Patrick McKenna is a 16-year veteran in the marketing industry. Currently, he holds the position of CEO in DMI Partners, a digital marketing agency based in Philadelphia, PA. At the company, Patrick is proud to work with “industry-leading brands” with similar business values and are equally ambitious.
As CEO, Patrick McKenna joined a company that has spent 18 years championing a “collaborative, people-focused approach” to operating in the modern digital landscape, in order to deliver the best results for their various business partners. As a 360-degree agency, the company believes that the relationship between “creative and data,” between “innovation and the tried-and-true,” and the relationship between “automation and human insight” are all equally essential.
There is a reason brands and employees have stuck with Patrick McKenna and DMI Partners. Their culture of listening and service have endeared their partners with their practices, impressing upon them that DMI Partners will give them the results they want while walking with them every step of the way.
Patrick McKenna and DMI Partners make sure to learn everything about a prospective partner before agreeing to work with them. The company’s advantage is in their flexibility—they can create a relationship according to a client’s desire, no matter what it is. The company believes they can always add value to their business partners, which is the only way they can work with them.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Patrick McKenna: I believe that what makes us stand out is our commitment to partnering with clients and doing whatever it takes to help them grow. A good story that illustrates that is back towards the beginning of DMi when a client of ours, Mitchell & Ness, needed to sign licensing agreements with each retired baseball player whose jersey they wanted to sell, and they needed to sign them quickly.
Overnight, we went out and helped sign those players up. It was not what we were being paid to do, but it was extremely important to the client, so we helped. That night I was on the phone negotiating terms with Willie Mays, the estate of Mickey Mantle and other Hall of Famers to make sure that the job was done and the deadline was met.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Patrick McKenna: The biggest challenge that we have had is getting our team members to take time off. With the COVID-19 situation, most people are not traveling or taking vacations like they normally would. Time off is important for each of us, and we have had to work with our team members to make sure they are taking the personal time that they need. When you build a culture that promotes clearly defined goals and the emphasizes communication, team members are more likely to trust their colleagues to carry the load when they step away.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Patrick McKenna: There are a lot of key figures for me, but Michele, my wife, is the one who keeps me centered and is that anchor point for me. She will see if I am overexcited and encourage me to reel it in. If I am anxious, she will help me find perspective in the problem. Small things in the day-to-day from her help me stay focused on what I need to get done.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Patrick McKenna: One-to-one communication is more critical than ever. Think about the restaurant down the block from you who needs to communicate if they are open, when you can get takeout, when you can dine outside, when you can dine inside and so on. Having that correct information pushed and presented to their customers frequently is incredibly important.
We are seeing large companies turn eCommerce on and off, which needs to be communicated effectively. For clients who had not previously engaged in eCommerce this was the impetus to begin, because they needed a way to get their products in the hands of customers. Other clients, like large CPG companies, whose products were selling off the shelves quicker than they could produce them, had to turn off eCommerce because it was more important to ensure that the products were available through traditional brick and mortar outlets.
One of our clients, Rastelli’s, is an online butcher shop and experienced a surge during the pandemic. Shoppers simply could not find products due to lack of availability. We made sure that Rastelli’s was discoverable online and executed a highly successful partnership and affiliate marketing campaign to meet the demand of the moment.
We have seen similar increases from brands specializing in at-home fitness equipment, and at-home goods as well. As these clients sold through inventory, it was important to have proper communication channels to ensure availability informed the front end marketing as well as the back end customer communication.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Patrick McKenna: Know who you are and tell that story consistently to your target market. Where we see brands fail, that identity is not established, or they are trying to be too many things to too many people. They are not telling that story consistently or conveying it effectively to their customers.
If you can do that, your market is out there, and they will come to you directly. But if you are confused on any one of those things, you are opening yourself up to lose out to the bigger players.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Patrick McKenna: There are generally three big mistakes that people make. The first is not having the business properly capitalized.
The second is investing in non-critical elements of the business. Building all the technology needed for the business in six months when they could instead focus on what they need to build the business today. You want to be nimble and agile, building for today while thinking about tomorrow.
The third is not paying attention to customers or delivering on their expectations. On the front end, that means making sure that the proper sales and customer service channels are established. On the back end, having the correct servicing supports in place so that you can communicate directly with customers quickly and efficiently and provide multiple points of contact.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Patrick McKenna: Communication via email. Making sure that you are communicating to each customer on a one-to-one basis with the most pertinent information at each point in time. During the shopping process, if they fall out of the shopping cycle, when they place an order and so on.
Each one of those touchpoints is vitally important for a positive experience, creating return customers and to have them recommend your brand to others. If that is executed effectively it will create a flywheel of revenue that self-propagates over time.
Email is simple, cheap and effective. But because of these traits it is often overlooked.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Patrick McKenna: The two most important steps with bad reviews are to listen and then communicate. In that order. Reviews can be an effective feedback loop for a brand to see how customers are receiving their products. We recommend paying close attention to them and addressing whatever element of your business applies. Once you have listened, responding in a positive and helpful way can yield your most loyal customers and fervent brand advocates.
Regarding unfair things said about a brand, those tend to happen most frequently to brands that don’t live up to who they are in some way. Even for companies who get that right, there will always be outliers, but the positive experiences and feedback will drown that out.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Patrick McKenna: There is so much social change going on in the world right now, it is an amazing thing to witness. At DMi, we try to foster a passion for advocacy and encourage employees to get involved in their communities. We do this in a number of ways, but one that I think would be great for more companies to adopt would be to offer paid time off specifically for service. At DMi, these days are separate from other forms of PTO and they are to be used solely for service opportunities. Our team members use these days to support organizations that are critically important to them personally and to their communities. I make sure to use my days every year.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Patrick McKenna: My pleasure, thank you!