Thursday, October 29, 2009

 

Seven reasons why I joined the local Chamber of Commerce

Last week I finally joined the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce. I’ve attended a few events over the past year, but it was time for me to become an active member.

I know in an age of Twitter and LinkedIn and all kinds of alternatives to business networking, joining the local Chamber can sometimes be seen like less of a priority. Many young businesses believe there are better uses of their time and money.

I disagree. It may have taken me longer than it should have, but joining the Chamber was an inevitable no-brainer. Here are seven reasons why.

1. Pipeline Development
For our clients, everything we do is about helping them accelerate sales & revenue. Everything is measured based on its contribution to sales & revenue growth. The way I operate my own business is the same. So reason number one for joining the Chamber is sales pipeline – meeting and acquiring new prospects and clients for us.

My pipeline already has businesses met both directly at Chamber events as well as referrals from Chamber introductions. Two weeks in, and if one of those clients converts, it more than pays for the Chamber membership. That’s already good ROI (and we’re just getting started).

2. Networking
Every business owner needs to devote a significant amount of time to marketing, and in my business that means a lot of networking. Networking with prospective clients, as well as fellow business owners who either might be clients or who know, work with, live with or otherwise associate with prospective clients.

Networking is a numbers game, in which you treat everyone equally. Everybody knows somebody (or is somebody), and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. A big part of joining the Chamber is having more opportunities to network at a local level.

3. Peer Group
Other Chamber members are a lot like me. They have a business they’re trying to make a success, and grow bigger/better than it is today. We all do different things, but we’re struggling with many of the same issues – growth, operations, product set, sales channels, etc. Sometimes the best new ideas I apply to my business come from someone in an entirely different industry, selling to a very different customer. The more you spend with fellow business owners, the smarter you’ll be about how to operate, optimize and grow your own business.

4. Credibility
As a growing business, being a member of the local Chamber establishes credibility. It just does. It demonstrates to other businesses and prospective clients that we’re a real business, and willing to invest time and money to be an active member of the business community.

If I’m going to be a member of the local business community, I consider it an obligation to do what I can to foster health & growth for that same community. The rising tide will lift all boats. The health of the local business environment is a big part of why I’m in business today, so it’s my duty to both give back and actively contribute to that community.

5. Introductions
My participation with the Chamber has already created introductions for myself and our business to community, government and business leaders I otherwise would have either never had, or taken much longer to gather. Those new relationships are with influencers, “connectors” as Malcolm Gladwell would describe them, people who can open up huge new doors and opportunities for our business.

If what you’re doing or selling as a business has value, and you can clearly & succinctly articulate what that is, others who get it and need it (or know people who need it) will help you identify new opportunities for growth as well. That’s what influencers and connectors can do. And you’ll meet them through the Chamber.

6. Belly to Belly Relationships (“LinkedIn is not enough”)
I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn and other social networking tools. They make creating and fostering a network faster and more efficient than ever. But they’re no replacement for getting out there and meeting people live. They never will be.

Some of the smartest social media people in the world make a point of telling their followers to step away from the computer and get out to actually see people. They know that networking, at its core, is about people meeting people. And there’s simply no better way to do that than belly-to-belly, looking at the whites of another person’s eyes, and demonstrating in real time the value, credibility and trust you (and your business) represent.

7. Opportunities I can’t even think about yet (but will discover and create)
I mentioned above that networking is a numbers game. You meet some great contacts and occasionally some clunkers. Inherent in that belief is the knowledge that enough contacts will net you revenue-producing opportunities. Also inherent in that belief, I believe, is the knowledge that completely unexpected opportunities will come your way when you seek them out, keep an ear open for them, and explore them when they materialize.

If I’m not a member of and active in the Chamber, I’m missing an opportunity to discover something I can’t even fathom yet, an opportunity that could significantly change my business and my life.

I can’t afford to miss that.

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