An Article by Denim Group Principal, John Dickson
Are you one of those companies that feels compelled to sell every imaginable information technology in the marketplace and compete on multiple fronts? Do you feel your IT organization should be a one-stop shop for any client needs?
One of the more subtle, and arguably more powerful, aspects of participation in a chamber of commerce is referrals from other vendors in your industry. The vendors may be competitors in the general sense, but they also happen to deliver products or services that are just different enough from what your business offers so as to not be a direct competitor. An example of how that works might be my company, Denim Group. Denim Group continues to receive referrals from other vendors who specialize in computer network consulting (which Denim Group does not do) as well as from creative companies that need help with back-end development and databases ( Denim Group staff pride themselves in their complete inability to do anything that approaches “creative”).
The North Chamber embodies what your business can accomplish through the power of partnerships. I continually become aware of referrals that flow between members of the Technology Committee in addition to the referrals that Denim Group receives. I hear from time to time newly signed-up chamber members wonder how best to maximize their chamber membership and find business. Here are some top ideas that new chamber businesses might consider maximizing the value of partnerships that can be developed via the North Chamber:
1. Don’t compete on every front! Realistically, your company can’t be good at everything. Do you remember the old adage “jack of all trades – master of none?” Savvy customers understand that if you try to sell them everything, you’ll probably fall short on delivery. The flip side is this – if you compete on every front you forego most opportunities to collaborate with other vendors
2. Communicate what you do and don’t do! Make sure other vendors most likely to refer work to you have an understanding of what products or services your company offers. Likewise, be very specific on what you DON’T offer, drawing a contrast
3. Stay Top of Mind! Develop and execute a strategy to communicate with partners on a consistent basis. At the end of the day, if third-party vendors deeply understand what you do and don’t do, they will think of you when they trip over an opportunity
4. Reciprocate! Throw your vendor partners work that keeps them happy. If you trip across work that is outside your area of expertise, throw it over the fence as a referral
I hope this information helps you treat other vendors in the chamber not as a threat, but also as a potential referral source for new business. Sophisticated business people can navigate through potential conflict to identify mutual benefits for both parties.