We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzette Cotto and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Suzette, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The world has changed since 2013 when I started Innovate Social Media. Digital marketing has turned things upside down. There is a technology piece to it, and a creative piece, and most of us have one or the other in our skillset. I was fortunate to have a career in Internet technology that started in 1998 along with a passion to be creative. Success is not in how good you are when you start in digital marketing, the key is being consistent. It’s in showing up in the places your customers are, having engaging content and video, and being ready with the right solution, no matter where they are in the sales cycle. We now call it the “customer journey”. It’s all about fulfilling client wants and needs. Being hit by a pandemic forced a lot of businesses to have an online strategy and many weren’t ready. My phone has not stopped ringing.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
1 in 5 small businesses fails in the first year. That’s just not an acceptable statistic for me. I jumped into self-employment after losing my job, after a long career in communications and internet tech. The industry instability left me with no unemployment or severance to fall back on. If I started a business, how would I keep it going with no income? Luckily, I had a tax return that provided a small buffer and a lot of grit. In February of 2013, I started Innovate Social Media. I had to educate my clients before I could even sell to them. They were the mavericks, the early adopters. They didn’t know what social media could do for them. I had to be convincing. Those who had a social media presence and a brand voice succeeded. Getting a brand known on social media platforms is exponentially easier than other media formats. I landed in the right place, at the right time, with the right answers to my client’s pain points. The first thing I do before we even engage together is have the prospect do a self-assessment. What does your personal brand look like? If that is a hot mess, your company is probably not far behind. By becoming a brand advocate and teaching free classes, businesses began to understand the value of my services. I was speaking to full conference rooms and my business was built on referrals. What can I tell you about how to grow your business? It’s more than money. My personal mentor gave me my “why”. Why am I doing what I’m doing? I’m giving to grow. “Give to Grow” he said. That resonated strongly with who I am as a person and it has helped me build trust with prospects. I was planting seeds and maybe not engaging right then and there, but they would come back in 6 months, a year or more. Staying strong when I felt weak paid off. Not quitting when I felt defeated, paid off. The strategy of saying “No! I’m not going back to a corporate job where they owned my soul” to my partner as she looked at our checkbook, paid off. I’m finally in a really good place, ready to grow and scale my business.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have lived in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and more. Houston will always be home. I love this city. There’s nothing you won’t find here. I think more than anything, I love the artists, the creators of our own home town culture. My friend Texas Folk Artist Kiki Neumann the “license plate artist” was my very first customer. I think I was just a groupie wanting to be her when I grew up. She drives her red pickup truck around Houston’s inner city and foraging for usable trash which she uses to create art. Besides being an advocate for a clean environment, she’s a breast cancer survivor. She is the true definition of a self-made entrepreneur, full of grit! I adore Sawyer Yards, Montrose, shopping on 19th Street in the Heights, the Museum District and our amazing restaurants! There is always something new and authentic to discover.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My ah-ha moment happened when I read a book by Mark Schaefer called the Content Code. He taught me through this book what content was, how to write it to engage the person consuming it, and how to light it on fire. There is a saying, “Content is fire and social media is gasoline.” There has never been anything more true. The other big start to my business was becoming a Constant Contact Area local expert. I learned the program and was able to teach it to businesses all over Houston. Through them, I’ve talked to large groups of business owners at the University of Houston, UHD, Microsoft, SCORE and many local chambers and business organizations. I still give free talks and webinars. It is my way of giving back. The Constant Contact software has risen to the needs of the small business owner by incorporating things like an image library, social media scheduling, image editor, CRM, automated emails and newsletters, a logo maker, and more. In an industry where I compete with lots of marketing options, this is the most holistic solution for any size business for the smallest investment. Talk about ROI! I went from zero to six figures in less than five years and I haven’t looked back.
Images: Innovate Social Media