Meet Patrick McKenna, CEO of DMI Partners

Patrick McKenna is the CEO of DMI Partners, a digital marketing agency based in Philadelphia. Before becoming the CEO, Patrick has spent 16 years in marketing, which had given him the tools, skills, and habits necessary to fulfill his new role and to push his company to new heights.

At DMI Partners, Patrick McKenna has instilled a culture of listening among his team members. Before getting to work with their clients, the company makes sure to listen and learn everything there is to know about their clients’ business, their business strategy, and the issues that may plague their operations. With the help of the company’s pool of experts, you’ll be able to “lock in the metrics” that mark your success. Once that’s done, the company will help you hit them.

Under Patrick McKenna’s leadership, you’ll never be unsure of what DMI is doing, or where you are in the process. The team is responsive, and regularly available. If you’ve got any concern or question, just drop them a line anytime.

Patrick McKenna has also overseen a culture of service at DMI Partners. According to their website, the company employs a worker at an average of six years, which means clients don’t have to worry about being passed around from department to department. The company always makes sure to impress upon their clients their seriousness in helping their business make an impact.

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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Patrick McKenna: My path to marketing was a winding one. I was pre-med at Harvard but decided to go in a different direction as I found myself more drawn to politics and business than medicine.

I had the opportunity to work for Joe Kennedy in Boston at an incubator for profit and non-profit businesses. He had a very talented team, and I was able to help them startup two businesses. I learned so much, and it was exhilarating to start a business. I desperately wanted to start something up myself.

After moving back home to Philadelphia I reached out to my old college roommate, James Delaney, who was looking to do the same, and so we decided to go in together.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Patrick McKenna: As we were graduating from college, we had a front row seat to watch the dot com bubble of the late 90s burst. While this created short term challenges, James and I agreed that the dynamic nature of the internet marketplace at that time made it an ideal place to develop sales and marketing expertise. We felt that if we could become experts in digital marketing we could leverage that expertise as an agency, in joint venture relationships and through businesses that we started or joined as a partner.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Patrick McKenna: If you run a business over a period, you inevitably go through hard times: financial crises, growing pains and mistakes along the way. It is unavoidable. We made an acquisition in our early days that didn’t work out despite a lot of time, money and energy invested. I have always taken the approach that every misstep is a learning opportunity.

We certainly never considered giving up, though. From day one, I was committed to the business. I find that the commitment of starting a business grows roots quickly. Whether it is commitment to clients who are putting their trust in us or commitment to employees who have staked their careers on us, it is incumbent on us to take that commitment seriously. I guess thinking a level deeper, that sense of commitment is a deeply driving element of who I am and it has been a principal driver in my life.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today?

Patrick McKenna: 2020 has, of course, been a tumultuous year but we have made the necessary adjustments in-house and have worked with our clients to ensure that their marketing programs are best positioned for success.

Our founding partners always stressed that the three keys to business are cashflow, cashflow and cashflow. As a bootstrapped business, that has been a focus for us from the beginning. As a result, we have been able to deal with problems that pop up and tackle opportunities that present themselves. I think that was a particularly advantageous characteristic to possess in 2020.

We have actually been very fortunate. I think the biggest area that we have had to focus on is making sure that we are all taking care of each other. We are very lucky to have an organization where people look out for each other. It’s something that happens naturally when our team is together, but it requires more purposeful attention when we are all remote.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Patrick McKenna: This is not business-related per se, but I distinctly remember a moment in college when James and I were at the Jersey shore for a weekend. We were sitting on the beach with our friends, and we started digging this hole in the sand. No shovels, just our hands. We had to decide whether we were going to keep digging or just stop.

I remember looking at each other and it was understood that we were taking this thing all the way. We just kept going until we had dug a hole that was about six feet deep. That personifies a little bit of who we are and that when we commit, we are going to see it through.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

Patrick McKenna: The ability to create a simple and efficient mobile shopping experience that provides multiple ways to pay — Apple Pay, Google, Amazon, PayPal, etc. — will make buying from a brand more accessible and attractive to potential customers.

Another tool that is often underutilized is creating strategic, reciprocal partnerships. These synergistic relationships can combine captive customer bases that benefit all parties. For example, I mentioned the online butcher shop Rastelli’s earlier and their spike in popularity coinciding with empty supermarket shelves during the pandemic. They leveraged a partnership with Sun Basket to introduce Sun Basket customers to the great products from Rastelli’s, which could be ordered safely from their own home to be delivered right to their door.

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

Patrick McKenna: There are numerous tools and technologies that we have used to improve on-site conversion rates, but there are two areas that we see slipping through the cracks of the conversion rate conversation which are incredibly important and complimentary.

The first is that too often companies do not think about attacking the entire conversion funnel when they develop their strategy, or they generalize each tactic into being focused on a single aspect of the conversion funnel. Companies that successfully maximize their conversion rate are able to find the ways to target up and down the conversion funnel from each marketing channel.

The second is attribution. While attribution remains a wonderfully buzzy word in the digital marketing world, it is rarely implemented in a manner that can produce the proper insights needed to maximize the effectiveness of the front end marketing.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Patrick McKenna: This comes back to knowing your story, being true to it, communicating that consistently and making sure the product delivers on it. From social media to influencer marketing to public relations to affiliate marketing, all of these channels provide direct lines into individual customers. These channels also enable the brand to leverage the authority of others through endorsements, personal stories, shared equity and rankings.

Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business?

Patrick McKenna: We have discussed a number of them already: making sure the business is well capitalized in the beginning, managing cashflow effectively, knowing who you are as a company to communicate that identity and paying attention to your customers by implementing feedback loops to hear what they are experiencing.

A fifth that we have not covered is hiring wisely, because talented teams win. That talent might be in-house, at an agency or through consultants. If your marketing team is stocked with the right professionals and working as one, they will put the business in a position to be successful.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Patrick McKenna: My pleasure, thank you!


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