January 21, 2022 –
One of the world’s leading digital-marketing transformation agencies calls Delaware home. Tapp Network develops innovative digital tools and campaigns for some of the world’s leading corporations and then transfers that knowledge to local nonprofits and state agencies to make the world a better place.
“Tapp stands at the intersection of technology, purpose and passion,” says Tapp Network co-founder Joe DiGiovanni, who opened the agency in 2013 with developer Kyle Barkins to fill the void in Delaware for a full-service mar-tech agency while serving their international clients.
Wilmington-based Tapp, which works out of CSC Station adjacent to the city’s Amtrak station and The Mill, is gaining a lot of traction in its home state. DiGiovanni, who graduated from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, says he and Barkins love the work environment in Wilmington and are eager to give back to the community.
“Kyle and I originally came together to build a website for one local client, Tech Impact, and then launched Zip Code Wilmington’s website,” DiGiovanni says. “We were then invited to be the keynote speakers at all three Nonprofit Tech Week events in California – including one at Microsoft’s headquarters. Hundreds of nonprofit attendees swarmed us seeking help. Their websites weren’t mobile responsive and lacked the modern tools and technology necessary for digital fundraising, e-commerce, and communications. That’s when we realized there was a huge opportunity in the social sector.”
Flash forward to the current COVID universe, where corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits are all playing catch-up to instill the digital resiliency needed to remain relevant and competitive.
“That’s where our strengths are,” DiGiovanni says.
Tapp is helping position Wilmington as a digital infrastructure hub. From clean energy to electric vehicles and from AI to fintech, workforce development and healthcare, Tapp is attracting top talent to Delaware to serve their clients representing some of the world’s fastest-growing corporations and economic sectors. Denso-Japan, Microsoft, Iteris, Hubspot, Athena-Healthcare, Nonstop Wellness, CSC Global, Solomon Energy, Juice Bar EV Charging Stations and Google are just a few of the international companies seeking Tapp’s software development expertise and digital marketing services.
Tapp also leads the global digital infrastructure wave in the nonprofit sector. Tapp recently formed an exclusive alliance with Tech Soup Global, a nonprofit international network of non-governmental organizations serving 80% of all nonprofits worldwide. Tech Soup Global provides technical support and technological tools to other nonprofits, working with 1 million nonprofits in 200 countries.
“First, they were a client,” DiGiovanni says. “Now, we’re the exclusive provider to all of their clients worldwide for website development and digital communication services. If you go to TechSoup and you need software, boom, that’s Microsoft. If you need a website built, we’re the ones that do that, white labeled through Tech Soup, Tapp services more than 200 new clients a year just from that partnership alone.”
Tapp also works with Tech Soup’s Digital Resiliency Fund, where large corporations like Truist and Google give million-dollar grants to help smaller nonprofits become digitally resilient. “We’ve built the platform process and program to help organizations identify and resolve their needs,” DiGiovanni says.
On the civil sector side, TAPP collaborates with government agencies on their digital infrastructure and communications needs. “We’re looking to take the Digital Resiliency Program we built for Tech Soup and offer it here in Delaware, not just for nonprofits but for small and minority-owned businesses,” DiGiovanni says. “I think it could be transformational for the state.”
As an approved state vendor for digital communications, Tapp is preparing to roll out two big marketing campaigns for the Delaware Division of Public Health and the Department of Education’s Pathways program that represent a whole-new omnichannel approach to communications within the state.
“Many states – outside Delaware – historically rely on traditional banner ads, billboards, and social media, often in silos” DiGiovanni says. “We’re bringing artificial intelligence, personalization and data-driven communications to the table to connect the dots and drive measurable impact and positive behavior change. Other states are reaching out as well. Tapp is actively involved in launching a 2.0 version of United Way’s 211 system for the state of Pennsylvania and a learning management system for the State of California and partnering with Microsoft on a COVID-screening platform for students and teachers for the State of New Jersey. Locally, Tapp leads and manages the Its Time Wilmington and Wilm Today tourism campaign, which reached over two billion people in 2021.”
Tapp also was a big part of the state’s census efforts, which were hampered in many states by COVID.
“We were fortunate enough to put the digital tools in place before COVID hit, and that really is what saved it,” DiGiovanni says. “If you look at a lot of nonprofits and the funding that’s going into a lot of these grants around digital resiliency, nonprofits and government agencies need the capacity to communicate digitally, whether it’s fundraising online, email marketing or anything social. We didn’t know COVID was coming, of course, but establishing the digital infrastructure for the census really helped all the communications. If the public-private-social institutions aren’t tied together digitally, things will fall apart. So that’s what helped that work. Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long had the foresight to support us in putting those platforms in place, and it paid off.”
The COVID pandemic has changed Tapp’s approach both internally and with clients.
“I think the ability to collaborate virtually is one of the biggest differences – it helped transform the way we operate as a company,” DiGiovanni says. “A lot of our corporate clients have had to change their business models to focus more on marketing, sales and revenue operations. For nonprofits, it’s the fundraising, virtual events and collaboration tools. How do you communicate with your communities digitally? I think COVID really forced what needed to happen anyway, at least in the nonprofit space.”
For many business owners, there’s what you do and then what gives you joy. For DiGiovanni, the joy comes when people tap into their passion and purpose. “It’s when a client sees the light, when they can do what they’ve always dreamed,” he says. “It’s transferring the innovation from our large business-sector clients to the nonprofit and government sectors that really make us happy. Because if you’re an executive director of a startup nonprofit and it’s just one person, you can completely transform what they’re doing overnight.”
If he had “a pebble in his shoe” about his work, DiGiovanni would say it was the “bureaucracy and red tape nationally from a government standpoint, in terms of thinking outside the box and being creative.”
His suggestion? Be more like Delaware.
“I think that government agencies really need to embrace digital infrastructure and transformation,” he says. “It’s exciting to see Delaware is ahead of the curve and is trying to get that message across.”
Joe DiGiovanni traveled an interesting path to becoming the co-founder of one of the world’s leading digital-transformation agencies. Following his graduation from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, Joe briefly worked in research and development before moving on to marketing medical equipment to hospitals, becoming one of the early users of digital communications and search optimization.
What’s your personal elevator speech?
I lead a balanced life. I’m a yoga instructor. I founded the Nicaragua Yoga Institute. I just started playing pickle ball. It’s important to do what you’re passionate about. And if you can enable people that work for you to have that same freedom to grow, you’ll make work and the world a better place.
What’s the question you wish more people would ask themselves?
What is my intention? If you ask that when you make decisions, you can choose the right path and pivot along the way.
You have one giant billboard. Where do you put it and what does it say?
I would put it in Times Square, and it would say, “Be Grateful.”
Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
It was from my neighbor, who was a film professor at UD, quoting Steven King: “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”
What advice would you give your younger self today?
My daughter is 24, and the advice I’m giving her is to continue to educate yourself. It’s not just about what college you went to. Sometimes that’s one of the last things we look at when we interview people. It’s really about their experience and ability to teach yourself, especially now that there are so many tools to do it online. There are so many opportunities now that weren’t around when we were younger. People can start their own businesses, consult, work for companies and set their own course.
Name a couple of books that have inspired you, that you recommend to others or that you gift.
I just got a copy of “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. It’s a quick 30-minute read and will be my holiday gift for everyone in my family. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” really helped me learn to focus on detail. “Writing to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg helped me think about creative writing and opening up the creative side of my mind. I’ve been reading a lot of Ryan Holliday, particularly the “Daily Stoic,” and Robert Greene’s “Mastery” is a good book for business and personal growth.