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If you’re a small business you may find it’s difficult to keep up with the resources and marketing dollars of megabrands. But don’t get discouraged. There’s an underutilized tool that can help you much more than you ever considered.

Social media can bring you a world of attention for very little money. Its only cost is time. But if you don’t have a good, strong following you’re just shouting into the wind. Still, when you need attention right away, growing a social media following seems to take forever. And when you’re worried about revenue, you don’t have forever. But there is a tool in your community that can help you improve your reach, share its audience, and get your content in front of people who make decisions, and better yet, purchases.

It’s a chamber membership.

Ways a Chamber Membership Does Wonders for Your Business Marketing

Many business professionals think of joining the chamber for networking but few understand that the chamber also offers a world of marketing opportunities. Here are a few of them.

Social Media Attention

It’s likely your local Chamber has a larger following on social media than your business does. The Chamber can help you get in front of your target market and help your content achieve more views. Once you establish yourself as an industry expert, you’ll have more traffic visit your site. And often posts shared by the Chamber feel like endorsements to the Chamber’s audience. Their social media platforms are highly respected.

Industry Expertise Speaking Engagements

In addition to helping you share your content, the Chamber may have opportunities for you to showcase your expertise in a non-sales way. For instance, if you are a CPA and a new tax law or exemption is available this year, you may be able to talk to Chamber membership about the topic in a lunch and learn. By doing so, the Chamber audience will see you as an industry expert and possibly turn to you for their tax needs. The opportunity to write blog posts and newsletter content for the Chamber may also help your brand.

Social Media Expertise

If you’re struggling with social media as a business owner, you can pay to take an online course or you can consult your local chamber. Some have lunch and learns on social media or new features on social media platforms, while others offer social media membership tiers that provide businesses with the social media know-how that they may be lacking.

Content to Share

Nowhere in the Social Media How-To book does it say you must create all your own content. The Chamber can be a very rich source of content and while you don’t need a membership to use their social media posts, they often make some content available to members-only through newsletters and other places that you may not see by merely following them as an outsider.

Chamber Directory

A Chamber directory lists your business for all to see. The directories come in print and online versions. Most people believe that chamber member businesses are reputable organizations so to be listed in the directory not only brings traffic to your site but conveys legitimacy as well. If your community is a travel destination, your chamber may also have a public map that it gives out to visitors. This can be an inexpensive way to get noticed as well.

From an SEO perspective, Chamber websites are often highly ranked and considered sites of authority. A link to your business from a site of high authority can mean more traffic and a higher rank for your site.

A Final Word About Chamber Marketing

Networking and the Chamber are synonymous for many businesses but they often forget all the marketing resources the local chamber can provide. Speak with your area chambers to understand how you can leverage their marketing acumen and resources to help alleviate the stresses on your marketing engine. When you’re at your limit on time and money, calling in a business partner like the chamber to help can do wonders for extending your reach.

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As we get closer to the wrap up of the Chamber’s year, it’s useful for any member to consider what priorities, particularly when it comes to one of our key activities—advocating on issues of importance to area businesses—we should be focused on next year and beyond.

With that in mind, the Chamber is reaching out to members with a survey specifically related to Advocacy.

A link to that online survey can be found HERE.

Advocating directly to various levels of government, and not only to policymakers but regulators who play a role in influencing decisions that affect business is one of the key responsibilities of the Chamber.

It’s one that our leadership takes very seriously as a key way to make sure that members of government and the bureaucrats and regulators understand the impact—positive and negative—of initiatives that ultimately affect the competitiveness of a business.

This is an ongoing challenge but one that can’t be overlooked in its importance.

Quite often, our elected representatives seek out the opinion of business, including the research that our colleagues at the provincial level—the Ontario Chamber of Commerce—and federally—the Canadian Chamber of Commerce—have undertaken.

But there are also times when it’s up to the local Chamber and its leadership to step forward to add to the discussion when it comes to important initiatives.

The more timely our involvement, the more likely it is that legislation or regulations that create value for our community and the businesses that continue to strengthen us will head in a direction that all of us can better appreciate.

For that reason alone, please take the time to fill out the survey by clicking HERE.

Your responses will play a critical role in improving our ability to advocate on your behalf.

 

 

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Throughout our history, members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce were often among the first to volunteer to serve in wars that have come to define the quality of life—and particularly the freedom—many of us have come to take for granted.

But as we approach Remembrance Day 2019, let us not forget the collective and individual sacrifice so many of those who were left behind—and those who returned with injuries sustained in those conflicts—have unselfishly made over those years.

Remembering is a powerful human emotion and one that takes but a moment to express, whether individually in our hearts or in a public ceremony of gratitude and solemnity.

