Being agile to change is the most important thing we can do.
MEDIA 7: Could you please take us through your professional journey?
JOANNA CATALANO: Over the last 20 years, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to lead businesses, launch new products and brands, and drive significant, scaled revenue growth, working across geographies and cultures as a ‘global citizen.’ My career started in Eastern Europe at the height of economic transition. Witnessing transformation at such a large scale piqued a curiosity in human and systemic behavior and change that has since guided my professional journey. I’ve been able to gather a holistic view of B2C and B2B business, having spent time working brand-side for technology platforms and software business, as well as leading services businesses. While working for established consumer brands (American Express and Starwood Hotels), I acquired deep subject matter expertise in all facets of sales, marketing, and customer service and witnessed the potential of digital disruption and the power of data.
During my time with Google, I developed global network client and accelerator programs with blue-chip brands like Hilton, Expedia, Coca-Cola, Citibank, Intel, and P&G. My strategy enabled Google to grow product share of revenue, and ink new annual deals and partnership agreements. Prior to joining Piano, I served as the CEO of iProspect Asia Pacific, where I drove a digital marketing agency business of $400M+ in billings across 14 countries and delivered revenue and profit growth. I also led an M&A strategy in order to extend coverage and deliver specialization in the company’s core product areas. Since I joined Piano in October 2020, my focus has been on driving a growth strategy rooted in product, vertical, and partnership expansion. Piano's proven track record and relationships with world-class publishers and brands made joining the company an easy choice, and the opportunity for the next phase of Piano expansion is an exciting challenge for our leadership team.
M7: Piano was named the ‘Best MarTech Startup’ in 2021, in the MarTech Breakthrough Awards Program. What was the strategy behind achieving such prestigious recognition?
JC: While the COVID-19 pandemic hit some businesses hard, Piano provided a necessary and complementary solution for a market that experienced high growth and engagement as consumers flocked to support national and local media outlets. These news websites needed different monetization strategies as advertising dollars dwindled and as social media platforms facilitated disinformation and misinformation about the pandemic, racial injustice, and the presidential election. In response, our Strategic Services team conducted 1:1 assessments and lunch-and-learns for certain customers and target customers. This team also continually updated and shared out proprietary benchmark data, including churn rates, page views, conversion rates, and more, from across hundreds of publishers, to help guide clients' subscription businesses.
We’re proud to have been recognized for our growth and innovation during this time by MarTech Breakthrough and other organizations, including Red Herring, World Economic Forum, Deloitte, and the Business Intelligence Group. Over the last few years, our approach to acquisitions — Newzmate, Cxense, and most recently, French-based analytics company AT Internet — has allowed us to enhance our product offering and revenue. Rather than purchasing multiple point solutions, relying on an internal development team or a vendor's roadmap to accommodate their request, our customers can accomplish their revenue goals within a single platform that uses a drag-and-drop interface to put the ability to quickly deploy satisfying and sophisticated user journeys into the hands of their marketing teams. We’re an amalgamation of specialized technology, effectively integrating best-of-breed software across the categories we serve.
Our training program is a cross-functional effort from leaders across the company.
M7: What are some of Piano’s strategic services offered to the clients that help them grow revenue and drive results?
JC: Piano’s strategic services team, led by Michael Silberman, delivers value to clients by helping them understand their audiences, improve their offering and optimize their marketing tactics throughout the customer journey. Our approach across all our strategic services offerings is grounded in three key capabilities.
First, we have exclusive user behavior data that helps us understand engagement and subscription conversion on media websites. That data allows us to develop benchmarks showing the range of performance across important KPIs. We can do deep-dive research into questions like retention and customer lifetime value, and we can develop powerful machine learning models based on that data.
Second, we have a proven process that we know delivers results for our clients. We start with the concept of design thinking, which puts the user at the center so we can understand how to drive value. We use the customer journey to define the experiences we create and the actions we want users to take, and we employ constant testing and learning to drive results.
Third, Piano’s strategic services team has a wide variety of experience across audience research and insights, marketing optimization, business analysis, data insights, and machine learning. Our team has more experience than any other, achieving growth in user engagement and subscription conversion across a variety of clients and websites around the world.
M7: How do you ensure that your sales team understands and presents the products in an engaging manner?
JC: Over the last two years, we’ve expanded our software platform organically and through acquisitions. Although our sales team is excellent, these new products and capabilities have underscored the need for comprehensive training on our products, services, and the challenges our clients face that we help solve. To that end, every new employee at Piano participates in product training that equips staff with a foundational knowledge of Piano's product offerings. We also facilitate ongoing training sessions related to product updates, capabilities, and partnerships to ensure everyone representing Piano and our capabilities is fully up to speed and informed on the latest developments. Our training program is a cross-functional effort from leaders across the company. And as we continue to scale, we’re also hiring a director of training and enablement to ensure our teams are trained and supported to understand and sell the benefits of our platform.
We’re an amalgamation of specialized technology, effectively integrating best-of-breed software across the categories we serve.
M7: What do you think is essential to stay competitive in a market that is going through constant digitalization?
JC: At Piano, we’re laser-focused on the interactions that organizations are having with their customers online. Our unique combination of artificial intelligence, human ingenuity, and a global network is designed specifically to help companies make the most out of the digital customer journey. As this market continues to advance, staying ahead of the curve and helping clients prepare their businesses for future sustained growth and success has been critical. Our team is constantly evaluating our aggregate data to identify the trends that will impact our clients and take advantage of strategic opportunities to grow and expand our offering. We’re also listening to clients, leveraging their relationships, looking at new technologies, and tapping into our industry partnerships to cultivate this momentum.
It has also been essential for us to closely follow external factors, like data privacy laws or changes to legacy systems like third-party cookies, so we can build our products and advise our clients accordingly. Piano is so trusted that we are the only major analytics provider to receive an exemption from the French administrative body CNIL, allowing us to collect analytics without first requiring user consent. All this is to say, constant digitization is one of the things I find most exciting about this market. The technological advances we’ve been able to make over the course of my career are astounding and are really what have created the opportunity for Piano to thrive. Being agile to change is the most important thing we can do.
M7: What do you read, listen to, or watch, to stay on top of your game?
JC: To stay on top of my game I read the New York Times and Financial Times for general news. I also enjoy the topics covered by First Round Review and have been subscribed for several years now. Recently, I’ve become interested in Cal Newport's work, for both professional and personal application. For meditation, I use several sources; apps-wise I like 10 Percent Happier because of the meditation teachers who work with Dan Harris. For inspiration, I listen to Krista Tippett, On Being and read Brain Pickings weekly.