Office on the Citrix server could provide up to 25 users access without ever having to touch their PCs.
Next, we let our partners come up and do their demos.
- Wyse demoed their thin client devices.
- Packeteer showed off their packet shaping technology to ensure balanced and reduced bandwidth usage.
- HP showed off their hot swap server technology.
- Microsoft discussed how NT Server fit with MetaFrame.
- Raptor provided a demo for their security and firewall solution.
The audience was impressed. They asked many questions and an open discussion closed out the day. We also did a drawing and had some fun. We were sure to have plenty of giveaways and SWAG (stuff we all get).
Over the next few days, we closed several of these clients on a trial program. We would install Citrix on a server that they provided (or purchased from us) and they had 30 days to implement it. We closed over $1 million in business.
Over the years we held several more Thindex conferences and closed more business. It was a great strategy for building relationships with major companies seeking knowledge about thin client technology. We did installs for Raytheon, Intel, Bugle Boy, Raypak, Public Storage, New Horizons Learning Centers, Bolthouse Farms and many more. Thindex was a home run; your own conference series can grow sales, fast.