Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Perfect an Elevator Pitch About Yourself

--Reprinted from the Harvard Business Review May 2009

You're in the elevator with the hiring manager of Dream-Job Corporation. As the door slides shut, you feel a combination of adrenaline and slight nausea: you've got 15 seconds, if that, to communicate your value as a potential employee in a compelling way — just 15 seconds to cram in a whole resume's worth of work and accomplishments and late nights and successes. There's so much you want to say, but your message has got to be crisp, tailored, to-the-point. Handle this one right, and you'll be the newest member of the Dream-Job team. Flub it up, and you're back to scanning listings on What are you supposed to say?

Here are the five key things to know and do in order to make your elevator pitch successful:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Very few people have the oratorical power to make compelling 15-second speech about their entire professional lives on demand and under pressure. Practice your speech 100 times — literally. Know it, get comfortable with it, be able to tilt it effectively for a different audience. Practice your body language with it: how will you give the speech differently sitting down vs while walking down a hall? How will it be different over the phone vs in person?
  • Focus on impact. Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes aired a segment set at a white-collar job fair. One of the interviewees, a laid-off Wall Street secretary, looked straight into the camera and said, with total conviction, "I can make any boss shine." I wanted to hire her on the spot. Who doesn't want to shine? Describing the impact you've had, and can continue to have, is much more compelling than talking about your number of years of experience.
  • Ditch the cultural baggage. A lot of us have been taught — by parents, teachers, or team-oriented corporate environments — not to toot our own horns, and to use "we" instead of "I". Elevator pitches are all about "I". You've got to get comfortable with bragging about your own individual contributions (in a graceful way).
  • Be slow and steady. Whether out of nervousness or a desire to cram in a lot of information, people giving elevator speeches tend to talk at breakneck pace — which is extremely off-putting to potential employers. Speak at a pace that shows your calm and confidence. You want them to think of you as thoughtful and deliberate — not as some manic babbler.
  • See the whole world as an elevator. Too many people looking for jobs save their elevator speeches for job fairs and interviews. Remember the first rule of sales: ABC (Always Be Closing). Give your elevator speech to everyone — at family gatherings, in the waiting room of the dentist, at coffee hour at your church or temple. You never know where the next job is coming from.

How do you pitch yourself to prospective employers? What advice do you have for other people doing the same? What works — and what doesn't?

Monday, December 13, 2010

New online registration features include All Access Pass

We hear you!

You told us that registering individually for the many Chamber networking events, especially when you're doing it online, can be time consuming.

So we're launching All Access Pass options. We're starting with Monthly All Access Pass options that allow you to click once and register for all of that month's networking events. This generates one bill, one receipt and guarantees you the early bird registration discount for those events.

We're also launching the Women in Business All Access Pass-for those of you who plan to attend all 4 events, you can sign up once and be guaranteed a spot at each event.

All Access Passes are only available for a limited time each month. (After each month's BOB, that month's All Access Pass is no longer available. You'll have to wait until next month.

Watch for additional new options--including an annual All Access Pass, annual Chamber Marketing Plans and Sponsorship packages. Take advantage of everything the Chamber has to offer while spreading payments over 12 months!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Life long learning--keep your competitive edge

This month I've had the opportunity to attend a variety of presentations on new ways for small businesses to leverage internet based tools which can help grow your business.

The impact of iPhones/Droids, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and YouTube on how people get their information (and how they spend their free time) cannot be underestimated.

It's important to know what the right fit is for you, your business and the amount of time you want to dedicate to social media or online exposure. It's also important to know that "It's too complicated, I'm going to ignore it." is not going to help you grow your business.

Why would you willingly hand a leg up to your competition?

I'm not saying you have to be an expert in all areas--but you do need to listen, be informed and think outside of the box (your store front). Just because you've always advertised or marketed the same way doesn't mean it will continue to be effective. This is true of early adopters for Twitter and Facebook too.

Keep sharp. Keep learning. Keep strengthening your strategic edge--and you will see success!


Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Now, people are turning to Twitter as an effective way to reach out to businesses, too. From local stores to big brands, and from brick-and-mortar to internet-based or service sector, people are finding great value in the connections they make with businesses on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EXPO--10 Steps to a Strategic Booth Display

Planning Your Booth is very important. If you set up without a plan you may feel frustrated when it doesn't come together and you may be missing something you need.

Step 1--plan the look of your booth so it passes the 3-30-3 rule.
Can someone glancing at your booth for 3 seconds know who you are?Make sure your business name is part of your booth display. (You'd be surprised how many people overlook the obvious.)
Can someone looking at your booth for 30 seconds understand who you are, what you do and one key benefit they'd get by contracting your services?
Do you have materials, handouts or other additional information that would draw someone in for 3 minutes or more?

Step 2-- Select a color scheme. Color is good--it's eye catching and makes a statement before anyone's even started to look closely. Even Black and White can be dramatic. Make sure your colors look like they belong together and don't clash with your logo or give aways.

Step 3--Invest in good signage and professional printing. Poor copies from your office copiers don't reflect well on the quality of work that you do, your ability to plan or your professionalism. Having a few 4-color glossy high end printed pieces for display and special customers is great--and it's also okay to have some less expensive black and white copies for the general public.

Step 4--Draw a quick sketch of what your booth will look like. The Chamber provides an 8 foot table and white table cloth. Don't let that table be bare. And don't bring so much stuff that there's no way it will fit in your exhibit area. It can help to do a practice run to set up your booth at your office. Do you know how the banner goes together? Can you put it up and take it down easily?

