Raquel Ploetz Of Whereoware On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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Competitive Awareness — Keep your eye on your competition for ideas on what to do and what not to do. Of course, don’t just copy and paste — put your spin on an idea and do it better.

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 Raquel Ploetz.

Raquel Ploetz is Vice President, Strategic Solutions at Whereoware. Raquel specializes in the digital strategy, development, activation, and optimization of omni channel marketing strategies and tactics across platforms — digital advertising, paid search, social media, search engine optimization, UX website optimization, online lead generation, and e-commerce. She brings past experience from companies like Gannett/USA Today Network, Ford Motor Company, Brand Labs, Crain Communications, and Digitas.

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?

Sure, I was recruited from Michigan State University to attend Ford Motor Company’s College Graduate Program for Marketing and Sales. It was a fantastic opportunity to gain exposure to different aspects of the business, as Ford Motor rotated people through different marketing and sales positions every 9–15 months.

It was a whirlwind of learning different aspects of sales and marketing, in addition to formal trainings, like communicating to different audiences and clients.

Later, I worked for an agency, supporting clients like General Motors. At this point, we were experiencing the very first waves of digital transformation — businesses were going from no online presence at all, to establishing their first website. From there, the question became: how do I get my website found, which introduced organic and paid search to the equation.

I gained exposure across this spectrum at a time when so much was brand new — display, e-commerce, mobile responsiveness. This ultimately led me to specialize in omni-channel and connecting the dots between online and offline channels.

The pace of change is incredible, and it’s been really exciting, rewarding, and a ton of fun to be a part of that transformation.

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? 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?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. What stands out more than any one instance is the people and mentors I’ve had that gave me grace to work through and problem solve mistakes.

I’ve been lucky to be mentored by intelligent and empathetic people, who recognized that every mistake is a learning experience.

People put so much stress on themselves to be perfect — particularly at early stages in your career. Ultimately, mistakes are part and parcel to figuring out what works best.

This was especially true when digital channels and tactics were brand new — we had to test and experiment to see what would work best for each client and goal. You cannot fear making mistakes, it’s how you grow, learn, and innovate.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Whereoware is a full-service digital experience agency. Our services span the full online success spectrum — from website and Salesforce development, creative design, UX, marketing automation, digital strategy and consulting, SEO, and PPC advertising.

With our broad expertise, we’re able to take a holistic view of our clients’ business and presence in the digital space. As an outsider looking in, we determine: what can we do to help clients achieve their goals externally (improving their customers’ experience) and how can we make their goals more achievable by improving processes for their internal teams?

Ultimately, we combine inbound and outbound strategies with guidance on the right platforms and tools to achieve better outcomes and find efficiencies. This full-picture approach pays off: Whereoware has some clients who’ve been with us for more than 10 years. They may have started with a single challenge or service, and now we support their full digital ecosystem, from their website, to marketing, media, and continuous optimization.

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?

First, a willingness to take a chance and fail. To succeed, you need to be confident, actionable, and unafraid to fail. I got here by taking on new jobs where I had the applicable marketing, sales, and strategy experience, but was constantly learning something new.

On that same note, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve been lucky to have the support and encouragement of others to take leaps throughout my career. It paid off, giving me the depth of experience to build my confidence, the drive to learn what makes me actionable, and the desire to achieve the success that supersedes any fear of failure.

Finally, always be prepared and dive right in. Some people wait until things are perfect to launch, and unintentionally, launch very little. Instead, you need to do your homework, know your reasons for taking action, and then — act.

Recently, I had an important client presentation with a handful of my senior team mates. It was a big deal and important to get right. The pressure for precision was high, which of course, had the Universe laughing. My flight ended up delayed, and I literally had to run from my Uber into the conference room with the clients, directly to the front of the room to begin the presentation. There was no pausing or taking a deep breath, it was go time — and luckily, I knew what I was talking about, was prepared, and knew what was at stake. I dived right in and it paid off.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Using data to personalize digital experience is table stakes from a customer expectation POV. From paid media to email to your website — customers now embrace personalization, as long as it is valuable, like helping them complete tasks and find what they need faster.

But, with recent changes to regulations and access to third-party data to marketers, it’s becoming more challenging.

These types of challenges are exciting to me. How do you give customers the personalization they expect, when you no longer have the ease of access to third party data? It gives us an opportunity to be really strategic and find strategies to hone in on a customer-first mindset — what are the best strategies to nurture customer loyalty to therefore get that zero-and first-party data that is the foundation for personalization? It’s a lot of testing, trial and error, and going back to the basics of focusing on customer value.

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.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is being impatient. They want to test or run a pilot, with the expectation that they will see good results right away, but they have too small a budget and too small a timeframe to see meaningful results.

They then either get disappointed and stop, or make incorrect assumptions that are not quantitatively sound.

You have to understand the marketplace, establish the right budget (if your cost per conversion is higher than your spend, it will take months to get a meaningful conversion).

