Robert Kwasnicki, Founder of Digital Marketing Partner, recently told Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price about his marketing company mission, future plans, and commitment to working with local startups and entrepreneurs.
PRICE: Did you always have an entrepreneurial drive?
KWASNICKI: As far back as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to finding ways to provide value and create income and cash flow.
I can recall my very first “business endeavor” with a grade-school friend, Mark. We were at a community/family function in Hartford at a members’ club. While playing outside, we decided to erect a makeshift gate and ask drivers for a parking fee. It was silly, but the people were kind and patient with us as they tossed us a nickel, dime, or quarter for us to open the gate for them. After two or three hours of doing this, we were astonished at the amount of money we earned—it was a lot for grade-school kids.
That early experience really stuck with me. Of course, we blew that money on vending machine snacks, candy, and video games. Investing wasn’t a known concept to us.
PRICE: Entrepreneurship runs in your family, right?
KWASNICKI: Yes. In addition to this organic drive, I drew inspiration from family business endeavors. My uncle owned a hardware store in Hartford, City Hardware. Another uncle started two successful aerospace fabrication manufacturing businesses, and we owned a small luncheonette in Warehouse Point called Village Luncheonette.
From that early experience, and my family’s involvement in entrepreneurship, I found other stepping stones, which ultimately brought me to Digital Marketing Partner.
PRICE: When did Digital Marketing Partner launch?
KWASNICKI: The business officially launched in the fall of 2015 with the landing of our first project, a Facebook advertising project for a local political campaign which, by the way, went very well and resulted in a sweeping victory.
PRICE: Tell us how you developed the business concept.
KWASNICKI: The business concept has been in development for the better part of decade while I was managing hundreds of businesses for a mid-west manufacturer, which included small design firms, retailers, and manufacturers throughout New England.
PRICE: Any takeaways from those experiences?
KWASNICKI: What I learned during that time was most of these businesses were basically getting by with grit and luck. They were really good at what they did, but came short on letting the market know their value proposition. Many of them also wasted resources on ineffective, inappropriate, or poorly executed marketing initiatives.
A few select businesses were on the ball, and I diligently studied their best practices. These businesses knew how to craft their message, how to deliver it, where to deliver it and when. For several of the other businesses—the ones not doing so well with their marketing—when they ran with my proposed plans, their business grew. I got really juiced helping these small businesses.
The final elements of the business concept came together the three years prior to the launch of Digital Marketing Partner, when I consulted as the Director for National Marketing Strategy for a business-oriented social media startup based in Long Island.
PRICE: What makes your company unique in the marketplace?
KWASNICKI: The niche I decided needed help the most was the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) space, leaning more toward the small business community. The difference Digital Marketing Partner offers SMBs is we are not married to any service such as web design, Facebook management and advertising, Google AdWords, Google Analytics, search engine optimization, email marketing, banner ads, or LinkedIn advertising.
Although we can certainly provide those and other services, our mission is to guide small businesses toward effective and efficient marketing channels and initiatives. Specifically, we are SMBs’ trusted guide and guard, standing between the SMBs and the world of digital and traditional marketing, ensuring that SMBs invests wisely for a more reliable sales and marketing return on investment.
One of our core competencies is identifying a business’s realistic resources before crafting a marketing plan or initiative. That means human resources and not just financial resources. A business’s marketing efforts should not detract the business from its business. It should holistically enhance it. Also, our strategy as a trusted guide puts us in a strong position to be a long-term resource for small businesses as they grow and mature.
PRICE: And how do you accomplish this mission?
KWASNICKI: As an example, we recently met with a business owner who wanted to jumpstart subscription services for an online training course. They were considering dropping $1,500 into a banner ad campaign on one specific site. After exploring and reviewing relevant market and marketing data together, we guided the client to a more effective and valuable hybrid campaign that also saved them a couple hundred dollars.
This business owner was sold on the banner ad idea by an ad sales person, who has one objective: sell ads in their paper or on their site. For my client, this was not the correct approach at the time, but it might be worth exploring in the future when the client’s business is in a different stage.
The concept of being a trusted guide for SMBs, navigating the consistently, quick-changing, complex mountain of digital marketing products and services, is at the core of who we are. It’s also why people will find references to Sherpas in our communications and marketing collateral. Sherpas are basically hired guides for mountain climbers who sometimes carry some of the load of tools and supplies for the climbers.
PRICE: You are committed to working with local entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. Why is that?
KWASNICKI: The big reason, my passion, is small businesses. Entrepreneurs and startups are the ones planting the seeds in our economy. Many of these seeds become growing small businesses and, besides being critical to our economic health, small businesses create, and are vehicles for, vast amounts of opportunities for individuals.
The other reason is that this segment is, for the most part, underserved or inadequately served. Small business owners are being given bad marketing advice, even if well intentioned, and typically fall into the “pennywise, pound foolish” trap, or worse, dive in with a big investment into a marketing campaign or marketing service or product that falls short on delivering results that another approach could have far surpassed.
Another area where I see marketing firms falling short is their lack of consideration for small businesses’ real, day-to-day demands on the owner and their staff. So you hear and see marketers trumpeting about the latest, trending, hot app that “every business needs to be on or you’re doomed to failure!” For many of these small businesses, it is completely unfeasible for them to engage in many of the hot marketing channels.
PRICE: What are your company’s future goals?
KWASNICKI: I want Digital Marketing Partner to grow into a trusted national brand among small business owners and to be a go-to resource for entrepreneurs. I want my company to be at the heart of a community that actively encourages and helps entrepreneurs, both young and old.
I’m a big fan of a distributed workforce and envision employees and trusted contractors being part of the Digital Marketing Partner team from anywhere in the country, benefiting from a location-independent work life.
This structure will attract top talent to the firm while our clients will enjoy an unparalleled level of service and enthusiasm. Plus we’ll be able to better control overhead, which will translate into more competitive pricing for our services.
PRICE: What is the best thing about living/working in the Greater Hartford region?
KWASNICKI: I am a born and bred Nutmegger. I love Connecticut and the Greater Hartford area for its people, its spirit, and its Yankee sensibility. My roots run deep in Connecticut, especially in Hartford County. There are incredible people working very hard to move things forward and I see a really great future for businesses and families in Connecticut.
PRICE: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever given or received?
KWASNICKI: “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” It may surprise some people that I classify this as business advice, but it is incredibly rewarding, both from an interpersonal level and from receiving real, tangible results. Listen, then listen some more. It is a skill or habit that is incredibly valuable and so incredibly in short supply. It is the single best professional and business advice I ever received and put to daily use.