CMO Confessions EP. 14: App Annie’s Geraldine Cruz

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Hello and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, our weekly-ish podcast discussing the latest trends, concerns and innovations in marketing and sales. This week, I had the privilege to talk with App Annie’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Geraldine Cruz.

Geraldine started her career in marketing as an analyst for Gartner where, over the short course of six years, she worked her way up the ranks to Vice President. Since then, she’s provided her expertise at institutions like LexisNexis, Bill.com, Kanjoya and more.

At App Annie specifically, Geraldine extracts stories out of data, provides clarity to more than 15 offices across 13 different countries and identifies the company’s must-haves for going to market. If you’re at all curious about what it takes to organize and localize global content, this is the episode for you.

If you’re interested in reading up on Sydney’s career, you can find her LinkedIn profile here. If you’re interested in her musings and expertise, you can find her on Twitter here.

Finally, as usual, if you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Transcript:

Joe Hyland:  

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from our San Francisco office is Geraldine Cruz, SVP of global marketing at App Annie. Geraldine, welcome.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Thanks, Joe. Nice to be here.

Joe Hyland:   

It’s fantastic having you here. I really appreciate you coming into the office.

Geraldine Cruz:

Yeah, me too.

Joe Hyland:

You should see this setup that we have today. It’s much more professional than our normal setup where we’re thousands of miles apart. Okay, cool. I’ll start with something that I sometimes ask our guests which is, how’d you get this gig? I’d love to hear about your path because I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all path to running global marketing and, and hearing your path. I think it will be particularly interesting for folks.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Sure. So the quick answer is I got this particular job from a recruiter, but the longer story is I starter at Gartner as an analyst back when SaaS was probably starting as an industry. And so back then I followed companies like Salesforce when they got off the ground and I helped other companies like HP, IBM and the like to develop strategies around going to market as a SaaS or as a vertical market player. And so I would do things like a forecast and other types of messaging for primarily marketers. And then after that, I thought about what I really liked doing and I liked the data, I like giving insights, but I really wanted to run a business. And so I’ve done a lot of different types of roles around product marketing at LexisNexis, Bill.com, running marketing organizations. That’s what I love to do, not just running with data or providing insights for other people — I want to leverage all of that for my own business.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. Um, that’s interesting. Uh, I liked the time at Gartner. What was it like? So was that right out of school? Was that literally your first job?

Geraldine Cruz:

Uh, it was my first official job. The first real job, a real job.

Joe Hyland:

I just say, what was it like, um, because ultimately you ended up being a strategist for, for marketers. Right. And that was one of the roles. What was that like having such a pretty big role? I think you were vice president at Gartner by the time you left and doing that when you had not actually practiced marketing yet. Right? Like in one way you were an expert on the other hand, as you said, you hadn’t actually run the strategy. Right.

Geraldine Cruz: 

That was actually one of those things that I had to grow into when I first started as an analyst. I literally was doing surveys and doing surveys of health care organizations, manufacturers and the like. So I really did a lot of grunt work. So there was, there was a lot of change and education for me over the six or seven years that I was at Gartner. And so it wasn’t immediate and I had to push myself in a lot of different ways. There were instances where I was with IBM and I really had to kind of step it up and just kind of swallow my fears and go for it. But I think along the way it was just a matter of being comfortable around data because that was my job. If I knew my data and my recommendations, well then that served me well.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s a good point though, that at some point you have to — anyone has to swallow certain fears and just deal with them, right? No one comes out of the room ready to command a room. So that’s anyway, that’s super interesting.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah. I think about that every day, even in my current job. If you’re not afraid of something, then I think you’re a little too complacent.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. It’s interesting like on one hand, you want to love what you do. And I love marketing. I love what we do. I mean look at the conversation we’re having right now like we shouldn’t be getting paid to do this. Like this is too fun. This is one. I’m on the other hand. Yeah, I need, I don’t know, I need pressure. For me, things won’t get done unless there’s — whether it’s a healthy fear or like a pretty steep hill to climb — I think it’s fun. But also I think it produces great results.

Geraldine Cruz:  

Yeah, absolutely. It’s like taking a challenge to its endpoint. I love marketing and I love talking about it as well.

Joe Hyland:

All right, cool. Okay, let’s, let’s talk about marketing strategy and where strategy kind of meets execution. APP Annie, you guys are a global company and there are pretty diverse challenges and sets of expectations and unique circumstances to any market or any region. What’s your go-to-market strategy like from a global perspective?

