Engagency Founders Jason and Carla: Masters of Digital Transformation

Jason Perry, President and CEO of Engagency and Carla Romaine, Co-Founder and COO of Engagency.

The virtual world is now an inherent part of our lives. It is a boundless universe that transcends geographical limitations, meaning communicating with someone on the other side of the world is as easy as chatting with a next-door neighbor. Yet its vastness means that marketing messages can easily go astray. To reach their intended audience, they must be honed and targeted. 

Such refinement requires sophisticated tools, as well as experienced practitioners who can wield them effectively. We sat down with two professionals who fit that bill—Jason Perry and Carla Romaine. Together they founded Engagency in 2002, and two decades later, Engagency has developed into a highly successful digital transformation agency. Skip ahead to the interview

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is marketing delivered through the internet or through a digital device, such as a mobile phone. It’s marketing that uses contemporary information and communication technology (ICT) to collect and analyze market data. The aim, of course, is the traditional one of promoting products and services. ICT is mostly digital, hence the ubiquity of the term “digital marketing.” 

Digital marketing differs from traditional marketing in its reliance on digital technologies and more detailed or granular data. A business that is attempting to connect with potential customers through social media, search engines, email, display ads, or website content through text, video, or some other medium, is engaging in digital marketing.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation, in a general sense, is simply the adoption of digital technologies to business processes. Capgemini Consulting defines the term as “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.” Accordingly, digital transformation is the evolutionary process now apparent across many disciplines as new digital technologies replace the old. 

Digital transformation can also mean something rather different. Sitecore, a Digital Experience Platform and Content Hub, says “it’s no longer just about the technology,” going on to provide extended clarification:

“Digital transformation today is about empowering organizations, enabling them to create authentic engagements and meet customer needs, anytime. A digital-first strategy means understanding your customers, building relationships, and delivering memorable experiences. And in today’s environment, effective digital engagement has taken on a whole new sense of urgency.” 

In a blog post, Engagency explains that deciding on a digital experience platform (DXP), like Sitecore or Optimizely, and then understanding how to use it, is a necessity for business.

A DXP “fully integrates all of [a business’s] technologies in a single, yet sophisticated ecosystem that allows them to deliver personalized experiences — at scale — across multiple channels, locations, and languages.”

The Digital Marketing Framework

For many brands and companies, particularly ecommerce enterprises, a website is a vital feature of its digital marketing efforts. Most digital marketing roads lead to a company’s website. The website can also play a centrifugal role as a hub from which marketing programs emanate. A company’s website, in conjunction with various marketing channels, particularly social media, provides the infrastructure of digital marketing. 

Equally important is the content and messaging a brand employs. Digital technologies offer today’s marketers options, such as data analytics, that were difficult to have before. Everything that happens in the digital world leaves a trail of data that can be analyzed to improve an understanding of market dynamics and customer behavior. 

The granularity of this data has led to opportunities to personalize marketing. Marketing personalization attempts to make a customer’s interaction with a brand, including content and messaging, unique and optimized for that customer’s satisfaction. This is rewarding not just for brands but for consumers as well. Brands are able to target only the prospects most likely to purchase their product or service, while consumers enjoy an experience that is more agreeable and convenient.

Content Management Systems

In a virtual world without physical interaction, sight and sound offer the only avenues to participate, hence the saying “content is king.” Content, in this context, is anything experienced by our eyes and ears. Its vastness and variety will usually require a content management system (CMS), software to create and manage text, audio, and video on a website. 

Although a CMS can be manned and modified by those with technical expertise, such as website developers, using it to create and update content requires no programming skills. Anyone who is familiar with basic word processing routines will be able to work with a CMS. Indeed, that is one of the rationales for using a CMS. A CMS allows a non-technical user to quickly and easily create and modify content on a website, with no coding required. 

A CMS, like WordPress, saves time and cost. Instead of limiting change access to web developers, a CMS allows frontline staff to work directly with the user interface (UI). A CMS also allows outdated content to be changed quickly by the staff unit that published it in the first place.

The great advantage of a CMS is that it circumvents IT intermediation and allows marketers to interact with their markets directly. Naturally, developers and other technical staff can add functions and capabilities to a CMS that will allow it to accommodate and respond to a changing business environment. 

A good CMS can be viewed in a browser, which means it can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. Creating or changing content is done through a WYSIWYG (pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”) editor. The editor can be used to add text, images, audio, and video to a webpage. A CMS may also be integrated with Microsoft Word if a user prefers to work with a word processor. New components will, however, need to be added by developers. 

A CMS may have additional functionalities that make it possible to conduct a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. A good example is Sitecore, which has an open API that allows developers to add features and integrate other business tools, such as ERP systems, CRM, and social media. 

