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Bates: Chamber ambassadors make networking easier

Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

You may not like it, but you know you have to do it.

Everyone in business these days needs to network, especially those starting out or expanding. These businesses don’t have a choice, they have to develop business relationships. Not only do quality relationships in business help us to meet new clients, but they also aid us in brainstorming ideas that make our organization better.

I know I hit the topic of networking hard, but I will continue to do so because the networking model works, and folks need to use it. That said, I know it is hard to enter a room for the first time. It is downright painful as it pushes us out of our comfort zones. Yet those who learn to network will find themselves far more successful than those who avoid it.

Networking is so important that we at the McHenry Area Chamber work to make the whole process easier. First, we ask those coming into an event if this is his or her first time. Each newbie is then settled with a seasoned Ambassador who can act as a wing person for first timers by facilitating introductions. Second, after your first couple of networking events, we encourage you to develop a plan determining who to meet. Whether it’s clients or referral partners, we can train you in this process.

The chamber then encourages new members to focus on businesses they need to meet through studying name tags or if shyer – we will help you here too – through asking a chamber staff member or an Ambassador for help. Third, once you meet people who are potential clients or referral sources, you need to follow up. Plan an office visit, coffee or lunch. Don’t oversell during this time. Listen. Remember you are building a relationship, not an immediate sale.

The next step is to ask for help. After you get to know folks sharing your target market and helping you brainstorm, ask for help in reaching those you need to meet. Chamber referral groups are great here. Say “I need to gain access to XYZ company. Anyone know the decision maker?”

We at the chamber office can help you meet decision makers as well, but we first need to know you. And that is done through networking.

Networking activities to attend in June start with Letizia Financial Group’s Chamber Picnic and Mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Letizia Financial Group, 1307 N. Green St., McHenry. There will be a picnic dinner, cupcakes by Kiera Confections and entertainment.

The next mixer is from 5 to 7 p.m. June 24 at Black Diamond Plumbing & Electric, 748 Tek Drive, Crystal Lake. This is a multi-chamber mixer.

Our last mixer this month is from 5 to 7 p.m. June 26 at Adult and Child Therapy Services, 708 Washington St., Woodstock.

Opening July’s activities is the Patriot Estates mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. July 1 at Patriot Estates, 812 Madison Ave., McHenry. I really encourage members to come at 5 p.m. It’s easier to meet people at the door as they walk in.  

If you don’t know what your target market is or who shares it, attend on the Networking Tips and Tools presentation at the chamber office, 1257 N. Green St., McHenry. Led by Brent Allen of Marketing 2.0, this free training teaches attendees to learn whom they need to meet at networking events. It’s a must for new chamber members.

Fiesta Days is approaching. Those wishing to be part of the parade or provide a booth at the Ice Cream Social, visit www.mchenryfiestadays.com.

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit mchenrychamber.com.

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