Geraldine Cruz: 

Sure. I think from a global perspective, we try as best we can to be scalable for all of the geographic markets that we serve, where we are in 15 different countries, sorry, 13 different countries with 15 offices. And we serve customers in seven different languages. So a go to market strategy that takes into consideration cultures and, and different ways of doing business. There’s a lot of balance that’s involved. And so at a very high level, what we do is we define what our ICP is, what is that customer look like? Is it an enterprise company or is it a mid-market? And then we define how do we go after that. In some countries, like Japan, for example, it takes years to close a business. And so part of that is how do you define what that nurture flow is. And I don’t like to say nurture flow. It’s really how do you cultivate that relationship over that time period.

Geraldine Cruz: 

And so it’s balancing that with, okay, so how do we actually execute? So it’s not just about the strategy, but you know, what kinds of programs are we going to run, what kinds of campaigns and how do we make sure that all of the different assets that we run can be leveraged across as many of our different industries and also geographic markets as possible. That’s the hard part for us. It’s not necessarily easy to go to market in retail banking in the UK as well as the United States without some sort of customization. So, there’s a lot of thought given to how do we actually prioritize what we do and then make it local to that region.

Joe Hyland:

And so you said you have 15 offices or 15 or 13 offices — a lot. How many of those offices do you have marketers roughly? I don’t need an exact count, but…

Geraldine Cruz:

I think soon. Six. Okay. Six or seven.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So, across most continents?

Geraldine Cruz:

Yes. With the exception of Africa, Antarctica.

Joe Hyland:

I was going to say I’m probably not a huge presence in Antarctica. Okay. And are they, are they primary primarily localization. Are you doing demand-gen locally versus having a centralized hub here in the US? What’s that look like?

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah. So our US team is comprised of our content generators as well as product marketing, creative website. And then we also have demand gen that’s focused on the Americas and our regional teams are primarily events, demand gen and localization, obviously.

Joe Hyland: 

Okay. Pretty similar to us. So we try to have like a shared surface hub, if you will, out of San Francisco and then we do localization events, demand-gen and we actually don’t have as many offices as you guys but we’re not too far behind. So you mentioned the, just the kind of off-the-cuff, example of Japan where a market that you really have to have an established presence and you need to have a local presence and it can take time. I’m curious what it’s because we have these challenges. You guys are a pretty fast-growing organization. How do you view a growing as quickly as humanly possible? Which is just the reality for most marketers but while ensuring that you grow the right way? Because we all have these short term deliverables even though we’re probably not necessarily responsible for revenue in marketing, a lot of that growth is coming from marketing, but we need to have a, I think, a longer term view. How do you, how do you look at quality versus immediate scale?

Geraldine Cruz: 

I think that’s always going to be a challenge, especially for — we’re a startup. We are more than a $50 million in revenue, actually much north of that, but at the same time, we have those goals of having hypergrowth. And so, on the one hand, we try to be strategic, but at the same time, we need to be opportunistic as well. So for us, we have a strategic plan every year, every quarter we review them, we review our results every quarter. But then there might be opportunities, for example, it can be in PR where somebody wants a quote based on a mobile app that’s growing fast. And so we’ll do a whole bunch of analysis to have a quote for that particular story. And so it takes a little bit of discipline.

Geraldine Cruz:

I mean the same with like MQLs. We, I’m sure that a lot of other companies have the same problem where we might generate a lead in a target account, but it’s not necessarily ready yet, but, you know, an SDR will go in and jump on it. I mean, it’s kinda hard to say, “You know, hang on just a second,” because there are times when an SDR does help cultivate that relationship and it goes on to be a closed won deal. So I think there’s always balance, as long as there’s some thought ahead of time, I think you can kind of counter some of that opportunistic to just jump on it right away.

Joe Hyland:

I know it’s hard. And actually, SDR is a good example because this will happen here. We have a sales development team, sounds like just like you guys do, and an example of going kind of out of traditional flow would be we have a webinar coming up, super successful, you know 500 to 1,000 people registered, we’re really excited and SDRs will, you know, the week of the webinar say, “Hey, I booked all these meetings based off of people who have registered.” And on one hand, it’s like, I don’t want to dissuade them from being proactive. Isn’t that great? And it sounds like some people actually were receptive to this call. That said, if I registered for an event and someone from sales called me about scheduling a sales call, I’d kind of say, “Well, let me consume your content first. Right?” So yeah, you kind of have to balance those two.

Geraldine Cruz:

Yeah, I think as marketers we are a little more critical of them. Perhaps it’s not that way for someone outside of marketing.

Joe Hyland:

Oh, we are. That’s where our spaces are pretty different. We are marketing to marketers. So I’m marketers tend to be pretty savvy at least to marketing. That’s a different challenge.

