Size Matters: Smaller is Better in Relationship Marketing
I posted in January about my considerations regarding a Mastermind group, and admit that as a result of my musings have entertained the idea of starting a business networking group in my area. I have such a passion for small business and feel that it would be a community service as well as an enjoyable pursuit.
As a result of a question from Michael, I’ve summarized my thoughts about the structure, functions and benefits of business networking organiziations, particularly the Chamber of Commerce. I have only had personal experience with 4 Chamber of Commerce organizations, so my opinions aren’t to be perceived as the result of extensive study. However, I’ve talked to many business owners about their experiences with the Chamber in their area and I believe my assessments are on target.
Chamber organizations are great community groups and are an important influence on the business climate of an area. For large companies, membership is essential; it makes their presence in the community known and implies cooperation, credibility and community support and involvement. For large companies, membership is essential for that reason. As a form of advertising, chamber membership is a method of branding, but in my experience, doesn’t do much in the way of creating traffic and generating revenue.
For a small business owner wanting to network and drive traffic, Return on Investment (ROI) is the litmus test for expenditures of time and money. Most Chambers (with the exception of small towns) cost around $500 to join and don’t include the price of events.
Some Chambers offer small networking groups at no charge, but I haven’t found those groups to be effective.
Relationship marketing is what we’re all seeking. When the environment is friendly, supportive, informative and a true bond of trust is forged, relationship marketing can flourish. It seems in Chamber-sponsored events, the level of formality inhibits productive relationships being formed. Not to say that you can’t make an important connection through a Chamber event – it’s just more a bonus than a given.
I have a membership in a small-town Chamber that offers warmth, friendliness and is very conducive for effective relationship marketing. The dynamics of this Chamber are the most productive I’ve seen, which brings me to the conclusion that size does matter. Smaller is better. The added bonus is membership and events are inexpensive.
In defense of larger Chambers, I have to say the community programs they offer are impressive. Leadership programs for both adults and high school students get high ratings in my book. If you are fortunate enough to be selected for such a program, you will have the opportunity to forge meaningful friendships and therefore do some highly effective networking.
Summary: Smaller is better when seeking relationship marketing opportunities. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s a shortcut to building relationships. They are still built the old-fashioned way- through honest communication.
I would be very interested in your experiences in this area. I invite you to leave a comment.