Step 5--Take Design tips from HGTV, TLC and magazines. Enhance your display and create drama on a dime. Use empty boxes to build height under the table cloth. Pick up some fresh flowers or pumpkins to add a natural element for nominal cost to your display. Trifold foam board displays are available at Office Depot. Bring a table top easle to display a plaque, photograph or award.

Step 6--When ordering give away items, consider how they can be displayed at the EXPO further enhancing your color scheme and/or messages. Add that into your planned exhibit space.

Step 7--Decide how you will capture business leads. Are you doing a fish bowl raffle? What prize are you offering for people to "enter to win?" Keeping the prize related to your business will keep your fish bowl primed with pre-qualified leads. Only people who want to win your prize will enter!

Step 8--Make sure you have a plan for how you'll keep track of special notes and necessary follow up from contacts made the evening of the EXPO. Have a note pad, use your cell phone or have a lap top handy.

Step 9--Pack a supply kit. Things you will need to set up your booth and handle any event day emergency. Tape, Safety pins, scissors, pens, stapler, breath mints, water and comfortable shoes.

Step 10--After you set up your practice run for your display--walk away and come back later to look it over. Be objective. Is the booth attractive? Is it enticing? Would you want to learn more about the business is represents? If need be--tweak your display.

Best of the Best EXPO Exhibitor Tips: 10 Ways you can help Promote the EXPO

November 11, 2010 is the 24th Annual Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce EXPO.

I've been to 13 EXPOs and I've seen really good ones--and really outstanding ones.

What makes a great EXPO? Good participation by the exhibitors. Not just signing up and being at the EXPO, but engaging their customers, clients, employees, friends and family to come to the EXPO and check out the local businesses and service organizations.

Promotion is key!
We all have a role to play in promoting this event.
Here are 10 ways you can help ensure that the 2010 EXPO will be a GREAT EXPO

1. Invite your clients and potential clients to come to the NOV 11 EXPO We've said it before and we'll say it again--the most effective decision influencer is word of mouth. Seed the audience at the EXPO with people who know you, have used your services and think highly of you. That's your existing customer base. Motivate them to come by offering them a free gift, coupon or special benefit if they stop by your booth. Make this an offer that's ONLY available on EXPO night.

2. Add a tag line of "See you at the November 11, 2010 Best of the Best Chamber EXPO" to your signature on your emails.

November 11, 2010
FREE Admission 6-8 pm
Clarkston High School

3. Post a banner link on your website promoting the EXPO.

4. Make copies of the EXPO flyer and post them at your business or have copies on counter for customers to take.

5. Take flyers with you when you attend business, networking or personal events between now and the EXPO so you can share them when you personally invite people to attend the EXPO.

6. Utilize your connections with the local media to invite them to do a story. Perhaps you're announcing a new product, service or employee at the EXPO--talk to the press ahead of time so they have an opportunity to do a story that promotes you AND the EXPO.

7. Contact your collegues and friends in other companies and ask them to post and EXPO flyer on their bulletin boards.

8. Offer to put up a yard sign promoting EXPO (Signs are available now but should only go up November 5-11)

9. Post the Best of the Best EXPO on your social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Invite your networks to attend.

10. Think about promotional giveaways--are they right for you? EXPO is about EXPOsing your business. It's not Trick or Treating, however strategic use of promotional items can enhance your visibility.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best of the Best EXPO Exhibitor Tips: Why am I here?

In your eagerness not to be left out, have you ever found yourself--say in the middle of an EXPO--and wondered, "Why am I here?" Perhaps you're hoping a little of the enthusiasm of your fellow exhibitors will rub off on you. After all--they seem to know what they're doing.

Happy accidental business success is not the best game plan.
Strategic planning is the secret to true, long lasting success.

Are you new to being strategic? Don't worry--it's easy. Start by asking yourself that key question now! Why am I here? What do I want to get out of the EXPO?

Remember--you're looking for SMART goals. Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Relavent and Timely.

When we've asked exhibitors this question we get answers like these:
  • To generate sales and sales leads
  • To add to our contact list
  • To enhance our image and visibility
  • To establish a presence in the marketplace
  • To improve the effectiveness of our marketing efforts
  • To reach a specific audience
  • To practice self-promotion
  • To introduce a new product or service
  • To recruit distributors or salespeople
  • To demonstrate our product or service
  • To educate the public

Whatever your reason for being at the EXPO--be CLEAR on why you want to be there.

What are your expectations? Are they measurable? Are they realistic?

Do the math--the EXPO is open for 3 hours (5-6 pm is a business social hour and 6-8 the EXPO is open to the public). How many people can you expect to greet and interact with in that time period? Of the over 1000 people coming through the EXPO, what percentage is likely to be your primary audience?

And of your primary audience, how many can you identify and start a relationship with?

Really think about what a successful EXPO looks like to you. Then develop a plan so your expectaions can be met.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chamber Mixers--Lunch with the Chamber is a good investment

Chamber luncheon mixers have been a standard since 1987, when the Chamber was founded. With over 250 successful luncheons the Chamber has learned a few things about what you want out of these events.

1. Start on time and end on time.
Luncheon mixers are in the middle of a work day. You have appointments and work to do. You do not want to be caught at a midday event that runs late and makes you late for the rest of your day.

