MarTech Interview with RJ Licata, Senior Director of Marketing at Terakeet

Get hands on knowledge about the evolving landscape, fostering innovation, leveraging data, and navigating unexpected changes in the industry.
MarTech Interview

RJ Licata, with over 15 years in digital marketing, please share a pivotal moment in your career that significantly influenced your approach to driving organic growth and brand awareness.
The rapid evolution and addition of new tools and channels over the last 15-20 years has in some ways become a distraction for all marketers. The moment I recognized that they’re tools to be leveraged and not marketing mandates fundamentally changed how I approach strategy development and execution.

One of our marketing department tenets at Terakeet is “eyes on the prize” and that is in reference to avoiding shiny objects unless they can be directly in service to reaching our objectives. New, trendy, and fun are not good reasons to commit to a tool or channel. And for that reason, often the tried-and-true methods – the ones that are old, forgotten, and boring – are the best choices. In other words, marketing fundamentals haven’t changed in hundreds of years. That’s because humans haven’t changed much in that time. Stick to what has worked for centuries. And if a tool helps you with that, then great.

How do you balance the need for agility in decision-making with the importance of tried-and-true marketing tactics?
The tried-and-true marketing tactics are the easy decisions to make. If you know something works and the impact outweighs the cost and lift, then there’s no reason to stop. Where I think agility is important is in allowing some room for flexibility – for when unanticipated opportunities come your way or so that you can take the time to test new things. Ultimately, agility is about reserving the right to say no to things that don’t work just as much as it’s about providing the freedom to say yes. Something I always preach to my team is the importance of killing our darlings. We can’t get bogged down in projects that don’t drive enough impact to justify the time or cost they demand. Sometimes that’s a hard decision to make—especially when they’re projects we really care about—but allowing the ROI and impact to be our compass has helped us stay agile, trim the fat of our strategies, and ensure we are as efficient and effective as possible.

Leading a team of talented marketers is no small feat. How do you foster a collaborative and innovative environment within your marketing team at Terakeet?
It starts with hiring the right people. Of course, we want them to be skilled and capable marketers, but it’s as important (perhaps most important) that they are team players. Collaboration and innovation can only flourish if there’s trust in and respect for one another. It’s important to me that individuals on our team have confidence without ego. The willingness to do whatever is necessary and trust that their teammates will support when needed is the foundation for innovative thinking. It allows us all to step outside our specific roles when the situation calls for it and, in my experience, it’s at those times when the most creative and innovative breakthroughs occur.

Data-driven strategies are a cornerstone of your role. How does Terakeet leverage data to inform marketing strategies and ensure tangible results?
We use a variety of data sources, from organic search intent to website analytics, third-party research, social media engagement, and proprietary data. The data by itself isn’t very useful, though. It’s when all of these data sources are analyzed by our team of experts — with the goal of understanding real-time consumer behavior — that the story comes together. That’s what enables us to create strategies that meet consumer needs in real-time and build a lasting connection.

Terakeet’s journey from a start-up to a partner for Fortune 500 companies is impressive. What strategies or principles have played a crucial role in this growth trajectory?
Since my first day at Terakeet, nearly 10 years ago, I have been impressed by the company’s willingness to innovate. It’s woven into the DNA of our culture and it really starts with the example set by our co-founders. This general openness to adaptation, evolution, and change has been at the root of our organization’s growth. Throughout 23 years in business, the company has adjusted its offering based on evolving market and consumer demand, starting with the dot-com boom of the early 2000s, through the 2008 recession, and past the COVID-19 pandemic. Our leadership has consistently been willing to ask the tough questions, look at our impact with a critical eye, and make the necessary shifts to continue delivering the most value to our customers. It’s positioned us to be seasoned, well-rounded partners for our clients.

Where do you typically seek inspiration for innovative marketing approaches, and how do you encourage your team to stay ahead in the fast-paced digital marketing landscape?
Of course, mainstream and niche business and marketing news sites and podcasts are helpful in keeping up with the rapid and non-stop changes to digital marketing. I read a lot of books, too, and I am often sharing thoughts or ideas I’ve picked up from what I’m reading with my team. There’s plenty to learn from those resources. But for me, the most useful inspiration comes from more unexpected places. As someone who loves a good analogy, I tend to find relevant marketing and leadership lessons in the most unexpected places. If you’re open to making those connections, you never know when a throwaway line from an ’80s comedy might unlock an “aha” that provides a solution to a problem you’ve been struggling with.

