Category Archives: networking

Strengthening Our Local Businesses


Luanne Triolo Newman, Executive Director
Carol Stream Chamber

How many times have you heard or read, “Shop Local”? At some point, for groceries or fast-food, we all most likely do shop local, so why is it emphasized?

Consumers have many choices when it comes to shopping, dining out, or purchasing services that businesses offer.  With internet shopping opportunities, the local brick-and-mortar stores definitely have competition. Local municipalities benefit from tax dollars generated as they provide services for these facilities.

But what are other benefits for Joe Printer on the corner or Jane’s Restaurant down the street, and for us?

We visit our local stores and see smiling faces, some that live in our town, and they are those who support local ball teams and clubs. We forge relationships with staff and owners and we are familiar and friendly faces for them. We keep tax dollars in or community and also keep our local businesses strong, helping them to grow and increase hiring.

The chamber offers several Expos each year where members obtain booths to show and sell their products or services. This brings awareness to the consumers in the community who are sometimes offered specials at the expo or in their place of business after the event. It is an opportunity to start a business relationship anew or strengthen an existing one.

Consider your local businesses. Search your chamber website for listings of companies. Pick one or two to visit and support. Shop local and be proud of making a difference in your community.


HOW Are YOU Networking?

Have you ever gone to a business networking event and wondered, “What on earth am I doing here? How will this help me get more sales???”

In the world of Networking events there are some standard choices:  Business Before Hours. Leads Groups. Luncheons. Business After Hours.

There has to be value in an event in order to get attendance (and repeat attendance) organizers hope for. What makes it valuable?

  • Meeting the ‘right’ people?
  • Meeting ‘new’ people?
  • Meeting the ‘same’ people, and strengthening existing relationships?

All of the above can be positives for any business professional. You meet another, listen to what business they are in and what is a good lead for them. Now it’s your turn and you explain your wants and needs in the business world and exchange contact information. Following up with a handwritten note or pleasant email is always suggested, or even suggesting an additional meeting over coffee to discuss things further. This could be your power partner!

In my job with the chamber, we have many different types of opportunities for people to meet. One luncheon is called “Tables of Interest”. Being a progressive luncheon, attendees progress to three tables, meeting more individuals along the way. Table captains facilitate conversation in order to enhance the value of the luncheon. Are they assigned three tables? Not at this one! When registering, you choose three different themes or topics that interest you. Whether it be Books, Wine, Extreme Sports, Grandparents, or even Pinterest, you choose where your interests lie.

We have been challenged, even turned down by other chambers when we’ve invited them to partner with us and make it a multi-chamber lunch. “Personal interests? What does that have to do with business?” or “We want to stick with business topics for our members” we’ve heard.  So why, oh why, would we offer such poppycock?

It’s all about RELATIONSHIPS….business relationships. Author Bob Burg insists that people do business with other people they know, like, and trust. If you follow that way of thinking, these sorts of opportunities are just the place to get to know people. Of course, the like and trust part comes with time.

Think outside the box. Business relationships can stem from a rigid, serious, planned meeting. Or they can flow effortlessly from an unexpected moment.



Check out my #constantcontact newsletter

Check out my #constantcontact newsletter.

How You Doin’? How’s Your Social Media Doin’?

Which best describes you?
– Never got the whole Social Media thing
– Been there, done that, taught the classes
– Created the profile, never returned
– Pedaling as fast as I can…what? Google +???

I was with some colleagues who said they attended a Social Media seminar. Not only was the event below-beginner, but they had already created their profile, and at that seminar were tweeting ABOUT the seminar.

It’s all relative, I guess. But who should take a seminar? Is the material covered accurately described at sign-up? Are you more advanced and you end up taking a class that is really designed for SoMe 101?

If you’re like some that I have talked with, you try your best to ‘touch’ each of them – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…for some it includes regular postings of YouTube videos, checking in on FourSquare (can I tell you how frustrating that is??)..and more.

How do you keep up? Having a plan or strategy is one way to manage Social Media marketing. You could spend x amount of minutes y days of the week, creating, re-tweeting, engaging, posing questions, posting photos, and more.

