Chambers of Commerce are an enormous resource for small businesses. They are geared towards businesses of 100 people or less and represent more than 3 million businesses.
There is a local chamber of commerce in 3,000 towns and cities across the U.S. and Canada…and 112 additional Chambers of Commerce in 99 other countries.
I recently met James Mielnik, who works for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and he agreed to share his insights on how your business can benefit from networking and being involved in a local chamber.
Hi James…I know networking is a key component of Chambers of Commerce — what are some specific networking tips you can share?
Sixty-five percent of businesses join a Chamber because of networking so I will really want to dig in here.
Below are my top 7 networking tips:
1. Cultivate a genuine interest in seeing others succeed…. and help them do it:
This mindset should be prerequisite before anybody begins to network. You have a great post entitled Being a Go-Giver not a Go-Getter which echo’s this mindset and has some additional tips. In short, what I see most people doing when they network is talking about themselves and talking about their product or service with the hopes of selling more. This is very amateurish and turns people off right away.
Solution – do the exact opposite! When you meet somebody for first time focus all your attention on asking probing questions to learn about THEM such as: What brings you here today? Who are you trying to connect with? Who would be an ideal prospect for you? What is your biggest frustration?
“Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him” Emerson
2. Listen…Listen…. and then Listen some more:
I know you have heard this many times before, but it’s a skill that ALL of us can still improve. Rather than reiterate the importance of listening I’m going to share a technique which will automatically take your listening skills to the next level and FORCE you to listen more!
When engaged in a conversation, BEFORE you respond to somebody. pause and briefly summarize what you just heard before you share what you were going to say. This is a simple yet powerful technique to make the other person feel understood and demonstrates that you care what they have to say.
This is harder than it sounds and takes a bit of practice, but starting today, put on the breaks before you reply to someone and paraphrase back what they just told you first!.
3. The 3 Second Rule
As soon as you enter a room of people start a conversation with the first person you see within the first 3 seconds. DO NOT HESISTATE, don’t look for somebody you know and don’t go to the bar. It doesn’t matter who you approach, just go talk to somebody!
The goal here is to build confidence, get outside ‘your head’ and build the habit of proactively meeting people. At most events there is usually a registration desk. Try and view this as the “warm up”. Use this opportunity to speak to the person beside you as you sign in or receive your name tag.
4. The soft touch:
You may have noticed what typically happens at networking events is people form small groups (usually consisting of friends or office colleagues) who then talk amongst themselves. This situation presents a challenge for most people.
Here is a very non threatening way to approach one of these groups if you know somebody in the group (even if you don’t know them very well). As you are walking by simply “soft touch” the person you know on the shoulder, smile, and say hi, making sure to address them by their name. Don’t motion to shake their hand, and instead simply give a small wave as you keep walking (shaking hands is usually too much of a commitment in this situation). This seemingly small gesture accomplishes the following goals:
a) Strengthening the relationship with the person you know.
b) In some situations the individual will stop you and say “James, have you met…..” and bring you into the group to introduce you to everybody else (although this is a possibility- do not expect it)
c) It gives you unconscious face time with the other people in that group. Some of them will notice you and you now have a small connection with them for generating a future conversation.
d) If you really wanted to meet somebody from that group and didn’t get an opportunity to at the event, you can call the person you know and say “Hey I noticed you speaking to….I would love to meet them. Would you mind introducing us?”
5. Smile the whole time Smiling conveys happiness, fun, positive, and so many other great emotions! Maya Angelou is quoted as saying
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think this is profound. How do you want to make people feel?
I find most people at networking events are unnecessarily serious, and as a result don’t let their true personality shine through. I use to be this way as well…. Do the opposite! I have found the more I smile while speaking on the phone, while writing emails or while in person meeting others, the more it makes others want to be around me. Smiling can also do wonders for your “inner game” by increasing your confidence, helping you relax and increasing your overall level of enjoyment. Smile.
6. Introduce people to each other:
Anytime you have a chance to introduce people who can benefit from knowing each other do it. Sending a quick email introduction is a great habit to get into.
“Help enough people get what they want and you’ll get what you want” -Zig Zigler
7. Keep in touch by sending things of value:
In my experience, most people contact others when they want something. This is okay once in a while, but if this is the only instance in which you touch base with somebody, sooner or later they are not going to screen your calls. Ironically, you can have a lot of success in doing the complete opposite. If 80% of the time you contact somebody to offer them something of interest or value they are going to open your email or take your call every time.
