ContactSurge: Ronan Martin

Ronan Martin is CEO and co-founder of ContactSurge – marketing automation software for small businesses. Ronan has experience running digital marketing strategy for SaaS and IT services companies in the US, Ireland and the UK. He is an alum of Dublin City University and the Irish Management Institute, and moved to New York in 2017.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having a huge impact on small businesses across the country, we sat down with Ronan to talk about how he got here, what businesses can do to survive and thrive during this crisis, and how young professionals can find success in the US.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Tell us about what you do and how you got there

In the most simple terms, I work with small and medium sized businesses of all stripes to help them make more of their online presence, increasing awareness, interest and leads to make a real impact on their bottom line. This runs the gamut from SEO and PPC, to email marketing automation and data management.

I started out as a marketing consultant working with businesses on a 1-1 basis, but realized that there must be a more scalable way to deliver the same benefits through tech – and when I started working with an Irish software developer in New York, ContactSurge was born.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Digital marketing is a broad term which encompasses a whole range of concepts and strategies that can appear overly complex to business managers who are more focussed on operations, finance and traditional sales. In reality though, many businesses will benefit from a straightforward digital strategy that can dramatically improve outcomes without reinventing the wheel.

My role involves working with managers to understand their business goals and then developing the digital marketing strategy to help achieve that goal. It’s a great mix of creative problem-solving and analytical thinking, with clear goals and quantifiable results.

This is now more apparent than ever in light of COVID-19. Being able to do business online, and in a sustainable, profitable, process-driven way, is crucial for small businesses to survive.

What advice would you give to Irish professionals moving to the U.S. for work?

There is so much going on in the US, and so many opportunities, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Having said that, I found that three things above all else, and in combination, work for professionals who are trying to make a start over here.

The first is personal branding. It is crucial that you are clear on what your personal value-add is, and then actively and explicitly promote yourself as an expert in that area. The more specific you can be with your personal brand, the easier it will be to identify the niche that is the best fit and cut through the noise of all the other opportunities that are out there. For example, do you want a job in marketing, or are you an expert in digital marketing automation for e-commerce? Specificity is key.

When you have clearly defined your personal brand and your ideal role, it’s time to get out there and build your network. There are no shortage of great meetups for Irish professionals and there are likely to be plenty of groups focused on your particular line of work. Combining in-person networking with social media follow up is a potent combo in building a strong network and promoting your personal brand.

Finally, when you keep hitting brick walls (and sometimes it will feel like that) keep persisting. Perseverance is the real difference between success and failure. Your ideal opportunity is working on its own timeline, it’s up to you to be ready when it becomes available.

If you had one piece of advice for yourself earlier in your career, what would it be?

If you want to start a business – pick a hard skill and master it, you can always learn the business side later, and you’ll pick it up naturally when you are working in a business.

Most successful businesses are started by people who have spent years developing in-depth knowledge in a subject area. It is this expertise that helps them to see the market opportunity in their field – and capitalize on it.

Cal Newport touches on this in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which is a great read for any young professional starting on their career journey. His central point is that to find a job you love you’ll need three things; career capital (i.e. expertise), autonomy and purpose – and the latter two are only really possible when you have the first as a strong foundation.

What are your passions outside of work?

I love to travel and all that goes with that – exploring new places, eating different food, meeting interesting people, and immersing myself in other cultures. I’m fortunate that with my current role I can balance work and travel at the same time so I don’t need to sacrifice one for the other. Unfortunately this isn’t going to be possible for the foreseeable future, but hopefully it won’t be long until the coronavirus is contained and international travel opens up again.

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