Paula Pierce, HostingCT.com
I am a staunch believer in the business-building power of the local Chamber of Commerce. Why? Because since I joined I have befriended, learned from, and done business with many, many Chamber members. In fact, one of every two new clients is a result of my Chamber membership.That’s 50% of my new business.
How do I get so much out of my membership? Here’s how:
1. I find the time to go to almost every Business Breakfast and Business After Hours.Yes, the Breakfasts are early. Yes, they take time out of my regular schedule. Yes, it felt uncomfortable talking to “strangers” at first. But these events have introduced me to loads of interesting people and many have become my clients.
2. At these events I try to chat with as many people as possible, new members and old friends alike.I’ve seen Chamber members attend events with a friend and hardly talk to anyone else. It’s nice to meet non-members; bring them along. But don’t forget the reason you’re there. To meet and get to know other people!
3. While chatting with other members, I try not to talk about me, me, me.Half of networking is listening. A quarter is helping people connect with others. The last quarter is talking about your own business.Networking is not the same as prospecting. Networking involves relationships and mutual support.
4. When I learn of a product or service or event or meeting or anything that a fellow Chamber member has shown an interest in, I let them know. If someone says they like David Bowie and I hear he’s coming to the Meadows, I drop them an email.
5. I shop and use the services of Windsor Chamber member businesses and refer them to others as often as I can.It helps to remind others (members and non-members alike) to support Windsor businesses first rather than going to the mall or the yellow pages. Some just don’t’ think of it!
6. I get involved. I’ve served on several committees including Technology, White Lights, Revolutionary Windsor, and Tourism. Some were short term and some more continuous. Yes, it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer, but it’s worth it. These committees provide valuable services to the Town of Windsor, its residents and business owners, and they offer the chance to get to know fellow members.
7. I have written several articles for the Chamber’s bi-monthly magazine, Business United. Sometimes I write about my business and sometimes I write about Chamber events like the Teachers’ Luncheon, for instance.
8. I advertise in Business United regularly with (what I consider) an attention-getting photo and brief, easy-to-understand message.
9. After one year of membership I sent a mailing about my business to all Chamber members with some handy tips about online marketing and website faux pas.I waited on year so that most members would either know me personally or at least recognize my name, making the mailing more effective than it would have been otherwise.
10. I generally try to make myself helpful whenever I have a bit of time to help the Chamber and support its worthy cause of promoting and supporting Windsor’s businesses.
The Chamber is a great place to meet like-minded business owners, to see and be seen by new prospects, to learn about the latest technology, to gain information on the local market, to borrow meeting space, to enjoy community events, to volunteer for a good cause, to get small business health insurance, to promote your own business, and of course, to find new clients.
But these things don’t happen on their on. Membership isn’t an end in itself. It doesn’t work as well for folks who pay their dues and forget they’re a member.Going to events, being genuinely helpful to others, and getting involved will get you more new clients. It’s working for me!