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Five Minutes With: Mehdi Daoudi, CEO and co-founder, Catchpoint Systems

What are your biggest opportunities and challenges for the next 12-24 months?

Our biggest challenge will be continuing to educate the marketplace about our industry – the web performance industry – which frankly is a very niche one with an impact that is not always understood by a lot of business leaders. Many people still don’t realize the huge importance of web performance – or, the download speed and availability of mobile sites and websites. But the fact is, just a two- or three-second delay in a site’s response times can mean a huge drop in potential revenue. For decades, marketers have learned about the four Ps of marketing – product, price, promotion and place. But performance has become the fifth P. Your site is your virtual storefront, and when it performs badly, it’s akin to bad customer service. And just like customer service, performance should be seen as a business differentiator, not an afterthought.

That means that we have to generate a lot of content marketing and thought leadership in order to show the value of our product without overselling. Of course, this is what everyone wants to do, so the challenge then becomes how to accomplish it without getting lost in shuffle and/or turning off potential leads.

What are some unmet needs in the marketing technology landscape?

Unfortunately, we see a lot of instances in which the marketing and IT teams at various companies are constantly at odds with one another. Marketing wants to place ads and tracking tags on the site in order to better target customers and drive conversions. IT, on the other hand, wants to keep the site as lightweight as possible in order to boost performance, so they fight against adding all those extra elements.

So what the marketing technology landscape really needs are new tools that tie web performance to the same business metrics that everyone else uses – metrics like lost conversions and revenues. When the IT team says that a tracking pixel degraded performance by 1,750 milliseconds, why should anyone care if they don’t have a real-world metric to which it correlates? But if IT had a tool that could enable them to say that the same tracking pixel cost the company X dollars in lost revenue, marketing teams would be more apt to start listening, and the overall business could start making better decisions regarding what content should and should not be on the site.

What keeps your clients up at night?

Quite simply, our clients ARE the people who are called at night when something goes wrong with the website, or when a false alarm alerts them that something wrong with the site. The problem is that a site’s partners and vendors (such as the aforementioned services that require tracking pixels) are usually outside of the direct control of the IT teams. These teams need solutions that allow them to identify, with pinpoint accuracy, the root cause of site performance problems within their sites so they can take fast, intelligent action to fix them – such as, removing a third-party service temporarily. At the same time, these solutions must be able to automatically identify when a performance problem is some external, unrelated factor – like an ISP outage or a browser problem. This ensures that IT teams are not alerted to any and all problems they have nothing to do with, which can result in needless scurrying about and wasting time.

What social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the next year?

For Catchpoint’s own marketing efforts, we generally stick to the top three – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – all of which have their own shortcomings as far as B2B marketing is concerned. Coupled with the fact that we’re a niche IT industry, the hope on our end is that these platforms will improve their targeting methods so we can better reach our audience.

But really, all of the social networks are accelerating, so we’re going to see a lot more site integrations. And that in turn will bring us back to the aforementioned performance problems that come when you introduce new third-party elements onto a site. Finding that balance between delivering rich site functionality, and minimizing performance risks and maintaining strong site performance, will be a constant challenge.

What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?

It seems we are always educating people about the impact of all the items on their sites – especially their mobile sites. Mobile browsing has exploded in recent years; mobile usage overtook that of desktop for the first time ever in 2014, and this gap is only going to increase going forward. With that will come a corresponding increase in the amount of mobile performance monitoring that has to be done, and businesses will have to be even more vigilant about their mobile content decisions in order to give their end users the best experience possible.

For example, Catchpoint has conducted extensive testing on sites that run both adaptive and responsive web design. Responsive design scales down all images for display on mobile devices, rather than resizing or eliminating them. This can result in slower load times on bandwidth-constrained mobile devices. Adaptive design, on the other hand, automatically determines what design elements (images, JavaScript) are necessary based on the screen size, then resizes or discards the unnecessary elements. 

We have come to the conclusion that adaptive is markedly better for the mobile end user because there’s less data that must be downloaded to view the page. But it’s also more difficult and expensive to implement than responsive, so teaching our clients all the aspects that they have to take into consideration before choosing which route to go will be a challenge.

2015 will be all about…

International expansion and the challenges of delivering the same level of web performance excellence to global customers as you deliver to those based in the US. There are obviously different challenges and intricacies depending on what market you’re trying to break into (for example, China’s firewall and regional network capacity issues, which create completely unique obstacles to overcome). But no matter where you’re delivering content, it will be vital to have infrastructure placed as closely as possible to the end users, and to monitor that infrastructure’s performance around the clock to ensure optimal delivery.

Mehdi Daoudi, is CEO and co-founder, Catchpoint Systems

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