You emphasize the importance of agility in marketing decisions. How has this approach proven beneficial, especially in adapting to unexpected industry changes or trends?
Leaving room for fluid decision-making is critical – especially with how fast things move in marketing today. Terakeet has long prioritized being on the cutting edge of our industry and, without bias, I believe has been very good at anticipating where things are going. Most recently, our creation of OAO (owned asset optimization) has positioned us well to benefit from shifts in both macroeconomics as well as the evolving needs of the CMOs and brands we work with. Decisions like these don’t happen by accident. Our leadership is really good at giving these moves the appropriate amount of consideration, but we’re also very committed once we’ve made a decision. And to a person, our team has gotten good at being comfortable with the uncomfortability that these types of changes bring.

Salesmark Global

Your self-deprecating nature is refreshing. Can you share an instance where embracing humility contributed to a positive outcome or a valuable learning experience for the team?
When used well, I think self-deprecation is a superpower. It’s not so much the humility or the joke at your own expense that is valuable. It’s the vulnerability that it displays. It tells people that you are comfortable knocking yourself down a notch because you’re not afraid to be vulnerable. This builds trust in and devotion toward a leader. And it signals to the team that you’ll hold yourself accountable just as much, maybe even more than you do with them. One of the biggest breakthroughs for any leader is the day that they realize they will only reach their full potential when they acknowledge and accept that they should not be the smartest person in the room. I may know the most about the full picture, but if I’m not surrounded by experts who know more about their individual disciplines than I do, then there’s no way our team can be at our best. Not only is it a major unlock, it’s also very refreshing and relaxing to realize you don’t have to do it all. I’m learning something new every day from our team and, generally speaking, my biggest contribution to the team and our achievements has come from hiring really smart people and putting them in the best position to succeed. Put them in that position and then get out of the way!

How do you see the future of digital marketing evolving, and what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate for Terakeet in this landscape?
Over the past decade, consumers have become increasingly inundated with content, and if brands continue to flood the market with disconnected messages — a likely reality with the near-certain rise of AI content tools — audiences will continue to tune them out. The need for a reception marketing approach (providing consumers with the right content at the right time, i.e. when they’re most receptive to it) is at an all-time high, and consumer expectations for that type of content will only continue to grow.

To me, this means that the marketing industry will shift toward a more personalized and customer-centric approach. I believe marketers will pair the use of emerging AI tech with human expertise and well-rounded consumer behavior data to be able to better understand their customers and deliver more personalized content.

With the introduction of owned asset optimization, we’ve been playing in this future state for a while now at Terakeet. But I think this even more personalized future provides an opportunity for OAO to grow in industry popularity, and for us to expand our own OAO offering and continue to understand what consumers truly need so that we can help our clients build a robust online presence that leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

As we conclude, is there a piece of advice you’d like to share with fellow marketers or aspiring professionals in the industry?
Whenever possible, bet on yourself. This is something that took me longer to understand and embrace than I’d like to admit, but once I began to make personal and professional decisions with this philosophy in mind, I’ve seen so many more doors unlock. This doesn’t mean to only think of yourself, but rather it’s about having the confidence to trust in your abilities and make decisions that extend you outside of your comfort zone. It’s about being comfortable taking risks because you believe that you can do it. Everything we do is a series of bets we make and too often we leave them up to chance. Don’t leave those things up to chance. Bet on yourself to get it done.

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RJ Licata, Senior Director of Marketing at Terakeet

RJ Licata is the Sr. Director of Marketing at Terakeet, the Fortune 500's preferred owned asset optimization (OAO) partner for strengthening brand and consumer connections. With over 20 years’ experience in the corporate, collegiate athletics, and small business marketing sectors, RJ guides Terakeet’s brand growth, protection, and expansion among its global business partners and growing employee base. He is a leading voice on the value of OAO as a dominant marketing strategy. LinkedIn.
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