Diving into numbers is extremely important. Ideally you are not just looking at campaign platform numbers but digging into the CRM level to really understand how your campaigns are driving revenue.
Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.
In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Curasi of R2integrated.
Rachel Curasi, Director of Media Services at R2integrated: With 10+ years of experience in the media industry, spanning across both traditional and digital channels, Rachel oversees the development, deployment and optimization of media strategies and campaigns for R2i’s largest accounts across multiple industries, including higher ed, healthcare, tech, retail, finance. She loves to keep up with industry trends, finding new and innovative ideas for her client’s strategies, utilizing data-driven approaches tied back to audience research.
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?
I’ve been working in media from day one of my career. I attended Penn State University and before graduation, I went to one of their networking events in New York City. Through that event I was offered a job with PHD Media as an Assistant Media Planner. I packed up my bags straight from graduation day and went right to New York. It was such an exciting time to be joining the industry, where digital was really just beginning to take off. The always changing, fast-paced environment was so exciting to me. I eventually made my way to R2integrated in Baltimore where I lead the media team and oversee all media activations managed by the agency. Media is so interesting to me because every day in my role is different. There is always something new to learn or test, no matter how many years of experience one may have. Media is the perfect combination of analytical thinking and creativity, and it still challenges me today.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
The one that comes to mind immediately for me is once a client asked for a recommendation targeting LA. As I began to present my holistic media plan targeting the Los Angeles area, I was feeling really good about it, until I quickly learned mid-presentation that when my client communicated LA, she actually meant Louisiana! It turned into a good laugh but now I will forever confirm geographies and any other campaign details I possibly can.
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?
Throughout my career, I tend to find strong female leaders and look up to them as my mentor. I have learned so much from these women and still keep in touch with all of them today. The one I am so grateful for is Kara Alcamo who was my manager when I started working at R2i, over six years ago. With her guidance and teamwork, we formed all of the media processes and solutions, a lot that are still leveraged today! Kara believed in me and because of her I was elevated into the management role that I am in now. I highly recommend that if you find someone at your company that you can learn from, you lean into that and soak in all of the amazing knowledge that they will share. Ask them questions, find ways to collaborate with them, and tell them how much you value their expertise!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
R2i has the most amazing people I have ever worked with. They are smart, innovative, eager to learn and most importantly they do it all with compassion. Any time a team member has a moment of need, other team members will rally together to solve problems and work towards the best solution for the client.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Show empathy — I try my very best to understand what my team members are feeling, what they need and how I can support them. Weekly check ins are key, no matter how busy your week is they should not be pushed to the side.
- Provide Empowerment — I want my team to feel empowered to make decisions on their own but know that I am here to troubleshoot or talk through anything. But ultimately, they are making the final decision with the work that they are managing. This builds confidence and provides more opportunities to learn.
- Team growth — It is so important to set clear paths for all of your team members. Set up goals, track those goals and ensure they understand what it takes to move to the next level.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Over the last few years my team has done a lot of work with Feeding America, managing all of their paid search campaigns. Throughout the pandemic it is amazing to see how many people are donating their funds to families in need during difficult times. It is truly inspiring, and we are so lucky to work with such a great client who is doing so much good.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.
- Mistake 1: Not doing research. When it comes to PPC, it is so important to do diligent research to understand your audience segmentations and the search behaviors of potential customers. Google Ads has a keyword tool that is a great, free resource that allows you understand keyword trends and recommendations.
- Mistake 2: Spreading your marketing efforts too thin. Oftentimes when people are just jumping into PPC media, they want to do everything at once — target all of their audiences and activate 5 channels. It results in every aspect of the campaign being super limited by budget and as a result, not working. Take your time and launch one tactic, one channel at a time so that you understand what is working and how you can capitalize that on your next item.
- Mistake 3: Not testing or too much testing. It is important to map out a testing plan so that it is clear, easy to follow and will allow you to focus on a specific testing item at a time.
If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
When I think about digital marketing plans, the first thing I think about is a conversion funnel and how to map it back to the client’s goal. You ultimately want to ‘fill the funnel’ of their number one goal first (i.e. if it is conversions) and then work your way up. A successful marketing plan hits all aspects of the campaign funnel regardless of the client’s goals.
Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?
In my opinion, Google has the best PPC platform. Google Ads has turned into a strategic tool that we leverage across almost every client. What some may not know is that Google Ads is so much more than just paid search, but they also offer ads through Display, YouTube, Gmail and OTT. They have new products coming out that are still in Beta (like Performance Max) that are changing the game with driving conversions. What is nice about leveraging more than just search through Google is that you will leverage that machine learning and pixel tracking across all channels activated, all within the same platform.
Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?
- Align on campaign goals. If you don’t have this from the beginning, no matter what you do, your campaign will not be successful.
- Proper tracking and pixel placement. In order to track and optimize campaigns, all tracking must be setup properly including UTM URLs, goals in analytics and pixel placement.
- Understand the results — If you can find any opportunity to automate your data so that it is easy to digest, it will make it a lot easier to understand how your campaign is performing and what’s next.
What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?
The other digital marketing tools I am passionate about include the following
- Kantar and MOAT — Best leveraged for competitor research.
- Bid management tools — Like Kenshoo or Adobe ad cloud. These are best used for efficiently optimizing campaign bids.
- SEM Rush — Best used for keyword research and competitor insights.
Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Willing to learn — There is always more to learn and grow. New platforms are always emerging, and tactics shift. This requires ongoing learning.
- Analytical — Diving into numbers is extremely important. Ideally you are not just looking at campaign platform numbers but digging into the CRM level to really understand how your campaigns are driving revenue.
- Willing to test and learn and fail and test again — Testing is key to learn and know what really is successful.
- Open to change — This industry will always grow and change based on outside factors. Solution need to adjust to what the customer needs are.
- Collaborative — A willingness to work with not only team members to find the best solutions for the client, but with the client to set campaign goals that you are both happy with.
What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
- EMarketer podcast
- Digiday podcast
- Search Engineland
- Updates from vendors
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. 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. 🙂
If every company had one volunteer day a month, where the office would close and everyone participated in various local community needs.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!