“We get Catchpoint alerts within seconds when a site is down. And we can, within three minutes, identify exactly where the issue is coming from and inform our customers and work with them.” – Martin Norato Auer, Vice President of Observability, SAP Customer Experience
"It really came down to the service itself and what it was providing us. We can run simultaneous tests with Catchpoint from different agents all over the world, which gives us a real comparison of what website performance looks like with and without Cloudinary and the optimizations that we can provide." – Gary Ballabio, Vice President of Technology Partnerships, Cloudinary
No one conveys the value of a company better than its customers! As you can see from the intro, the value of Catchpoint can’t be overstated! Today, we sat down with the CMO of Internet Performance Monitoring Company Catchpoint, Gerardo A Dada, as he dives into a number of topics, from opening a Greek restaurant and creating a new industry category to the IPO market and how to best use AI.
We hope you enjoy the interview!
You have started quite a few businesses in and outside of technology. Can you tell me a little about them and the lessons you learned from each?
Earlier in my career, I had a technology business focused on the newest technology for 3D graphics and imaging to sell to architects and the print/design industry. This business taught me three important lessons:
- The value of specializing. It’s better to be the best in a small niche rather than trying to compete with everyone. This allows you to focus on a smaller group of customers that are more likely to value and pay for your product or service.
- Understanding the technology lifecycle. This is important because marketing differs at each phase. There is more margin in earlier phases, and more volume in later phases–the business needs to adapt accordingly.
- The impact of regionalizing messaging. Marketing must effectively translate and adapt the technology's value to cater to each customer's specific needs and mindset in each geographic region.
In my other venture, a Greek restaurant, an unexpected opportunity at the state fair led to a significant insight. We initially promoted gyros but introduced burgers to cater to families. Surprisingly, burgers outsold gyros, prompting us to serve only burgers and fries the next day and onward. The lesson: customers must know your product before loving it, and offering what people want to buy always outweighs offering what you want to sell.
The experience of being an entrepreneur – being action-oriented, taking risks, being responsible for payroll, etc. – gave me a business perspective that has been extremely valuable in my career.
It has been just over one year since joining Catchpoint as CMO. What were some of the short-term wins you focused on, and what is your vision for year two?
After joining the company, my first observation was that we have great products and incredible customers, but no one could explain why and how the company won deals. The company positioning was lost in a sea of sameness as the company followed the same language everyone else in the industry was using. With AI and data analytics being so relevant today it is tempting to lead with that message. The problem is everyone does it, so your message is irrelevant or confusing to customers. A few years ago, everyone was talking about Big Data and cloud – we saw many companies wasting marketing dollars with messages that sounded like everyone else’s.
So, I prioritized trying to understand what made the company different: what unique problems are we solving and for which customers? What is our competitive advantage? Then, we had to communicate it in straightforward and defensible terms. We built a messaging hierarchy from our mission to our solutions to our products to unique capabilities. And while this sounds academic, it has been instrumental in guiding company strategy and everything we do every day.
From here, we adopted a unique content marketing and lead strategy to identify and capture net-new logos into our pipeline. Both teams (marketing and new logo sales) now report to me, so there is no finger-pointing between them, and both teams are united by a single goal: revenue. Instead of having a marketing and a sales department we have a unified growth team.
Year two has been all about scaling intelligently – we are very focused on specific customers, personas, and geographic markets. Like all businesses, we need to make financially responsible decisions while staying aggressive. It’s a balance that requires confidence in our strategy and metrics, as we are held accountable for producing results proportional to the investment.
Creating an industry category is an exciting but often challenging endeavor. Can you walkthrough the top milestones in creating the Internet Performance Monitoring (IPM) category, and what advice you have for other marketers looking to do the same?
First, creating a category is extremely attractive, but it is not easy, and it is not possible in all cases. A category is defined from the customer perspective, not by a vendor. It exists if there is a discrete group of customers who are trying to solve a problem (or problems) different from what other categories solve. It cannot be described as an existing category with a difference or flavor that your company offers. For Catchpoint, my goal was not to create a category. My goal was to differentiate; in our particular situation, creating a category was the right way for us to achieve this.
