Member Service Spotlight: Business After Hours
The Chamber's Twist on Networking
By: Allison Whalen
Typical small businesses don't enjoy the luxury of multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. The current economic climate may even put a pinch regional advertising budgets. However, lucky for Chamber members, networking often proves to be a more successful and cost-effective alternative.
Consumer decision making, especially when it involves local products or services, usually boils down to one inescapable factor: personal relationships. Despite the advent of social media, digital networking has hardly rendered face-to-face contact obsolete. The Amherst Chamber of Commerce acknowledges this and continues to create an atmosphere that inspires these relationships. On the third Tuesday of every month, the Chamber holds a networking event, coined Business After Hours. The event provides individuals with the opportunity to grow their own prosperity by increasing the quality and quantity of their business contacts.
Hitting the networking circuit is a ritual in business circles. A barrage of small talk, refreshments, handshakes and business cards are the usual suspects at most events. Business After Hours, however, avoids slipping into a stagnate routine by adding two unique components to the tradition. Each month the Chamber changes the location of Business After Hours to different member venues and invites elected officials or government decision makers to serve as honorary hosts.
Allowing member businesses to hold the event is beneficial to the both the host business and to the guests. Members that decide to hold Business After Hours receive publicity on the Chamber's print and electronic communications prior to the event and the chance to promote their company to a captive audience of networkers. Additionally, host venues get the chance to give an outright plug for their product or service, while building a rapport for their hospitality. Past businesses have showcased their offerings through verbal descriptions, facility tours and distribution of marketing materials. Meanwhile, guests aren't left fumbling for conversation as they can find out more about the featured business or use it a conversation starter for networking purposes.
Individuals who choose to attend Business After Hours get the opportunity to come in contact with professionals they might not have otherwise met but still have the potential to do business with or generate a referral. For example, real estate agents might not meet financial advisors in their day-to-day business dealings; however, when they need financial guidance they are more likely to select someone who they have first hand knowledge of and are comfortable with. That's where Business After Hours comes in. The event provides a forum for professionals to establish relationships and credibility with other people in the business community. Building a relationship with other networkers puts you both in their mental and actual rolodex. This way, the next time a need arises for your product or service, your business card will be the familiar one to get plucked from the stack.
The honorary host component provides a similar twofold benefit. Elected officials or government decision makers give brief speeches, and interested networkers can opt to introduce themselves afterward. This allows the honorary host to gain access to their constituency and gives guests face time that they wouldn't ordinarily have had.
If you are already a regular at Business after Hours or you are planning on attending your first one, brush up on your networking skills by watching video clips from Tools for Prosperity with John Bourdage. Last Thursday, John presented to a sold out crowd on "Proper Business Networking Etiquette." Click here to learn informative networking tips.
If you are interested in hosting Business After Hours or want to find out more information, fill out an application and return it to the Chamber.