A simple way to do this is keeping your eyes open for events, articles, and blogs that would interest your contacts. Other ideas include sending email introductions or cards to congratulate them for achieving success or maybe offering tickets to a sports game. These little gestures go a long way if you are dong it because you genuinely care. You will not only grow your relationship with that individual but they will WANT to hear what you have to say every time you contact them. In addition to making somebody else feel good you will personally feel like a million dollars when you make the time do something like this!
What’s the primary purpose of a Chamber of Commerce?
There are 2 key purposes of a Chamber. One is to represent the interests of businesses in a particular community or region. For example, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce represents the 15,000 businesses in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The interests in our region range from a better public transit system to lower taxes for small businesses.
The second purpose is to help businesses grow and connect with others. This is done by providing networking opportunities. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce has over 100 events per year ranging from informal after hours events such as ‘Commerce Connections’ to annual gala events like the spring and fall dinners.”
How does the Chamber of Commerce and industry work together?
This is achieved by having employees of various companies volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce, either on our Board or a sub committee like the Energy Advisory Group. When you have CEOs of companies such as Nova Scotia Power or Bell Aliant (our major telecommunications provider) getting involved with a Chamber committee, this creates a synergy and cohesion between individual industries and the business committee as a whole.
This creates tremendous clout and gets the attention of government officials who can make the change happen.
What’s the typical membership fee for becoming a Chamber of Commerce member?
Membership is done on an annual basis and the fee is determined by the number of employees a business has. Our memberships start at $280 for a 1-2 employee company and go up to $4,300 for 500+ employees.
Can a business list job openings through a Chamber of Commerce.
Each Chamber is different. Our chamber currently does not offer the ability to post job openings . What we do offer is discounts on recruiting firms through our member to member marketplace.
This is where a company who is a member of the Chamber can offer discounts (usually 10-20-% off their services) to other Chamber members.
How can a Chamber of Commerce generate Web site traffic for businesses?
Here are the top 3 ways:
1. Chambers have what we call an online business or member directory. This includes every business who is a member and links directly to your site.
2. Advertise on the Chamber website. Most Chambers have vertical banners or some place to advertise on their website which can link to your page.
3. Email blasts. Most Chambers give you the option to send out an email to every one of their members for a couple hundred dollars.
Would you give an example of the “biggest win” that a business had as a result of being a Chamber of Commerce member (please give details of the story).
I know a lot of business deals have been made during Chamber events. Unfortunately, I don’t have details for any of them. I can speak to some of the “big wins” for our Chamber. We recently helped get a smoking by-law passed which prohibits smoking in all restaurants.
Another big win was allowing Sunday shopping (Stores in Halifax prior to this passing were closed for business on Sunday!). One other big win would be introducing U.S. Customs pre-clearance at our airport so we can get screed prior to leaving for international flights.
If you were to start your own business, how would you best take advantage of the benefits of the Chamber of Commerce (please include a list of tips (including secret ones!)?
Below are the top 7 things you could do if just starting a business:
1. Go to the free events offered by the Chamber such as Business After Hours or Commerce Connections and practice meeting and networking. These events are very non threatening and it will also help get the name of your company into the market place.
2. Use the Membership directory and find potential businesses to partner with and cross promote.
3. Most Chambers have a monthly magazine (ours is called Business Voice) and we are always looking for content from members. Offer to write monthly articles about your speciality or industry. This is much more effective than advertising and it’s free!!!
4. Volunteer for a committee within the Chamber such as the ambassadors, transportation or education committees. This is a great way to meet and establish relationships with 20+ people right away. It will also help keep you abreast of issues.
5. Take advantage of the group discounts offered by the Chamber to help save your business money. There is everything from payroll services discounts to merchant services discounts.
6. Develop a relationship with the staff at your Chamber. The staff will know many of the members and if you ask can help introduce you to them.
7. Put the Chamber of Commerce logo on your business cards and website. This will help establish credibility.
I notice Chambers of Commerce are global. How does the American Chamber of Commerce differ from the Canada Chamber of Commerce versus the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce versus the British Chamber of Commerce or even the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, etc.?
It is safe to say that Chambers exist almost everywhere businesses do. While I am not involved in Chambers on a global scale, it is clear that they all follow a similar format and would have the benefits listed above.
