Broomfield Chamber of Commerce

How Can the Chamber of Commerce Help Your Business?

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina Metcalf

This week, I came across a video on Smallbiztrends.com that suggested for a small business to get the most value out of a chamber of commerce membership, it shouldn’t ask about what the benefits are, but rather ask themselves “how can I help the chamber help me.”

Help the Chamber Help You

I can rattle off many benefits behind chamber membership but it’s likely there’s one thing in your business that’s really bothering you. There’s one problem or goal you have in your business that if the chamber could solve for you, you’d be a die-hard member forever, right? If you’re already a loyal member, then you know there’s something the chamber does that you couldn’t do without them.

So, let’s talk about that.

Member or not, what is it you need in your business? What are you missing? What direction do you want to take over the next year? What can the chamber take off your plate?

That last one is a doozy, right?

We all have more than we can handle these days. We’re doing more with less, trying to figure out how we will pay for our necessities as prices skyrocket. What if there was something the chamber could do to take something off your plate, to help you do more with less time? Whether you are a small or large business, wouldn’t that be great? Who couldn’t use a helpful partner in your success?

That partner is waiting. You just need to do one thing first to enrich that partnership.

It’s All About the Ask

According to Pew Research Center, women earn 84% of what men earn. There are many reasons we can explore to explain the gender pay gap, but one of them is in negotiation. Women believe if they come in and prove themselves, their manager will see their value and reward them with a raise. Men negotiate before getting the job. Part of the difference in the pay gap comes down to the ask.

The best way to get the most from chamber membership is simply to ask for help with your specific need. Chamber staff (and the chamber board members) have vast experience in business; many of them were or are business owners.

As a marketing writer, if someone comes to me and says they need content, I’m going to ask them several questions about their goals, their audience, and their past content experiences—what worked and what didn’t. Your chamber will do the same when you have conversations about membership.

If you are prepared for those conversations, you’ll achieve a much better return on your investment. Think about what you need. Don’t censor yourself assuming the chamber can’t help in that department. The chamber touches many areas of the business community from legislative advocacy to workforce development to tourism and a host of other things that are important to the success of businesses in your area.

You can still achieve great things with a chamber membership, even if you never have that conversation, and ask for what you need. But if you do initiate that dialogue, you may be astounded by the doors that open to you, or the bridges the chamber can help you build.

Chambers do some astounding work in the community, but they’re not mind readers. Ask yourself what you need and then ask them to help. That’s the way to get the best return on your member investment, whether you’re just now considering joining your chamber or you’ve been a member for years.

Acing the Basics of Grant Writing

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina Metcalf

Hiring a grant writer isn’t cheap. Some charge a flat fee, while others base their fee as a percentage of the grant amount. If you’re a small business or nonprofit, you may not be able to afford to hire someone. But it is worth it. To take on grant writing yourself, you’ll miss out on the years of experience you’ll get with a professional and it will likely take more time. But if you’re looking for a DIY solution, you need to know the basics of grant writing.

Basics of Grant Writing

First, know that good grant writing is simply good writing. If you struggle with the basics of grammar, you either want to hire it out or hire an editor once you write it. However, one thing to keep in mind about grant writing is that even if you hired a grant writer, you would still need to give them the bullets to put together a compelling grant application. Knowing this, the rest of the writing is simply polishing. The points will always be yours anyway.

Another important aspect is research. Grant bestowers won’t contact you. You must apply. Half of the work in a grant is finding one that’s a good fit for you. Do you fit their criteria? If you’re lucky, you’ll be an obvious fit and hit all of their requirements, but for some you may need to (creatively) illustrate the fit for the person/group giving the money away to show them how you meet their specifications.