Sitecore XP — Sitecore Customer Experience Platform 

Some content management systems, such as Sitecore, are becoming more advanced. Instead of delivering the same content to all customers, they are capable of delivering content that is unique to customers, based on certain characteristics. Customers receive their own personalized content and have an individual encounter with a brand’s content and thus a unique perception and experience of the brand. 

Naturally, this is only possible if data that captures customer attributes, such as gender, is married with customer preferences. Accordingly, customer preferences and behavior are monitored at interaction points, such as the website, social media channels, and other digital platforms. Sitecore goes beyond measuring traffic; the application also evaluates customer engagement. 

Sitecore is an object-based CMS, which allows a separation between actual content and the way that content is presented. Sitecore pages are assembled as and when requested from content that is stored throughout the site. Consequently, content can be used again and again in different formats. Content can also be repurposed for different devices, such as mobile, print RSS, etc.

The application is said to support all languages, including right-to-left languages and double-byte, character-set languages, such as Japanese and Mandarin.

Authoring and Analytics

The user interface of Sitecore XP — Launchpad — presents a dashboard view of the application’s functions, which are grouped into four areas: analytics, content authoring tools, account administration, and in-house administration. It also shows two basic reports: interactions by visits and value per visit and the top five campaigns by visit. 

In line with its object-oriented approach, Sitecore has two editors: an Experience Editor and a Content Editor. The Experience Editor allows an author to edit items—text, images, logos, links, and component-specific personalization—that a visitor can see on a page. It presents content the way visitors to a website would see it. The Content Editor, on the other hand, presents data in a hierarchical Content Tree, giving users a look at the forest as well the trees, as necessary. It’s meant for more advanced users.

The Holy Grail of Personalization

Sitecore is able to construct a profile of each visitor to a site based on a variety of page components. Personalization allows a brand to target content to a site visitor based on their characteristics and behavior, such as location, gender, or previous visits. Personalization increases the likelihood that the content viewed by a visitor to the site is appropriate or bears relevance to the reason for the visit. 

For example, personalization allows content viewed to vary depending on the viewer’s geographical location or to hide a registration form from those who have previously filled out the form or change the text in a website banner based on a visitor’s referring site.

To personalize content, the Sitecore user has at her command a suite of tools, known collectively as the Rule Set Editor. Personalization is determined by the rules the Sitecore user sets up. The rules are constructed from Conditions, such as yes/no questions and Actions the system performs depending on the answer. All these features contribute to making Sitecore a robust marketing platform, as well as a CMS.


Personalization, of course, is a lot easier said than done. Although, no doubt, something marketers may have wanted for a long time. It has only, with the improvement in data analytic technologies in recent times, become possible. A recent Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) survey showed the novelty of marketing personalization: around one-third of respondents felt their organizations were “beginners or novices on the subject.” 

Those companies that recognize and acknowledge their unfamiliarity with marketing personalization need not fear they will be left behind. A budding ecosystem of professional marketing consultants that has embraced personalization are on hand to guide brands, both great and small, in developing their such initiatives. 

One such outfit is the award-winning digital transformation agency Engagency, which for the past six years has been named one of Sitecore’s top global development partners. The company is a Gold Sitecore Certified Partner and a Silver Optimizely Certified Partner. Notable clients of Engagency include Interstate Batteries, Kindercare, Legrand, Materion, Unum, and the giant investment management firm PIMCO. 

Engagency was founded in 2002 by Jason Perry and Carla Romaine. Starting as a developer of websites, the agency now provides a range of digital transformation services. For more than a decade, Engagency has helped brands and agency partners get the most out of Sitecore, Optimizely, and other leading marketing technology platforms. It now offers services such as experience design, information architecture, and content strategy.

Independent research firm Clutch has named Engagency as one of the world’s Top 10 Sitecore Development partners since 2015. According to the Engagency website, the company can help other companies “personalize for different personas, communicate in multiple languages, localize for different markets, optimize for disabilities, comply with data privacy laws, or create experiences for an ever-increasing list of channels and devices.”

The founders are already working on expanding service lines and building new teams to assist customers with everything they need help with, such as UX design, digital transformation planning, and consulting. Jason and Carla were kind enough to share some of their experiences in building the business from a home basement to a multimillion-dollar enterprise operating in Romania, Oregon, Texas, and the Washington D.C. metro area.

Carla Romaine

Carla graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, initially aspiring to be a writer. Her enthusiasm for that calling evaporated, however, after recognizing she would, most likely, end up being an editor at an editor’s salary. Nevertheless, she did manage to write a career guide: “E-Commerce: Careers in Multimedia.”

