“I don’t know what to do next.”
“I have no clients and don’t know what to do.”
When clients (and profits) aren’t where they need to be, there’s only one thing to do … get more clients.
Yet in some cases that can seem like the most difficult and painful thing to do. You’ve tried things before. What should you do now?
The easiest answer is right down the street from you. And it takes the form of a Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber of Commerce offices are designed to help businesses get business and stay in business. They offer everything from advice, to networking opportunities, to resources and more. If you have a question, they are the best place to find an answer in your community.
If you’ve never been to your local chamber, what’s your first step? And what should you do when you get there? This is how to get started.
Find The Best Group
All chambers are not created equal. When we were first starting out, we joined two chambers and quickly found out that there is a difference.
The Denver Chamber was a huge group of people with lots of meetings and a ton of advice. But because they cater to the downtown Denver area, a lot of their members are larger, corporate businesses, and the members tend to be employees. We also found a lot of people in the professional venues, such as financial, law and real estate.
Then we joined the South Metro Denver Chamber, which catered to smaller businesses, more entrepreneurial in nature. And we found our target.
Spend the time to look at several in your area. Many focus in on areas – cities or regions – but you can find them based on a wide variety of interests. The Women’s Chamber, for instance, is a great place for targeting women based business opportunities.
Make sure you are comfortable with the people you meet, with the types of networking opportunities, and with the location. You will be working with it quite a bit to do it right, so make sure you have easy access.
Find one closest to you by following these links, of Google-ing your local area or interests.
Most chambers have account representatives for helping you come on board. Their job is to recruit new members, get them oriented into the group, and make them feel comfortable from the beginning.
Use this relationship as much as you can in the beginning. Tell her about your interests, your ideas, and your targets. Ask her for specific advice on what groups you should try. Get a complete list of everything that is happening throughout the month, and put as many of the events as you can on to your calendar.
The goal isn’t to join every group within the chamber. Instead, its to find the groups best suited for you. And the only way to do that is to see them in action.
Join the monthly networking functions – usually a large happy hour for everyone in the chamber to meet and network.
Join a leads group – weekly or bi-weekly groups of business owners that get together again and again to learn about each other’s business and provide leads to each other.
Join a special interest group – some chambers put together smaller monthly networking groups for special interests. We had one that catered to events (hotels, restaurants, flowers, photographers, caterers, etc).
Join a business growth group – a group in which you meet monthly with the same group of people to learn more about growing your business and working on problems that come up in your own business. This is a great way for building your own advisory board and getting input from people that care about your business, yet aren’t impacted by the financial side of things.
Attend special training – many chambers put on special business training programs throughout the year. This allows you to learn about all aspects of growing a business, and in a very affordable way.
Participate in trade shows – most chambers put on yearly trade shows open to the public. These allow you to set up booths and showcase what you do to people from all over your community.
Join community events – some chambers put on huge community events, and the organizers come from within the chamber itself. Not only can you participate in great events, you can get your name out in huge ways.
No, you don’t have to do it all. But you can see that there are many, many things you can do. The key is becoming active and getting to know people throughout the chamber. Yes, there may be other photographers in the chamber as well. Your goal is to work well with them, find your own niche, and become someone people think about when the question “I need a photographer” comes up.
Work Hard Your First Few Months
In many cases, a chamber will take you by the hand and lead the way the first few months. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Sometimes they’ll offer you a special on advertising in their newsletter, or sending out to the chamber list. Take advantage of the special offer and head out with an introduction marketing piece.
They may choose to highlight your business to the various groups in the chamber. Be there and accept the introduction.
Whatever they offer, take it in and follow up. Your goal is to connect with and develop relationships with as many people as possible.
Remember, the people you meet here aren’t necessarily going to become clients (although that is possible). Instead, your goal is to find people that will make good referral partners, and build strong relationships throughout the community. Business will come. Right now it’s all about connections.