If you are heading in this direction, it is important to be incredibly clear about what the new category means (remember, it’s not really your category but a category of customer problems), how it differs from established categories, and the specific things that make it different.
For example, once upon a time a well-known auto manufacturer created an XUV category, an offshoot of a SUVs “Xtreme Utility Vehicle” defined selfishly by their product offering. As you can imagine, the campaign did not last long, it did not have staying power. No one cared because no one saw it as a different category.
Specifically, for Catchpoint, there is a well-established category that is widely understood and rather crowded. Gartner defined it as the application performance monitoring (APM) and observability market, which is software that enables the observation and analysis of application health, performance, and user experience. While APM tools focus on software code—including everything that negatively affects an application, such as databases and infrastructure resources—our category, IPM, focuses on the internet, which has become your network, and the collection of internet-centric resources and technologies that impact internet performance. IPM monitors what impacts your customers, workforce, or application (API) experiences across the internet.
While APM and IPM may seem similar, they are nothing alike. They may share common tools, such as using synthetic monitoring, but the difference is in what they monitor, how, and from where. In this age of highly distributed applications, that difference means everything.
To make a category like IPM stick in the market, you need the market to agree with the definition and then start talking about the category. A true mark of success is to have other companies join you in the category you created. Like in the lesson I learned at the 3Dgraphics and imaging company, specializing is very powerful. The IPM category has only two players today. We started it, and one other company joined it, and we’re okay with that – we are sharing a bigger pie. In a way, you want to lose ownership of the category so it belongs to the industry and its customers –while preserving leadership from an offering perspective.
In less than a year, Fortune 100companies have stopped asking for a solution for their internet performance issues; they’re directly asking for “Internet Performance Monitoring.” That is the best marker of success we need to know we’re going in the right direction: when customers adopt the category and language.
With all the talk on AI, it’s hard to ignore the current and future impact on the way we work. How does Catchpoint use AI, and what should companies be focused on regarding the AI conversation?
I am a pragmatist. There is a lot of hype around AI. I recently saw a cartoon from the Marketoonist that read, “Let’s transform our entire business using the generative AI I just used to write a poem about my dog,” which is funny because it is true for how people view AI today. Especially as marketers, we need to be careful about the shiny object syndrome (remember Facebook commerce, location-based marketing, and augmented reality?).
This means we must understand the real value of applying certain technologies and how they support our business objectives. Often, we start with the tool and try to find something to do with it, instead of thinking about the problem and deciding on the best tool to solve it. AI can be extremely useful in finding patterns, analyzing data, generating content, and other use cases, but isn’t a magic bullet.
At Catchpoint, we started to use it for customer research, to generate ideas for writing, to generate unique images, and to identify customer patterns. There are marketing-specific tools like Writer and Acrolinx that are quite incredible. As a company that provides monitoring data, we have eight unique use cases where we use AI to correlate signals, identify shifts in trends, estimate business impact, combine multiple signals into a business-level result, and others. We deployed some of these five years ago – to illustrate that machine learning and AI are not new, but they evolving quickly especially with language models and generative AI.
Funding channels are starting to open, and the IPO market is in its “test the waters” phase. Do you have any thoughts on what 2024 will bring for the technology industry?
It has been fascinating to see how investors flipped from ‘growth at all costs’ to‘ resilience’ as the primary objective for their investments. The goal now is responsible growth, but the foundation is building an adaptable company that can survive in these times of uncertainty – and if a company can prove it can, investors are interested.
I predict that2024 will be a renaissance year. After a sea of extreme change and market adjustments, we will experience more stability and steady growth. If we can make this a reality, it will create tremendous opportunities for everyone, but it still won’t be easy. The market will remain highly competitive, and buyers will continue to be skeptical and push for better economics, real ROI results, and honestly – better marketing.
And to that, Gerardo, we say bring it on! To see what the next chapter brings, follow Catchpoint on LinkedIn and check out their blog.