However you choose to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we encourage you to think back on the sacrifices made and how the flow of time since has made us a richer community, country and society.

Bless those who sacrificed on our behalf and given us the freedom to remember their sacrifice.

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If you’re looking for a new way to reach your clients or customers or to increase your exposure to a new generation of visual learners, you should consider YouTube. It’s easy and engaging and helps your audience get to know you more effectively.

Your small business social media strategy most likely includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and maybe even LinkedIn. Pundits will tell you that you need to be where your audience is. You might be surprised to know, but it’s likely your audience is also on YouTube. It’s the second largest search engine after Google, and can be a strong addition to your social media plan.

If you’re interested in reaching Gens Y and Z, YouTube is a must. Many people think of it as a music video or TV clips platform but it’s so much more than that. It can be a critical component of growing your business.

Here are  5 Do’s (and a few don’t’s) of making the most of YouTube to market and promote what you do:

#1 Do Create a Variety of Videos

Gen Y and Gen Z love to utilize YouTube to learn, and there’s no better way to capture their attention than with videos. They would much prefer to see how to do something, rather than reading about it. But videos are not just for Gen Y and Z; YouTube is one of the easiest platforms for all ages to use.

Consider creating how-to videos about using your products, employee features, product features, telling your business story, offering advice, or creating a “behind the scenes” tour of your business.

But don’t make the videos too long. Videos need to be short, to the point, and well edited. If you can’t cover a topic in three minutes or less, you may need to break it up into several videos. Having a series of videos is actually a perfect way to keep your viewers engaged and get your view numbers up, after all, people love binging once they find a video producer they like.

YouTube does have some video limits you will want to keep in mind. The maximum file size you can upload is 128GB, and the accepted file formats are .MOV, .MPEG4, .AVI, .WMV, .MPEG-PS, .FLV, .3GPP, or .WebM, plus a few others. If your video was created in a different file type, you will need to use a video editing software to change it, and YouTube Help has tons of information on how to convert files. But these are pretty standard when using any type of recording device, from your phone to your PC or Mac.

#2 Do Create a Channel and Embed Your YouTube Videos on Your Website

This tutorial shows you how to create your channel. Creating a channel allows you to customize the YouTube experience for your customers and visitors. It is also a great way to keep all your videos in one place.

#3 Do Utilize Livestream

YouTube will give you a unique livestream link that will allow you to interact in real time with your customers. This is ideal for contests, unveilings, game play, grand openings, and other moments you want to share the live excitement.

But don’t pick a time to livestream that will limit your audience. If it’s too early, too late, on a Tuesday at 2 p.m. when everyone is in school or at work, you won’t reach as many people.

#4 Do Interact

Ask your viewers to leave you comments and create a dialogue. You can also include your link in the comments for people to shop. They can even leave you reviews right on your video page. Answer their questions right there on the video, too! It shows viewers that you take the time to read the comments and respond. Don’t forget to ask for likes and follows. That’s pretty standard of any YouTuber and your audience expects it and will likely oblige you.

#5 Do Show Your Sense of Humour

Use some humor and don’t forget to try something new each time. People go to YouTube to learn and to be entertained. But there’s a lot of competition there. According to YouTube, 300 hours of video are uploaded every second. That means you need to do something that will stand out. Try to shoot for being inspiring, education, or entertaining if you want to get noticed.

YouTube is a great social media tool that tends to be forgotten when it comes to small business’ marketing strategies. When you utilize YouTube, you’re going to get noticed by people who are visual learners and it’s a measurable way to make an impression. So don’t be afraid to try out YouTube and make videos that will capture and engage your customers.

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Sandy Marshall, whose vast petrochemical expertise, including his current role as executive director of Biooindustrial Innovation Canada, has earned him a spot as a speaker at “Scaling up 2019,” a three-day conference on delivering a bio-circular economy took place earlier this week (November 4-6) in Ottawa.

A link to the Ottawa conference can be found HERE.

Marshall, who was raised on a farm not far from Sarnia, graduated as a chemical engineer from the University of Waterloo before joining what was then Polysar Inc., a predecessor to the current Arlanxeo.

He became executive director of BIC in 2016.

Marshall was one of several speakers talking about the future of Canada’s industrial bio-economy.

At another event, held in Sarnia in September and hosted by BIC, Marshall pointed out how outcomes around this new economy will be measured in decades, not the typical quarters many firms typical use to measure progress.

“This is a long game,” Marshall said. “BIC has been around for 12 years, officially, and we’re just starting to see some outcomes. We have to look at this in decades and not in quarters.”

 

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Lambton Public Health, a unit of the County of Lambton, is reaching out to members of the business community to develop a better understanding of how cannabis legislation has affected the workplace and how employers have responded to the legislation.