Another avenue is to use some of the scheduling shortcuts like TweetDeck, SocialOomph or others to assist you in pre-scheduling some words of wisdom, tips for your industry, or thought-provoking questions. Tying accounts together can save time, thus your LinkedIn postings, push to your Facebook page and fly over to your Twitter followers.

One key is to ‘stay real’. Genuine. Honest. Truthful. Otherwise, it could come back to bite you. Just like in real life!

Get With It — They Did!

It was a new event, never done before. They came. They learned. They won. Networking 2.0: Social Media Face 2 Face MeetUp on October 6th presented by the Carol Stream Chamber of Commerce was a success. It succeeded on several levels, not just as an ‘After Hours’ type event.

This uniquely designed event was meant to let all worlds collide: chamber members, LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. What did they do in the two hour time period?

Checking in at the registration table, each attendee was given a blue lanyard and a nametag. Attendees could paper-punch their business card, to let it hang from the lanyard around their neck. They proceeded to the next ‘station’ where I explained a bit about QR codes. Had they seen one? What were their uses? Want to generate one?

And generate they did!!! Using the QR code generator on the they entered their contact info. Those with Smartphones downloaded Barcode Reader apps and a demo was done to show how effective this way. See, when they entered their contact info in the ‘form’, it generated a QR code. Right-click, copy, paste to Word doc and PRINT ..and..voila!! This cute, unique-to-them squiggle-box-shape contained their contact info. All they had to do was the old-school CUT and PASTE onto the back of their biz card hanging from the lanyard and they were ready to share with others.

I’d like to think this is a “GREEN” biz card exchange. By the way, we did the non-green biz card exchange, too. They dropped a card into each of the 40 ‘french-fry-cardboard-containers’ and while they were networking, our staff gathered and rubber-banded them. On the way out they each had a neat stack of everyone’s info who attended.

But there was more before they left. Oh, yes, there was food and soda included in the $10 fee, but more importantly there were two distinct opportunities for them to take advantage of.

SOCIAL MEDIA – Dana Plazyk/No Excuses Mobile Marketing and Heidi Thorne/Thorne Communications were on hand, ready to answer those burning questions, such as “I have NO idea why, how or when to use Social Media” and “Ok, I’m trying it, now what???” Both SoMe gurus, Dana and Heidi gave one-on-one attention to those who needed it.

ACCELERATED NETWORKING, OUR WAY – We do it at our ‘Business Before Hours’ and we did it here: face-to-face networking. This is how it works:
Two lines are formed, facing each other, taking care that each person is lined up with just one across from them. A ‘noise’ is made (could be a yell, whistle, bell, etc) and the right side line begins their 45 sec. infomercial. Yes, they say their name, company, what they do and what is a good lead for them. Always repeating their name and company at the end, the ‘noise’ is made again and the opposite, or left line begins their spiel. After another 45 seconds and another ‘noise’, the movement is initiated. Resembling the Ice Capades or Rockettes portion where the last in line fervently tries to catch up with the line, one person on the end ‘drops off’ and goes the the head of the line, with everyone shifting over one person. And thus it begins again. Effective? Heck, yes. Noisy? You got it. Valuable? Absolutely.

Will we hold the Networking 2.0 event again? DING-DING-DING!!!!!!!

What’s Up for Fall @ CS Chamber?

(reprinted from September 2010 newsletter)

Dear Chamber Members,

Cool fall weather is knocking at the door and summer vacations have come to an end.
It’s back to business and the chamber is offering a lot in the next months. Grab your
calendar and ’make an appointment’ to spend time on building business relationships at
some of the upcoming events.

The “What Women Want” Expo gives our local businesses face-time with the
community on September 22nd. October is very full – three After Hours, one Before
Hours, a Progressive multi-chamber luncheon, and our 2nd annual TopGolf Outing.
Social Media/Networking and QR codes…are you ’up’ on these topics? Social media isn’t
going away anytime soon and taking even a little time to get your feet wet in one or
more (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) is a good idea. Experts will be on had for the new
event, “Networking 2.0: Social Media Face 2 Face Meet Up” at the Holiday Inn/Carol
Stream. Our fans, friends, followers, contacts and members are all invited to network on
October 6th.