2. Don't make us stand in line
Chamber members do not want to stand in line to register, check in or pay for their luncheon mixer. Every minute standing in line is a minute of valuable networking that's been missed.
This is why the Chamber offers a discount when you sign up and pay in advance. We want to give you incentive to help us keep the registration/check in quick and easy. Think of early bird registration as your eTicket Fastpass.

3. Let me talk to my friends
By streamlining registration, we make sure you have time to greet friends and familiar faces. We don't encourage you to take your seats until we're ready to start the program. That's because you meet more people when you're standing and mingling.

4. Help me meet new people
Chamber luncheon mixers utilize reserve seating. When you sign up in advance, we are able to strategize who you'll be seated with. Looking to connect with a particular industry--let us know and we can keep that in mind as we coordinate the table seatings.

5. Give me information I can use
Luncheon speakers are carefully selected to offer timely information and updates--news businesses can use. Speakers may be elected officials, public policy makers, community groups an initiatives--or business services, advisors or regional resources.

6. I want to be a speaker/presenter
There are 11 mixers each year and the Chamber books speakers up to 12 months in advance. Members who are interested in speaking to a group should submit their information for the Chamber's "Speakers Bureau." This information is posted on the Chamber's website and shared with the community groups in our area.
We do keep all member's speaking requests on file--however we do not guarantee that all requests will be worked into our strategic plan. Frankly, we have many more speaking requests than we have speaking opportunities.

7. I want to have fun
Chamber luncheon mixers are an opportunity to recharge, have fun--laugh and build relationships with fellow business leaders in our community. We know that if you enjoy your luncheon mixer experience, you will be more likely to attend a future event.

And that's the real key to our Mixers. We help you get connected and keep you connected to your peers, to public policy makers, to key information that can help you grow your business and to people who can be strategic referral partners.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Get more out of your EXPO experience!

The Chamber's annual EXPO is fast approaching--November 11, 2010 6-8 pm at Clarkston High School.

Are you in?

How do I prepare for the EXPO?
First- Get in the game! I know this sounds basic--but REGISTER. You'll save money with an early bird discount. And you may not know this, but when placing EXPO booths, we do the corporate sponsors first, the hospitality second, the premium sponsors third--and then we work through the registrations in the order they were received. So early registration may increase your chances of a preferred EXPO position.

You'll also have a chance to order a logo self-inking stamp so you can participate in the EXPO Bingo game. Visitors will be asked to get their card fully stamped in order to enter the door prize drawing. If you want to be part of the Bingo game--be an early bird and get a logo stamp.

Second--Create a Game Plan! Take a few minutes to strategize what your booth will look like, what colors, what message, who will be staffing it?
With over 1,000 people coming through the EXPO how will your booth draw the public in? You don't want everyone just walking on by--or hurrying to the booth that's 2 spots down from you because that display has something more interesting, attractive or dynamic.

What message can you use that intrigues a potential customer or client? How will your booth's display help you pre-qualify a lead?

Here's an Example:
I was intrigued at the recent Taste of Clarkston by the way the restaurants creatively drew people in--not only to taste their food--but to think about them for future business.
What was the best example of this creative, eye catching marketing? Scott Lake Banquet Center. If you were at the Taste, you may have seen the 2 couples dressed in formal wear. They were helping to promote Scott Lake as the place to have your wedding reception. Eye catching--no one else was wearing an evening gown or tuxedo--and an instantly recognizable message--"Oh! Weddings!" If you were thinking about getting married--you would definitely want to go check out the food and information at their booth.

Third--Seed the EXPO audience with testimonials! Send an invitation (email or postcard) to your existing customer list and invite them to visit you at the EXPO. Perhaps offer them a special incentive for stopping by your booth. Consider this "seeding the crowd with your personal advocates." Your current customers love the work you do--make sure they're at the EXPO and can share with their friends and other visitors their opinion (and endorsement) for your business. It's the "Reading Rainbow" effect. Remember Levar Burton's famous "But you don't have to take my word for it," catch phrase at the end of the PBS show as he introduced the segment where every day readers gave a quick promo for their favorite book?

It's very effective. User ratings, opinions and referrals are HUGE! (So get your satisfied customers to come to the EXPO--they'll help you market your message!)

Fourth--Be Memorable! Think about what you may give away or hand out. Not all booths have give aways any more, and that's okay. The EXPO shouldn't be about Trick or Treating--but you DO want to be in people's memory when they suddenly need your services.

Make your give away something of quality. You want your future customer or client to view your give away as an indication of the kind of service and value they'll get from you when they purchase your services.

Don't feel you have to give your item to everyone. Hold your items, or keep them behind the table--and share them only with the potential customers or clients you pre-qualify.

Need new and fresh ideas? Contact one of the promotional and marketing companies that belong to the Chamber. Let them know your budget and goals--and they'll do the leg work to find options that may fit your needs.

DO THIS NOW so you don't have to pay express shipping or production prices!

Fifth--Clean up your Data base and create a plan to follow up with your pre-qualified leads IMMEDIATELY.
The goal at EXPO is NOT to do your entire sales presentation to the visitors to your booth. Your goal is to identify who might be a customer or client. Get their contact information (fish bowl drawings are a great tool for this) and then follow up within the next week.

How do you follow up? While a phone call may seem like the easiest and quickest way to follow up, it may not be the most effective.

Consider sending a thank you card. Be sure the thank you card includes a "call to action." A discount or free offer if they respond within a short time period.

