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Old 12th May 2006, 05:39 AM   #1
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Default Local area chamber of commerce

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Joining the Chamber of Commerce... again

I made the decision to join the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce... again.

I've written a number of times about my activity with the local area Chamber of Commerce and rightfully so because it is an integral part of my business strategy. By being an active member in the local chamber, I'm offered a number of opportunities to get face to face with other business people in my community, many times discover new opportunities, receiving new leads or making new friends.

When my partners and I were creating Paradise Vacations from scratch, we unanimously agreed that joining the chamber was important. We felt is was important from a marketing standpoint, but we also felt it would help us understand the local business mindset and underlying politics of out business community. We were right! What I didn't foresee was the number and quality of real friendships I would create through my involvement in the chamber.
Soky.net has been in existence since oh about 1995 in one form or another when I was trained in the Air Force while serving as Superintendent of Public Affairs for the 908th Airlift Wing. While she [SoKy.net] endured the pressures of extremely part-time attention because of other employment, military service or other business ventures, SoKy.net has been there. My experience with Paradise Vacations and the local business community helped me see the potential for SoKy.net because of my unique skill set and a definite need for those skills. My primary source of income has been from my skills as a webmaster since 1998. 2006 is the year I have chosen to share those skills with my community and build my own business.

After reviewing a variety of the networking opportunities (social marketing as I call it) in south central Kentucky I made the decision that joining the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce was something I not only wanted to do, but needed to do to grow my small business.
So... I called one of my favorite "Chamber Ambassadors," Mr. Tim Hunt of Bluegrass Advertising and asked him to bring me a registration form. It was an easy sell for him because he knew I was already decided and in fact, Tim is one of those good friends I mentioned earlier.
I emptied my piggy bank and wrote a check to the chamber for $290.00. Sounds like allot but really, it's less than $25.00 per month. Next year, it will only be $270 because I won't have to pay the one time Enrollment (flogging) Fee.
I took my form and my check to the chamber office because I was also attending a very exciting event in the community room; the "2006 Legislative Wrap-up" which was hosted by the Chamber's "Government Relations Committee." (As a partner with Paradise, I was on the mailing list and invited to attend.) This meeting offered the business community a briefing by top and local legislative leaders who had just finished the 2006 legislative session. Representative Jody Richards (D) House District 20 (Speaker of the House.) Speaker of the house opened the session and Representative Jim DeCesare (R) House District 21 also shared. State Senator Brett Guthrie (R) Senate District - 32 shared some amazing insight to the state senate and more pointedly, the transportation committee.
Or maybe it was the Washington Update which was held on Wednesday, April 12 at the Chamber in the Community Room. Senator Mitch McConnell (R) Senate Majority Whip, gave an update on the 2006 General Assembly.

My point to all this is to help you understand the diversity of opportunities offered through my membership. These two events gave me access to some of our commonwealth and countries top leaders. My membership (partnership) offers me exclusive insight into the minds, methods and motives of the shapers of our community. To me, this is a bonus on top of the networking, ribbon cuttings, golf outings and after hours events.
Side Note: I joined the chamber back in the 90's for SoKy.net (then under Signaweb). I paid my fees, received my stickers and then got nothing out of it. Nope, my phone didn't start ringing off the hook with people wanting to throw money at me as I had dreamed. My mistake wasn't joining the chamber, my mistake was joining the chamber and not getting involved in the vast array of opportunities offered. If you are reading this then you are likely a small business person with a desire to grow or improve your business, if you read nothing else read this: Joining the chamber is just the first step, you have to get involved and attend the functions. To me, the greatest asset of the chamber is not the business office or the publications, the real value of the chamber comes through involvement. Shake some hands, hand out some cards, get to know you prospective customers and yes, even your competition. In my opinion, this is the secret sauce of a Chamber partnership.

David Francis | Bowling Green KY USA | SoKy Local Business
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Old 12th May 2006, 05:43 AM   #2
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Default continued

So here I am holding my canceled check paid to the chamber and even received my first issue of the bi-monthly chamber magazine "Chamber Connection," where I found my beloved SoKy.net list on page 5. What next? Well besides the nearly daily email updates and announcements from the chamber website, I received a call from Ryan Marcum wanting to schedule a time for he and the famous Dana Matukas to come to my office. I thought that was odd and queried as to the reason for the visit. He said, "To welcome you to the chamber and give you your welcome kit." I thought this is going to be interesting, so we set an appointment.

Ryan Marcum is the new "Partnership Sales Representative" for the chamber. Cool job I think. (Read about it here.) Dana Matukas is the "Partnership Development Director" and a fireball of enthusiasm and excitement. She absolutely amazes me every time I see her at a chamber function because of her infectious good spirit. Dana knows me not only from chamber events but also as a customer at Paradise Vacations. I was looking forward to this visit.

