Journey into Tech
Hi Jeff, it was a mixed quarter for MarTech and AdTech companies until COVID-19 broke loose. Tell us about your company’s attitude in dealing with the situation.
Most importantly, we share the concern for everyone’s health and well-being and appreciate the services being rendered by our front-line health professionals and other essential workers. We’re grateful for their work in treating those who are unwell, keeping us safe, and keeping essential services running.
At PowerInbox, we’re fortunate that we have always had a culture of remote work, so shifting our 50+ employee organization to remote setup has gone very well. At the same time, we’re also extremely fortunate to have seen an increase in email traffic as audiences recognize email as a reliable source of information, and publishers see it as a way to maintain engagement with subscribers during uncertain times.
With everything going on, it’s easy for messages to get lost in the avalanche of social media, and email remains reliable, direct, and engaging. In fact, our publishers have seen a 20% increase in traffic, a 22% increase in CTR, and a 24% increase in revenue from their email since this whole thing started.
One Email Marketing feature you are really proud of owning at PowerInbox:
The ability to personalize advertising for each user in real-time. With our technology, we can serve up content and advertising for each individual that reflects their interests and click behavior and shows them what they want in real-time, at the time of open. They are therefore more likely to click, which drives traffic for the publisher and awareness and conversions for the brand. It’s a win for the audience, publishers, and advertisers.
We saw some of the biggest M&As in MarTech and AdTech in 2019. What cue did you take from these tech M&As to build a roadmap at PowerInbox for 2020-2024?
This activity shows that the market recognizes and values two characteristics within companies that are sometimes at odds with each other: the ability to bring an innovative solution to the market while remaining profitable and/or growing without large amounts of funding.
Companies that can do this well are, and will continue to be, most in demand. This has been our strategy at PowerInbox for years. We see the ability to run a profitable business that is focused on bringing innovation to our market as critical for long-term success.
How much have Marketing practices evolved through the internet, dotcom, and now social media and AI era?
Significantly, to say the least. In the beginning, I think most technology was designed to support human decisions, i.e. for publishers, what content to distribute to their subscribers was determined by an editor and then sent by email or posted to the web.
Today, we realize that the subscriber should be the one determining what they see, and with AI, technology can learn their preferences and behaviors on a massive scale, so that we can distribute the content each unique individual really wants over whichever channel they prefer for true content automation.
Every marketer is chasing the golden combo of Personalization and Privacy. Do you think it’s worth chasing personalization?
Absolutely. Data supports that the way to grow engagement is to give users what they care about and are interested in. We already know, for example, that 44% of Amazon customers buy from their product recommendations, and 90% of consumers are willing to share their data if it makes their experience easier or cheaper. And, our own recent data suggests that half of users also want the ads they see to be personalized based on their online behaviors and interest.
How do you cope with CCPA and GDPR-related compliance? How does it affect Email Marketing platforms?
For us, these regulations are a good thing because it highlights one of the key benefits of email: it’s opt-in, which therefore makes it clear to subscribers how you plan to use their data (to provide a personalized experience) and it puts them in control. They can opt-out anytime. That builds a strong rapport and trust with the consumer.
On the other hand, cookies, which have been the only practical method of personalization before now, are not opt-in and some people take issue with being tracked without their permission. They’re also not very accurate, and they’re slowly being phased out by browsers. That puts email in a great position—it’s more trusted, it’s opt-in and it’s engaging.
We’re seeing a rampant adoption of AI, Blockchain, and RPA in the Voice and related tech businesses. What approach do you take in digitally transforming your e-commerce operations with AI ML and RPA techniques? Have they borne you satisfactory results?
While we’re not an e-commerce company, we do rely heavily on AI in order to deliver some 8 billion content recommendations each month. It’s how we understand users’ interests and ensure the right match between content and users. AI is a key component in our value proposition and it’s what gives us the capability to personalize content delivery at scale.
What are your predictions for “Customer Loyalty Technologies” for 2020-2024? How do you prepare yourself and your marketing team to embrace new standards in Privacy-focused personalization?
Personalization is a key factor in customer loyalty.
The more you can give customers what they want, the more likely they are to stick around. Nearly 2/3 are unlikely to return to your site if it doesn’t provide the experience they expected, and personalization plays a big part in that.
For us, as a B2B company, personalization is everything. We work individually with each publisher to make sure they have the service, resources, and support they need. When we’re conducting outreach, we make it a priority to practice what we preach—to give prospects the personalized content they need to make good business decisions.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?
Invest heavily and hire data scientists! Our entire platform runs on an AI-centric model, so it’s critical to our success. Having the solutions and the experts on our team to help us get the most out of the data and to deliver the personalization our customers need is our top priority.
This Is How I Work
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
We have always been mostly remote, so our people need to rely on many tools to be productive. It’s been part of our MO for many years
One word that best describes how you work.
One superhero character that you idolize or profoundly connect with in your life and at work –
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Anyone who’s using AI over chat. I feel like this is the next frontier in automated, intelligent messaging.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Ask questions that challenge our team to think bigger picture, be more creative, and explore new possibilities. It’s important to keep asking “Why don’t we…” and “Why can’t we…” You don’t grow by having all the answers; you grow by asking the right questions and relentlessly pursuing the answers.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.
Jack Dorsey at Twitter/Stripe
Thank you, Jeff! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Jeff is the CEO of PowerInbox, a technology company helping businesses monetize their email newsletters through dynamic content.
He has also served in leadership positions with Oversee.net, X1 Technologies, Digital Insight, Siebel Systems and Loudcloud/Opsware.
PowerInbox provides comprehensive, multichannel digital monetization solutions that help publishers and marketers drive new revenue with personalized subscriber engagement. Venture backed and profitable, PowerInbox supports 150 million unique users a month from more than 650 leading publishers including The Atlantic, Bonnier, Salem Web Network, Crains, HarperCollins, New York Magazine, Palm Beach Gazette and Seattle Times.