Assuming you’ve found a grant you’re interested in, do the following:

  1. Set aside time. A grant is not the same as a credit card application. It will likely take you hours to compile the information needed. If you want to be successful in your grant writing, clear the table, and make sure you have the bandwidth. Delegate, if you must. Applying for money is a big deal. Treat it that way. This is not something you want to write at home in front of the TV at night.
  2. Double check your eligibility. Don’t waste everyone else’s time applying for things you are not remotely eligible for. For instance, if the grant is for a Florida business, don’t apply as an orange grower from California hoping you can sneak in.
  3. Consider the fit between your group and the one giving out the money. Ever watch a sponsor drop a celebrity because they do or say something that is not in keeping with the sponsor’s brand? Well, you want to consider the same thing when applying for grants. Don’t take money from an organization that does not jive with your mission or beliefs. If you can’t tell from the grant offering write-up, do your own research on the group.
  4. Follow the instructions. Even if the grant is being awarded for creative pursuits, follow their directions. If they require a 500-word essay, don’t write a sentence, and submit that thinking it will be Avant Garde and make a statement. If they say 500 words, that’s what they want.
  5. Tell a story. If you watch America’s Got Talent or other talent show with judges or an audience selection process, you’ll notice that contestants who share their tearful stories of family members with cancer or lives spent living in vans, often when paired with a little talent, progress to the next level. A good voice can sound extraordinary when accompanied by a compelling story. Think about your focus, your passion, your successes, and your obstacles. Make people feel what you’ve gone through as you answer the grant questions. Your story will also help you stand out from other applicants.
  6. Use the right language. In addition to telling your story, you want to use persuasive, concise language. Don’t drone on and on thinking the more often you reiterate something, the more you’ll hit the point home. Imagine each word costs (you) money and use as few as possible (following their guidelines, of course) to prove your point and convince the decision maker that yours is the best entity for the money. Axe words like “really,” “actually,” and “very.” They add nothing to your application. Were things really hard or challenging? See the difference? The latter conveys feeling, the former doesn’t.
  7. Then do it again. And again. We all make mistakes but not on applications for large amounts of money. Run your finished application by several people. Ask them to read for grammar/typos, as well as understanding. If they can’t follow your reasoning as to why you should be awarded the money, the grantor certainly won’t be able to either.

5 Ways to Level Up Your Small Business Marketing (and yes, it’s time)

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina Metcalf

If you’re interested in ways to reach more people, and you’re ready to start maximizing technology, it’s time to look at these business solutions:

 

List Building

You need an email list. It’s the best way to stay in touch with your customers, nurture them into a sale, and then remind them to come back. The other benefit to an email list is that it’s yours. You won’t lose access to it if you’re in Facebook jail or one of your social media platforms goes the way of MySpace (for those of you who are old enough to understand that reference).

Here are a few ways to build an email list.

Marketing Automation

Now that you have a list, it’s time to start talking about marketing automation. There are tons of marketing or e-mail automation tools out there from enterprise software to free apps. There’s an initial time investment to set the campaign up, but once the initial setup is done, you’ll have a wealth of options to help you grow your business and stay connected with your customers.

Learn more about marketing automation and how to get started.

Copy Tricks and Content Marketing

Copywriting is the art of persuasion in the briefest of characters. These days, most audiences are more won over by eye-catching images than long prose. But you still need compelling copy for website visitors of the human and search engine kind. If you don’t have a marketing person or you’re not freelancing it out to a professional, take a weekend to brief yourself on the basics of copywriting. You won’t be a copywriting pro in just a weekend but your efforts will show.

Here’s one idea that’s incredibly important to making sales. If you are giving your customers a choice between three levels of service, mark one as the “best value” or “most popular.” There are many customers who want to be told what to do, albeit subtly. Marking an option with this type of designation persuades them into choosing what others have.

Also, make sure all your pages have a call to action that fits the level of the relationship/page content. If the page is based around the visitor getting to know you, for instance, don’t immediately ask for the sale. It doesn’t fit what they’re trying to do. A pop-up for content on how to make an educated purchase decision for what you sell is a better fit.

Chatbots

People want answers on their schedule. A chatbot can help you stay in touch with your audience and potential customers when they have a question or concern, even when your business isn’t open.

