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  Microwaveable Marketing
   Radiate your way through business networks.
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 by Mike Ference

For better or worse, we live in a culture where instant gratification is the norm.  Sometimes we still shop the farmers market for fresh produce, go to the butcher for the perfect cut of meat, and then spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal--but more and more often we expect five minutes in the microwave to yield a gourmet dinner.  Similar expectations abound in the business world.  

Sure, those old textbooks say that effective marketing requires long-term commitment, that a brand or message must appear many times in different media before it sinks in--but you want instant results for your marketing efforts, right? Well, for relatively instant and effective marketing, you can't beat joining your local chamber of commerce or one of the business networking groups in your area.

Think about it--these local groups give business and professional folks a chance to shine in front of dozens of active members under ideal networking conditions.  Many groups meet weekly, bimonthly or around a special calendar of events and allow members to announce any new developments or activities going on in their business or professional lives. And some organizations have publications or Web sites that offer even more opportunities to publicize your company's success story. 

Here are a few guidelines to follow when joining an organization that's designed to help you network your way into new business and new business relationships:

1. Be just as concerned about doing business with other members as you are about other members doing business with you.

2. Attend as many functions as you can. If you're not able to attend an event, try sending someone from your staff as a substitute. 

3. Provide a door prize at every event you attend. Include some promotional products with your logo, as well as a gift certificate, or a discount on your products or services. Include catalogs, brochures or any other materials that help to promote your business or profession.

4. If the organization has a newsletter, volunteer to write an article on your area of expertise. Make copies of the article and send them out with your invoices, or make a flier and let people read them while they are waiting in your office.

5. Often, if an organization has a newsletter, it's looking for news about members. Volunteer to be interviewed.  This type of publicity can be priceless, especially if it's followed up by sending copies of the article to your key customers, or anyone you want to do business with.  Always remember to send a little note or make a personal call to thank the writer.  As one of the few who do, you'll always stand out in the writer's mind and become a quotable source in future articles.

6. Be the first to welcome a new member.  Do it with sincerity and not with a business card or order pad in hand.

7. All organizations need to raise funds to meet their financial obligations.  Help out where you can, even if it just means returning a call to let an event organizer know you're not able to participate.

8. If you're unable to provide financial support to the organization over and above the cost of membership, volunteer your services for their fundraising activities and other events. Many organizations have golf outings, luncheons or other activities where able bodies can play an important role.

9. Donate cocktail napkins and other disposable items imprinted with your logo or company message. When these items are used at organizational events, your message will be inches away from everyone's eyes, often for hours at a time.

10. When you join the chamber, you'll meet the cream of the crop in the community--people accustomed to giving much more than they expect to receive in return. Don't be someone who takes unfair advantage of that generosity; be one of the generous ones.  Trust is a valuable resource, and it can be squandered in one or two careless or selfish acts.  Always be on your best behavior. The goal of joining these organizations is to build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Follow this lead and you can expect results that quickly turn into new 
business and, more importantly, new business relationships. Try it for the 
next 12 months--you'll be glad you did.

Mike Ference runs a full-service promotional agency offering a wide range of services, including trade show and event planning, media placement, writing and editing. He has written hundreds of articles like this one for chamber newsletters and other business-related publications.
For more information, call Mike at (412) 233-5491 or 

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