MarTech Interview With Dave Charest, Director of Small Business Success at Constant Contact

Dave Charest, Director of Small Business Success at Constant Contact shares a few marketing and growth tips for small business teams in this short catch-up with MarTech Series:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Dave, tell us about yourself and more about your role at Constant Contact.

My name is Dave Charest and I’m the director of small business success. My team is focused on making marketing easier for people who don’t have time for marketing by providing practical, step-by-step marketing advice. I’ve been with Constant Contact for over 10 years and it’s been exciting to see the company evolve from email marketing to an easy-to-use digital marketing platform that simplifies so much of what small businesses need to do online to be successful today.

Constant Contact recently worked on a survey on the importance of small businesses, we’d love to hear some of the top highlights!

At Constant Contact, we are champions of small business, and with National Small Business Week happening in early May, we wanted to celebrate the enormous impact that they have on our lives. To do that effectively, we knew we needed to understand exactly how much we rely on them – and what life would look like if they didn’t exist. There is sometimes a lack of awareness about what a small business actually is, and how frequently they touch our lives. A World Without Small Businesses is a new study we published that highlights the starring role small businesses play, and how prevalent they are in both our lifestyles and communities.

Our findings confirmed something we’ve known for a long time – that small businesses power our lives, make us feel good, and give our cities and towns their unique flavor. Moreso, Americans rely on small businesses much more than we realize. They are so deeply ingrained in our lives that we often take for granted how difficult basic things would be without them.

Take this statistic, for example: during a typical week, over 92% of Americans interact with a small business – and more than half of those people engage with at least three small businesses during the same span of time. And, 71% of Americans actually prefer the experience a small business provides, compared to a larger company. That’s according to the more than 2,500 individuals we polled.

Our results make it clear that small businesses are not only a fixture in our communities, they enable us to have the lifestyles that we do. Without the contributions of small businesses like doctors offices, restaurants, and daycare centers, life would be a lot more difficult – and much less interesting!

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The last two years and the Covid-19 pandemic broadcasted more about the importance of small businesses and how they are the backbone of economies in a true sense, how do you feel small businesses today should revamp their status in the market as economies open back up and limp back to a post-pandemic sense?

First, small businesses are resilient. They are always adapting and overcoming obstacles. We’ve seen some amazing adaptations from our customers over the last two years, and many now have stronger relationships with their customers, and more diverse businesses as a result.

In my role, I talk to a lot of small businesses, and the thing I try to remind them is that it’s not all gloom and doom out there. As we saw from our study, small businesses are pivotal to our routines and our cities and towns – so much so that the majority of consumers are still seeking them out, despite ongoing economic concerns. In fact, 70% of shoppers plan to support small businesses regardless of whether they are touched by inflation. That’s a powerful statement of how important these businesses are.

The other thing is, there are so many tools available to small businesses that enable them to reach their customers and generate more business. If you have the right attitude, and the right tools, its possible to stand out from the crowd and even thrive. If small businesses have taught us anything, it’s that every obstacle can be an opportunity.

A quick change of pace; we’d love to hear about the Constant Contact platform and how it has evolved over the recent years.

Constant Contact has always been small business and customer focused, but over the last two+ years the needs of those customers have changed, and we’ve evolved our platform as well. Everything you know and love about Constant Contact is still there – but we’re much     more than email marketing now. We’ve made a lot of improvements under the hood to help     give our customers access to more tools and technologies they can use to better connect with consumers and grow their businesses. I love sharing our capabilities with people who might  not realize how much we offer – you can really see their eyes light up when it “clicks” and the  gears start to turn about all the different ways we can help them achieve their goals.

We’ve got some exciting new things coming later this year as well, which I think our customers are really going to enjoy…

What online marketing practices do you feel small businesses need to focus on more to drive faster growth?

One thing I always tell the small businesses I interact with is to prioritize the idea of story as strategy. What I mean here is that small businesses have the opportunity to lean into their unique perspectives, the knowledge of their customers, and expertise in a way that allows them to stand apart from their competitors by letting the story lead the way.

This is important because it allows you to have a voice in the marketplace while attracting those that are a good match for your business and rallying your team toward a shared vision for what you want for your customers. The story drives your strategic decisions. We aren’t talking enough about how the stories we tell can directly correlate to attracting the right audience and making the sales process easier.

Secondly, focus on the fundamentals of marketing. Those things that make us humans have always been the same. It’s the technology that changes over time. And so it’s all about how you apply the fundamentals to the new technology. Ultimately, you’re trying to use these tools so people get to know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.

And lastly, small businesses also need to start getting more comfortable with data. The most successful marketing is centered around understanding your audience, and you can only do that when you have data points about them to reference. One challenge I hear quite often is that small businesses don’t have enough time to do marketing effectively – but the missing link is the data. If you can truly understand your audience because you’ve been learning about them over time, it’s much easier and faster to send them content and communications they will actually enjoy. They start to look forward to hearing from you, and that leads to a variety of benefits – from more engagement to better loyalty and repeat business.

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Can you share highlights/observations on some of the most interesting/creative ways in which you’ve seen small businesses plan their online business marketing efforts to drive growth?

Some of the most interesting and creative ways really came from the pandemic. There are some businesses that did things to keep going when they were forced to shut their doors. It accelerated the adoption of online marketing since this was their only way to stay connected. For example, I know one shop owner who started doing regular take-home dinners with curbside pickup. The only way to promote that was through their email marketing, social, and website. Even though things have opened back up now, these dinners are something they still do because there is still so much demand for them.

For other businesses, they’ve actually been able to drive growth because they’ve discovered that they were able to go direct to the consumer thanks to all of these digital tools. One owner went from a one percent ecommerce focus pre-pandemic to 20 percent and growing.

What I find interesting about this is that the adoption only came because they were forced to take the plunge. But now many businesses see the value in it and are complementing their business as usual to grow in ways they hadn’t attempted before.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!

When you ask the average consumer how they feel about small businesses, the response is undeniably positive. It’s clear that there is a strong emotional connection associated with small businesses.

About 55% of our participants said supporting small businesses makes them feel helpful and 50% felt connected to their communities. These businesses power our lives, make us feel good, and give our downtowns their unique personalities.

However, there is still a degree of what I call, “small business blindness” that results from many small businesses flying under our radar. We depend on businesses like gyms, florists, movie theaters, and even fast-food franchises to be there when we need them, but they aren’t always the first thing people think of when think about a small business.

Our research revealed that 94% of Americans feel small businesses impact their daily lives – it is up to us as consumers to understand who these unsung heroes are and continue lifting them up through ongoing support and shopping small.

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Constant Contact delivers for small businesses and nonprofits with powerful tools that simplify and amplify digital marketing. Whether it’s driving sales, growing a customer base or engaging an audience, we deliver the performance and guidance to build strong connections and generate powerful results.

Dave Charest is Director of Small Business Success at Constant Contact, the online marketing platform trusted by millions of small businesses. He is an educator and advocate for small business leaders, marketing professionals, and nonprofits by providing practical marketing advice to help them achieve their goals. He is a dynamic leader, speaker, creator, and award-winning marketer who strives to inspire small businesses by simplifying the complex world of digital marketing.

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