If you asked for email addresses to sign up for your company eblasts--make sure you DO an eblast or enewsletter right away. Keep it short, fun and intriguing. Include a "call to action," inspiring them to click to your website, stop by your business or call you for more information.

Sixth--train your staff. Make sure that the representatives at your booth know how to spot a pre-qualified lead. Develop 2 or 3 quick questions that they can use to intrigue and discern who might be a potential lead. (eg: If you're a Veterinarian--finding out if the people coming by are pet owners is essential. You could ask if they have a pet--or your staff could ask if they have a picture of their pet with them. Perhaps you have a special gift item for visitors that can show a picture of their pet. That's a fun way to find out who's a pet owner, what kind of a pet do they own and clearly--they LOVE their pet if they have a picture of them in their purse or wallet.)

And finally--Plan to visit the other booths. Learning about the other Chamber member businesses, striking up relationships and reinforcing existing relationships is the foundation of a really strong local economy.

Don't forget that at the end of the evening, after you've broken down your booth and packed up the car--head over to Fountains for the EXPO afterglow. It's a cash bar and some appetizer nibbles to close out a very fun and effective evening of networking.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chamber BOBs--Why the Chamber offers the best networking opportunity in Clarkston

Since 1987, the Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce has been uniting local businesses to work together to improve the business opportunities in the Clarkston Area.

One of the most popular and successful ways that we do that is by facilitating the introduction, connection and respectful relationship building between business owners, managers, sales representatives, service organizations and community.

Chamber BOBs--(Business Over Breakfast) are a key example of how this works. Strategically designed, these morning events are hosted by a different business each month.

Members, guests and visitors have a chance to see a new business, get a behind the scenes tour and familiarize themselves with another cornerstone business in our community.

We respect your time, and understand that we're all juggling many responsibilities during the day, so we start on time and end on time. Simple concept--but very important!

When you arrive at a BOB you're greeted by the smiling faces of Chamber staff and Chamber Ambassadors. We help introduce you to others during the social networking portion of the BOB.

Coffee and continental breakfast is offered while you mix and mingle. We don't offer tables and chairs because tables and chairs encourage you to stop networking. Once you plant yourself--you don't meet as many people.

Once everyone arrives we'll make a few announcements, hear from our host business and then move into a fun facilitated networking activity.

With years of networking experience, the Chamber has developed strategic systems, games and activities that increase the opportunity for you to meaningfully connect, reconnect and stay connected to referral partners.

You won't find yourself giving a one minute elevator speech and then sitting and listening to everyone else's speech (again and again) when you come to our events.

There's a place for elevator speeches, but to meaningfully connect, you need to find things in common, share ideas and inspiration. And you need to do it in ways that are fresh, exciting and interactive. You'll find yourself talking as much as listening when you participate in facilitated networking.

You'll have face to face time with business leaders and public policy makers.

Chamber BOBs take into account our natural desire to greet and talk to people we know at events--and the gathering time (social networking portion) lets you do this at the front end of our event. Then we mix and match, shuffle and reshuffle the group. Sometimes we break into small groups. Sometimes it's one on one. Sometimes we have large group interaction. Facilitated Networking is like a rototiller cultivating the fertile soil of business.

People do business with people they know.
People do business with people they like.
People do business with people they trust.

Chamber BOBs help you find out who you know, who you like and who you trust. And they help others find that out about you too.

Build your business by investing in Chamber BOBs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Check List

Ah, September.
Back to school. Cleaning out closets to find the fall clothes that the kids haven't outgrown, setting alarm clocks for the entire family and creating the fire drill that is known as "the bus is coming!"

September is also start up time for many service clubs and organizations to kick back into full gear now that members and volunteers are no longer on vacation. Time is at a premium--there's just so much to get done--and a limited number of free hours left after soccer games, football games, band practice and church committees.

For the Chamber, September is turbo charge time. With so much happening here's a quick reference check list to help you navigate.

1. Register to attend the Chamber's Annual Meeting
This evening event is a great venue to bring your spouse. With a social hour prior to buffet dinner, the program of awards, recognition, fun and surprises is a great way to celebrate doing business in the Clarkston area.

2. Sign up to volunteer at Taste of Clarkston. Shifts run as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 8 pm. Give 2-3 hours, wear your business logo shirt and connect with other business leaders while you serve the community.

3. Get your registration in for the November EXPO. Earlybird discount registration is going on now--Save money by planning ahead.

4. Get your registration in for the October Bulls Eye Business Conference. Three keynote speakers will be at this multi-chamber event at the end of October. The agenda includes networking time--so you get the most out of this event.

5. Update your chamber profile at You can include a current photo, company logo, list of services, discounts and member to member offers when you log in to Members Only.

And take heart. It does get better once we move into October. The routine of a carefully scheduled family calendar starts to sink in--and we get an extra hour when daylight savings time changes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Buy Local- Make a Difference!

Do you want to make a difference in today’s tough economic climate? You can, by supporting your fellow Chamber members. Many companies in our area are struggling, some are even closing their doors. We need to support our friends and neighbors. We can do this by shopping locally. If the community has a strong business base, it encourages new growth and jobs in the area. It’s environmentally friendly because there is less traffic and pollution.

The money spent at local businesses is reinvested back into our community. This, in turn, helps other local businesses, creating greater product diversity while maintaining our communities unique appeal.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture if every household started spending $10.00 of their grocery budget per week on locally grown foods, we would keep more than $37 million each week circulating in Michigan’s economy. Many local stores carry Michigan grown/made products. Check to see where the products you are buying are produced.
Over the past year, I have really made an effort to shop locally. Instead of shopping as I have in the past, I consult the Chamber’s member directory and make it a point to shop with one of the Chamber members.

