Steve Robinson, Constant Contact’s Area Director for the Midwest and Canada

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Robinson, Constant Contact’s Area Director for the Midwest and Canada.

Steve has more than 30 years of experience supporting small businesses, and has helped thousands of small businesses, associations, and nonprofits develop and implement effective email marketing, social media, online survey, and engagement marketing strategies. In addition to his local education efforts, Steve regularly contributes to NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well blog.

Read on to learn more about Steve and his small business tips from the field:

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

“I have worked at Constant Contact for almost 7 years now. Prior to that, I was the President of the Lake County Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Other positions I’ve held have given me the balanced background that we look for in our local education team. I owned my own small business for 17 years, Graphic Bytes — a small graphic design and print brokering company —and have also worked in nonprofit fundraising.

As an Area Director, I help small businesses by conducting educational and training seminars. I also work with numerous small business organizations like Chambers of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, and SCORE chapters. I partner with these organizations to provide the knowledge their clients and members need to be successful in their online marketing efforts. I also manage the local education team in Canada. We have two fantastic Regional Directors there, one covering Eastern Canada and one covering Western Canada. It’s been both fun and challenging helping them bring Constant Contact’s message and products to their market. I learn quite a bit working with them.”

What is the biggest challenge facing the small businesses in your region?

“I think the biggest challenge for small businesses is finding the time to do everything that’s needed to be successful. Most small businesses I know are so overwhelmed by all of the “hats” they have to wear that something falls through the cracks. I enjoy helping them understand how to use our online suite of products and also to focus on the best practices that make them successful.”

You just launched the fourth annual Chicago Online Marketing Contest. What do you have planned, and how can small businesses in Chicago participate?

“Constant Contact is partnering with the Chicago City Treasurer’s Office to recognize small businesses for their marketing success. Small businesses based in Chicago are invited to enter their online marketing promotions for a chance to win some great cash and prizes.

I love working with the team at the City Treasurer’s office. They are focused on providing small businesses in Chicago with the tools they need to be successful, which fits right in with what we do here at Constant Contact.

As part of these efforts, we are also hosting a series of educational programs planned to teach small businesses how to use email marketing and social media marketing the right way. We have lined up some of the best and most knowledgeable social media and email minds in Chicago to join us, including Mana Ionescu of Lightspan Digital and Rachel Portell of Convometrics.”

What trends do you expect will impact small businesses in 2014?

“Number one would be mobile. With more and more people viewing their email and social media via their phone, smart marketers are making sure that their emails are mobile friendly and that they at least have a social media presence.

Another trend to be aware of would be the continued and/or the expanded use of visual social media tools like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. Also, I see the businesses that engage on multiple tools being more effective in their marketing than those that just stick to one thing, even if they do that one thing well.”

Can you offer any tips or best practices to small businesses and nonprofits looking for marketing success in the year ahead?

“The first thing is to just get in the game. I see a lot of people that are afraid to get started, particularly with social media. If a business is not using social media at all, I would make it a priority to start testing the waters with Facebook or Twitter. Then, I would use my email marketing and my social media together, one driving the other, to both build my email list and my social media engagement. When a business integrates email and social media marketing, their results are much better.

Finally, I would look internally to make sure that the customer experiences my business delivers are top notch. No form of marketing or advertising is going to overcome people having a bad experience when they use a product or service. Offering a great customer experience is essential to success.”

Have additional questions for Steve? Leave them in the comments below.