In those post-graduation years, signs of the incipient revolution in the tech sector were everywhere. Camera phones were still a novelty. Wikipedia was just a year old. But Facebook and YouTube were yet to come. This meant that a growing number of tech startups were competing for talent. It was a good time to consider changing careers.

Carla joined Firefly, which wrote software to make music recommendations based on what people of similar interests were listening to. Her writing skills were put to good use in answering customer support emails, but she wanted more. Eventually, an opportunity arose when a position in the technical writing department became available. Taking it meant learning at least one programming language well enough to translate it into another, along with an accurate description for developers to follow. 

Carla was captivated by the environment she found herself in. It was an experience that cemented her determination to become a techie. “A technologist was born,” she says. Over time, she was able to work in different areas, such as technical writing, project management, web development, database programming, technical analysis, and consulting. They all had their merits and were equally fascinating. Unable to choose a specialization, Carla opted for a role in which “you have to do a little bit of everything.”

She further notes, “My greatest interest is problem-solving with tech, rather than working in only marketing. Taking an idea of something that needs to be accomplished and turning it into something tangible is fascinating to me. “

She met business partner and co-founder of Engagency, Jason Perry, when they both worked at Netcentives, he as an account manager, she as a database programmer. Together, she says, Jason’s fertile imagination and her pragmatism were “a fantastic sort of yin and yang combination.” Jason “was fascinated with the idea of customer engagement” before the term became hackneyed. They kicked off the enterprise with a handful of clients and, through hard work and determination, have grown the business “into something respectable.” 

In those early years, fortitude was an essential requirement: “Sheer determination and the ability to push through when things were hard made me go farther than my peers were willing to go.” 

So too was intellectual curiosity and self-awareness, says Carla. 

“I was willing to learn when it came to technology. As I have aged, my willingness to learn has expanded to lessons more personal, and this has ultimately made it possible to not have to rely so much on fortitude. Being willing to listen to others, to modify my own behavior, to develop humility, to seek out people who are different from me to round out our offering, respecting and leveraging that others are better than I am at things — these have all been vital to getting beyond a company with limitations and moving into a larger world of opportunity.”

Jason Perry

At first, says Jason, Engagency focused on website development. 

“We were building websites on just about every CMS available. We even built several custom web applications. In 2008 we started working with a CMS called Sitecore. 

Working with Sitecore was a turning point for us. When we realized that Sitecore was used by large companies, and they wanted ongoing work, we decided to specialize in this one CMS instead of spreading ourselves thin. So the next phase was really transitioning from being a jack of all trades to being experts in a very complex solution.”

By this time, Engagency had moved on from the point where the founders alone could handle administration, development, and customer outreach. The company was hiring developers and other support staff. Attracting the right people was foremost in their minds.

“For us, it began with intention. We wrote out our cultural mission statement and put it directly in our job descriptions. That drew in like-minded people who valued culture over everything else.”

But the founders recognize that retaining good people is just as important, something that depends on workplace culture. 

“For us, [creating the right type of environment] began with intention. We wrote out our cultural mission statement and put it directly in our job descriptions. That drew in like-minded people who valued culture over everything else.” The basic elements of a healthy workplace environment are “autonomy, communication, and a healthy life/work balance,” he says.

He describes efforts to promote the right culture:

“[P]utting our mission statement in the job description was the catalyst that changed who we were drawing in. From there we started thinking about how to nurture people during the day and their basic needs. We realized that we built a team of introverted workaholics, so we started providing lunch every day and sitting together and building community. Then we started hosting all kinds of fun events. Also, the benefits that we provide really reflect our values in terms of supporting the whole person. For example, in addition to paying 100% of each employee’s health care premiums, we also pay for national and state park passes and encourage people to get out and have fun.”

Assessment of these programs to create a healthy workplace took the form of informal dialogue at first. But the company now employs an HR outfit that conducts anonymous interviews and solicits feedback. Says Jason, “It’s a really helpful exercise, and it gives us really valuable insight into how we can improve and how pleased everyone is with the environment we’ve created together.”

At Engagency, the promotion of a healthy work environment is undoubtedly a result of management’s regard for staff and customers. To end our review of digital transformation agency Engagency, we reflect on that quality, most profoundly articulated by Jason. 

“I try to lead with a servant’s heart, and so does everyone else on our team, so servant leadership is probably the most important attribute responsible for our success.”

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Anthony de Freitas

Anthony is the owner of Kip Art Gifts, an ecommerce store that specializes in art-inspired jewelry, fashion accessories, and other objects. Previously, he worked as an accountant and financial analyst. He enjoys writing on small business, financial intermediation, and economics. Anthony was educated at Wilson’s School and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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