H. Michael Wayland,
Leads, Leads, Leads! The perpetual problem MSP owners are always struggling to answer is how to generate leads. There are many ways to tackle the problem and one often tried (and discarded) outlet is local chambers of commerce. I am Michael Wayland, Owner of Byte-Werx, LLC out of Houston. I have built my successful MSP almost entirely on network marketing, with chambers of commerce key to this strategy. I did this using some basic tactics I learned from the last job I had before going into business for myself, a Communication Coordinator at a local chamber of commerce. So how can you and your company successfully market through local chambers when so many fail and give up?
- Choosing the Right Chamber for Your Business – Most communities have many, and often overlapping, chambers in their area. These can focus on a geographical area, a set of business owners defined by a personal attribute, or even specific industries. Before choosing the chamber to affiliate with, take time to research their membership, programs of work, and make sure they align with your goals and target market. Often, chambers primarily involve local government, elected officials, banks, and car dealerships. This may be a perfect fit for your business or you may be after a different mix of clientele. Choosing an environment in which you can receive referrals and therefore succeed in the marketing plan is the first step.
- View Chamber Membership as a Long-Term Investment – A common theme throughout this article will be to put yourself in the mindset of the chamber staff and core membership. They see salesmen and businesses jump into membership for a quick opportunity or because they believe they will make quick sales. Because this is so prevalent many staff and long-term members exercise a wait-and-see approach to new joining members. If you commit to the chamber, continue showing a presence – especially at their large hallmark events. Involve yourself or a member of your staff in volunteering, and your cache will grow. Over time you will see more and more referrals coming from the chamber, and when people ask the staff about IT support, you will be top of mind and often the first and only name and number they refer (even if there are multiple IT members). This takes time and commitment but has great returns.
- Narrow Your Focus, Don’t Expand – Although it may be tempting to quickly join every chamber in your area, I would caution against it. It takes time to build the relationship that will provide steady and good quality referrals. The great news though is that once the relationship and trust are established, maintaining the relationship is much easier. We have found that joining a new chamber every 2 years has worked for us. During that 2-year period, we work on establishing the relationship, making myself and my staff known, volunteering and helping out, as well as sponsoring and contributing money where appropriate. Over time your referral base will grow.
- Add Nitro to Your Intro – Most chambers these days have transitioned to a membership level fee structure. From past experience working at a chamber, and as a business owner and chamber member, one way I have found to quickly be introduced and gain near instant legitimacy among the group is coming in at the highest or second highest membership tier. Often the investment at the top level is very reasonable over a 12-month period and comes with a lot of marketing and visibility opportunities. These vary by the chamber, but popular benefits are multiple emails to the entire membership; prominent advertising/branding at many chamber events; advertising in printed membership books; and articles or spotlights in newsletters. One of my local chambers guaranteed a 10-minute interview on a local syndicated business talk-radio program.
Chamber marketing is not a panacea to your sales and lead generation. But with some forethought, time, and effort it can present you with long-term returns and amazing return on investment.