Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Amy Olivieri, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for Texas (Houston), Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico. As one of the company’s RDDs, Amy leads a team of local educators who offer seminars and training workshops about best practices in online marketing for small businesses and nonprofits. Amy has educated more than 20,000 small businesses on behalf of the company since joining the team in 2009. Read on to find out more about Amy and get her small business tips from the field.

How did you become one of Constant Contact’s RDDs?

“After spending more than 14 years in the legal marketing industry, I decided that it was time for a career change. While running a part-time small business, I was also on the “look-out” for the perfect job. I wanted a job that would allow me to maintain the relationships that I had made in the Houston market, but would also give me the opportunity to educate small businesses and organizations on marketing best practices. After 9 months of seeking out the perfect job, I landed a position as a Regional Development Director for Constant Contact. 4 years later, it’s still the best gig going. My favorite part of the job is that I can meet and engage with many different people at my seminars. They all have a unique passion for their small business or startup, which I find so inspiring!”

What is the biggest challenge Houston-area small businesses face?

“Small business owners need to understand the importance of maintaining relationships with their existing customers. Many small business owners are hyper-focused on looking for the next big sale outside of their current sphere of contacts. In most cases, that next big sale could likely come from a client referral.”

This week you hosted The 2nd Annual Big Social Media Symposium. What inspired this event? Was there anything surprising that came from it?

“The inspiration for hosting the Big Social Media Symposium actually came from our seminar attendees. They wanted to take a deeper dive into social media, and requests for an all-day event that covered all or several topics related to online marketing best practices became a regular occurrence. Thus, the Big Social Media Symposium was born!

The event was truly fantastic. We had a great turnout, a lot of buzz in the air, and a very engaged audience throughout the day. Two of the sessions were particularly well-received and included the ‘Looks Count — Email Creativity’ session led by Lynne Singerman of Printwell Partners, and the ‘Mastering Your Resume on LinkedIn: Key Tips to Get You Noticed’ session led by Mariann Levin of Omega Enterprises. People were incredibly interested in finding out how they could stand out from their competitors through their email campaigns, and how the use of design and color in your emails can elicit certain reactions and emotional responses. The audience also loved learning about how they can maximize their exposure on LinkedIn and what their resume should and should not include on this social media channel.”

What’s the most important piece of marketing advice you’d give a small business?

“Don’t spend all of your time, effort, and cash flow in areas that don’t mean much to your potential clients. People do business with the people (and businesses) that they like and know. They don’t do business with you because you have a snazzy business card or website. Keep the marketing stuff simple and consistent and spend the majority of your time networking and engaging with people at community events. Don’t forget to stay connected via email marketing and your social media channels too.”

Any other marketing tips you’d like to offer small businesses as they gear up for the post-Labor Day busy season?

“Make sure you understand what “value” you are providing your clients and prospects so you can play up that value in everything you do. Consider how you can stay “top of mind” and don’t forget to “make the ask” when the time is right. If you want people to do business with you, you have to ASK them. And then ask them to share their experience with a friend or two to help spread the word.”