As a past president and current trustee of the Willoughby Area Chamber of Commerce, I see many businesses join the chamber and check the box that says "networking opportunities" as their main reason for joining.
This is a a great goal - unfortunately, it often gets lost in execution by people making these common mistakes relating to chamber of commerce events:
Mistake #1: Sitting with your friends at the event - unless your friends are great referral pipelines for you, make an agreement with them that you need to split up to maximize your networking opportunities while attending the event.
Mistake #2: Sitting with your co-workers at the event - I know it's easy to grab a spot at a table with people you work with - heck, you already know them. But what good does that do when it comes to expanding your range of contacts and promoting your business to others? Your co-workers already know what you do. Share your story with others that you don't yet know.
Mistake #3: Talking about yourself - the entire time - if ever there is a quick way to blow an opportunity for new business, this one is it. I have found that listening first usually pays far larger dividends later.
Mistake #4: Not having a 30 second statement ready about how your business can help the person you are talking to - Granted, you won't be able to offer your products or services to everyone you bump into at chamber events, and that is perfectly fine.
But for those where a good fit may exist? You need to be able to provide a 30 second infomercial about how you can help them or solve their problems. 30 seconds may be all you get. Telling the person, "well, we've been in business for 20 years and serve customers all over the country" doesn't help. Suggesting that "I can help you make QuickBooks less confusing for you and help you work more efficiently with it" is something they will likely remember.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...
Mistake #5: Automatically putting all your new contacts on your e-mail newsletter list - Unless the person specifically requested to be added to it, automatically adding them to your list is a bad move. If they want to learn more about your business, let them do it at their pace by including your web site and related information on your business card.
Mistake #6: Instantly asking your new contact to join you on LinkedIn - I don't know about you, but adding someone to my LinkedIn community is something that happens after you have gotten to know the person for a while. An immediate request to join their LinkedIn network tells me it's all about numbers and not about relationships.
Mistake #7: Not following up in a timely manner if your conversation calls for it - Ok, so you've avoided all the land mines above and have connected with someone that truly wants to learn more about what you do after the event. Bingo - a prospect!
But then you drop the ball because your system to follow-up with new prospects is completely disorganized or worse yet, non-existent. This is where a customer relationship management (CRM) package really can help you stay organized!
Avoiding these mistakes at your next chamber event can really help you connect with people and grow your business in the months ahead.