Chamber Spotlight: Business After Hours
The Chamber's Twist on Networking
Typical small businesses don't enjoy the luxury of multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. The current economic climate may have even put a pinch on regional advertising budgets. However such measures are often unnecessary.
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 can become a ritual in business circles. Professionals can find themselves going through the motions. 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 as 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 files you in both 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 old adage is true: People like to do business with people they know.
The honorary host component is also unique to Business After Hours. Elected officials or government decision makers attend the event and make themselves available to interested networkers throughout the night. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the relaxed setting, introduce themselves and get to know the honorary host. Typically individuals don't have regular access to local community leaders. At Business After Hours, particpants not only get to know honorary hosts on a more personal level, they can discuss issues that are important to them or their business. The event is an opportunity for networkers to get beyond campaign messages and public personas. They are able to truly get a feel for the people who make decisions that affect their day-to-day lives.
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 a video clip from the Tools for Prosperity workshop series with John Bourdage. Last Thursday, John presented to a sold out crowd on "Proper Business Networking Etiquette." He emphasized the importance of relationship building as networking strategy and as a means to growing your business. The Amherst Chamber of Commerce understands that our members join the Chamber to ultimately further their businesses. On the third Tuesday of every month, the Chamber provides an atmosphere for members do so by attending Business After Hours.