Within the past few months alone I’ve made purchases from at least five Chamber members that I hadn’t patronized in the past. This was money I was going to spend anyway, but by making a choice to use a Chamber member, I can be sure the money stays in our community.
When $1 is spent locally, that $1 impacts three to seven different local businesses before leaving the local economy.

Just think what a difference it would make in our local economy if one person at each of the 639 businesses in the Chamber did the same.

Visit our online directory at or the printed member directory to find some Chamber members you can support.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Promoting your business at Taste of Clarkston

If you’ve been a Chamber member for any length of time, I hope you’ve noticed that the Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce is all about BUSINESS!

Every activity/mixer/meeting/committee that we do focuses on one thing and that is promoting business opportunities for our members.

Taste of Clarkston, while seemingly all about food and restaurants on the surface, is no exception to our business focus. Taste of Clarkston is the most effective way to reach over 18,000 of our community members on the day of the event (September 26, 2010 Noon to 6pm.)

We have surveyed our crowd in past years and found that the vast majority of participants are from Clarkston and the surrounding areas. We have surveyed our members in past years and found that the majority of our members are interested in reaching consumers.

Taste of Clarkston has opportunities for members of all sizes to participate and take advantage of this consumer audience that we have built. Any of our members can participate by exhibiting downtown during the Taste of Clarkston ($1000/$500/$250 levels.) We have structured the pricing so that any size business can participate and get the benefits of this consumer audience during Taste of Clarkston.

We also have opportunities for businesses that cannot exhibit but wish to show the community that they are involved and support this event through Restaurant Sponsorship ($500/$350) and also through Shuttle Sponsorship ($100). Anyone can participate at these levels and the reason we want you to be a part of this event is so that you can see the increase in BUSINESS that will result! If you have any questions on how you can be involved, please contact us and we can work with you and answer any questions.

Restaurant sponsorships and Booth spaces are assigned on a first-come first-served basis, so for the best spot, get your paperwork in to the Chamber quickly.

As we move through August and into September, we realize that to build our event and increase our crowd to record numbers to the benefit of all of our members, we need to continue to promote this event. We are focusing on Clarkston and the surrounding areas to promote this event and we need your help:
 Do you have a location you can post a yard sign?
 Can you help us by displaying a poster in your office/store?
 Will you hand out flyers with your invoices/receipts or at your counter?
 Is there a newsletter you can post an announcement in?
 Can you email the information to a list you belong to?
 Will you take the time to help us by volunteering at the event itself?

PLEASE consider helping us with the promotion of the event so we can benefit ALL of our members and our community with this flagship event that has gained recognition state wide. We look forward to seeing all of you downtown for the event and please let us know if you can help us!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Use Your Chamber Membership

1. The Membership Team helps you navigate our programs and projects.
Teri Robinson with support from Geri Batt make up our membership team. They are familiar with all Chamber events, programs and projects and are good resources to help you take advantage of what the Chamber has to offer. Looking for the best Business to Business Opportunities, Teri or Geri can help. How about finding ways to better reach the Business to Consumer audience? They can help you find your target audience.

2. Check out the FREEBIES
As a Chamber member you can have a member profile in our eNewsletter at no cost to you. Write up your profile (about 250 words) and submit with a photo or logo to

The email address you give us when you sign up, automatically generates access to the MEMBERS ONLY area of the Chamber's website. There you'll find a .txt file of the Chamber membership database that you can download for free and import into Excel or other database software to generate customized direct mail, telephone and email pieces.

The Chamber has a brochure on Ribbon Cutting Tips, address labels of local officials, ribbon and scissors for your grand opening. If you're a new business, celebrating a special anniversary or remodeling, you might want to do a Ribbon Cutting ceremony.

Chamber eNewsletterand eBlasts
Criteria for qualifying for an eBlast include:
 Chamber members only
 Clearly advertising the member business only
 Must be time sensitive and include a special invitation or member to member offer available only for Chamber members.
 Limit one eBlast per event/activity per member per month.

3. Advertise your membership!
Put your membership sticker in the window.
Ask Teri for a Membership window cling--great for cars, interior office windows and more.
Include the Chamber logo in your print advertising and on your website.

4. Investigate cost savings opportunities you may qualify for now that you're a Chamber member.
Access to group rates for health insurance, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Office Depot Discount program--sign up on line and start saving with your next order! (link at
Access to employee benefit resources such as 401k's, liaibility insurance and more.
**The Chamber has a brochure of our Chamber members who offer employee benefits and which benefit programs they work with--ask Teri or Trisha for an updated copy.**

5. Read your mailings from the Chamber to get to know other Chamber members and learn more about Chamber events.

6. Include your flyer in Advertising Advantage (monthly mailing to 1000 area businesses.) for just $150 (Special price through December 2010)

7. Begin to meet other Chamber members at BOBs, Luncheon Mixers, Open Houses and Ribbon Cuttings. There are many opportunities throughout the year to jump in and meet some fellow members. If you're a little shy about coming to an event, connect with an Ambassador ahead of time and ask them to meet you there. Ambassadors are excellent at making it comfortable and fun to meet new people.

