MarTech Edge Interview with Michael Della Penna, Chief Strategy Officer, InMarket | Martech Edge | Best News on Marketing and Technology
MarTech Edge Interview with Michael Della Penna, Chief Strategy Officer, InMarket


MarTech Edge Interview with Michael Della Penna, Chief Strategy Officer, InMarket


Published on 26th Oct, 2023

Welcome, Michael! With over 25 years of experience in diverse roles, could you highlight some key milestones and accomplishments that have shaped your career?

I would say my career has been defined by being open, interested, and passionate about exploring what’s next. This was sparked at my first job with Canon USA, where I was a marketing manager in the consumer products division and part of a team that brought the first personal copier, facsimile, and all-in-one computer called the Navigator to market in the U.S. We also launched a pretty impressive channel strategy, including the development of derivative products to sell into emerging channels like office superstores and warehouse clubs. It was really a thrilling time and job that helped define the kinds of companies I’ve worked at throughout my career. Since then, I’ve only sought opportunities and organizations that are disruptive and innovative in an emerging industry.

At ZDNet, we defined Web 1.0 as a top 10 site with more time spent than any other site aside from search engines. Leading marketing and strategy there, as well as taking them public, led me to explore new ways to monetize eyeballs, resulting in the launch of the industry’s first content-driven, vertical market email newsletters. That success led me to be part of the leadership team of a JP Morgan/Flatiron VC-backed, viral email company that we transformed into one of the first email service providers and later sold to Epsilon.

At Epsilon as CMO, we transformed the organization from a stogie, old database company into a leading marketing services organization through a series of acquisitions enhancing our email, data, and agency capabilities. My involvement with M&A got me excited about social — so much so that I launched my own social CRM company called Conversa Marketing, which was later sold to StrongMail, which became StrongView and then Selligent. There, I led the integration of my social solution into an email platform, which exposed me to the power of orchestrating messaging across channels and inspired my next move of leading Emerging Channels at Responsys, where I spearheaded the integration of SMS, mobile & display advertising, and social into the email platform. My exposure to the power of mobile there and subsequently Responsys by Oracle, where I led the acquisition of a mobile start-up called PushIO, got me passionate about the power of mobile. Several investments later in mobile and location companies led me to InMarket.

How has InMarket been successful in being a leading provider of real-time, omnichannel marketing solutions?

What really attracted me to InMarket was the power of its innovative and disruptive advertising solutions and the Moments product specifically. This unique solution’s ability to connect with consumers in real-time and at their precise moment of need was eye-opening, particularly when I saw the engagement rates in the double digits and averaging 6x the industry benchmark. It is the highest-performing advertising you can do, with engagement rates higher than display and mobile advertising and even email and search.

This notion of sensing and responding to consumers based on real-time signals and at their precise moment of need across the customer purchase journey is what’s next. The sophistication and number of signals will continue to grow, and the emergence of AI will only help enhance the accuracy and relevance of these interactions over time, which is exciting.

Done well, marketing and the relationship between consumers and brands will reach new heights, where relevant experiences will be expected, and campaigns will be optimized and fine-tuned to fulfill true one-to-one marketing. This notion of real-time sense and response is a new era of marketing that is a win for both the consumer and the marketer, and I’m incredibly excited to be part of it by leading the way at InMarket.

What key strategic initiatives have you employed as InMarket’s Chief Strategy Officer, and how have they propelled the company’s growth?

The Chief Strategy Officer plays a crucial role in a company’s growth. We must be able to provide expert guidance to make decisions that will promote long-term growth and sustainability.

Like all emerging innovative and disruptive companies I’ve worked with in the past, it’s about telling the story and sharing best practices. At InMarket, we’ve spent a lot of time sharing and acknowledging our clients’ successes and highlighting best practices. Whether it’s our Lift Leaders awards program and video series recognizing the companies and their leaders driving ROAS success or our Breakthrough Moments campaigns showcasing the ins and outs of creating great, engaging experiences for consumers, sharing these stories within the market and among our clients has been instrumental in fueling our rapid growth.

