Friday, January 15, 2010

Julie Niehoff of Constant Contact Talks about Her Business

Julie Niehoff of Constant Contact Talks about Her Business

Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Dallas, Texas.

What university did you go to?
UT Austin …hook ‘em

What brought you to Austin?
I have wanted to return since college and the city works well as a “hub” for my activities around this region of the country so I jumped at the chance to relocate.

What is your group’s mission?
Constant Contact is focused on helping small businesses and nonprofits grow by providing easy-to-use, affordable tools that help to level the playing field and allow these folks to compete across the board. Our products include email marketing, online survey and most recently event marketing tools. My role, specifically, is about education and networking. I do a lot of public speaking on technology marketing for small business and nonprofits and I facilitate workshops/seminars to that end around Texas.

What need does it fulfill?
Our products make it easy and affordable for our customers to stay in front of their customers or members, to put out professional, effective communications. We help them set the rhythm of their business relationships. For my part, I get to be a bridge between the technology that makes it all possible and the regular, normal people who don’t necessarily know the technology but clearly understand what it might be able to do for them – I get to watch that light bulb go on several times a week by teaching classes and speaking to conference groups – I consider myself very lucky to get to be a part of that process.

What exactly does it bring to startups?
The average return on email marketing is $87 per dollar spent. Our customers can use our tools for very little money – starts at $15/month. It’s hard to find any other marketing/communications avenue with a similar rate of return that you can jump into with so little capital. Our customers are sending email campaigns that look professional. They use our tools to set themselves up as the “go to” resource in their field and they can track what happens with those emails – who opened it, who clicked on what and when. This is not data you get from other types of marketing without spending a great deal more than $15. And we help them learn how to do it well with personal coaching and both live/online training as well. It’s a complete package.

What type of startup would benefit from your group?
I cannot think of a startup that would not benefit from use of our tools. Our tools adapt to the needs of the user – want to do a newsletter every month? You can. Want to survey your customers so that you can build your offering around their responses? You can. Thinking of a special offer or promotion? Trying to get the word out about your new business? Need to plan a board meeting and get everyone on the same page with the event info and let them register online. We make all of it easy. And affordable.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Test. Test. Test. I teach this in all of my classes. When you try something new – in terms of marketing. rather than using your entire contact list as a guinea pig trial, why not split your list into several groups and try the new idea on ten or twenty percent first. Then you know whether you want to go forward with the rest of the group and you eliminate the potential for mass second-thought.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
Other than AEN? Right now, I am definitely in a honeymoon stage with the Austin Chamber. As a new member, I am very involved and am so pleased to see how focused they are on small business. I’m also very impressed by the City of Austin Small Business Development Program – this is an impressive group, dedicated to the needs and promotion of small business across the city. For the nonprofit sector, I’ve become very involved with Texas Association of Nonprofits and with – both of these groups are key influencers with so much to offer folks seeking help and insight with their organizations. Hard to choose just one resource in such a great city!