8. Consider volunteering on a committee or for just a few hours at an event. Every opportunity that you have to work with and meet other Chamber members is an opportunity to grow your personal referral network!
There are many ways to take advantage of your Chamber Membership, even if you have limited time and resources.
These are just a few suggestions to help you get started!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No, we are not raising your dues investment for 2011

The summer months are planning months for the upcoming fiscal year. Our programs, projects and budget are researched and developed.

It's a time for data collection and analysis. And for review of past strategies, goals and outcomes.
I ran across this column that I wrote 2 years ago and decided to share it with you

It's Budget Time. Or shall I say, Budget Crunch time?
As the Board of Directors set the parameters and guidelines for the 2009 Fiscal Budget, they have engaged in more serious discussion and debate than we have ever experienced at the Chamber.
Like you, we are experiencing inflationary increases in overhead costs such as utilities, banquet/meal costs, shipping and postage.
The gap between the amount of revenue brought in by Dues Membership and the actual expenses to run the Chamber continues to be a challenge.
The Board has discussed raising Dues and/or raising the registration fees for our networking events. Unanimously, however, they are selecting HOLD THE LINE on any increases.
Overhead expenses have been trimmed back.
We've returned (and not replaced) office equipment whose leases are up and we are seeking out more in kind trades and donations to help us meet our capital expenses and maintenance goals.
Like you, we know that business is out there and it takes more work to get it.
Like you, we are taking care with all of our resources to make sure we are strategically maximizing every dollar and every volunteer hour.
We appreciate you.
We know that you are loyal and committed Chamber members.
In today's economy, we are doing all we can to hold the line--without cutting the service, chamber value, programs and projects that you need to help your business be successful.

So as I read this, I realized that while the Board may change, the Presidents may change--the Chamber Vision continues to be true to putting MEMBERS first!

With careful budget planning, the Chamber is no longer in a severe financial crunch. We are close to meeting our target goal for fund equity. Our membership is slowly rising again and our events are growing in attendance and reputation.

The Board continues to hold the line on membership dues. There will not be an increase for 2011. We continue to review overhead expenses and critique events carefully to make sure we are doing the best we can with the resources at hand--for our members.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Congratulations to all our Graduates!

Tis the Season for many fresh faced, nervous, full of knowledge graduates to leave the classroom and head out in to the brave new world.
This morning we asked our Ambassadors to share some advice for new graduates.
Follow Your Dream
There will never be a better time to pursue your dream than TODAY.
As the Chinese Proverb goes: The Best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
Don't Worry
If you don't know what your dream is yet, or what you're truly passionate about--you're not alone. It will come to you. In the meantime--Never stop looking for that dream!
Be patient
It is the journey that is the wisdom, grasshopper, not the destination. It is easy to want it all and want it immediately. Take care not to get so wrapped up in the goal that you missed the journey.

Make good choices
Each day, we make an average of 32,000 choices. Make good ones. Together the little ones add up to big results.

Strive for balance
Balance isn't just the scales of justice, with things being exactly even. Balance is keeping your footing on a surfboard as you ride a wave towards shore. You have to shift your weight at times to stay on the board--that applies in life too. The goal is also the same. Don't wipe out!

Find a mentor
Throughout your life, you may have one or many mentors. People you look up to, who have knowledge, wisdom and advice that can help you achieve your goals. It's not unusal to have a collection of mentors whom you turn to for advice in different areas. You are not an island. It is good to learn from peers and role models.

Learn from your mistakes
We all make mistakes. Successful people learn from that experience and move beyond it.

Do what YOU want to do
And take responsibility for owning your own life's decisions. It is easier to let someone else make key decisions for you. (That way you can blame them if things don't turn out as planned.) Be strong--and do what YOU want to do. And OWN it if things aren't exactly as you expected. (see: Learn from your mistakes)

Be a lifelong learner. The diploma you earned is a license to learn. It demonstrates that you have the skill set necessary to continue learning, exploring and growing as a person, a partner, a parent and a citizen.

Oh, and sorry to break the news . . . .however . . .

The easiest part of your life just ended. You won't want to believe us now, but it's true.

Go forth with confidence and remember that one person can change the world in fact, it's the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Motivation--I am not a quitter! Are you?

I've been thinking a lot about motivation this past month.

1) Reward is motivating.

I prefer the "carrot approach" when it comes to motivation.

Knowing what the reward is, helps me align resources and push harder. I didn't really understand this until I started running. I'm not fast. But I will finish. Especially if I earn a medal for doing so. I am surprisingly gullible when it comes to medals.

2) Motivational mantras are . . . guess what? Motivating

One of the best advertising slogans ever is Nike's "Just Do It" It cuts to the chase and moves you to action. Stop the debate about 20 minutes more sleep vs the weather report and long term fitness goals. Just Do it!

3) Motivational mantras can override common sense.

This past weekend I participated in the Traverse City Bay Shore 1/2 Marathon. This was my first race without a pacing partner. The usual suspects hadn't signed up before the event sold out, so they were doing the 10K race, making signs of support and promising to be at the finish line. I was on my own.

It was a beautiful day to race. I watched the sun come up over the Bay and as the race started, I was feeling good. Real good. This was going to be THE race to set a personal best.

The 1/2 Marathon starts at the end of Mission point and runs back to the city. The full Marathon starts a 1/2 hour earlier at the city--comes out to the point and then runs back to the city.

At mile 2--I saw the elite runners zip by. This was the perfect seat to watch the marathon. I got to see every runner.

