One of the greatest benefits of having a business in Elk Grove is the opportunity to do business with your neighbors. Shirlanne Lemm is the President of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the GOA Regional Business Association. She oversees all operations and works with her staff of seven to develop, create, and execute opportunities and events for businesses to connect and work together.
We sat down with Shirlanne as she stepped us through some of the key benefits of doing business with your neighbors, as well as how to succeed at networking events. If you're planning on attending this year's Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo, this is a must read!
Q: What are the biggest networking events the GOA hosts?
A: The biggest event we host is the Business Expo, one of the largest B2B networking events in the region. Last year there were 100 exhibitors and 800 to 1000 people came through the show. It's usually held at the end of April every year.
We also do a Wine & Beer Tasting event that's held in March, and our Casino Night is coming up soon!
Q: How can Elk Grove businesses benefit more from networking with its neighbors?
A: Let's talk about manufacturers. A few years ago we started an exclusive manufacturing alliance group. This group has become a great referral opportunity. Members facilitate connections with colleagues who can benefit from a specific business or service. It became apparent these manufacturers were all dealing with the same issues. We discuss these challenges to help manufacturers connect and problem solve together.
Benefits of networking and working with your neighbors include:
—Strengthening economic growth as a team.
—Discussing industry issues and working together to create solutions.
—Working with local vendors to lower delivery cost.
—Face-to-face interactions that can excel customer service.
The Village does a great job at bringing these benefits to its businesses with the Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing and Technology Expo. Just by attending, you'll find great vendors and/or customers who are located just around the corner.
Q: Do you have any networking advice for Expo attendees and exhibitors?
A: It's so much more than passing out a business card. When you go to the Expo to network, it's about providing others the opportunity to tell you about them. Learn about them and they will inevitably want to learn about you. It's more about listening than selling. By using this approach, you'll find opportunities to connect what you do with what they do. You never know what benefits others can provide you if you don't take the time to learn about their products and services.
You have to think of it as building relationships and be willing to listen and learn.
Q: What are some tips for Expo exhibitors?
A: If you're exhibiting for the first time, be sure you're prepared. Stand up with confidence in front of your booth and be approachable. Having two people at the booth at all times is helpful too.
Also, have a plan on what to do with those business cards you collect: write notes on the back of them, mark them hot or cold, and focus on the ones with big potential. Then, be sure to follow-up.
When it comes to your booth, you don't have to be so "flashy". I've seen in the past exhibitors hand out smaller giveaways like pencils to everyone, but if they spent time with someone they connected well with, they'll give away something bigger. Being strategic about your booth and giveaways is essential.
And remember, you always want to express what service or product you can provide them. Be sure when you're giving your elevator pitch to highlight how you can solve their pain points.
Q: Where else can people go to meet their neighbors?
A: Think about the type of people you want to meet and what industry they're in. Then think, what events would they most likely attend? Get out of your comfort zone and go find them! Often times, businesses tell me the type of people they want to meet and I make a recommendation to attend an event, and they respond by saying, "Well I don't know if this interests me." That's a huge missed opportunity.
About the GOA
The GOA Regional Business Association is affiliated with the Elk Grove Village Chamber of Commerce and provides its members with unique business and personal development through networking, education and marketing opportunities.
Learn more about becoming a member by visiting www.thegoa.com