Getting to know fellow members is always a positive step towards making and deepening
business relationships, but when we hold multi-chamber luncheons, we find it benefits
members even further. October 13th, we will hold a Progressive Multi-chamber
luncheon with several other chambers. Try to make some time for this; it’s a favorite.
Speaking of ‘MULTI”, how do 12 chambers and free food sound? Our October 27th
event at Elgin Community College will bring members from chambers in Algonquin,
Huntley, West Chicago, Hanover Park, as well as North Kane, St. Charles and Bartlett.
Mark your calendar for this After Hours.

The Women In Business events are open to both men and women and the November
17th “Polka Dot Progressive” affords attendees a chance to mingle with three tables of
biz professionals, but don’t look for three table numbers on your nametag. Tables will be
determined by a quick throw of the dice. The dots on the dice become the POLKA
DOT theme and many will be found wearing them in one fashion or another. Join us!


The Carol Stream Chamber kicks off ROCS! Leads Group this week, Jan 20th at Augustino’s.

A lead by any name is still a lead!

Or is it?

What do you do to get new business? How do you reach out to companies that could benefit from your products or services? Who is that ‘gatekeeper’ and why won’t she let you talk to the ‘Big Kahuna?’

It is definitely the challenge of most business professionals to reach way down, deep into their souls, down to their toes and come up with ways to grow their business.

What do you have to offer that sets you apart from others in your field? Be ‘known” as the one who goes that extra mile, offers a quirky item or service to your customers that endears you to them. A local auto business thanks their patrons with a note on the invoice, a thank you card, and candy with a giveaway — a holder for your auto documents in the glovebox that is easy to spot. It’s more than giveaways, which are also a plus to most — it’s the extra caring and kind words that bring repeat customers.

Do you help others? Are you able to connect business colleagues in another field with one in need? In “The Go-Giver”, Bob Burg and John David Mann tell a story of a man seeking success. He’s at a desperate point, the end of the quarter, and he needs to GET, GET, GET more sales–he’s a real ‘Go-Getter’. But when he happens upon a wise man who points out the benefits in giving, rather than receiving, he is in for a life-changing lesson.

Do people know how good your product is? Do you give ‘free samples’? Years ago, I was in local craft shows, selling home-cooked caramels. Making samples, however small, was nearly as time-consuming as cutting and wrapping the real thing. But people, who had no pre-conceived notion to buy, would happen upon my display, take a free sample (who can turn down a FREE SAMPLE??), and declare that they needed to buy a bag! Bingo! Does a free sample of your product reach out, draw in, tantalize, and seal the deal? For many, this is a successful venture.

Getting your business’ name ‘out there’ front-and-center to prospects can be key. Partnering with others in associated industries and joining in on cold-calling, presentations or even some forms of advertising can be a way to think outside the box to cut costs and open doors.

You’ve heard the list of groups to join — local business associations, your town’s chamber, the next town’s chamber, the gym. Being a part of an organization, even socially, brings you to meet others with whom you have a common bond. When you bond on a different level or subject matter other than business, relationships form, trust ‘happens’ and business can follow. Now, if you sell steel for a living, and you’ve joined a knitting club, you may be stretching it a bit, but you get my drift.

Your luncheon or “After Hours” events at the local chamber afford great, warm networking opportunities. More formal leads groups take the networking and kick it up a notch. Whether it be a national organization such as BNI or LeTip, or a group of community businesses who band together, focusing on quality leads for your group-mates helps grow their business, while they do the same for you. The frequent meetings — weekly or every other week — benefit all by the repetition of the ‘elevator speeches’. You get to know and understand exactly what the other members of the group have to offer and you are able to, pardon the term, regurgitate it, when you run across someone in need of their type of product or service. The one ‘in need’ is happy they have been helped; the group-mate is ecstatic that they receive a solid referral for business. Win, win, win! It is a reflection on you. You win, too.

Whatever your plan of attack, best of luck as you forge forward and do what needs to be done to grow YOUR business.