In many respects, I, along with my incredible team, have been able to create a platform to raise up and recognize those marketers who are like me, interested in challenging the norms, blazing the trail of innovation, and disrupting the way marketing is and should be done — it’s kind of a full-circle moment.

Could you provide an instance from your professional experience where you confronted a complex challenge? Please detail how you skillfully managed and resolved the situation.

The pandemic sent consumer behavior into an unpredictable frenzy that most brands and InMarket clients weren’t prepared to deal with. I’m so proud of how our team responded to this incredible challenge. We quickly realized we had the opportunity to help guide our clients in real time. Our unique data, including intent, location, and transactional data, gave us unique insight into the changing behavior of consumers down to the local and product levels. We lit up a COVID-19 site reporting a shift in visitation and shopping behavior frequency, dwell time, volume, and size of individual products purchased. We launched new solutions to help brands reach consumers at home and enhanced the capabilities and functionality of our solutions, including the ability to do more in every ad unit, such as add to cart, buy online and pick up in-store, measure web-to-store, and more. It was transformational and also very exciting to become a go-to source for marketing intelligence for so many large and respected brands.

How do you ensure that InMarket continues to stay ahead in the competition and maintain its position as an industry leader?

I think it’s about listening to our employees, customers, and consumers and staying true to our commitment to discovering what matters for those key constituencies. If we do that, we will continue to innovate, disrupt, and grow our company as well as the future of marketing.

InMarket has garnered numerous accolades and awards for its 360-degree marketing intelligence solutions. Could you elaborate on how these awards have reinforced the company’s commitment to pioneering and advancing groundbreaking products?

The industry recognition has been amazing. It serves as validation that the work we do on behalf of our clients not only generates amazing outcomes but also gets recognition from independent third parties as the best of the best. Having said that, our company’s mantra to “discover what matters,” along with our values to hire good peeps, kaizen (seek constant improvement), get Shtuff done, be data-driven and agile, drive us forward, and fuel our ability to pioneer new programs and innovate new solutions on behalf of our clients.

Additionally, InMarket, founded by two brothers, has not taken any VC money and is profitable. That is a unique thing to say in today’s VC-fueled AdTech/MarTech ecosystem. It’s been freeing in so many respects, particularly in the entrepreneurial spirit that runs through the company. The ability to bring an idea to the table, get it funded, and to the MVP stage, paired with an environment that is supportive of failing fast, allows us to think creatively about our clients’ problems and take actions, or, stated another way, take many more shots on goal to find new and innovative solutions that solve marketers problems.

You’ve been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business-to-Business Marketing” multiple times. What do you believe sets you apart as a digital marketing leader and industry influencer?

As a child, I struggled in school, and it took a while to figure out that I was, in fact, dyslexic. School was hard; I had to work twice as hard for that B as the next kid, but it drove me and my work ethic. I’m also convinced it rewired some connectors in my brain and gave me the gift of thinking differently, which is why I’ve so often found myself in strategic positions, involved in M&A or running emerging channels that had to be “figured out” at major companies like ZDNet/CNET and Responsys/Oracle. This, combined with my general passion for marketing, openness, and excitement to learn and try new things, as well as the ability to listen and translate challenges to opportunities, has fueled a lot of my success.

My advice to anyone starting their career right now is to be fearless and don’t worry so much. Pick an industry that is emerging or growing rapidly. Find a company with products you believe in. Interview the employees as much as they interview you — are they smart? Can you learn from the folks you will be working with and finally get in the field? I’m a huge believer that marketers should spend a good portion of their time on sales calls and in front of other marketers, hearing first-hand about their challenges and what keeps them up at night. These conversations energize me and get me thinking about potential solutions and ideas on how the company can help — be it a data cut to validate a hypothesis or putting forth a new idea that drives innovation in a current solution or a brand new solution. If you do these things, I’m pretty confident you, too, will have a long and very successful marketing career.