It’s no secret that selling your hyperlocal platform’s technology to individual businesses can be tedious, time-consuming, and filled with failure and disappointment. You desperately believe you’ve built an amazing technology that’s truly going to help local businesses succeed. The difficulty lies in your minimal sales force or that the businesses you do reach out to just don’t have the time, capital, or bandwidth to hear from the numerous apps and platforms that approach them every month.
Enter the Chambers of Commerce and Local Business Alliances. These are the local community business organizations that have the eyes and ears of the local businesses within every community. Approaching these organizations can be an effective and easy way to scale your hyperlocal platform and to reach many of their local business members.
At UPlanMe, we’ve recently found success with these local chambers in selling through our technology. While it’s still an uphill battle, the numbers are more in our favor. For example, calls to 30 local businesses may result in one sale. Calls to 30 local chambers may result in the sale to tens if not hundreds of businesses. Here are some tips that we’ve found to be successful:
Avoid state, regional and major city chambers – These chambers are focused on larger businesses and enterprises that most likely won’t find a need in your hyperlocal platform. After countless calls and e-mails to these chambers, we were ultimately directed to the local business alliances or the individual county chambers. In addition, many of these larger chambers won’t partner or work with hyperlocal platforms on a partnership or affinity basis (more on that later).
Avoid chambers that require “Pay to Play” – Many of the responses we received were: “We can’t work with you unless you’re a member.” While this may only cost you $300-$500 per year, they still won’t do much other than post your business on a “Members Page” or “Members Services Page.” The ROI will be minimal, as you’ll still have to reach out individually to their business members to sell your solution.
Offer reseller fees or an affinity relationship – Many of the local chambers don’t have a huge funding base, so any way for them to earn additional revenue is valuable. Reach out to the individual county chambers and neighborhood alliances within large cities. If revenue is involved, they are more apt to work with you and to promote your platform to their business members. Also, offer a discount or coupon code to their members. It goes a long way in securing your partnership with the chamber.
Make the relationship mutually beneficial – Local chambers are always looking to increase their member base. Find a unique and strategic way to explain how promoting your platform to their current and prospective members will help drive new member sign-ups. With UPlanMe, we offer the chamber a simple calendar technology that highlights ALL of their members’ specials and events directly on their website. Local businesses want to be a part of that community calendar, so they’re more likely to join the chamber to participate (and sign-up to UPlanMe in the process).
Offer your platform free of charge to the Chamber – If applicable, give the chamber free access to your technology, so that they can a) understand how your technology works and b) champion it to their members: “If the Chamber’s using it, I probably should as well.”
Offer additional perks to the Chamber – Local chambers are always looking for ways to educate their members on how to be successful and how to grow their business. Any chamber that signs-up and partners with UPlanMe, I provide a free webinar to ALL chamber members on “How to Market Their Business Online”. This webinar is not a self-promotional webinar on our company, but a full guide on all of the simple tools and resources available to small businesses. Assuming your business focuses on some area of hyperlocal, your CEO or Co-Founder should be well versed in your space to offer a similar educational webinar. If the chamber has been especially valuable in driving members to our platform, we’ll even fly to them to do an in person event.
If all else fails, ask your existing customers – Having trouble getting a dialogue started with a chamber? See if any of your existing customers are members of their local chamber. Asking for an intro can be extremely valuable in jump-starting the dialogue.
After all of our discussions and research with local chambers, I’ve noticed that the chambers provide minimal resources to local businesses on how to navigate hyperlocal and which tools are the most valuable. In my opinion, that really should be a key responsibility of the Chambers. They should be vetting and approving the technology that will help their members to grow their businesses.
One request as you begin navigating the chambers of commerce: urge your business customers to pressure their local chambers to prepare these types of resources, and ask the same of the chambers that you’re speaking to. This will force the chambers to educate themselves on the value of hyperlocal and the platforms that will help their members to thrive and flourish.
Sean Barkulis is co-founder of UPlanMe, a marketing technology platform that helps local business navigate the hyper-fragmented online marketing space. He is also author of “How to Market Your Business Online.” He can be reached via Twitter at @SeanBarkulis.