Lisa Kember, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for Eastern Canada
Lisa Kember, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for Eastern Canada

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Lisa Kember, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for Eastern Canada. Lisa is a veteran business development, marketing, and communications expert with a strong entrepreneurial background. She represents Constant Contact across Eastern Canada, and works to help small businesses build deeper and more profitable customer relationships by using online marketing.

Read on to find out more about Lisa and get her small business tips from the field.

Tell me a bit about your background and your role as one of Constant Contact’s RDDs?

“I ran a marketing and PR agency business for more than 10 years that I exited out of in late 2009. I was planning to start another business, but I hadn’t quite figured out what! I was just enjoying the break. Then I heard that Constant Contact was looking for someone to build the brand — relatively unknown here at that time — in Canada and it sounded like a fun challenge. So I reached out.

I’ve now been here over 3.5 years and I love it. I am passionate about small business. I love the role I have in encouraging and teaching marketing best practices, helping entrepreneurs with an idea, and figuring out how to market their products and services better. I am proud to represent a company that is so focused on building great products and responding to the needs of our customers.

As for our success to date in building the brand here — between my counterpart in Western Canada, Guy Steeves, and myself in Eastern Canada, we have made excellent inroads in the largest English-speaking provinces (Ontario, BC, and Alberta), through all the events and partnerships we’ve developed. I still have lots of work to do in Eastern Canada and there is just more opportunity than there is time in the day.”

What is the biggest challenge Canadian small businesses face?

“That probably depends on their stage of business, but the things I hear consistently lie in the areas of money and business development and marketing.

On the money side, it is about financing the business and getting access to the capital required to grow.

On the business development side, we are a small market in Canada so growth can be limited here. In order to grow, Canadian entrepreneurs have to quickly look at exporting their products and services, a challenge which adds complexity and associated costs.

With respect to marketing, I think there is a high level of overwhelm! There is so much buzz about new marketing tools, from social media to mobile, and many new business owners get caught in the frenzy without having a clear strategy. So it’s great that Constant Contact has us out in the field to try to simplify and cut through the noise to provide real, practical solutions, and strategies to support growth.”

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is a hot topic right now. How are small businesses reacting?

“Well, there is a great deal of concern and fear, plus a bit of cynicism mixed in. I hear people questioning whether this legislation will be truly enforceable and whether or not it will really have an impact. They are also wondering if this will cause them to have to discard their entire email list and if email marketing will die as a result of CASL. Rumors of email’s death are premature, no question. But with respect to the fear of losing their lists, which they’ve worked hard to build, as a representative of Constant Contact, I offer a clear message — CASL is probably only going to make your email marketing MORE effective. If you build a permission-based list the way that CASL outlines (which is, by the way, very aligned with how Constant Contact has been teaching our customers to build lists), then you will have a list of people who want to hear from you and are your best source of new and repeat customers.”

Can you offer any tips for Canadian small businesses, and those that market to Canada as they prepare for eventual implementation of the CASL legislation?

“Yes, and it’s very simple. Start now! Incorporate the practice of asking for permission into every customer interaction that you have — from a line in your email signature, to a question you ask on every call with a customer, to the face-to-face appointments you attend. If you don’t ask, you won’t have permission and you’ll miss the opportunity to easily generate repeat business. So ask for permission to add the individual prospect or customer to your email list, then track where you got permission (that tracking is required by CASL legislation), and finally, send email campaigns regularly and consistently.”

Are there any additional marketing tips or advice you’d like to offer small businesses?

“Just three things…First of all, be seen! Get your name out in front of your target market regularly and consistently. Your marketing efforts probably won’t work the first time. Don’t give up — it takes multiple touch points to get people to buy. So use all avenues available.

Secondly, get them, keep them, and tell them to bring their friends. It costs more money to bring a new customer in than it does to keep an old one. So do whatever you can to keep your customers. In my business, we had customers with us in year 10 that had come on board in year one. Some of them still call me for my marketing advice, now 14 years later. You are going to need to get to know your customers well, to service them to the best of your ability and to “wow” them with your attention to details, because you want them to be with you for a long time!

Finally, measure everything. You should, over time, get to know exactly what each of your marketing activities produce best for you. Look at the results and take action based on what the data says. Why keep your old website up just because it is pretty, if it isn’t pulling new leads for you? Watch the analytics, and build your marketing activities in response to the results.

For a bonus tip, how about this? I have a toddler at home and he is just learning everything from putting socks on to eating with a spoon. So we show him what to do, then we say, ‘ok now you do it!’ That is what I would say to any small business owner. You need to learn, but at some point, just get out and try it. You’ll never know everything about the marketing tactic you want to try, so it’s best to just try it out and see what kind of impact you can get, then adjust accordingly.”