The primary difference between these Chambers is the type of advocacy and the policy work they would do because every region has their own unique challenges. Furthermore, each Chamber targets their particular region and/or cultural group.
Is there a good link you could share to a global Chamber of Commerce directory?
Hmm….To be honest I’m not aware of such a link. Perhaps you’ve planted the seed of a new business idea! The closest thing I could recommend is to find the Chamber of Commerce for a particular state.
Take California for example. If you go to the California Chamber of Commerce Website they have a place which lists every local Chamber in California and their contact information.
Hey James, if someone wanted to learn more about you, do you have a link about yourself?
Sure. The best way to connect would be my LinkedIn profile. I am more than happy to answer any questions, share ideas or further insights with any of your readers.
Thank you for sharing, James!
My friend Ralph taught me how to do a Fishbone Analysis recently (it had been invented by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa).
You can use the Fishbone process to help you figure out how to best achieve an objective, including how to prioritize the individual items which together are needed to meet your objective.
Fishbone Analysis Example
Let’s say that you determine that you need to grow the number of visits to a Web site/page from 500 per month to 20,000 per month by year-end.
First, you go through the six things that prevent you from getting that objective done. These are called the six “M’s” because each starts with the letter “M” to make it easier to remember.
The six “M’s” that prevent you from getting anything done are:
Now, it’s called a fishbone because you draw a line (the fish’s spine) with three diagonal lines on each side (which look like bones) and it looks like a fish (see my sloppy image above).
Example of The Six “M’s” of Fishbone
So, back to the Fishbone example of getting your traffic to 20,000 visits per month.
Go through the six “M” categories and for each one answer the question: “What things within each category are preventing me from getting to my goal (e.g. to 20,000 Web site visits per month).
You then take each of the sub-items (in my case I made it simple and there are only 9 (usually you’d have 20 to 30) and list them out and do a Fishbone Ranking of them.
The ranking approach Ralph suggested is to do a 1 to 10 on the impact, resources needed and time that each item will take where:
10 is high Impact (1 is low)
10 is low Resources Needed (1 is high resources)
10 is low amount of Time it will take (1 is a lot of time)
Priorities Come Out of the Fishbone Ranking
So, now you list them out in order of highest score first:
25 = You need to know the definition of a Web site visit.
23 = You need analytics software to measure Web site traffic.
21 = You need to understand how you will be increasing Web traffic
19 = You need to figure out if the Internet domain name you’re using is the right one.
17 = You need a person on staff who can can be the driver of more traffic to your Web site (see my DACI article on the importance of a “driver.”
16 = You need access to someone familiar with HTML.
16 = You need to confirm that you’re actually receiving 500 visits per month right now (because you’re confused about Web site traffic)
13 = You need content on your Web site to attract visitors.
And, voila, this may be the order you need to do those items.
For those who really like fishbone brainstorming, you can take any of those individual items and do an entire new fishbone JUST on that item.
If you want to learn more about the man behind Fishbones, click here for a Kaoru Ishikawa biography
If you like this article, you will probably also like this article I wrote on the SWOT Analysis tool.
Some of you periodically ask me to define terms I’ve mentioned in my postings. I’ve included a short list here — I’ll probably add to it later (feel free to add terms with definitions through the Comments feature (and I’ll add them to the list)).
You likely need partnerships to grow your business.
Here are some tips I’ve used to close partnerships with such companies as Disney, Microsoft, Sprint, Sony Music and NBC.
Best of luck!
I work on the management team of a purely virtual company — as in, we don’t have any physical office.
At about 70 people, we are the largest purely virtual company I know of.
Note: see a recent update on 2 other virtual businesses at the bottom of this article.
Sure you may know larger teams of telecommuters out there — but they are typically part of a larger organization that has a physical office…we have none!
In fact, part of me sharing this posting is to find out if you know of any other sizable purely virtual teams out there!
In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you some of the pros and cons of a virtual business:
Benefits of a Virtual Business
Challenges of a Virtual Business
Bonus Tips for Virtual Environments
Another important lesson I found is that working in a virtual workplace tends to be really easy when your business is performing well and super-difficult when your business is having performance challenges.
That means that you’re really going to have to be at the top of your game during the tough times.
If you know of any purely virtual companies larger than 70 people, please comment below.
And you may enjoy this 5 Tips For Managing Your Virtual Team article I wrote.