Another common mistake is being distracted by the new shiny object — like TikTok — and not caring that your audience isn’t there or isn’t engaging with your type of brand on that platform.

Your channel strategy needs to match and align with the goals you’re trying to achieve, and you need to be patient and realistic about what can be achieved with a particular budget, timeframe, and audience.

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.

First, determine your target audience to develop a personalized customer journey and content,

Look for actionable data from across your organization to predict the audience’s motivations, questions, concerns, and recent website activity. The goal is to learn as much as possible about your audience to define the right marketing strategy for the campaign.

Next, define SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Continuously return to your goals and identify small changes to make incremental improvements to the campaign.

Build the foundation — landing pages, email and ad copy, visuals. Map out the campaign strategy and steps your customers will take, and build out all the assets. Maximize your content and campaign assets by integrating your campaign across channels — PPC, email, social, etc.

Launch the campaign, analyze performance, and determine optimizations to make it more successful in the future.

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?

Paid Search — you’re able to target people that are raising their hand and saying they are interested in your topic, product, or service. You can meet them mid-funnel, versus trying to find them, or trying to figure out where they are in the sales cycle.

You can also target the audience in a far more finite way with paid search then other platforms. You’re getting awareness without a cost, and then the cost is only directly tied to their action (conversion).

Let’s now talk about email marketing and PPC campaigns for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

Sure, whether it’s PPC, email, or any other campaign, you must determine your:

  • Target — you need to know who the audience is you’re trying to reach and where they engage.
  • Goal — you need to set a clear definition of success.
  • Messaging — you need to understand the information your audience is seeking, within the context of the time and place (channel), and then leverage that knowledge to craft a successful message (inclusive of copy and visuals).

It is nearly impossible to be successful if you take any of these three things away. I’ll throw in a fourth — measurement and optimization. Every campaign needs a 360-degree approach, and that includes analyzing results and determining actionable steps to improve performance ongoing.

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?

I’m all about any tools that provide good data about your audience and their behavior. A few of my favorites are:

  1. Google Analytics is a longstanding favorite for obvious reasons, but we’ve recently been focused on helping clients migrate to GA4. GA4 is exciting for anyone that has struggled to track users across devices or across websites and apps. For most of our customers, we are excited GA4 provides reporting features previously only available in GA360. It’s also a necessary timely change — Google Analytics will not be supported after this summer.
  2. Mouseflow is an excellent tool to improve website conversions, UX, SEO, and so much more. It provides user web session recordings, heatmaps, funnel reports, site visitor surveys and more. Marketers can use it to see with their own eyes pain points or opportunities to improve their website, and learn about their site visitors.
  3. AdMall is a great tool to leverage when looking for audience and market intelligence. Their reporting provides insight into the types of advertising target audiences respond to as well as purchase intent and lifestyle information.
  4. PRIZM data is a wonderful way to generate personas around your target audience. You can use their existing 68 segments or create your own through an existing customer list or PRIZM selections. Once your target is established you can learn more about their demographics, behavior, lifestyles and activities.
  5. eMarketer is a great source to stay up-to-date on retail, marketing and media trends.

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?

  1. Adaptation — The digital space is ever changing — everything from new technologies, platform capabilities, algorithms, data regulations, and best practices change on a dime and marketers need to adapt their approach. It’s challenging to stay up-to-speed on the changes in processes, practices, etc., but it’s the only way to recognize opportunities to better connect brands to their audience.
  2. Holistic mindset — Customer journeys are never linear — customers bounce between different channels to engage with brands, research alternatives, and build momentum toward a conversion. It’s important to be thoughtful in how you engage with each touchpoint and channel to guide that journey. It’s equally important to look across all engagements to ensure brand consistency, provide a seamless shopping experience for your customer, and gain a complete picture of what’s working across marketing efforts. To customers, every interaction is a single brand experience, and marketers need to treat the omni channel strategy the same way — as a single, seamless, and satisfactory brand experience.
  3. Partnership — You and the client brands you work with are partners. They are trusting you to provide expertise, strategy, and flawless execution to drive their goals and support their business. Earning and keeping that trust is paramount. Position yourself as an extension of their team, with common goals and full transparency, to nurture a successful relationship.
  4. Competitive Awareness — Keep your eye on your competition for ideas on what to do and what not to do. Of course, don’t just copy and paste — put your spin on an idea and do it better.
  5. Take chances — marketers must always test limits and tactics to create better outcomes and reach different audiences. Taking chances is key to discovering impactful strategies, but the approach needs to be centered in goals and data. Formulate a good test, learn from the results, and plan the next strategy against those learnings. Celebrate both wins and losses, because both inform future decisions and better results.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

Business Harvard Review, eMarketer, Ted Talks, etc.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. 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. :-)

Growing up, my dad used to tell us to leave the room better than we found it. As an adult, and even more so as a leader, I find myself wanting to leave people, places, processes better than when we first met.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow www.whereoware.com and sign up for our email list. We share digital best practices and trends to help marketers simplify technical topics, grow their skillset, and gain inspiration

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

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Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market