Small Business Blog

September 20, 2021

Improve Your Networking Results with a Four-Point Plan

If you joined the chamber to meet new people, grow your network, and get more customers, you’re on the right track. But do you have a plan to make the most of your time investment? If not, you need one.

What Am I Doing Here? Map Out an Effective Networking Plan

There may be many reasons you’re interested in that networking event. First, ask yourself who it is you want to meet. Are you there for:

  • People in your target market
  • Vendors that provide services and items you need for business
  • Partners or complementary service providers (partnering with the healthy juice bar when you’re a gym, can be mutually beneficial)
  • Industry peers for a best practice exchange or referrals

Beth Bridges, the Networking Motivator acclaimed speaker and author of several books on networking, says “A smart networker never goes to a networking event ‘hoping’ to find a prospect. Instead, they will be ready to act on one of several very specific plans that they will have set in advance—or are ready to pivot to—if the event turns out to be something different than they anticipated.”

Here are two potential plans she suggests:

Networking Plan 1: Meet “The one.”
If you know who is attending in advance, research and choose one or two people you must absolutely meet. When you walk in the door, tell the host “I am here to meet Pat Vang. Are they here yet?”
Networking Plan 2: Build social capital.
Walk into the event with something to offer. An event invite (a private mastermind? an online speed networking event?), a line on a new business opening, or a great webinar (not necessarily yours!). Anything that gives value to other people so that you can build up your social capital with them for future use.
Which brings us to Beth’s third suggestion on how to make the most of your networking time. She advises:
Networking Plan 3: Get a referral or resource.
If you don’t have a guest list for the event but know the audience type (i.e. CEOs, accountants, solopreneurs), hone in on a problem that type of person could solve for you with a referral or resource. When meeting someone, your intro remarks end with “I’m here to find someone who knows a good bookkeeper / copywriter / etc.”
But there might be something else you can take away from networking. How about a fourth plan of action?
There’s a group of people you might not be thinking about when it comes to networking. And yet, they may be able to shape your company culture and help you grow much faster than you would’ve expected.

The Fourth Person You’ll Want to Meet

Who are they?
Well, it’s different for everyone.
Networking Plan 4: Find a Solution.
Think about the proverbial, “what keeps you up at night?”question. There’s a problem you’re likely struggling with. There’s also a professional, company, or industry out there that has solved your problem. Let’s look atan example from Henry Ford. Hewanted to make cars more efficiently, sohe instructedhis employees toplace the car parts in a line on the floormaking them easy to access. While that reduced some of the time required, shaving a few hours offthe original 12it took to build a car, there were still hiccups. He thought there had to be a quicker way.
So, he studied flour mills, breweries, and meat packing plants (or maybe he went to a chamber networking mixer and talked to professionals from those industries; who’s to say?). By studying how they mechanized their systems, he used pieces/ideas from each and created the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. He reduced the time it took to manufacture from over 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes!
With that change he could afford to produce cars for less, making them available to a greater number of people. Thisrevolutionizednot only his business but car production in general. All because he spent some time thinking about other businesses and their mechanizationpractices!
I recently talked to a rocket scientist (yes, really) who pulled methodologies from tech companies to learn quickly and fail often.He looked outside of his company to find a way to make his business goals attainable.
At your next networking event, know that there’s someone who has already solved the problem you’re facing. They may not be in the same business or industry but the lessons they learned are likely still applicable.
So, when you’re making a list of networking interests, think about the problems you face and strike up a conversation asking other attendees if they’ve faced the same. You may be pleasantly surprised by the insights and advice they can give you. Plus, that type of in-depth beginning conversation and sharing can lead to much deeper relationships down the line.

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September 7, 2021

Why a Chamber Membership Is the Secret Ingredient to Your Business Success

Everyone wants to know the secret to business success. You know the one that happens overnight with very little work? The one business secret that can be doing its thing while you enjoy a much-deserved day on the greens or the open water? Success that happens automatically, like the rubbing of a genie’s bottle?

But guess what?