Joe Hyland:

So another thing I’m curious about, it sounds like your market is pretty rapidly shifting, right? Things move quickly. We talked about go to market strategy but, and you talked about reviewing results every quarter, even though you have a longer term strategy and a plan, how do you ensure that you guys are going to market in a real agile way so that marketing is just as dynamic as the market you’re going after? And probably at some point, it’s helpful to talk a little bit more about your space because I think the audience members would benefit from hearing about the market.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Sure. So just by way of background App Annie is a data as a service provider and so we provide mobile market data on apps throughout the world and what our customers do with our data is to use it to identify markets that they want to enter, identify what customers actually want in new features and apps or what kinds of marketing campaigns work. And also how are their apps or fairing relative to their competitors? And so the types of personas that we go after are marketers and product marketers, sorry, product managers and even investors. So how do we become agile? I would say that we have a certain level of…we have…let me back up: We want to answer the question in the way of how do you stay agile but at the same time stay true to your, your strategy. And we have a go to market strategy that focuses on those, those, um, personas that I mentioned and the specific industries because some industries are not as ripe for, for mobile market data as others. So we have like a core strategy. But then to be agile around that, we’re constantly, I’m trying to figure out which apps are actually a fairing well, what were the hot new apps. And so we also have a research team that goes in and identifies all of the new stories that we should be paying attention to interest on, that we can actually leverage for a content offer press as well as for our assets and webinars. And so there’s this constant digging into the market, digging into the data.

Joe Hyland:

Do you find this interesting? Is there, and this might not be the case, I’m curious, is there a little bit of a separation of church and state between the research arm versus the go to market arm or do they, do they sync quite well?

Geraldine Cruz:  

I think they see sink really well. The person who runs our insights and research team, Danielle Levitas, she’s done marketing before for App Annie. And so come at it from a very collaborative perspective because what her team unearths, those are the stories that we’re going to be pitching not only to the press but also to our own customers, prospects. Those are the stories that are going to be compelling because, in the end, marketing is about writing a story. And especially for a data company like us, it’s about what stories can we actually tell and what stories are going to be the most important for our customers.

Joe Hyland:  

Yeah. Got It. Okay. So yeah, so that research is probably a mission critical for your demand Gen.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Oh yeah, absolutely.

Joe Hyland:

Is data, so. Okay. So, so you guys provide data as a service. Let’s talk about the data you guys use for your marketing. Is the research arm the kind of primary data driver and deliver for your campaigns? Or, how do you look at that?

Geraldine Cruz:  

So that it… I would say it’s more the content provider for assets. So for webinars and white papers and reports, but what we use from our, from our own data that’s, you know, from our own backend, Salesforce, CRM and Marketo. And so it’s capturing all of that on the back end and leveraging that to make decisions about what we go after. So the apps that we cover aren’t necessarily our potential customers. Some of them are, but not all of them. And so, I would say that our own data we don’t use for prospecting for example.

Joe Hyland: 

Got It. Okay. Got It. That’s helpful. Yeah. So for ON24, we have our industry benchmarks, for example, which is data on our platform. We anonymize and aggregate and then we use it for two things and we can talk about thought leadership. And the second one is just to kind of push out general advice and best practices to the market and — we truly want people to be delivering better webinar marketing. But then, part two, is it’s a great demand gen driver for us. So our best demand gen programs or marketing programs really stem from our best content. So we try to be really true with going to market with what we feel is content that people want and, oh, by the way, and when people want it we, we get better results on the sales side. Is Pretty similar content marketing to demand gen strategy for you guys or is it different?

Geraldine Cruz:  

I think it’s a little bit, a little bit different only in the sense that I’m, the primary consumers of our data aren’t necessarily trying to market, they’re trying to build features. And so I would say that they use our data for benchmarking against other apps and we actually are selling benchmarking data so that, an app publisher can actually determine whether or not I’m a competitive app or leading app has better downloads or higher usage. So, that’s actually what we sell and not just, you know, this is a demand gen tool. It’s, it’s what we offer.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. A little different from us in that. So yeah, you want to talk about being B2B to C? I’m curious, do you consider yourself a, B2B marketer a, B2B, or is the first one, B2B2C actually a definitive category?

