Navigating the road to success through education in digital media
Story by Donna Reges Hall
Though he didn’t know it was his true calling at the time, Mark Rockett fell into the advertising business young and stayed. He got an early start working through college in the company his father was a partner in, originally called McKinney Silver & Rockett, and moved his way up from the mail room to production and eventually into account management and media.
Rockett had the vision that digital media was the future of his field and was ready to go out on his own. In 2003, he became the founder and CEO of Rockett Interactive, which is a full-service advertising agency that creates and manages every aspect of a client’s online presence, from Web development to display and search planning.
Rockett says that his favorite part of his job is educating clients and wowing them with the advertising options available today.
“We’re very big on educating. When they bring in clients, a lot of other agencies typically will put everything down behind the screen like in Wizard of Oz and not let them know what’s going on,” Rockett says. “We found that the more we can educate our customers, the more engaged they will be with the process and ultimately, the more business we’re going to get from them. Because if you let them know what’s going on, then there’s typically a lot of additional things and it opens the door.”
Rockett’s company sets itself apart from its competitors in other ways also by combining all approaches to advertising, including traditional and digital, creative and analytic, strategic and fluid. The company is data-driven and specializes in the integration of all digital online marketing channels through one system.
This style works well for Rockett’s analytical mind, which he says handles numbers more easily than the strictly creative side of advertising.
“With the digital side, I can look at a set of numbers that would probably boggle the mind, and say, ‘Here’s your pattern, here’s where we need to go, and here’s what’s happening,’” he explains.
With his company’s cutting-edge approaches, Rockett says one of his biggest challenges is hiring local people with the right skills.
“Most of the people that are in our industry, that come to us, will sit down and interview and they’re the most confident person in the world,” he says. “And I’ll ask them 15 or 20 questions and they walk out of here with their tail between their legs because they don’t know what they don’t know.”
Rockett uses a recruiter to help with hiring, and he generally gets people from New York or from other big agencies. He says too often people get trained in silo-like environments where they aren’t seeing the big picture and how it all works together. In contrast, his company is truly full service, providing clients with strategic planning, online connection planning, search engine marketing, organic site optimization, web design services, and mobile and social media.
Though his advertising approaches are sophisticated, Rockett enjoys being able to explain things to his clients and have them get excited too.
“I get a great sense of educating. Sitting down and having you say, ‘That’s amazing, that’s cool.’ I love imparting information to people and having them get it,” he says. “And helping marketing directors who have unbelievable pains trying to make sure ‘How is this working, how can I prove that what I’m trying to do is actually working?’ Being able to help and sit down with a frantic person and bring everything down to a very simple level and actually implement it and three months down the road, have them look like a rock star. That’s amazing.”
After working 100-hour weeks straight for the first few years of the business, Rockett is proud to see the results pay off. This is Rockett Interactive’s third time on the Inc. 5000 list and they will be applying again.
“There is something about the third year of business,” Rockett relates as advice that was once given to him. “If you can hold your business up and keep it going for three years, that third year, for whatever reason, tends to be a magical year. And that was very true in our regard.”
Professional coaches have been important to Rockett as he’s developed his business along the way. From completing the StrengthFinders, he discovered that management skills were not his natural expertise, and he delegated those to the company’s current COO Mike Iannelli.
“I realized that many of the things I was working on hard were management,” Rockett says. “And ultimately, my DISC, my work StrengthsFinder, showed I’m never going to be a good manager. And that was very enlightening and very freeing. And that’s one of the reasons we brought in Mike, because he is a great manager of people. I’m very good technically. I’m very good at educating people and planning and understanding we need to get from here to there. I’m a problem solver.”
Rockett listens to lots of audio business books for guidance as well and quotes some of his favorites as The E-Myth, Good to Great and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He has new employees coming in read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog for advice on how to stop procrastinating and manage time effectively.
Rockett lights up when talking about the future of his company.
“We’re creating a database which is going to be pretty amazing. And we are pretty close to having that done,” he says. “Part of that is there’s a mountain of data that comes out of all that we do and for a human being, by the time it takes to analyze all that’s going on, it’s almost too late. So we’ve got the data in a way that we’re going to start getting into algorithm modeling and statistics, so we can begin to automate the process a little bit.”