I work for Constant Contact UK. We provide digital marketing tools for small businesses. Constant Contact is best known for its email marketing tools and world-class free customer support and training. The training bit is my job, and I run free best-practice workshops all over the UK, which are open to all small businesses.
What was the catalyst that made you decide to go into business?
Before I joined Constant Contact I was running my own marketing business as The Small Business Marketing Mentor. I had been running a property company with a business partner and when the bottom fell out of the property market we had to look elsewhere – I decided to focus on helping small businesses to promote themselves. Very simply, it was what I knew how to do, and what I loved spending my time on.
What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur at the time?
I was already an entrepreneur but this was my first time having a business completely on my own. More than anything it was fear that stopped me jumping for it sooner, but I got over that with help from friends.
What was the best business advice you were given?
You have to work ON your business, not just IN your business. This means that strategy and working on the bigger picture are vital, but it’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of delivering your services or making your products.
What is the most exciting thing happening in your sector right now?
Our sector is digital marketing, and particularly email marketing and social media. There are LOTS of exciting things happening because the technology moves so very fast. One thing jumps out at me in particular:
The move to mainstream mobile – with 42% of ALL email read on a mobile device, and mobile twitter use now surpassing computer-based twitter use, everyone has to think mobile when it comes to email marketing. We’ve developed special mobile-friendly templates for our customers for this very reason.
What are your customers demanding more from you at the moment ?
Our customers want tools that make them look good and get them results. That’s what our whole business is based around. Constant Contact works with over half a million customers around the world, and we do some great stuff for them including everything from free live telephone support, to smart-looking templates that our customers can match to their own brands. One of the newest things is that we have a new contacts system currently being rolled out, which works as a mini CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to help our customers manage their customers better.
What social media tool are you using at the moment (?
At the moment, I’m using Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) regularly, and Buffer makes it easy to stack up social content ready to post. It’s not got lots of bells and whistles, but it does one thing really well and I like that.
What is your take on personal business failures?
Everyone has some kind of business failure, and it’s an important learning experience. I think that the ‘fail forward’ approach to business (where you keep trying things and embrace the failures as helpful) is a great idea. Here’s a good article on that from Upstart Business Journal by Tom Ogilvie: http://upstart.bizjournals.com/resources/executive-forum/2012/10/02/fail-forward-succeed-sooner.html.
What is difference that is making the difference for success in business at the moment?
One word: authenticity. We have moved into a small business economy where customers value why you do what you do and want to understand it. They are also better at spotting people or businesses that are pretending and stringing them along. The best businesses feel innately ‘real’ and small businesses have an advantage as this is easier for them to achieve than it is for big businesses.
Who are you following on Twitter?
I’m following a lot of people on Twitter, and there are a few different reasons why. Here’s a few:
My peers – I learn so much from other small business marketers, and some of them I’ve come to know very well and we have worked together. Two of my favourites are @topleftdesign and @aliciacowan.
My colleagues – Even when you speak to someone regularly at work, you can find a different aspect of them on Twitter. Also, it’s nice to retweet them occasionally and chat back to them. In the UK, that means @ctctuk, @minal2804, @ and @annette_iafrate.
My friends and family – It’s a great way to keep in touch, and also to support friends and family. Just 3 of them are @afdit (my brother, a geek living in Barcelona), @thriftystitcher (a friend who runs brilliant sewing classes), and @karenhaller (another friend who is a colour expert).
My inspiration – This is a big list, and covers personal and professional inspiration. Two of them are @stephenfry (personal), and @petershankman (professional).
Our customers – It makes sense to know what they’re up to so that we can retweet them, talk to them, help them out and generally send them some love.
Our competitors – Know what your competition is up to (tip – you can add them to a private list without following them if you want to be sneaky).
People and organisations I/we want to work with – A great way to start a conversation is on Twitter. I follow lots of organisations that are on my ‘wish list’ and just start speaking to them. You never know where it will go.
What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs?
I like The E-Myth Revisited. It really helps to change your perspective on running a business and how to manage the different hats that you have to wear as a business owner. Highly recommended!
What is your favourite quote?
I don’t know if it’s a quote or a saying: ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’. This means that you can achieve what you want to achieve, but also that you need to think about it first – don’t just try and bludgeon your way through.
What next for your business?
We’re new to the UK (in terms of having an office here) but already have lots of UK customers, so one of our main objectives right now is to give our customers the very best training and support that we can, so that they can be more successful, and will tell other people about us (even more than they do already!).
What colour knickers are you wearing?! …just teasing. Something I always like to know about people is what they love to do outside of their business. For me, I am a voracious reader and also love animals, so spend a lot of time with our dogs. When we’re not at home on our boat, my husband and I also love to travel, and went to Thailand and South Korea last year, which was wonderful. I’m not sure where we’ll go this year yet, but it will be fun.
Web site address: www.constantcontact.co.uk. You can find also my articles on our blog at: http://blog.constantcontact.co.uk/ and my free training events at: http://www.constantcontact.com/uk/local/unitedkingdom/index.jsp.