T'87

Gail Goodman

CEO, Constant Contact

Small businesses tend to think of marketing as optional, but it really isn’t. You need a customer engine to feed your business.

After gaining experience at several software startups, Gail Goodman T’87 launched her own in 1999. As CEO of the online marketing company Constant Contact, Goodman has helped more than a half-million and counting small-business customers navigate a rapidly evolving industry. “Small businesses tend to think of marketing as optional, but it really isn’t. You need a customer engine to feed your business,” she says. “The great news is that your customers are online and your ability to reach them has never been better.” Below are her tips for how small businesses can use online marketing tools.

With modern tools, marketing becomes unbelievably easy, inexpensive, effective, and trackable. When I find small businesses not marketing, they run through the same litany of reasons but there is absolutely no excuse. Think you don’t have the time? It’s quick. Think you don’t have the money? It’s inexpensive or even free. Think you don’t have the know-how? There are lots of tools and resources to help you learn.

Small businesses actually have huge marketing advantages. Not only are they face-to-face, talking with their customers every day, but their customers care. There’s a real connection and small businesses are better at speaking in their own voices with sincerity. When it comes to email marketing, for example, small businesses get higher open and click-through rates.

With your marketing, start small and grow. It’s a mistake to try to do 10 things at once. Instead, do one thing, master it, then do the next. Everyone should start with email—it’s your best marketing tool and the No. 1 thing people open on their mobile devices.

Then, you can begin to add social media marketing. What social channel is right for your business varies widely. If you’re business-to-business, it’s more likely to be LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re business-to-consumer, it’s more likely to be Facebook leading to Pinterest and Instagram and others. Figure out where your customers are by chatting with or surveying them.

Benchmark yourself against yourself. It sounds very simple, but make each marketing campaign better than the last one. As you come up with your annual calendar of reasons to reach out, track how each of last year’s pushes went and vow to be 10 percent better every time this year.

Only spend marketing money when you’re actually ready. Every small business today gets sales calls from online marketing companies who offer to draw online traffic if you hire them. But what’s the point if you don’t know how to convert online traffic into real customers? The key is to “start from the heart.” Start from your customers and build outward. Create that “wow” experience for your current customers, capture their contact information so you can stay in touch with them, and start this virtuous cycle. I wrote about this in my how-to book, “Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected World.”

If you need marketing help, ask for it. There are lots of resources, like the American Express Open Forum, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or the nonprofit SCORE. My company, Constant Contact, has a great blog, does free local seminars, and offers a free trial of our services with a real-life coach. I’d also recommend talking to your neighboring businesses as well as attending chamber of commerce and local networking meetings. In the small business community, people are very generous with their time and expertise so just ask.

Whatever your business, marketing can’t overcome weaknesses in your customer experience. Before you spend a dollar on marketing, make sure that if you pull someone into your business, you’re going to create a raving fan who tells their friends. If you start with that, every marketing dollar you actually spend is going to be multiplied.

Continue Reading

Related Stories

How to Keep Your Company Data Secure

What Alison Connolly T’11 finds fascinating, most corporate leaders find terrifying. The director of strategic partnerships at DarkOwl is an expert on the darknet.

Read More

How to Make a Successful Startup Pitch

In her seven years as a venture partner at LaunchCapital in Cambridge, Mass., Heather Onstott T’07 has heard about 1,000 pitches from startups.

Read More

Marketing a Disruptive Brand

Twitch is a live streaming platform with a growing global brand and two Tuck alumni, Kate Jhaveri T’03 and Michael Aragon T’01, are leading marketing and innovation.

Read More

Ana Sanchez

When Ana Sanchez D'97 T’03 joined Colgate-Palmolive in 2003, she thought she’d only stay for a few years and move on. Nearly 15 years and a couple of international assignments later, she’s still with the company, serving as its UK marketing director.

Read More

How to Promote Diversity and Nurture Talent

After Tuck, Suzanne Schaefer T’02 went into management consulting, figuring that eventually she might connect with a particular industry—to her surprise, she instead felt a strong pull toward recruiting and talent development.

Read More

Cassie Lancellotti-Young

Cassie Lancellotti-Young T’11 came to Tuck with a passion for marketing. Today she’s leveraging that passion and the teamwork skills she learned at Tuck to help major retailers enhance their customers’ experiences.

Read More

Tom Christie

For Tom Christie T’85, the COO of Showtime, show business has been the proving ground for an unforgettable lesson from Tuck.

Read More

Heather King

At Tuck, Heather King D'81, T'86 dove into an independent study that laid the groundwork for a career that included stops at Apple, NeXT and the experience-design firm Eight Inc.

Read More

Cristobal Rivera

Cris Rivera T'08 loves a good challenge, which is part of what drew him—an avowed city lover and marketing wonk—to Tuck. 

Read More

Nancy Zhuo

The Chinese economy has grown tremendously since 1989, and so have the opportunities for enterprising Tuck graduates, like Nancy Zhuo T'13.

Read More

On Networking

Not many people in ball bearing sales finish their careers in venture capital. For Mike Carusi T’93, now one of the most successful health care investors in Silicon Valley, that unlikely journey started with two eye-opening years at Tuck. 

Read More

Beth Spruance

Beth Spruance T'96 began her career insuring boards of directors at American International Group (AIG), but found herself  more interested in the companies she was insuring.

Read More

On Leadership

Bill Achtmeyer T’81 has worked with hundreds of senior executives at Fortune 500 companies and shares five pieces of advice for managing a large organization effectively.

Read More

On Establishing Your Personal Brand

Helen Kurtz T’97, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of Foster Farms, Inc. talks establishing your personal brand. 

Read More

Tips for Transforming Your Career

After positions of increasing seniority at Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, and JPMorgan, Kate Grussing T’91 decided she wanted to transform her career by helping others transform theirs.

Read More

On the Rewards of Nonprofit Board Service

Amy Houston T’97 was inspired to attend Tuck after seeing firsthand how a board with for-profit management experience can help a nonprofit, and she kept this lesson in mind when she joined the Robin Hood Foundation.

Read More

On Influencing Company Culture

In his six seasons as executive vice president and chief human resources officer for the National Football League, Robert Gulliver T’97 has helped manage the NFL through some major cultural shifts.

Read More

John Chandler

MassMutual CMO and T'86 John Chandler’s data-driven approach to marketing has propelled the venerable life insurance company to the upper echelons of the industry and transformed the way it tells its story. And he’s only getting started.

Read More

Kristen Balderston

After working in marketing and academic administration, Kristen Balderston T'84 took a 20-year hiatus to raise two children before returning to the workforce to help other women do the same.

Read More

Carly Rosenberg

Digital marketing was practically in the stone ages when Carly Rosenberg T'05 graduated from Tuck and went to work as a marketing manager at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Read More

Leela Srinivasan

At LinkedIn, Leela Srinivasan T'06 helped corporate recruiters find top talent.

Read More

Lindsay Batastini

When you visit your local health food store or supermarket, you might notice a new natural sensitive toothpaste from Tom’s of Maine; Lindsay Batastini T'09 has been working on the creation and launch of "Rapid Relief" for almost three years.

Read More