Tag Archives: Chamber of commerce

The Art of an Excellent Testimonial

We all love receiving a testimonial about ourselves or our companies, but have you ever thought about what goes into making a truly excellent and useful testimonial?

  1. Speak from a position of knowledge; you need to have used the goods or services before you can give a testimonial about that person or company.
  2. Be Specific.  People want know how and why you used the product and how it performed.  Be sure to include some basic details about your age and demographics. i.e. Forty-six year old, mother of two girls.
  3. Honesty is the best policy. If there were glitches in performance but you were overall satisfied, include that information so that others can make an informed decision.  Be sure to acknowledge your own role in any shortcomings.
  4. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. At least in public.  If you truly had a poor experience, take it directly to the company and let them know that you would like to offer them the chance to correct the situation.  Don’t use a testimonial opportunity to lash out at someone else; it will only make you look bad.
  5. Short is sweet. You can give a great testimonial without giving two paragraphs of back story about why you decided to use the service. While people like to know a little bit about you, the point of the testimonial is to tell them about an excellent company or person.Harry
  6. Put it in writing.  The very best gift you can give a company or person is your testimonial in writing.  Whether you write an online review on LinkedIn or speak up in a BNI or Chamber meeting, putting it on paper gives them something tangible that they can use to market themselves even better.

Bonus Tip: One of the best ways to receive excellent testimonials is to give excellent testimonials.  Use these guidelines the next time you want to give a testimonial and see if the good karma you generate pays off.

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Investing in Yourself for a Better Bottom Line

I often hear colleagues lament that they can’t spare the time to attend training or learning event.  These same business people will then spend three hours on the phone cold calling prospects instead of three hours at a conference.  Most people who participate in networking groups do so because they understand that there is a better way to do business, through word-of-mouth referrals.  If you are one of them, congratulations, you are among the top 20%!

Participating in weekly networking meetings is not enough. Growth requires commitment and dedication to you, your business associates and your network.  Let’s examine what attention to your own learning and training can yield for you and your referral partners:

  • New Referral Sources &Partners—When you participate in workshops you come into contact with people you might not ordinarily meet.
  • New Customers—You get to exchange ideas and find like-minded individuals who will be more inclined to do business with you.
  • New Energy—Your enthusiasm and excitement increase as you learn new things and that radiates into everything you do.
  • New Resources—Even one new piece of information or knowledge—from the conference, the attendees or even the vendors—can save you hours of work.
  • New Ideas—Last but not least, the next time you drive home from a training opportunity take that time to brainstorm a couple of ideas of how you will be able to apply what you have learned that day, then write them down.

The key to working smarter instead of harder is regularly seeking out new ideas, people and systems that can save you time and effort.  Benjamin Franklin said it best, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

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101 Reasons I Love My Little Town

I tell my friends who aren’t from my little town that it is the Center of the Universe.  They always start out thinking I’m kidding, but after a few immersions in Little Town-ess, they become disciples.  So here, then, are my 101 reasons for loving my little town:

  1. I live less than 5 minutes away from not one, but two grocery stores.
  2. I live less than a mile away from 6 bars.
  3. Every bar and restaurant is smoke-free.
  4. Beer sales increased 20% the year after the bars went smoke-free.
  5. I can walk home from aforementioned bars safely, because we have sidewalks.
  6. And walking trails. All the way through town–/diagonally/.
  7. The walking trails go through several parks, a wetland and a historic cemetery.
  8. The dog park has a complete agility course and 2 actual fire hydrants for canine relief.
  9. We also have dog racing. No, nothing cruel, just our Annual Dachshund Derby with tiny wiener dogs racing around like clowns. Yes, it is a sanctioned race (betcha didn’t know that Dachshund racing was so competitive) .
  10. The dog park is just one of 10 parks in our Little Town.
  11. One of our parks even has a Challenge Course and a Frisbee Golf Course.
  12. The train goes through town twice a day too, woo woo!
  13. The Historic Artcraft Theatre has new “classic” movies at least 2 weekends a month.
  14. Movies are only $5 for adults, less for kids and seniors.
  15. Before each movie we all stand up and sing The Star Bangled Banner with our hands over our hearts (unless you are in the Military, then you salute).
  16. They also have film festivals, like one for Hitchcock and another for B-movies.
  17. The popcorn served at the Artcraft is grown less than 5 miles away. Yummy!
  18. When you are the Cartoon Sponsor at the Artcraft, they let you chose the cartoons.
  19. And when you are the Concession Sponsor, you get to pick the “Featured Candy of the Month”.
  20. We have, not one, but two destination restaurants.
  21. I’m local so I can go to these restaurants during the week when they aren’t as busy.
  22. At one of the destination restaurants, they serve blood orange mimosas and
  23. homemade Bloody Marys.
  24. The other restaurant is located conveniently on the way home from the Dog Park.
  25. And they don’t mind dogs on the patio there.
  26. Actually, lots of the restaurants don’t mind dogs on the patios, as long as they have a patio.
  27. We have at least 3 great places in town to get pizza and none of them are chains.
  28. When you stop by the local bank, you can actually stick your head in and say “hi” to the bank president and
  29. he knows your name and will ask you about your spouse, your dog or your garden.
  30. Lots of people have gardens, because in the older sections of town the yards are huge (1/2 acre lots)
  31. Some people sell their produce at the Farmer’s Market.
  32. I like to go buy locally raised honey and plants there.
  33. There is also a guy who makes and sells great hot sauce.
  34. The town owns a recreation center that has top-notch gym & workout equipment.
  35. The annual family membership is less than $150 a year!
  36. The indoor walking track is nice in the winter and
  37. the rock climbing wall is in the lobby.
  38. They also have child care and lots of fitness classes.
  39. Many wedding receptions are held in the hall that is attached.
  40. The town pool (aquatics center) shares the parking lot and has
  41. huge slides and water features.
  42. The Library is just across the street and within a mile of my house.
  43. I live less than 1/2 mile from the local college.
  44. It was named after Ben Franklin, on of my favorite American figures.
  45. With only 1000 students, you don’t get the weird town vs. gown stuff.
  46. In fact, the town loves the gown (and vise versa).
  47. Lots of the college staff and faculty serve on non-profit boards,
  48. volunteer for various community projects and
  49. involve their students in the town.
  50. The students also live less than a mile from 6 bars. 🙂
  51. Our Courthouse is beautiful and the clock still works.
  52. There are at least 4 different sets of bells that ring during various parts of the day.
  53. The courthouse chimes on the hour.
  54. The college and several churches have songs and hymns that play at various hours.
  55. If you time your walk right, you can walk half way through town listening to the bells ring.
  56. The Post office is open until 7 pm on weekdays.
  57. People move away to go to college and come back to raise their kids.
  58. Our house is still named after the people who lived here 25 years ago.
  59. People tell us stories about the things they did at our house before we lived here.
  60. And the pranks the played on the mean man next door,
  61. who hasn’t lived there for more than 25 years.
  62. On the flip side, I love that an older gentleman, who has lived here most of his life and is developmentally challenged, is welcome at every restaurant in town (and given free drinks),
  63. greeted and spoken to by townspeople and
  64. given meaningful volunteer work. It’s a conspiracy of caring.
  65. Our town was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
  66. Some of the tunnels and hiding places still exist and you can see them
  67. on the Halloween tours that are given during October (if you wouldn’t rather go down the road to the Corn Maze at the Dairy Farm).
  68. When you stop at an intersection in our town, 25% of the time someone will wave you through first, even if you weren’t the first to arrive. Seriously, it happens to me at least once a day.
  69. If you happen to be walking your dog on one of our sidewalks or trails, don’t be alarmed if folks honk “hello” to you. It takes some getting used to.
  70. I only live .9 miles away from a frozen custard shop. Enough said.
  71. We have dancing (and drinking) in our streets during Fall Festival.
  72. In fact we have often dance to Polka Boy (don’t be a hater, if you haven’t heard them).
  73. People come from out of town with their travel trailers so they can live in our town, even if it’s only for a few days during the festival.
  74. After our town flooded, everyone (even if their home flooded) helped out their neighbors and friends.
  75. Several flooded businesses were re-opened within days because of the outpouring of help.
  76. You can tell it is Sunday during the Summer, because the Harley’s start driving through town about 9 am.
  77. Which means you can get up and go to one of our 40 or so churches.
  78. Or sleep in a bit more and still get to brunch before the Baptists get out of church at 11 am.
  79. If you go out to dinner on Friday night to the right restaurant, you can take care of 2 business referrals, make 1 charity ask and get invited to 3 special events.
  80. Gay couples move to our town (although they still appear to be outnumbered by the heterosexual couples) because we’re so friendly.
  81. We have an annual pub crawl (see aforementioned bars again).
  82. Last year my “Pub Crawl Team” had 125 members and wore neon green shirts.
  83. They just finished a beautiful new National Guard Armory,
  84. they will be “breaking it in” by hosting a number of Galas and other fundraising events.
  85. We are only about 10 miles away from Camp Atterbury.
  86. It is one of only two camps in the US that provide training to personnel immediately before deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
  87. Indiana also has one of the highest per capita rates of National Guard troops in the country, so
  88. we see lots of uniforms in our community.
  89. Folks thank them for serving (and have been known to by them drinks, reference the bars again).
  90. We have just enough chain restaurants to keep visitors happy.
  91. They are all along the Main Highway.
  92. Not in our downtown, which is thriving and growing.
  93. At the 4-H County Fair each year, a group of local businessmen make sure that every last 4-H animal that is put up for auction is purchased.
  94. Sometimes they stay there for 6-7 hours pooling their money and bidding on animals so that every single 4-H kid walks away with some cash.
  95. We have at least three parades a year.
  96. They all last more than 45 minutes (the Fall parade was over an hour).
  97. If you are a child you need to bring a grocery bag to hold all of your candy (you should also share it with adults near you).
  98. At Christmas time we put lights on our Courthouse and we’re outside in the cold for hours listening to children sing and dance and we go riding in horse-drawn carriages (we used to have a trolley, but there was a freak trolley accident).
  99. Hundreds of people come out for all the fun (not the accident, it wasn’t fun, but it sounds funny).
  100. All this and we are only 20 minutes away from the center of the 12th largest city in the country.
  101. We are the Center of the Universe!

