Silver Apples 2019
Meet the DMCNY 2019 Silver Apple Honorees
By Ginger Conlon | 9.9.19
Each year the DMCNY presents its highly distinguished Silver Apple Awards to several professionals who have at least 25 years in marketing and who not only have excelled in their careers, but also have generously contributed their talents and time to the marketing industry. We'll be introducing you to the 2019 honorees over the next few weeks, in advance of DMCNY's annual Silver Apples gala on November 7 at Edison Ballroom in New York.
Cofounder and CEO, Bionic Advertising Systems
Founder and CEO, NextMark
Joe Pych has played a foundational role in today’s data-driven marketing. Early in his career, his work at Exchange Applications helped the company deliver some of the world’s biggest marketing databases. He also helped deliver two mobile computing platforms while with Travelers and holds three U.S. patents. It’s no wonder Pych has received several industry accolades prior to this year’s Silver Apples honor, including a Marketing EDGE Rising Stars award and being cited on BtoB magazine’s Who’s Who List.
Seeing an opportunity to help marketers improve their ROI through audience research — by improved planning and operational workflows — Pych founded NextMark in 1999. Then, in 2013, he saw an opportunity to help advertisers and their agencies improve their media investments, so he cofounded Bionic Advertising Systems.
In a conversation with MKTGinsight for DMCNY, Pych shared some career history, advice, and insights.
What initially drew you to marketing?
It was a bit accidental. My first job out of college — I went to school for computer science — was working for an insurance company in IT. I realized that I actually wanted to work for a software company; I also wanted to work in Boston, which at that time was one of the tech hotbeds. I landed at Exchange Applications, a company that built CRM software and marketing databases. As I started to understand the challenges and what's involved with marketing, I guess I fell in love with it. That was about 1995, and it really created the foundation for my entire career. Even today, the things that I learned then, like attribution and those sorts of problems, seem cutting edge for what's going on today.
My education in computer science actually was a great foundation for marketing, especially as it becomes more and more automated.
Tell us about a career highlight or turning point.
The biggest turning point was leaving Exchange Apps to start NextMark. It was a great job and I didn't want to leave, but I also saw an opportunity in direct marketing, particularly with customer acquisition. Part of it was about economics: “If I'm spending money on marketing, I want it to deliver a good return.” And part of it was really about relevance. Nobody wants to get mail or email or calls from people or companies that have no relationship with their life. That's what NextMark was founded on. So, the focus of NextMark was and is today to help companies "Reach your market," which has been and still is our tagline.
What excites you most about marketing right now?
The thing that excites me the most is that there's still so much more opportunity. I’m seeing a shift from companies focusing on how much ads cost and trying to drive down that cost to the value that they get out of the advertising — looking at marketing and advertising as more of an investment than a cost center.
Part of this shift is cultural; a mindset change that these are investments, not expenses. And the other part is technology that supports people in making decisions, enabling marketers and advertisers to see where all the money going and what worked
Anybody in direct marketing will look at that and say, "Yeah, we've been doing that for 20 years." But in advertising, it's still early days in terms of effective measurement. It’s really about transparency, accountability, and control. So, transparency is knowing where all your money went and whether it's hitting your objectives. Accountability, of course, is being accountable to your plans. And control is you can see if something is going off the rails and fix it; you have the control to be able to make adjustments while things are in flight.
Share a favorite customer story.
I'll go way back to the beginning of NextMark. We were about two years in and trying to build our customer base. The company we relied on for data pulled the plug with only 30-days notice. Because it would affect our clients’ businesses, I contacted each one and said, "Thirty days from now, unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to provide this service to you anymore."
I thought we’d go out of business. Instead, our clients actually called this vendor and, basically, insisted that they continue providing the data service.
I felt really good about that because it showed me that there was a lot of value in the service we were providing. But, more important, I realized that there was a high level of trust between me and my customers; they really stepped up and helped us get through a tough spot. As a result, we renegotiated that agreement, not only extending it, but also getting much better terms.
What's your go-to marketing metric?
The one I follow most closely is, simply, sales growth month-to-month — what was last month versus this month and the difference between the two. Of course, we also try to tie any change back to what caused it. We certainly track all the intermediate metrics, like impressions and clicks, but what it ultimately boils down to is, “How much did sales grow?” And we do that by product line.
What's one piece of advice for someone just starting out in marketing?
Get your hands dirty and actually do marketing. Get as close to where the marketing happens as possible because sometimes you might be in the backroom, just running reports or something. It's better to be in the room where the marketing decisions happen and then see how it actually gets executed — so, seeing the full life cycle of, "Here's the goal, here's the idea, here's the execution, and here are the results," and following that through. It doesn't matter what medium you're working in, just get involved with the marketing from a hands-on perspective.
What was the best piece of business advice that you received?
Years ago, one of my mentors, Tim Litle, pointed out that it’s much healthier to get revenue from customers than money from banks and investors. Like a lot of startup software company leaders, I was misguided in focusing too much energy chasing investors, which is a huge distraction from serving customers. This advice helped me focus on customers and develop a long-term sustainable business. It helped us to survive the “dot-com crash” and many ups and downs over the years that forced other software companies out of business.
Do you have either a personal motto or an inspiring quote that guides you?
When I make promises to people, I follow through — or at least do my best to achieve what I’ve set out to. Throughout my career, that's been very successful for me.
One of my bosses earlier in my career called me The Scrounge, based on a movie character, because if you wanted something to get done, you'd just ask The Scrounge and he would figure it out. He appreciated that about me.
What's something surprising about you?
There's one thing that surprises people because I weigh about 170 pounds: I played college football. When I tell people that, they say, "You?!" That was a long time ago, and I was usually the smallest guy on the field.
Another thing that people find most amusing is that I used to pick tobacco on a farm in Connecticut. That was my first job where I had a paycheck. I did that for three summers, starting when I was 14 years old.
What are a few of your interests outside work?
I'd say, mostly, I'm a family man. I really enjoy spending time with my wife and kids. Most of my life for the past 20 years has revolved around my kids and their activities and sports — soccer and crew and track. Now, as they are starting to leave the nest, I've been trying to get good at golf, which I’m finding is a really frustrating game.
Years ago, I was an alpine ski instructor for seven years. I still do a lot of skiing, but lately it’s been cross-country skiing. I like hiking, biking, camping, and generally being outdoors. I love fishing, as well. I run a fishing website; basically, a brag board where people can post pictures about the fish they've caught.
What's your hidden skill?
It wouldn't really be considered a skill because, usually, a skill means it's something magical and not so hidden — but it’s at the core of who I am: it’s really just being persistent about reaching goals, not giving up, and being creative about achieving whatever it is I’m trying to do.
Meet the other 2019 DMCNY Silver Apple honorees:
Carl Horton Jr., Associate Partner, IBM
Gretchen Littlefield, CEO, Moore DM Group
Britt Vatne, President, Data Management, ALC
2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy:
Tony Hadley, Senior Vice President, Regulation & Public Policy, Experian
2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor:
Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Freshly
Corporate Golden Apple:
About the Author
Ginger Conlon, editorial advisor at DMCNY's MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. Ginger is editor-in-chief of MediaVillage and president of DMCNY. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.