One of the top values our members attribute to Chamber membership is networking.
This excellent article on the subject appeared at Alignable.com. Are you following our lead and using Alignable? You can view Alignable’s Eagle business page here. It’s new, innovative and intriguing!
Back to the subject of networking (one of the online features of Alignable), let’s listen to Adrienne Sasson and some other appropriate advice:
I am often asked what I have done to grow my business.
Although putting up a sign or advertising in the local paper is a great start, it isn’t enough to grow your business in the current atmosphere. Consumers have gotten pretty good at ignoring signage and not everyone will read the paper in which you’re advertising. It is easy to get complacent with social media marketing too, but I have found it is simply not enough to achieve noticeable growth. Although social media serves as a reminder to those you know, it might not actually attract any new clients.
So, how do I grow my business? By working the old fashioned way. It is imperative for you to knock on doors, show your face, and introduce yourself to the people in your community. The best way to do this is by finding a chamber of commerce in your area.
Before the Meeting: Do Your Research
Many regions will have multiple chambers which may overlap in your business area. The members in your local chamber are business people just like you, getting their name and service/product out, but in a social atmosphere. Why are they doing this? Because people prefer to give business to, and work with, those they know personally.
Search the chambers near your business area. Take a look at the membership list as you might know people in the organization. Call them and ask about the activity at the meetings and their overall level of satisfaction. Ask what the atmosphere is like and how often they frequent the events. If they attend monthly events, ask if you can come with them as a guest.
If you don’t know anyone, look at the events/meeting schedule. Then call the chamber, introduce yourself, and ask if you can attend as a guest.
Once you are at the event, if the person with whom you spoke is not at the registration table, ask to be directed toward that person. This person will be your key contact for the evening and will introduce you to the chamber’s ambassadors. The ambassadors are members who volunteer their time to work with new and prospective members. They will help ease you into the room and will begin to introduce you to some of the more active members.
As you begin your introductions, be sure to have plenty of business cards with you. There’s no need to bring other materials along; save that for another time or a more personal, one-on-one meeting.
First, you want to get an idea of who normally attends and then get to know them. Keep the conversation light. Ask those you are meeting about themselves, their business and how long they have been members of the chamber. When asked about your business, keep it casual and interesting. This is not the time to sell; this is simply the time to let them know a little more about you and what you do.
Chamber events have a mix of people, but not all are decision makers. Most attendees are business and sales people looking for another customer. A few are just there for the free food and drinks. Only a few are there to really grow their business. As a business owner, I go to share my business with other local and new businesses, and to learn about theirs. After you have attended several of these meetings you will start to notice several groups, that “stick together”. Try to quickly identify the decision makers that can choose you as a vendor or supplier. To do this, you must chat with every group. Spend a brief moment to study each business card you receive and ask a few questions about the business and what role this individual plays there. Make a point to speak with at least 20 people during the event, without fail.
At the end of the evening, remember to thank the people representing the Chamber and the Ambassadors for the opportunity to attend. If you are not yet a member, discuss joining with one of the Chamber representatives – be sure you know all about the benefits, so you can make an educated decision.
After The Meeting: Follow-Up Best Practices
The following day, take a few minutes to email those you met. You now have their contact to add to your email list and by sending them an email, you’ll have added your name to their email list as well. If you sell a product or service, mention it in the email and let them know that you’ll call them in a few days to see how you can best work together. Keep in mind, business will not bloom overnight; networking and crafting relationships takes time. You need to continue to attend the events to become familiar with the members.
Don’t forget to dress for success. This is a business event! Be sure you are properly attired. Your first impression is a lasting one.
Interested in learning more about networking at Chamber of Commerce meetings? Head to Alignable’s Ask & Learn to ask the community for advice!
When is the next Eagle Chamber Networking Event? Always check our calendar!