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A Non-profit Primer (How to Succeed with Businesses without Being Trying) Part IV

This is the fourth installment of a series of articles on how non-profits can work better with businesses. To read the first article, click here.

Too many organizations make the mistake of only showing up at a business when they need something.  Keep in mind, every time you ask a business to donate something to your cause, you are probably the 20th person to ask them for something this year.  You have to treat this relationship as a two-way street.

Think about what you can do to help them. FYI–“free” publicity at your event just won’t cut it.  One of the easiest ways you can be creative about how to help a business, is to ask them what they need (novel, huh?). Then think about how you can help deliver some or all of their needs to them.  For example, it they are trying to get in front of more business owners, invite them to your next Board Meeting and have them give a 5 minute presentation.

Here are a few other ideas to help you “farm” for resources instead of having to go hunting each and every time you need something.

1.     Offer to speak at any Rotary, Kiwanis or Sertoma clubyou can lay hands on.  They are always looking for speakers and they are more likely to support causes they know about in the future. Don’t ask for money the first time you go speak unless you have ok’d it with the program chair. Make sure to follow-up your speaking engagement with a thank you note so you’ll be remembered.

Attend as many business events as you can.

2.     Find trade groups that fit with your mission and work with them.  Attend their functions and volunteer on their committees.  One example for the flood recovery group I worked with was the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis, but for a youth agency, a trade union might be a great fit.

3.     Business or professional groups are also a great place to give talks to pre-prep a group for a future need.  Make sure that you have a clear idea of how your organization’s mission and Clearly Stated Needs (CSNs) fit with their group’s mission.  For example the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) is a good fit if you work with an organization that promotes self-esteem in young girls. Chambers of Commerce can offer access to a large business audience all at one time at their monthly meetings.

3.     Don’t overlook churches.  Many of them have groups that are interested in knowing more about the programs that your agency may have.  They can be amazing resources and they have access to lots of people available to volunteer for events or programs. One local group who is trying to raise awareness about homelessness is working with church youth groups to hold an homelessness simulation event. They have so many willing participants, they are trying to work out the logistics of doubling the size of their event.

Bonus Tip: Stack the deck when you attend or speak at a meeting by having one of your Board Members who is already involved in that group introduce you. You can “borrow” some of their credibility and put it to work for your organization. Just make sure to treat their reputation as the valuable resource that it is.

The important thing is to think long and hard about how you want your organization to be perceived by the business community. Avoid being thought of as a mooch and focus on being a helpful partner to the businesses that support you.

I’d love to hear any ideas or challenges you’ve had in working with non-profits.

