The old Florida adage, “When you're up to you're a-- in alligators, it's hard to remember your initial objective is to drain the swamp,” applies to the Chamber of Commerce.
We love all of our visitors who come asking for travel and tourism information, notary services, directions and help with faxing and copying. We also enjoy the phone calls asking everything from who our county commissioners are to when it's OK to water the garden.
Improving the general interests and welfare of this community is actually part of our mission statement.
But at the end of the day, our main job is to promote our local businesses with referrals. Our businesses run the gamut from retail stores to professional services, health care to entertainment, direct sales to residential living.
We have those who are very active in our promotional events and those who join only for our expos. If you fall into the latter category, here are some helpful hints for maximizing your chamber membership.
? Take advantage of our weekly online Network newsletter, which is emailed to more than 500 businesses every week. Let us know about your service, an upcoming event or an award you received in 90 words or less by Thursday afternoon and we'll publicize it for you for free. You can also advertise in it at low, low rates.
? Take the opportunity to develop relationships and talk about your business at our monthly coffees, luncheons and Business After Hours. These events are designed so you can socialize in a relaxed setting with lots of other members. It's more fun to talk shop over hors d'oeuvres and a beverage. You might even win a cool door prize.
? Display your business cards and brochures in the racks in the chamber lobby, where more than 10,000 visitors stop by every year. I can't tell you how often folks come into the building just to browse and leave with a handful of business cards from various companies.
? Reach out to every single chamber member by purchasing a set of 500 addresses of chamber members for direct mail or invitations for a one-time event. The list is only $20.
? Join a membership, ambassadors or governmental affairs committee or work one of numerous projects — including the annual Holiday Golf Cart Parade, Business Expo, membership drive and Chamber Cup Classic Golf Tournament — where you'll meet new people and develop a deep bond by working together toward a specific goal.
? Put your chamber membership sticker on the front door of your business or on your car so people know you belong and are a credible business.
? And finally, sponsor a coffee or BAH and let folks see your business up close and personal. You might get people into your building who might never go otherwise, and all it costs is what you spend on food and drink.
Yes, I know you're busy wrestling those alligators. So get out of the swamp for a few minutes and join your fellow chamber members for some interesting conversation and refreshments.
The alligators might be asleep when you get back.
Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.