Geraldine Cruz: 

So I would say App Annie itself is B2B2C. I’m a B2B marketer. I’ve marketed primarily to businesses my entire career. What I mean by App Annie Being B2B2C is that our customers are primarily brands, CPG, consumer packaged goods companies, and so, they have consumers as their customers. And so we offer data to help them market to their or build products for their customers. So that’s why I say B2B2C.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. And so for, and it sounds like you have concentrations, in, high concentrations in particular verticals or industries, right? Do you feel you have to become an expert in‚ you just mentioned CPG? Do you feel with your marketing, you guys have to be experts within the CPG space? Meaning, do you need to know their audience inside and out as a part of your marketing? Are you marketing to proctor and gamble?

Geraldine Cruz:

That’s actually a great question. And I think because our data is about their customers, we have to be smart about their customers. Because if we can’t demonstrate that we know about their customers that we can’t really demonstrate the value of our data. So, a lot of our insights are actually driven from the data that we have on retailers, customers or a brand’s customers.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. I suspected that. And this is one thing… this a shift I see in marketing and it’s just great marketing, but I think it’s easy to forget that. So I’m a quick story is I was visiting FitBit — a customer of ours — and someone on our accounts team asked if I would come and meet their head of demand gen. So anyway, great meeting, but midway through the meeting, we were talking about how ON24 helps technology companies. And finally, the head of demand gen turned to me and said, “Listen, I know that we’re a technology company, but we market to — in this case it was the team marketing to HR — so they, FitBit, actually has a team that goes and sells to businesses. And she respectfully said, “If you can’t tell me something really intelligent about marketing to HR, there’s really not a lot of value for me to be in the meeting.” She didn’t want to hear us talk about tech. She wanted us to know her audience. And I think like if you have an ICP go to market model, knowing your ideal customer profile and knowing segments, I think marketers have to step up and know the end user of their immediate audience. That’s a pretty big shift.

Geraldine Cruz: 

I think so. And quite frankly, I think a lot of the focus on the product, sometimes, is driven by the fact that — we’re in the tech market here. And, uh, it’s very much, I think, a function of the product orientation of a lot of startups or even companies that have been around for a long time. It’s let me tell you about our products and let me tell you about our features and even our benefits of our products but not necessarily how can I help you do what you need to do better or more efficiently or more intellectually. So I think that’s the missing part.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. When I was in college, I was considering what, what to major in. Someone, one of my friends who is an economics major said, “Hey, let me draw a pretty simple supply and demand curve.” And she said, “Do you understand this?” I was 18 or 19? And I said, “Yeah, no, that makes sense, right?” And she said, “Okay, good. Well, because this is a core principle and fundamental of economics and some people just, it doesn’t resonate. And if you can’t understand this, don’t stay away from economics.” I think that for marketing is, and it’s so basic, you just said it, it’s never about you and it’s always about your audience and I don’t know if it happens more out here in Silicon Valley, but I see so many companies so eager to say why they’re so great — and that is just, it breaks the basic tenet and principle of marketing.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah, it does. And, I think it’s, it’s. I would say that a lot of technology companies are not as advanced. I don’t want to say that they’re not advanced in their marketing, but it’s, I think that the product gets a lot more of the attention than the actual, “How do I sell the product? How do I position it in a way that’s really compelling to prospects and customers?” So I think it’s just a fundamental shift in basically the creators of those products.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I’ll say it differently. I think there are brilliant product architects here in San Francisco and the Bay Area. There’s a lot of shitty marketing. I mean, there really is a lot of bad marketing. Maybe that’s good for you and me, but I think there’s a dearth of excellent marketing out here.

Geraldine Cruz:

Yeah, and I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of, you know, highlighting all the, all the great features of these products without really thinking about how is someone going to use this? Or how, you know, what does this actually really mean? Why does it matter? So I’m, I’m guilty, guilty of it too.

Joe Hyland:   

Yeah. One of my first product marketing jobs, I had an amazing boss who every time I would write something, I’m his only comment would be why? Why does it matter? Why does it matter? And I remember writing this two-page brief at one point and they had said it like 30 times and he was like, “Why does that matter, Joe? You just listed amazing features.” Sure. I think there’s a benefit but what’s the difference? Right. So, yeah, that’s interesting. Okay. I guess I touched on some of it for me. We talked about what we love and marketing, what, what drives you insane?

Geraldine Cruz:

I would say, right now, deciphering the differences between marketing technology. I have a whole bunch of emails about why something is, is a great ABM platform, for example. I get a whole bunch of them all the time, but unless I really dig deep I don’t feel like I truly understand what the differences are between this and that platform. So I think that’s one of my big pet peeves about marketing right now.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s a good one. For me, I think it’s interesting that marketers, or at least in the Bay Area, a lot of marketers, think technology will solve their marketing. I don’t know about you, technology, we both provide technology — but if you’re not careful, it can really complicate things. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a silver bullet.

