Intro to the interview: David Rekuc has been a guest poster on Websites for Small Biz (see: Analytics Tools to Understand Website Visitors) and he has also written posts for Sherryl Perry’s blog (see SEO Gets Social | How to Use Social to Get More out of Search). Recently, I asked him if I could do an interview with him on this blog. I then found out he lives in Edison, New Jersey, a town which borders my little borough of Highland Park. In addition to sharing his wisdom on marketing and social media, Dave shared some personal tribulations with illness. David Rekuc is Marketing Director at Ripen eCommerce, a firm based in Princeton, New Jersey.
1) How did you become a Marketing Director at Ripen eCommerce?
I came on board as a Marketing Analyst in 2011. I was actually the first full time hire at the agency. I saw a lot of potential in the company and knew that if I could drive the results I thought I could, the company would see some tremendous growth and I’d have a bright future with Ripen.
For anyone starting out in digital marketing, I always stress how incredibly important understanding analytics is. At its core, its understanding what drives success and what creates failure. With the right framework, you can measure anything.
With that kind of mindset, you will be able to contribute to any company at any level. Structure what you do around data and you’ll see measurable success and gain trust very quickly.
2) How do you keep up with the tremendous changes in marketing, in SEO, in e-commerce?
Social media is probably the most rapidly changing discipline in digital marketing. It can be difficult to keep up on all the nuances, but most social media follows similar guidelines to success. Once you have those in place, its just about learning the new platform.
SEO link building strategies is mainly the portion of SEO that continually evolves. One way of safe proofing yourself from major changes in your approach is go out and earn the “hard links.” If the link you’re acquiring doesn’t need good content or a relationship, chances are you’re just seeking it for SEO purposes. Find links that would be worth it if search engines didn’t exist and you’ll update-proof your SEO approach.
The evolution of eCommerce depends a little more on your business model than anything else. I have some very unique eCommerce clients and I have some fairly straight forward eCommerce clients. So, some clients have more unique demands, which is honestly what I enjoy most about digital marketing. Always something new to make you scratch your head and think.
3) How do you use social media in your work?
Sadly, I’m not as active personally as I should be. But, for the brands I manage, social media is a very important part of our marketing strategy. I tell clients that you should strive to be the host of the conversation in social media, even if that conversation isn’t about you.
Most marketing channels focus on one part of the buying cycle, but social media seems to have some influence over every step. Here’s how social media effects marketing at each stage of the process.
- Attract – The first step to getting a customer is simply making them aware of your brand. And, in some cases, aware of the product they sell and the need it fulfills. Social media helps expose your brand to new eyes. They may not be buying yet, but now they know who you are. Contests & giveaways can also help collect contact info to be used in other marketing efforts.
- Acquire – When acquiring new customers social media can be extremely helpful in establishing credibility. Reviews can be censored, but customers trust social media sites. If people love your brand, it’s for good reason.
- Retain – For customer retention a good social media presence goes a long way at subtly being a reminder of your brand. Unlike intrusive emails, texts, catalogs, or phone calls, social media is a way to stay in touch that isn’t bothersome. If you’ve got a great business model you’re even delighting these customers to the point of referring your brand, which starts the cycle over again.
4) What lessons can you teach someone who wants to enter marketing?
Start doing it. Today, right now. Go to wordpress, start a blog, start a Facebook page, use Twitter, sign up for adwords (and get mailed a coupon to experiment with), install Google Analytics on your blog, read SEOmoz, read Search Engine Land, read Kaushik.net, read conversion rate experts, read this blog. The key to learning is doing, absolutely nothing teaches you the ins and outs of marketing like doing it.
The beautiful thing about digital marketing is it’s completely documented online. The Internet is your bookstore. Make sure you measure everything you do and you’ll learn how to create marketing programs that drive value.
5) What is it like to work at Ripen eCommerce? Can you tell us about the workplace, the day to day routine, your co-workers?
It’s definitely a fun environment to work in. We have a lot of bright, energetic people working here and it definitely creates an environment for ideas to thrive.
Day to day varies so much for me it’s hard to say. What I try to do for the most part is find ways to give my team the tools they need to optimize our marketing campaigns and strive for constant improvement.
6) On a more personal note, I understand you had a very difficult experience with your health when you were in college. Do you feel comfortable sharing that experience with us?
I did have a pretty unique medical experience when I was going in to senior year. I developed an auto-immune disease, which is basically your immune system being overactive and attacking your own body. I turned yellow and had non-viral hepatitis, followed by a severe case of aplastic anemia.
When I first came down with the illness I spent over 2 months as an in-patient. I was in and out of hospitals for 18 months, ultimately receiving a bone marrow transplant and finally started to get better. In that time I’d received over 100 units of red blood, 100 units of platelets, and had 9 bone marrow biopsies.
This year I celebrated my 5 year anniversary of receiving my transplant. It was definitely a unique experience that provides perspective on life. It has definitely made me more understanding of people dealing with extraordinary circumstances that are beyond their control. I strongly encourage anyone interested in the bone marrow registry to check out some facts about the registry here: marrow.org.
7) Can you talk about Rowan University? I’ve met some science students and a professor there through my work at NJSGC (New Jersey Space Grant Consortium) – they seemed quite motivated and talented. Can you tell us about the marketing department or business college?
Glassboro state received a pretty significant grant from Henry Rowan a few years back and part of the stipulation was that the money would be primarily put towards the sciences and education. So, the facilities for those subjects have really come a very long way.
Since I’ve graduated, the campus has really started to expand and develop further. I’m happy that it feels like it’s on its way to more national recognition.
The education I got there was definitely a good foundation for me to build my career on. I think I’d like to see a little more hands on experienced stressed in all higher education though. I feel like you’re taught how to be a CMO before you’ve learned how to do basic market research.
In general, Rowan students are fairly well motivated. I’ve had a couple interns from there and I do think the school produces well-equipped students for a professional business career. I’ve always felt that it takes a stand-out student from any university though to really make something of themselves in the field. You have to be highly motivated and really enjoy what you do or its going to be hard for you to cut it in the marketing world.
8) I understand you live in Edison, NJ – what are some of the highlights of living in Edison? In central New Jersey?
I really enjoy the accessibility of so much to do. You’re less than an hour from NYC, less than an hour from the beach, an hour and a half from some ski slopes in the winter. As someone who grew up in the country more, I can enjoy the city, but couldn’t live in it. Central Jersey helps walk that line of having things to do, but not needing to live the city life.
Thank you, Dave, for sharing your experiences, outlook and ideas. If you liked this interview with a central New Jersey business person, see also Interview with Zion Kim and Social Media at Rutgers with Greg Jarboe.