Tell us about your role at PowerInbox and how you got here? What inspired you to join PowerInbox?
I saw a tremendous opportunity for email as an overlooked channel ripe for innovation. So many have all but written email’s obituary, but we’re actually finding that it fills a significant and valuable role in the marketing toolkit. As CEO, I oversee everything from product development and market strategy to operations and logistics. While I’m not the founding CEO—we ended up starting fresh with a new team, technology and investors, to build our current product—it’s evolved significantly since I came on board.
Would you tell us more about your insights on – “Email is tied to people, not a device”?
Devices can often be shared among individuals—a laptop or tablet at home, for example, might be used by both parents, more than one child, etc. That makes personalization and targeting through placing cookies on that device quite inaccurate, considering each user would have very different interests, browsing behavior and search history. But, an email address is a unique identifier that’s rarely ever shared. This allows us to identify an actual person’s profile – their likes, dislikes, location, gender, etc. using the email as a key. And, since most people use email across 2 or 3 devices, using an email address as a unique identifier allows us to link behavior and data across all of those devices to refine one unique identity.
How is the US Tech industry different today than when you first started here?
It’s much easier now to start a company and get off the ground, and it’s easier to go to market with a minimum viable product. Because of this, it also demands much faster cycles for innovation and a greater need for differentiation. Quite simply, because it’s easier, the market gets crowded faster, so you have to be better, quicker, nimbler and better able to communicate your value.
What is the State of Email Monetization Platforms in 2018? How do you prepare for the disruptions in the ecosystem?
Not too many companies have focused exclusively on email monetization, as it’s much harder than web optimization. On the web, you see different visitors coming to your site, so ad fatigue is less of a factor and you can leverage cookies for personalization. But in email, cookies don’t work and, for many publishers, it’s the same users opening the email every day, so the need for better targeting is clear. We are constantly looking for disruptions from the industry (i.e., changes to ISPs like Gmail or Yahoo Mail) or new entrants because we believe every innovation provides a new opportunity for better audience engagement. We are excited about new sources of growth as more companies recognize the uniqueness of email to monetize their user base and adopt an email-based ad strategy for the first time.
Who is your ‘Ideal Customer’? Which marketing platforms are best suited to leverage PowerInbox’s products?
Our ideal customer is any company that sends a high volume of email and recognizes that their expertise is in creating the best content for their audience. This can be a publisher, retailer, sports franchise, entertainment venue, product subscription service or any number of other businesses. The great thing about our solutions is that they’re compatible with virtually every ESP, data source, device, and operating system. That means our modules work with your existing templates and you don’t have to worry about deliverability. It works reliably, which keeps advertisers happy and makes your job easier.
How much are you influenced by the maturity of data science and customer experience platforms?
The platforms might be mature, but the science is definitely not. We’re constantly learning new aspects about our users and how their behavior, tastes and preferences change over time. And, with each new bit of data, their persona changes slightly, so it’s always in a constant state of flux, but also being constantly refined. We see a robust opportunity to continue to learn more about what users really respond to, and while platforms can help us spot trends, the truth is human behavior is an inexact science and accurately predicting their behavior still requires a bit of experimentation. Our platforms allow you to continuously gather that research to more precisely hone in on exactly what drives response.
How do you see the Interactive Content Experience strategies evolving around omnichannel email marketing campaigns?
We believe every company must incorporate some aspect of dynamic, personalized and real-time content in their email programs in order to compete. This might be organic content, native ads that are unique to each recipient, or the use of video and carousels to display more content in the same space and elicit action. End-users have come to expect to be dazzled with exquisitely produced, authentic, attention-grabbing, personalized content. Those who fail to deliver and stick with static, one-to-many content will fall behind.
Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?
We do like companies that are exploring new traffic sources such as chat bot platforms (like Messenger), push notifications, lock screen alerts and other places where social media ranking does not influence the quantity of traffic as much. The problem with social is that it places too much reliance on the platform itself, and when the rules change (as we’ve seen Facebook do quite a bit of lately), publishers and brands have to rethink and revise. Our money is on content and channels that you can control—like email, push notifications, web, mobile and lock screen alerts.
What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?
I’d rather not give away our playbook, but suffice it to say, we use industry leading platforms for email, CRM and sales management.
Elaborate on your best digital transformation campaign at PowerInbox?
Salem Web Network operates more than 20 brands of faith-based content for all aspects of Christian living. Averaging more than 100M views per month across its web properties, video channels and mobile apps, as well as 17M email subscribers, the company has amassed a large, loyal audience. Its newsletters were invaluable for reinforcing the message for each Salem brand and driving traffic back to Salem’s properties, but when it came to driving revenue through advertising, they were less than ideal. Their current advertising service provider was not providing the ROI they’d hoped for, forcing Salem to spend more time and work harder than seemed necessary. Campaigns had to be uploaded separately for email, with a separate budget, targeting and tracking from their web advertising.
By implementing PowerInbox’s AdServer for Email to consolidate management of advertisements across the web and email through integration with its existing ad server platform, Salem was able to dramatically reduce its hands-on ad management requirement, making its entire revenue program more efficient and profitable. Instead of selling email ads on a flat-rate basis, Salem was able to monetize each individual user, for more accurate targeting and more effective monetization—now they were actually earning money based on the value of their subscriber list. As a result, Salem sees more revenue with less effort and attention required for each campaign. Their subscribers see more precisely targeted ads and greater variety, and advertisers enjoy more transparency in reporting and billing across Salem’s properties.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?
By investing in the best AI talent, which we have already been doing. We believe that having the right talent is the key to success. After all, the tools are only as good as those who use them.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
We provide a lot of freedom to choose the platforms and devices each employee is most comfortable with. In fact, we’re very empowering of our employees overall. We want them to work their best in whichever way they do that. Setting arbitrary boundaries can be counterproductive. For example, deciding that you’ll be a PC-only or Mac-only company is sub-optimal. Most technology is highly compatible these days, so allowing each person to choose what works best for their individual needs is better.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Email in all formats and applications.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Focus on fast and small wins. When we were ramping up, and even today, we chose to forego the investment in the big, high-paid sales team and all the supporting staff that it required. Instead, we leveraged our product development team to drive initial sales, which then led to referrals and organic growth. Our strategy has always been to invest in building the most outstanding product—one feature at a time—and the sales will come. Too many in the tech industry invest in overhead as a way to compensate for mediocre products, and that’s why you see so many startups turn white hot and then fizzle out. We also don’t “overbuild.” Instead of developing 35 features that our customers don’t need or want, we build the 3 that really alleviate their pain points. By not trying to “eat the elephant,” you can learn more about what really matters to the market and better deliver on those needs.
What are you currently reading?
“Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. I love reading about history and how select individuals saw their future so clearly to have an impact on the present.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t confuse a great product with a great company. They are not the same.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you Jeff! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
PowerInbox provides publishers, marketers and agencies with dynamic, real-time and personalized email solutions which increase email engagement and revenue. RevenueStripe is an email based, personalized content recommendation solution which increases reader engagement while providing incremental revenue for email publishers. DynamicMail enables sending real-time, dynamic content optimized on the open including tickers, forms, video, scrolling images, animation and more. Clients enjoy 30% higher engagement rates and 4X ROI. PowerInbox is venture backed and works with all existing email programs, supporting over 2.5 billion emails a month from leading marketers, publishers and agencies including the NFL, CNN, Hearst, Edmunds, Ziff Davis, GM, MSG and Showtime.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.