Here are a few ways you could be using them.

Ask

I wanted to throw in an idea for the non-techies as well. Some of the other components mentioned here can be a bit overwhelming at first. This one is as basic as speech. Start a conversation with your customers, vendors, or a similar audience to your own who aren’t customers yet. Become more social. Listen to what people are talking about, what they need, what they like. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, talk to people when they come in. Run your branding by them. Go to a festival and host a pop-up booth. Sure, you may have some sales, but it’s also a way to get in front of a different audience and talk to people. Then use all that information to change how you communicate with others and market to them.

There are a lot of ways to increase sales these days. Much of the marketing technology has become less expensive and does more. But all these solutions do take time. Just as people say it takes money to make money; it also takes time. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be your time. If someone can do it more efficiently than you can, let them and concentrate your efforts on the things that only you can do for your small business.

The State of Small Business

150 150 Lauren Finamore

 

Written by: Christina Metcalf

The chamber is the Voice of Business and as the Voice of Business, there’s something we feel the need to express to everyone in this community. Inflation is being felt everywhere, from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs just starting out.

However, the difference between large-scale companies and smaller ones are their reserves. According to JP Morgan Chase, the average small business runs with only 27 days of operating expenses in reserves. Increases in utilities, goods and services, real estate, and gas costs; supply chain issues impacting delivery; and employee shortages have taken a toll on businesses, especially our smaller ones.

In this challenging time, while you are dealing with your own concerns over stretching your paycheck, we want to share some things you might not realize.

Small Business Pricing Stats (April 2022, Goldman Sachs)

  • 91% of small businesses said they have been negatively impacted by rising costs, supply chain, and workforce challenges, up from 86% in January 2022
  • 73% said increasing energy costs are negatively impacting their bottom lines
  • 56% believe the issues have gotten worse since the start of the year
  • 74% are currently hiring, 90% are finding it difficult to fill the positions
  • 88% have said inflationary pressures have increased in 2022
  • 67% have increased wages to keep/attract employees
  • 42% have lost employees to larger companies
  • 75% are seeing a rise in their operating costs, yet only 40% are raising prices

Let’s repeat that last one. Three quarters of small businesses are seeing a rise in their costs but less than half have raised prices. Costs are going up. These businesses have held out as long as they could. Soon those that haven’t already will raise their prices. It’s inevitable. Before you react to this, please consider…

Responding to Increased Prices

Businesses need our support, and they need our patience. This is a last resort for many small businesses because they are very close to their customers. They don’t want to pass on their costs. They know customers have their own pricing concerns and their paychecks are not going nearly as far as they used to.

You may see closures on days the businesses used to be open or experience limited hours to help with staff shortages. Be understanding of this. By limiting their hours, they are trying to remain in business and cover the employee shortage they’re facing.

Businesses may reduce the services they offer or the secondary costs. Bars, for instance, may cut back on bands to save money. Table your complaints. They’re doing the best they can right now to make enough profit and cut costs to stay in business.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, 31% of small businesses are taking on debt to help keep costs low. So, they need your continued support and understanding.

This may seem like a bleak picture for small businesses, but we have had some wonderful success stories over the past year as well. There are new businesses growing. People are starting their own enterprises even through these tough times.

Business owners are resilient, hardworking, problem-solvers. People who go to work for themselves believe in the service or product they provide. As the saying goes entrepreneurs would “rather work 80 hours for themselves, than 40 for someone else.” We have faith in business owners and we’re doing our best to help by giving them the resources to work through these extraordinary challenges, but we need your help.

Bottom Line

Small businesses need you to:

  1. Show up. Keep patronizing them.
  2. Put up. Costs are increasing for everyone. They are not here to gouge you.
  3. Support them. If not through purchases than through reviews, word-of-mouth, or referring someone looking for work.
  4. Pass the message along. Remind others what businesses are going through. It’s stressful wondering how you’ll make payroll, pay your suppliers or your landlord.