By mile 3 my leg started to hurt. I'd injured it 3 weeks earlier--shin splints, I figured. So I dropped back to a fast walk and as the pain eased, kept trying to kick it up to a run again.

At mile 4 the elite runners zipped by again . . . lapping me. My mile 4, their mile 17. As the clock ticked by, more marathoners lapped me. I kept pushing--instead of working my game plan.

By mile 10 I was in a lot of pain. My support team greeted me with a classic sign "The End is Near!" and I felt uplifted--tried to run a little for the camera and then dropped back to a walk.

Just as I reached mile 11, a marathon runner was coming up to my left to pass me. We both heard this loud crack/gunshot and paused--looking at each other--what was that? Then a huge rustle from the trees to our right and a dead tree slammed into the road in front of us--shattering.

Was this an omen? Should we stop?

A little freaked out--and the adrenaline kicking in--we both navigated around the log and stepped it up, trying to speed away from the wreckage. I admit, he was running a lot faster than I was.

By mile 12, with just 1 mile left, I'm thinking this has been a really really bad idea. My leg hurts so bad I'm having trouble walking. I try to remember the last time the race support bicyclists had zipped by. If I stop and sit on the curb, how long before they come to get me?

And that's when the Motivational Burma Shave signs started to get to me. "You can Do it!"
"This is what you trained for!" "Pain is Temporary--Quitting is forever!"

Quitting is FOREVER . . . I'm not a quitter. I'm NOT a quitter!

I pushed on.

And it hurt.

The race ended in the high school stadium and the crowd cheers you in as you run the last lap. There was no walking for this--you really need to run. Give it everything you have.

Pain is temporary.
Quitting is forever.

I finished. I got my medal. I sat down on the first clear piece of grass and waited for my support team to come find me.

After ice, rest and a trip to Ready Care--it was confirmed as a stress fracture. It's now 5 days after the race and I'll be on crutches another week and a half. No running for a minimum of 8 weeks--likely more like 12 weeks.

The pain has lessened tremendously. The crutches help. If I forget to use them, I remember REAL FAST!

I have a medal, though.

And I have to say . . . Pain is temporary . . . Quitting is forever.

I now know that I can finish a 1/2 Marathon even in pain. I'm not a quitter.

There are things I will do differently in my next race. Things that will prevent another injury--I hope. Things like--Work your PLAN, don't get caught up in the moment.

There WILL be a next race, though.

I am not a quitter!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's YOUR Boston Marathon? Are you Dreaming Big Enough?

It's Patriot's Day. April 19, 2010.
So you know what that means?
It's the Boston Marathon!

Many of you know that when I turned 50, I decided to do a marathon to celebrate. Not QUITE sure what I was thinking, but it sounded like an appropriate challenge. It took 11 months of training to get off the couch and conditioned enough that I could finish the race.

Afterwards I expected some brilliant enlightened moment to hit me. Something profound. Something magical.

Sorry to dissappoint. Perhaps I'm a slow learner, but there was no profound inspiration . . . not at that moment. I learned I could set goals, keep an exercise schedule, enjoy sweating and not freak out when my heart reached aerobic target areas.

Upon reflection, though--I realize I didn't set my goals high enough.

I spent 11 months visualizing finishing the marathon. I trained so that I could sustain the minimum pace to win a medal. (For non-marathoners, EVERY person who finishes the race in the prescribed time gets a medal--not just the top 3. Thus part of the appeal is definately race bling.)

So guess what? I finished the race. And I did it with 4 minutes to spare. If I had taken 1 more potty stop or slowed 9 seconds a mile . . . I wouldn't have qualified for my medal. Nothing like cutting it close!

After the race--it felt goooooood to relax. It felt great to sleep in on a Sunday morning instead of hitting the treadmill for a long run. I was a "Marathoner!" I'd already proved to myself I could do it, so it was time to slack off a little on the training and ENJOY being an athlete.

I continued racing (shorter races), but stopped putting the effort into it. My next race results reflected my lack of effort.

A year after doing my first marathon, I had returned to being a couch potato. One that could finish a race--but not an athlete. It wasn't my knees or legs that let me down--it was my head. I had stopped dreaming goals.

What if I had dreamed a higher goal? That I would not only finish a marathon--but do it faster? what if I dreamed of a regular set of races, working towards a faster marathon? What if I dreamed of winning my age class?

What if I dreamed of the Boston Marathon? I'm very aware of how much work it would take to qualify and it scares me. But if you don't even dream it . . . how will it ever happen?

I believe this is true in business as well. We can have all the right tools, all the right aptitudes --but without the dream--the goal--we won't get very far. We'll do "just enough" to get by. That might be okay for most people. Getting by can be comfortable. Getting by is just great . . . for your competition. But what about you?

In your heart,--do you dream big? Do you open yourself to the possibility that if you dream it--it can happen?

What's your Boston Marathon? Are you willing to commit?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Smile--it's contagious

Yesterday, in the rain, I packed up my bottle returns and headed to the grocery store, hoping to get the weekly shopping out of the way before the Elite Eight March Madness game. (Yes I was wearing my green and white!)

As I pulled into the grocery store, my heart sunk a little--there were very few open parking spaces.


So . . . in the rain, I packed up the bottles in a wet cart and headed towards the store.

With the rennovations at our neighborhood Kroger, there was some anticipation of WHAT NOW? when I entered the doors. It seems like daily whole departments move and are relocated, creating a temporary scavenger hunt while you shop.