They arrived and we sat, standard enough I thought. Then they gave me my welcome kit and Dana introduced Mr. Marcum. I proceeded to offer my opinion(s) as to the strength of the chamber and all the advantages of membership from a sales perspective. I tried to share my thoughts as to why the chamber is a better choice that "the other" networking schemes in our area. He seemed attentive and eager. Dana admitted that usually she discusses all the benefits of chamber partnership but in that I've been an active member for the past year and a half, it seemed pointless.

One thing did surprise me though; Dana and Ryan seemed genuinely interested in my business. They asked questions and listened intently as I explained what makes SoKy.net better than any other web development and marketing company anywhere. I shared some of my top secret plans for community involvement and also chamber partner assistance and they were patient, kind and seemed interested. Then I began my seminar on good website layout, government requirements for people with disabilities and how my methods of publishing result in the best search engine results possible. Normally, this is where I lose my audience (grin). Not them, they listened and even started taking notes. Thanks guys, I really felt heard.
Oh... my welcome kit. I already mentioned that I received my chamber magazine and have been receiving regular emails so I already felt part of the partnership but wait, there's more...
Dana and Ryan brought me a pile of other cools stuff.
My new Chamber of Commerce welcome kit.
  • Front Window Sticker
  • Countertop sign
  • Committee Preference Form
  • Score Information letter
  • Make the most of your partnership info
  • Bowling Green KY magazine
  • 2005-2006 Chamber Directory
  • Ryan Marcum's business card
The front window sticker is a reverse printed sticker that you can put in your front window or glass door and let your customers know when they enter that you have invested in your community and are a member of the local area Chamber of Commerce.

The countertop sign {above} is another way to proclaim your commitment to the chamber.

The Committee Preference Form lists 8 difference committees that you can join. This is not my favorite way to get involved but there may be some of interest to you. From the governmental Relations Committee to the Special Events Committee's, as a partner, you can chose to get as involved as you want. I will likely join the Governmental Relations Committee.

SCORE Information letter. This topic is a post in and of itself. SCORE is a wonderful resource for small business and can be found online at [COLOR=#800080]http://www.score.org/[/COLOR] The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a SCORE team ever Tuesday at 9:00 AM. I've never been because of a weekly conference call I have that conflicts, but I will because there's nothing like free, experienced and impartial advice. Did I mention it's free?

Make the most of your partnership info is a two page presentation of more ways to invest in the chamber and the events. Investments from $25 door prizes to $400,000 building naming rights are explained.

Bowling Green KY magazine is a production of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce with "CommunityLink," a publishing service of Craig Williams Creative, Inc. This wonderful magazine profiles our entire community from legislators to public services. It offers articles and maps, statistics and contact information and some really interesting stories for and about the Bowling Green Area.

2005-2006 Chamber Directory is a resource that I have used often. Needless to say, it lists all chamber partners and their representatives. It does so with class and in a manner that makes it easy to find what you're looking for. Companies are listed three different ways. By company name alphabetically, by contact email and by category. It also has a number of advertisements from chamber partners that gives a little more insight into fellow partners and their products and services.

Ryan Marcum's business card was an added bonus and actually, I'm adding it here because if you are a company who does business in the SoKy area, you should not hesitate to join the chamber. If you are a small business just starting out in Bowling Green and/or the Barren River Development District, you would do well to join this award winning chamber of commerce.

David Francis | Bowling Green KY USA | SoKy Local Business
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Old 12th May 2006, 05:50 AM   #3
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Default summary

I posted this on my blog @ www.soky.biz and sent a link to Ryan and Dana. I received a call the next day from Tim Hunt who had just left the Chamber ambassador meeting to tell me that I really made an impression on the chamber. (And the Bowling Green City Manager who was the guest speaker that morning... bonus)

There are two lessons I learned here,

1) By trying to help my local area business community and publishing my thoughts, I was offered the opportunity to promote my company and skills.

2) By sharing my experience on my blog, the people and organizations involved took notice, shared the links and helped me promote my business.

I received another phone call from Dana late yesterday and she thanked me for the article and said that it was going to be shared with the chamber board of directors. This is turning out to be more effective than I thought. Dana even said, the time and effort you took to share this testimonial will likely be rewarded directly and indirectly.

I just thought I would share this experience with you all. As I walk the line of online and offline business, I thought you would appreciate the balancing act.

David Francis | Bowling Green KY USA | SoKy Local Business
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Old 12th May 2006, 08:55 AM   #4

Join Date: May 2006
Location: South Bend, IN
Posts: 65


Enjoyed your post. Another good source of help and inspiration is your local
SBDC office.
Here in South Bend they take it up a notch from what SCORE offers. Might be worth checking out . They have been very helpful. Sometimes if just to bend an ear .



www.customprogramsolutions.com - Software that's actually easy to use
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