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A Non-profit Primer Part III (How to Succeed with Business without Being Trying)

This is the third installment of a series of articles on how non-profits can work better with businesses. To read the first article, click here.

Before we go any further, I want to go over a few insights about the actual conversation that you need to have with your “prospects”.  Start by telling everyone you meet about at least one of your Clearly Stated Needs (CSNs).  I do mean everyone: your hair stylist, the cashier at the grocery store, even your spouse. Do it without being pushy and make sure you explain the agency mission and how this CSN will help fulfill the mission. Then ask, “Do you know anyone who might be able to help us with this?”  After that, stand back and take notes, because I guarantee that they will have ideas and you want to get them written down so you don’t forget.

Be sure to tell everyone you meet about your organization's CSNs.

After your “source” has shared their ideas and possible contacts ask if they will either a) call or send an email introduction or b) let you use their name?  I’ve never had anyone say no.

The minute you get back to your office, follow-up your conversation with a thank you note or email and your contact information. Make sure to let your “source” know that you will keep them informed as the situation progresses. You want to encourage and reward their ownership in your enterprise, so let them know you are treating their referrals with respect and care.

About this time, you may start to notice that you have a bazillion names–those of your sources, the referral names and their business names.  It’s a lot to keep track of, so you’ll want to consider using a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to track and maintain all the details.

A good CRM system can help you track:

  • Basic contact info
  • The dates you and times you contacted your referrals.
  • What source referred you to a contact.
  • Relationships (the “R” in CRM) between various contacts.

Many folks use Outlook because it came with their email program, but it is really just a database not a CRM.  There are better systems that allow you to do more and manage info better.  I use HighriseHQ.com because I can import and export lists, see everyone who works for a company with one click, allow multiple users access to the info and create a variety of connections for each contact (boards they serve, place of employment, softball team, college attended, etc).  In addition, the price is right. You can start a trial version for free and upgrade as needed. Of course, there are other CRM systems that will work just as well.  Be sure to use something to track all this information or it will quickly overwhelm you.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss some strategic ways you can begin approaching businesses before you need help. In the meantime, here are a few good places to meet “Sources” that can help you with your CSNs:

Stay tuned for the next article on working with other organizations in your community to leverage your access to resources and help.

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A Non-profit Primer Part II (How to Succeed With Businesses Without Being Trying)

This is the second installment of a series of articles on how non-profits can work better with businesses. To read the first article, click here.

In the previous article we talked about creating Clearly Stated Needs (CSNs) But you need to know how to use those CSNs effectively. So I’m going to give you some tips on a systematic approach to raising more funds, volunteers and awareness for your cause.  And you can do most of it while eating lunch (or dinner).

First and foremost, become a member of at least one Chamber of Commerce.  Attend Chamber events and participate in chamber activities regularly–at least one time per month.  Read the Chamber newsletter and be strategic about which staff is going to the events.  Volunteer to help with a Chamber event.  You can meet a lot of people if you are helping with registration or name tags.

Only give out your business card if asked for it.

When you go to Chamber events and take members of your staff with you.  Make sure they understand in advance that they each have to sit at a different table and (scary!) talk to people they don’t know.  Prep all the staff on a “theme of the day” that you all talk about consistently.

Our agency’s “theme” or elevator speech was always loosely based on our agency’s mission statement and our most pressing CSN that we were trying to solve. Everyone you talk to at the event should get some version of the same information. We were often surprised to discover that we had resolved our CSN by the event’s end.

A couple of other business etiquette pointers to share with your staff:

  • Everyone should take business cards and only give them out if asked.
  • Be sure to ask your “sources” for their business cards (and follow the Japanese custom of making a positive comment about the card before you stick it in your pocket).
  • Each staff member should follow-up on any requests for information as soon as they return to the office.
  • Immediately send a Thank You note to each “source” who gives you a referral.

    Thank you notes are your "unfair" advantage.

Above all, the biggest key to making this work for your agency is the ongoing systematic approach.  You may have to go to several events before you can build up your business credibility.  You can accelerate that process by having a business-owning board member take you around and introduce you, but you must be physically present to make this work. If you only go a few times and quit or aren’t consistent about attending at least monthly, don’t even start going because you will lose credibility for your cause.

So find the closest Chamber of Commerce today and inquire about their non-profit members rates.  I guarantee that if you follow my plan you will make back your investment several times over.

Stay tuned for the next article on working with other organizations in your community to leverage your access to resources and help.

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