“How do I get the most out of my Chamber membership”? Business professionals often ask this and can usually be interpreted to mean, “How do I increase my business from being a Chamber member”? Business people primarily join Chambers to try to increase their visibility and increase their business. After a while however, many are frustrated by their inability to drive more word of mouth and customers to their business. They end up quitting and then saying, “Chamber doesn’t work.”
The answer is usually the same, if you want Chamber to work for you, you have to WORK it. The same answer for anything that you do to increase your business, it takes time and effort. The opportunities are there, all around you really, but you have to know what it takes. Here are the 4 main things you need to do to make your Chamber membership work for you.
BECOME INVOLVED. Join one of the many councils that are available at Chambers. Find out which ones you are interested in, or suits your business, and become a part of that council. Be genuinely interested in what they are doing and what you can do to help. Not only does this give you more opportunity to meet people, but when people see you willing to devote time and energy to something other than yourself, it raises your credibility in their eyes. By and large, people trust a giver, they don’t trust a taker.
ATTEND EVENTS. Assuming that you have a higher level membership, such as a Pillar or Trustee membership, there are usually many events to take advantage of. You must be there however, in order to take advantage of them. Networking is a CONTACT sport. Before you go, check the RSVP list and find out who is going to be there that you want to meet. Use your time wisely and meet the people most likely to help you. Use the Chamber ambassadors at the event to introduce people to you that you need to meet.
DON’T TRY TO SELL. While attending these events, don’t try to close deals. People don’t typically attend Chamber events hoping to buy something. Meet the right people, if they are worth spending more time with, set an appointment for later in the week to meet with them. If they like you and see that you are interested in helping them as well, they will likely use you if they need your product or service. Networking is about using our collaborative efforts to help EACH OTHER.
FOLLOW UP. Nothing you do, no matter what you do, will work if you fail to follow up. The number one failure in networking is the failure to follow up. Have a good system and don’t just throw the business cards in a drawer or fish bowl. Have a specific time during the next couple of days that you spend contacting those that you have met. Try to remember something they said that seemed to interest them that you can comment on. Then they will know you were truly listening.
Chamber will work if you work it. Remember to catch the Referral Institutes next class at the MBCC offices on May 23rd. This is where you will truly learn how to increase your network. Until next time, Happy Networking!