Geraldine Cruz: 

No. In fact, oftentimes there’s so many, even for our own product, there are instances where people don’t use it. They don’t know how to use it, and so they never get value out of it. And so, I’d say that’s definitely real and there’s a lot of software that I haven’t used. And it just is so much easier for me to cut it out of the budget next year because I haven’t used it.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I think that’s a good point where we’re trying. Again, neither of us are enormous companies, but we’re trying to trim down our martech stack, right? I’m not looking to have 30 or 40 pieces of technology. Having them all work together as complicated and you said it at the start with your time at Gartner and then what you love doing: technology is not a strategy. It’s kind of like when marketers talk about a whole bunch of tactics — like that’s not a strategy. Putting in an ABM platform isn’t going to solve your personalization strategy. Right?

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah. And it’s probably going to end up being more work for me because now it’s got to be GDPR compliant. And so going through the hassles of — not the hassles — I don’t want to say that because there is good in privacy, data protection, but there are more hurdles to face.

Joe Hyland:   

Tons more hurdles. Well, so let’s go out on GDPR because I can talk about this all day. I’m curious, what about it do you, without going through all the legislation, what about it do you think is good? And then we can get to where perhaps it’s, it’s too stringent

Geraldine Cruz: 

Oh Wow. We don’t have lawyers around.

Joe Hyland:        

I know, that’s why I’m saying we don’t need to go into implied consent and explicit consent. But what do you think is what is helping marketers? Because I feel like a lot of marketers have had an over-reliance on what we call click marketing is basically just blasting out 3 million people a week and said, “Cool. We’re all set for the program this week.” So I feel like some of it’s good, right?

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah, I think that protecting privacy is really important and in fact, Apple has a very white hat approach to privacy and so there’s a lot of good in that. And so GDPR I think has good intentions. I think the way it’s been executed, you know, we’re going to find obviously over the next couple of years, a lot of, perhaps, either loopholes or like places that are way too stringent. I think one of the areas that’s a little too stringent in my opinion, but this is just purely my opinion, not App Annie’s opinion. And that is, you know if you have a history of interactions with a customer, but don’t have explicit consent — as of May 25th or whenever that date was — officially you can’t communicate with them over email. And so I think that in and of itself is challenging. At least that’s legal guidance that we were provided. So there are elements of it that are just not pragmatic or you could tell that the intent to interact was already provided or it was implicitly provided, but because we don’t have that documentation then we can’t.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. It was interesting to see because we worked with a lot of our — it’s funny, I asked you the question, I was like, I don’t know about lawyers, now I’m talking I’m like, “Oh shit, I shouldn’t say this.” We weren’t setting guidance for our customers, but of course, there is data that’s captured in a Webinar, right? It’s a digital event. So we had to have a point of view. And it was really interesting, some with our customers, but also just I have a lot of friends in marketing — my wife works in marketing — it was interesting to see how different companies had a different read on the legislation. My sense was the larger the company, the more strict the interpretation was. Going back to having to really emphasize growth and scale, I feel like some smaller companies perhaps were a little more liberal with the interpretation. I think it will be a bit of a moving target over the next couple of years. And it was interesting. I could talk about this for an hour or two.

Geraldine Cruz: 

Yeah, I could too, I just remembered the painful months prior to May.

Joe Hyland:

Can you. Oh yeah, same. And by the way, total aside. I tend to not like being stuck in very heavy operations meetings like when we start going, when there’s a meeting with our marketing and sales ops to go through how data moves from Marketo to Salesforce or what fields will be captured, like I don’t know, it’s just not what I’m interested in. Yeah, so I had to endure literally months of this. It wasn’t fun, was it?

Geraldine Cruz:  

No, and you probably have, because you’re a vendor for us. So, we had to get a DPA from you. Yeah, that’s right. And so you probably had to like work through all of that with the customer communications and documentation that’s — I think that was the hard part for me.

Joe Hyland:

That part wasn’t as bad. The bad part for me was we probably had 30 or 40 meetings with our lawyers and outside counsel and there was just like nothing I would rather avoid than that. It’s just so boring, right? So

Geraldine Cruz:

Yeah, I guess the lawyers made off with GDPR.

Joe Hyland: 

That’s true. They very much did, as they do with any regulation. Well, listen, Geraldine, this has been fantastic. I think we’re pretty much past the bottom of the hour. Thank you again so much. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Geraldine Cruz: 

My pleasure

Joe Hyland:

Okay. This is fantastic. Thanks so much.

Geraldine Cruz:

Thanks.