Gail Goodman of Constant Contact: 3 Questions Every Startup Entrepreneur Must Ask

Last Updated Jun 3, 2011 8:20 AM EDT

Gail Goodman is CEO of Constant Contact, which provides email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, and online survey tools to more than 450,000 small organizations worldwide. With more than $174 million in revenue, Constant Contact is now publicly traded and an industry leader.
"What's the most important thing to get right when you're starting a business? I think it's knowing the answers to three basic questions:
  • Who is (or will be) your customer?
  • What problem will you solve for them? What product or service are you delivering and how will that change their life or business?
  • Will they pay enough for it that you can make money?
It may seem pretty obvious but I am shocked by how many entrepreneurs I talk to who are not crisp about the answers. Focus is very important. Knowing who your customer is and what problem you are trying to solve will guide your solution development, your product definition, and your go-to-market plan - really everything. It's okay to hunt around a bit at the beginning but always be sure it's with the goal of getting to a firm set of answers. And while your vision may be to serve many types of customers with a wide range of solutions solving a variety of problems, start smaller and get momentum - then expand.

At Constant Contact, the first two questions were easy for us. Our passion for small business and nonprofits drove the formation of the company. And our first product, email marketing, helped those small businesses and nonprofits stay connected to their customers, clients, and members to drive repeat sales and referrals. Questions 1 and 2 - check! Question 3 was a lot harder. We knew the solution had to be really affordable (we start at $15 a month). We also learned that this audience was going to need some coaching and support. Could we make money at $15 while offering free unlimited coaching and support? This drove us to think hard about the economics of every aspect of our business but eventually got us to the answer - yes!"

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