There’s no such thing. Even for those rare businesses that do well overnight (like people who bought fidget spinners in bulk and sold them at a huge profit), to increase sales past that initial push, they need to work to put things in place that will ensure long-term success.

But what if I told you there is a secret to long-term business success and it’s incredibly easy to put into place? You wouldn’t believe me because I just said business success is hard, and it is, but when you have the right tools it becomes easier.

Chamber membership is one of those secret ingredients for business success.

Why Chamber Membership Is the Secret Ingredient to Success

Chambers may not be secret societies but they are often underestimated in their ability to help. Here’s how they can assist your business growth in ways that may have been secret to you up until now:

1.    They Make Sure the State and Local Business Climates Are Ideal for Business

Many of us assume that all politicians would be pro-business because business is good for the entire economy, but that’s simply not true. Your needs must be represented as a state and local level. If they aren’t, legislative issues that are bad for business could affect your ability to grow your operations down the line.

2.    Chambers Are Excellent Matchmakers

Everyone knows chambers throw networking events but what some people don’t realize is that they also can help introduce you to people you want to meet. For instance, if you know you need an accountant that has experience in your field, the chamber can often introduce you directly. They don’t charge a matchmaking fee or any sort of commission. They are natural connectors.

3.    They Have a Large Business-Oriented Audience

Chambers serve up top-notch business resources so they attract a business-oriented audience. If that’s what you’re looking for, analyze who follows the chamber and follow those people as well.

4.    They Can Help with Sourcing

Many people know to go to the chamber for their hiring needs, but did you also know the chamber is a reliable source for addressing workforce development concerns? If you have needs for your future workforce, let the chamber know. They can be on the lookout for that type of employee or can work with those behind local training and recruitment to ensure you have the human resources you need.

The chamber does many things that you may not have realized could benefit your business. These activities may not actually be secret but they can be the secret behind your business success.

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August 30, 2021

How to Take Your Customer Relationship to the Next Level

Do you want to wow your existing customers? Are you ready to take your “relationship” with them to the next level? Then it may be time to grab your data and do some personalized marketing.

What You Need 

To get your customers’ attention, you need to have tools in place to measure things like buying frequency and purchase history. You’ll also want your customers’ email addresses.

If you don’t have that, start collecting it. If you do, let’s talk about how you can use it to drive additional sales.

Selling to existing, repeat customers is one of the easiest ways to increase sales. They already love you. But even people who love you and your products/services can forget to buy from you, especially if you sell a product or service that is want based, not need based, like a restaurant. 

You will find it necessary at some point to remind your customers of their love for you. A personalized email is ideal for this.

Components of a Standout Personalized Reminder Email 

When some business owners think about “personalized” emails, they think of form fields that insert names. 

But we’re moving beyond that.

This type of reminder email speaks to your personalized relationship with your customer, making it a whole lot more effective in driving sales than simply referring to someone’s name. In addition to using their name, you want to include:

Purchase History

Don’t include everything they’ve ever bought. That may be overwhelming, and they may decide they’ve spent too much money with you. Instead, highlight what they bought most often.

“You sure do like our decadent chocolate shake, maybe almost as much as we like having you as a customer.
Wouldn’t today be the perfect day to order one?
Mmmmm. Chocolate.” 

Drive those impulse buys.

Upsell Opportunities

Suggest other things they may love next time they’re buying from you. Point out how convenient, popular, or valuable your other offerings are. 

“You know what one of our most popular services is? Eyebrow waxing.
We tame most of the brows in town and that service is the perfect complement to the highlights you already love.
In fact, the waxing can be done while your color cures.
That way you leave with gorgeous hair and a refined look with no additional time out of your day.
Just what you need, right?”

More Ways to Love You

In the email, suggest more ways to love your services or products. End the email with a call to action. This could be an invitation to stop in, coupon for their next visit, an invitation to try a new location, sharing ways to connect on social, or a picture of their favorite item or service and a “we miss you” invitation. This message will get them thinking about you again and drive more sales. Remember to use evocative imagery in your close so that they can’t help but come see you soon. 

Remaining top of mind is critical to getting more sales from loyal customers. Giving them a little “friendly reminder” email is free and will help you stay connected.