Update On Other Larger Virtual Companies (Sept. 5, 2012)
There was an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that identified 2 other large virtual businesses: 1) Automattic has having 123 employees working in 26 countries with most everyone working from homes (though they do have a small San Francisco office for occasional use)); the article also mentioned Kalypso LP which claimed they have 150 employees around the U.S. and in Europe with no corporate offices.
I’ve been using SWOT Analysis for strategic planning lately and I thought I’d share the basics of it.
What is a SWOT Analysis
SWOT is a strategic planning tool. The acronym SWOT stands for:
W = Weaknesses
O = Opportunities
T = Threats
The importance of a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT Analysis is a great exercise to help determine your tactics or execution of an objective.
The more you can prepare before you jump into your tactics (or execution), the better off your results will be.
How to do a SWOT Analysis
First, pick your topic (e.g. your topic might be broad such as on your business/company overall (a “Company SWOT Analysis” or something more specific such as a department in your business (e.g. a “Marketing SWOT Analysis) or it could be for yourself as an individual (a “Personal SWOT Analysis”).
Next you pick your objective. For example, if you’re doing a Company SWOT Analysis your objective may be to double the business within the next three years.
Now do the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to that topic or objective:
Next, ask yourself if your objective is achievable given your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Is SWOT objective achievable?
If the answer is no, you have to revise your objective and do another SWOT.
If your answer is yes, then you can now move into discussing the tactics related to your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Specifically, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:
A SWOT Analysis Example
[Check out my SWOT Analysis Examples posting to see larger company SWOT Analysis examples]
Here’s a summary of a general Business SWOT Analysis I did on our start up Mojam about ten years ago.
Our objective was to double the revenue of the business within twelve months.
When we asked ourselves if the objective of doubling our business was achievable given these strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the answer was yes…so we moved on to answering the four questions on each SWOT.
Now you’re into tactics and execution and that requires prioritization, time lines, business plans, etc….or, in other words, you just go do all the things you just said you shoud do in your answers!
Who should carry out the SWOT Analysis exercise?
Ideally it’s a cross functional team (e.g. someone in sales, marketing, finance, technology, etc.)
Who Invented SWOT?
Most people credit Albert S. Humphrey, a business and management consultant who also founded the Stakeholder Concept and Team Action Management (TAM) Concept.
note: Some people mistakenly call it “SWAT” Analysis (SWAT is an acronym for special weapons and tactics started by the Los Angeles Police Department around 1968 (coincidentally, Albert Humphrey began popularizing SWOT right around the same time (in the late 1960′s!))
A great definition of SWOT can be found at SWOT Analysis Wikipedia.
Good luck with your SWOT!
Public speaking is people’s number one fear…#2 is death…as Comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it: “That means you’d rather be laying in the casket at a funeral than giving the eulogy.”
I’ve had a couple of smart friends recommend that I check out Toastmasters as a tool to sharpen my public speaking saw for a few years now…so I finally took the plunge.
I highly recommend that you try it out — you can find one of 12,000 Toastmasters locations in 130 countries. Toastmasters International is a non-profit (though they do charge you if you want to be a member) that began in Santa Ana, California in 1924.
I picked a Toastmasters club in San Francisco (there were a dozen to choose from!)…coincidentally, one of them was located in a building I used to work.
You don’t need to pay anything to check it out. You can be a free guest for as long as you want which allows you to both observe others giving speeches and also give your own short speeches (I’ll explain what guests do in a moment).
If you’d like to become a member (which means you’ll receive some curriculum and the opportunity to do longer speeches (and get feedback on them), the Toastmasters dues are $20 one-time and then $27 every six months.
Yes, though it’s a short one. At your first meeting, you are asked to stand up and introduce yourself and how you came about choosing Toastmasters. You will also have the option to do a Toastmasters table topics speech at your first meeting.
A Toastmasters member at each meeting will give guests a random topic or theme for a speech (called a table-topic) and the guest is asked if he or she would like to speak about that topic right there on the spot (without preparation) for a couple of minutes. Table-topic speeches are designed to help you think on your feet — my first table-topic was a college graduation commencement speech.
What are the different Toastmaster parts/roles that people play?
Note: Every single person in attendance at a Toastmasters meeting is asked to speak (you may decline) and every person is there to learn (there are no Toastmasters employees in attendance!).
How frequently do Toastmasters meetings take place and how long are they?
Toastmasters meetings are typically weekly for one hour. But you’re under no obligation to attend every one (I attended my first three over a two-month period (because I was traveling).
