From Idea to Action – The Chamber of Commerce: Step One
There has been a great deal of talk about inbound marketing and setting up an inbound marketing consultancy. I thought I would take you through the entire process of setting up a business. As I go through all the steps and the stages of formally setting up The Ultimate Internet Image, you will have a window into a great deal of the process.
Until now, like a lot of you, I have been playing fast and loose, making sure I wanted to take the plunge full-time before committing to a full blown business model, the difference between dabbling and going for it, I suppose. However, now that I have a few clients and see that I have reached the “fish or cut bait” stage, it is time to move forward.
A Complete Look: How to Start an Inbound Marketing Consultancy
You will have total access as I go through the build process, client confidentiality will of course be respected but you should have a pretty good idea of what to do and how to do it if you stay with me. You can either wait and watch, deciding if this is what you want to do, or if you are already on board follow along and apply the steps as I do. Either way, you are going to have an accurate, no-holds barred look into what it takes to build an inbound marketing consultancy…and serve your clientele effectively and efficiently.
The First Step: The Chamber of Commerce
The first step in setting up an inbound marketing consultancy, once you have weighed your options and are sure you want to take the plunge, is to visit the chamber of commerce in your community.
Is this a required step?
But you are going to be working with local businesses and they will want references or they will attempt to check you out. No, not everyone will, but most will want some level of proof that you are who you say you are and can at least be contacted if they have questions or concerns. The chamber of commerce provides a level of social and professional proof, validation you just can’t buy as a new business owner.
First Impressions Last a Lifetime!
So, take the plunge and visit your local chamber, introduce yourself, make sure you have a business card with you they can be purchased for a few dollars through VistaPrint; and, dress for a first impression. I am always amazed at how people dress today, even for job interviews.
The axiom that you can only make a first impression one time seems to have been lost in the last few years but it is as powerful a truth today as it was twenty, thirty years ago. You will be dealing with business people on their turf, dress accordingly.
Does that mean a suit and tie?
However, a nice pair of casual slacks and dress shirt or quality polo is appropriate, for men and women, and shoes should be clean and polished or in good repair. People take in subtle cues and clues, particularly “chamber people,” they just have this mindset and they will judge.
So, make your first impression a good one, you can never take it back!
Things to ask and ask for:
1) Business card. The business card of the chamber director, president or CEO. Once you get back to the office, put the card in the front storage area of your day-planner for the entire world to see. If you don’t have a see through card holder for your day-planner, get one. You will be working with people in your community, marketing to them, selling them services, so subtle cues are very important!
2) Chamber directory. This is a listing of local businesses who have taken the time to join the chamber, an invaluable resource. This often has the name, phone number, and address of the business, as well as the name of the owner or manager.
3) Chamber or community magazine. Often the same as the directory but not always, so ask. This magazine is used to promote the city to businesses considering your town, and you are one such business.
4) The name and business card of the receptionist or administrative assistant at the chamber. This is very often the person you will work with and you will want to ally yourself with, they know what is going on and can be a real help.
5) City map. Not only is the map helpful for obvious reasons, it is also a wealth of information as it will usually have advertising all around it. The ads can be a great source of information as you begin to prospect for business.
6) Membership packet. Make sure you get the membership information you will need to join.
7) Membership advertising rate information, usually in the form of a rate card. The chamber will allow you to advertise on their maps, in their directories, etc. The cost of such advertising is not cheap but it adds another layer of credibility.
8) Meeting schedule. Make sure you find out when their next meeting is and attend it. Make it a point to arrive early and reintroduce yourself to the director or chief officer again. Don’t be a wallflower, get in and rub elbows. Yes, it may take you back to high school for an instant…but that’s why you go to a meeting before joining.
Note: There are times when not joining an organization is wise, particularly if you feel it will be a negative experience for you, for whatever reason. If that’s the case, get in, get the information, and get out. Of course, you can always join and be “inactive,” thus allowing for the credibility of chamber membership without the joiner downside of some, and I repeat, some, groups.
Review, Recontact, and Confirm
Once you have taken these steps, go back to your home office and pour through everything, make a list of questions, and follow up the next day with a call to the chamber receptionist. Make sure you make a point of talking to her (“her” for illustration purposes only, it may just as easily be a “him”), you want to begin building that alliance.
Ask the questions you came across in your studying of the material, even if you have to be creative and think some up (no kidding!). Then, thank her and ask her to pass along a greeting and your gratitude to the director.
Also, make sure you confirm the meeting time and place, and ask if there is a deadline for signing up for the breakfast or lunch (usually once a month).
Finally, just before getting off the phone, get the name of the person handling the legal issues at city hall, if you forgot or simply didn’t do it on the initial visit, and get off the phone.
Important: Don’t make small talk, not yet anyway! Be professional but courteous, you want them to take you seriously. Remember, chamber people see businesses and business people come and go, they know the failure rate and they may be a bit jaded, even a little judgmental. Don’t hold that against them, they are human and make snap judgments, we all do. Let it fire you up and motivate you if they don’t take you as seriously as you thought they should or envisioned they would.
The Video Below: Applied Inbound Marketing Setup
That’s enough for now. Watch the video, it is quick and off the cuff but it was right after coming back from my chamber visit, so you will have my first impressions, as well as a look at the various resources I mentioned above.
Next: We will begin carding the area. Carding is a process more akin to “getting the lay of the land,” and will be one of the most important things you do. When finished, you can quite literally take this model, go into any community in the United States, and many abroad, and build a business, either concentrating on one area and then moving on or making one location your home base of operations, long term.
Variations on a Theme: Inbound Marketing To Go!
We will discuss variations on this model, including leaving the chamber out of the equation, except for initial reconnaissance before getting into the sales process. This will be particularly helpful as you begin to think past the borders of your own community. Keep in mind, this is only one variation. I will discuss a viable alternative, one without the long term localized roots but with the same overall effect, serving your clients and being rewarded well for doing it.
Contact me anytime!
Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.