We’ll get through this together, but it won’t happen by making small business owners and employees feel dumb or guilty for trying to do what’s necessary to stay open.

“Small Businessing” Ain’t Easy

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina Metcalf

There was a time when the biggest concern a business had was bringing in customers. These days, we know you’re worrying about a lot more. You’re wondering where you will find qualified employees. When you do find them on paper or through an application, you keep your fingers crossed that they will show up for their first day of work, or better yet, the interview. Once you hire them, you hope they’ll come back the next day and the next.

You worry about how you will sell items if you can’t get anything on the shelf. And you’re so very tired of hearing your suppliers talk about the supply chain. Two years ago, you didn’t even think about a supply chain in reference to anything more than toilet paper.

You worry about baby formula or people getting sick, your loved ones, your friends, your employees. You wonder if you should ask the person who’s been coughing the entire time they’ve been in your business to leave. Will they be offended or angry?

You worry that if you raise prices to try to make the smallest of profits to help pay for your gas to get to work or the groceries that keep getting more expensive while the quantities shrink that people will stop buying from you. Lag times and scheduling keep you up at night.

Or you’re challenged with too much need of your product or service and an inability to deliver. You hope that when you tell people it will be two to three weeks before you can meet their needs that your competitors are in the same boat.

You want to learn more, do more, and help more but your profits are dwindling almost as quickly as your “rainy day” money and investments are. Rents are going up and you worry your business’ lease will increase above what you can afford or you worry your landlord will sell your building. Home prices are going up but if you sell now, you won’t be able to find an affordable place to live.

It’s summer and you want to take vacation but there’s no one to run your business and even if there was, plane tickets and gas prices look more like car payments these days.

And you worry about safety.

No, this is not an easy time. But we see you small business owner. We are working to connect need with solutions. We’re talking to municipal, county, state, and federal leaders and voicing what you need most. We are brainstorming solutions for these unprecedented times.

We know you’re stressed and anxious, but we are here for you. Small businesses like yours are the backbone of our community and our country. You are not in this alone even though it can feel that way as a business owner.

While it’s important to have a support system, many small business owners struggle when they turn to friends and family for advice. Unless your family and friends are/were business owners themselves, they likely do not fully understand what you are facing.

At the chamber, we do.

While these are unprecedented times, we are working with all our resources to find solutions. We have experience in business and are bringing business owners together.

We can’t make your anxiety go away, or fix the supply chain over night, but we’re working on viable solutions and growth for all.

And because we understand what you’re going through, we’re sharing the following. Please feel free to use it (or edit it) however you see fit:

 

We’re Business Owners, Not Miracle Workers

Behind this business is a person and a family.

The employee you’re fed up with or questioning because prices are “too high” or service is slow, is someone’s mother, father, child, friend, or loved one.

We’re not a faceless conglomerate.

We are your neighbors and we’re doing the best we can working in times no one prepared us for.

And while we seem to have everything together, we’re working round the clock just to help keep appearing like they used to be. In reality, we’re getting by and doing what we can to keep our doors open. A lot of people depend on us–our employees, our landlord, our vendors, our suppliers, our own family.

We are providing you service with a smile today even if you’re not showing us your best self.

And we’ll do it again tomorrow and as often as you want to patronize us. We will be here as long as we can keep our business open.

We thank you for sticking with us while we navigate unprecedented times. And yes, some days we’re going to run out of things or we’ll be short-staffed. That may inconvenience you for an hour or two, but please don’t take it out on the person who’s working a double shift because a co-worker called out.

We love being part of this community, but we’re worried, too, just like you. We drive to work, we buy groceries, we must take off when people who depend on us are ill.

No small business owner or employee signed up for the challenges we’re facing now. But we’re making the best of it—like you are—and we sure could use your continued help and understanding.

Thank you for your support. We want to continue to serve you long into the future—or at least as long as it takes for the supply chain to get untangled.