Toastmasters provides two good top 10 lists for public speakingj. Here they are:
10 Tips for Better Public Speaking
1. Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
3. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
4. Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
5. Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
6. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
7. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
8. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
9. Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
10. Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you – as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.
Top 10 Public Speaking Mistakes
I hope you try Toastmasters out — I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it a super-positive experience.
I had the good pleasure of sitting down with Anup Samanta recently.
Anup worked for Mojam (the company I co-founded) early on in his career. He’s gone on to an interesting business journey that included Discover Financial, Lycos, MyPoints and Navistar.
Anup specializes in analytics and he and I decided to do a question and answer session on the topic of Marketing Analytics
Hi Anup. First off, what is the definition of Marketing Analytics?
Marketing analytics is primarily a data-driven function that extracts, validates, understands and reports on the quantitative data points generated from market-facing tactics to not only measure the performance of those market-facing tactics, but to also forecast sales demand across multiple channels being used by the brand to acquire and retain customers.
What are the top paid Marketing Analytics tools out there?
Every company has internal systems that aggregate different categories of data. It is important for market analysis managers to understand the data infrastructures of these internal systems.
Microsoft Excel, SPSS and SAS are generally adaptable and flexible marketing analytics tools that can handle huge volumes of data, regardless of the derivation of the data point.
There are also industry-specific data sources that can help supplement the integrity of reports created by the market analysis manager.
What are the top free Web analytics tools available?
There are several free Web analytics tools available. I use Google Analytics, Feedburner and ShareThis to track site performance metrics of my Stratelysis blog.
And I am happy with the ease of use these Web analytics tools.
I notice a lot of Web searches on Google Analytics, Thomson Analytics and Siebel Analytics — what’s the difference between those three?
These tools are very different as they serve different industry players and have various levels of complexity, but are similar as they deliver a data-driven solution to assess business or functional actions.
Google Analytics enables website managers to track site performance metrics to make decisions on how to better engage visitors.
Thomson One Analytics enables clients to track the performance of financial markets to make better decisions on how to allocate their money for maximum returns.
Siebel Analytics (Oracle Marketing Analytics) allows an organization understand marketing return-on-investment (ROI) by reporting on customer preferences, purchase behavior and segment profitability to drive profitable revenue and build brand.
Do you need separate tools for Web Site Analytics versus Search Analytics versus Email Analytics versus Mobile Analytics versus Video Analytics, etc.?
About ten years ago, brands allocated a larger piece of their marketing budget for offline than online tactics. Within the past five years, that allocation has shifted, especially as mobile, Web 2.0, video and photography technology have not only greatly approved, but rapidly proliferated.
The pace of technological growth has fundamentally outpaced our ability to understand the data coming from the technologies. Large agencies that execute multi-channel campaigns are aligning with specialized boutiques that focus exclusively on one, two or all of the online technologies listed above (Here’s an interesting Internet Companies & Ad Agencies article on this).
Based on media mix shifts and existing agency structures, clients must depend on separate tools for online analytics.
And I know you’re into social media — what are your thoughts on Twitter Analytics or Facebook Analytics?
I know that a lot of good work is being done on Twitter and Facebook analytics. It’s important to take a step back to understand the metric of success for a brand marketing itself on these sites.
For Twitter, is it about acquiring twenty followers a day? For Facebook, is it about targeting someone with 500 friends, fifty percent who provide status updates about beer?
In addition, qualitative customer research must be done to optimize the site layout so users are not only engaged with the activities of their followers and friends, but experience an advertisement and buy a product.
A suboptimal online marketing strategy is one where the brand engages the target customer via Twitter or Facebook, but has fewer incremental online sales versus a baseline online strategy where Twitter and Facebook aren’t deployed.
Brands and agencies that can figure out how to monetize social media will be the marketing gurus of our future.
Where in the org chart do you recommend Marketing Analytics reside (in the Marketing department or a separate Analtyics department)?
Marketing Analytics should report into a Marketing Business Intelligence or Customer Intelligence team that reports up to the Chief Marketing Officer or Vice President of Marketing.
Where’s the best place for employers to go to post marketing analytics jobs?
Employers should visit my alma mater to post marketing analytics jobs: The Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University teaches a very customer-centric, data-driven, integrated marketing approach to its students, anticipating a new way on how stakeholders interact with brands.
About 80 students graduate from this program each year.
If someone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do?
Please visit my my Stratelysis blog and contact me through there.
Thank you, Anup!