Running your own business requires a certain expertise in your given field, but in order to achieve long-term success, it also demands that you become fluent in a number of areas you might not otherwise explore or care about technology being one excruciating example (and the reason for this site's existence).
E-mail marketing is another case in point, and Constant Contact, a leading e-mail marketing service, hopes to make it easier for small business owners to learn more about the subject and other business-related challenges they face on a daily basis. Today, the company launched ConnectUP, a community-based, online meeting place designed to let small business owners connect, exchange ideas and information and to learn from each other's experiences.
One reason Constant Contact created this Web site is to help people improve their odds for success, and it cites rather daunting statistics from the Small Business Administration about overall small-business longevity. According to the SBA, more than 50 percent of small businesses fail during the first year, and that number increases to 95 percent in the first five years.
Gail Goodman, Constant Contact's CEO, says that many small business owners have a lot uncertainty about the effectiveness of an e-mail marketing campaign, and that ConnectUp will help assure and show them how it can help a company succeed. "The site offers tons of information to help small business owners understand how to apply the general idea of e-mail marketing to their specific business need," says Goodman.
Trial and error plays a major role in running a company, and the lessons learned are invaluable. Goodman asserts that those experiences, when passed on to others, are the true advantage of the community. "When small business owners understand what works for them," she says, "they have the opportunity to leverage those lessons learned and to pass them on so that others don't have to go through it."
Goodman also points out that the size and focus of a community makes a difference for business owners. "The bigger and the more targeted the community, the better advice you'll receive from your peers," she says.
The idea for ConnectUp has its roots in Goodman's travels for Constant Contact. As she and her team traveled, they would invite small groups of customers to join them for dinner. "What we found," she says, "is that they learned as much from each other as they did from us. We wanted to expand on that experience, and it's struck a chord with our customers."
ConnectUp is designed to let a variety of entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders of different organizations make a business connection by interest, region or industry. Some of the site's features include discussion boards, member profiles and small business resources. Currently, the discussion area has four active forums:
- How Do I: A general topic area where people can exchange ideas and ask questions on any topic.
- E-mail Marketing Best Practices: Need to get the word out to your customers but don't want to spam them? This forum offers ideas, tips and discussions on the best ways to create more successful campaigns. You'll also find people discussing e-mail compliance and regulatory issues.
- Member-Created Forums: If you've got a particular interest or you're looking for folks in your regional area, this is the place. You can create your own forum or join in others that meet your needs.
Any sharp businessperson can tell you that networking is one of the keys to success. ConnectUp provides a Member Profiles area where you can post details of your business, e-mail marketing accomplishments and a headshot photo.
The site also spotlights a different member on the home page every month. The business profile elaborates on the member's business, how they started using the Constant Contact e-mail marketing service, and how it's helped grow the business both a plug for the product and a chance for the member to self-promote.
A Resource of Course
The resource page offers lots of information on e-mail marketing again, not surprising given the site's parent. In the Learning Center, you'll find live and recorded Webinars that cover e-mail marketing fundamentals. E-mail Marketing Hints and Tips provides an archive of information from monthly newsletters written by Goodman.
Anyone can visit the site and read the discussion boards. If you want to post to the forums, you need to register for the site and sign up for a free trial of the Constant Contact service. That's it no obligation to buy anything.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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