The good news is the bottle return was somewhat empty today. (Not a lot of people want to mess around with bottles and cans in the rain)

The bad news was, I would need at least an extra 15 minutes for my "quick trip" because I couldn't cruise the aisles by habit anymore. So as I refolded by paper bags I took a deep breath and headed towards the deli counter . . .often the most challenging experiment in patience you can put yourself through.

It can be busy at the counter. And you never know if the person in front of you has just started order 1 of 15 specialty slices they want or if they're finishing up.

It doesn't take very long to realize the new deli area is nearly double the old space. It's laid out better too--which seems to improve the speed that the clerks are able to help customers.

I'm feeling more optimistic. Cheerful even.

I realize that I'm watching one clerk in particular--and calculating if she will be the one to wait on me. I hope she does. She's beaming. Happy. Cheerful. Chattering with her coworkers, laughing and . . . SMILING at the customers!

It's contagious. We start smiling back. In fact we even smile at each other in line--which seriously NEVER happens at the deli line.

She is back from vacation and had a great time. Where did she go? "Nowhere, I stayed in town, but it's great to relax, refresh and realize--hey, it's just meat and cheese--no sense getting all stressed out. Life is good!"

Life is good.

It does matter how you approach your job--how you enjoy life. And it is contagious. We can choose to drudge through the motions . . . or we can choose to be happy. If you want to surround yourself with cheerful happy people, sometimes you have to start the smiles first.

It was a quick shopping trip.
I made it back home in time to see the Spartan's win another nail biter. Next stop--the Final Four.

Life is good.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Marketing Secrets for Silent Auctions and Raffles

It seems everyone has a fundraiser, auction or raffle that they'd like you to donate to. The Chamber too has two silent auctions coming up in the near future

Beer University--April 29, 2010 SILENT AUCTION
Chamber Golf Classic--June 26, 2010 SILENT AUCTION

Should you or shouldn't you consider donating something to these events?

I think you should really consider it. But you don't have to take my word for it. calls this “Masterful Marketing, when you donate a prize, giveaway or auction item you can generate some low cost exposure and publicity for your company."

But before you rush out to donate something--I urge you to do a little strategic analysis.

STEP ONE: Who's the target audience for this event?

Donating can be a good decision if the audience at the event is your target audience/customer base.

Donating can be a good decision if the audience is your strongest pool for referral partners and leads.

Donating does not make sense if the audience is completely unrelated to potential leads or customers.

STEP TWO: You've decided to donate something, now what will you give?
Think about that audience and identify the broadest common denominator.

You want the winner of your donation to be thrilled to have won. That means what they bid on or win in the raffle needs to be
  • something they can use immediately
  • something they would be proud to show off to others (all the more marketing mileage when they show off their winnings)
  • something that makes them connect with your business name and helps brand you as a thoughtful, customer oriented business
  • You get extra credit if you can donate something that cannot be purchased or obtained easily--if at all. (One of a kind items are hot commodities at auctions).

STEP THREE--Need some ideas?
If you're a season ticket holder for sporting or entertainment events, consider donating a set of tickets.
How about a week at your vacation condo, cottage or time share?
Maybe you have connections to get autographed sports memorabilia

Don't waste the opportunity to emphasize one of your services or value propositions. Is your company brand include: Great Customer Service; Easy communications and follow up; timely delivery of services . . . then create a donation that reinforces that message.

Tried and true items like a gift certificate for "dinner out" at a local restaurant can be coupled with a bottle of champagne and your gift card that says, "Congratulations! Celebrate your next memorable event with our compliments!" and be sure to add a tag line that matches your business.

  • Insurance companies: "Always here for you when you need us."
  • Financial planners: "We are pleased to help customers and clients have more to celebrate."
  • Mortgage specialists: "We can help you celebrate a new home or renovations."
  • Attorneys: "Good planning leads to more celebrations. We can help."
Or consider the ever popular spa or salon gift certificate.
"Relax. We're ready to help you lower your stress in other ways too--call us when you'd like more information."
"Our customers and clients agree, everyone can use a little pampering."

Or maybe you'd like to donate a gift certificate for your company's services.
A free hour of consulting, or a free evaluation . . . jazz up your donation by coupling it with a couple of your logo mugs, a pound of gourmet coffee and a sampler of chocolates.

Is somebody in your office a good baker? Add two dozen home baked cookies, an apple pie (with small American Flag!), or decadent brownies to your donation. While bidders want your company's services, the homebaked goodies provide instant gratification and urgency for them to BID ON YOUR CERTIFICATE IMMEDIATELY!

STEP FOUR--DO NOT FORGET that this is a marketing opportunity! Include your business cards, or a hand written note congratulating the "winner" of your item.

Donate your item early so the event hosts can coordinate custom signage that includes your logo

STEP FIVE--Be the "stickiest" business at the auction!
Marketers agree that it's important to create a brand, image or message that's sticky. (Meaning you stay in the audience's mind long after they've seen your advertisement.)
Auction donations and raffle prizes are a great opportunity to develop that sticky message.

What can you donate that will intrigue most of the audience? In a silent auction, your goal is to get them to bid! In fact--you want audience members to get in a bidding war for your donation.

Taking the extra time to design a dazzling basket display or creative presentation pays off big time when people talk about you AT the event and AFTER the event. Better yet--will people take pictures of your donation and post it on their Facebook pages?

Get them talking! With a little creativity, your auction item could be the buzz of the event.