Crystal Palleschi, an epidemiologist, is asking for ONE survey completed per workplace, with a deadline of November 22, 2019 to take the survey,

The survey (which takes about 5 to 7 minutes to complete), can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

 

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Digital marketing, or web marketing, and social media have a very low cost to entry but that doesn’t mean we should ignore tracking our investment and return. While ROI is not entirely possible when it comes to measuring the success of a relationship and loyalty, it can be applied to the proof of such – gaining more new customers and retaining the existing ones.

You need to continue (or enter into) digital marketing and social media regardless of what your initial attempts are producing. To throw away the idea of digital marketing because you’re not seeing results is like tossing out a cookbook because you made a recipe in it that you didn’t like. If you’re not seeing the results you want, change the recipe to suit. The same holds true for social media and digital marketing. But you’ll have trouble adjusting your marketing recipe if you don’t know what you started with.

Do This First

Before you begin tracking you need to do two things:

—Draw a line in the sand. List all of your followers, likes, subscribers, etc. as they stand today. Your success needs a baseline, so write it all down.

—Start tracking your digital marketing efforts by day. There are a number of software platforms that can help you keep track of your digital marketing efforts, or you can track them in a spreadsheet, or use pen and paper. Use something you can update quickly and extrapolate the information you need just as fast. If you don’t, you’ll stop using it. You’ll want to track when (and what) you post to your blog and social media, any marketing emails, when you send your newsletters, etc. You’ll need this info because you’ll compare your efforts to your traffic and inquiries.

What Should I Be Tracking on My Website?

There are several things you need to start tracking on a weekly basis. A weekly basis is ideal because it allows you to see trends quickly and readjust as needed. Monthly allows too much time to elapse before you notice the numbers.

For the first several weeks after you start tracking look for true patterns before you begin tweaking. Until you have historical data you won’t know a random blip from a need for course correction.

The data listed below can all be obtained from Google Analytics. If you don’t have analytics set up on your site, do so today. It’s important. Really important.

Assuming you do, you need to track:

—The number of unique visitors to your site each week.

—Where your website visitors are coming from (traffic sources). Look at organic, direct, and referral sources. Organic searchers reach you after typing in a keyword associated (hopefully) with your business. Direct referrals key in the name of your business or your URL. Referral sources come from social media, outside links on other blogs and other places that “refer” them to you. If one area is weak, try some marketing activities to change that.

—The number of blog readers each week.

—The number of new customer inquiries you receive and where they’re coming from.

—Which customer inquiries become customers. You’re looking for patterns here. Maybe you notice that people referred to you from your company page on LinkedIn are twice as likely to buy from you as people coming from Facebook.

—Abandonment rate, if you have an e-commerce site.

—Effectiveness of your call-to-action. Every page must ask your audience to do something. Whatever you’re asking, needs to be tracked.

There is no way to measure return on investment without a calculation. You must measure a baseline and note the changes that are occurring to gain a better understanding of what is working and what needs to be adjusted.

If you continue to plug away at your marketing, taking stabs in the dark, your efforts will fall flat because you won’t recognize opportunities to build on successful trends nor will you notice disinterest with particular posts. Digital marketing is not a final destination, it’s a journey towards business success that needs to be evaluated periodically. You want to provide your customers with something they want. Without digital marketing you’ll have no way to know whether you’re accomplishing that or not.

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A great time of networking and connections—including food and cash bar—will be featured at the Comfort Inn on November 20 with the Chamber’s Business After 5.

Organizers are already hard at work planning details on the event, which runs at its customary time of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“As we get closer to the end of the year, November is a great time to connect with one another as we approach the holiday season,” said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO. “Thanks to our friends at the Comfort Inn, who have pulled out all the stops in their role as host, we expect a great turnout and the opportunity for some great times together,”

The Comfort Inn is located at 815 Mara St. in Point Edward.

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We’re all so busy these days. That’s part of the reason life hacks are so popular. But did you know one of the best professional life hacks is Chamber membership? Here’s what you can get out of it to help you do more for your business or professional life with less:

Professional Advice

When you need assistance in business, either to take your business to the next level or maybe you’re thinking about selling your business, the Chamber can help. There is no other better-connected business organization in your community. They know the professionals dedicated to your type of business problem and can place you in touch with them. The Chamber can also provide assistance when you’re not even sure what kind of business acumen you need because it’s likely they’ve seen similar issues before.

Applicable Business Learning

If there’s a skill you’re interested in picking up, you can go online and look around. Maybe you can find a teacher or a mentor virtually, but chances are they don’t know the economy of your town or the obstacles or positives in your community. Plus, when you’re using online learning you never know if it will be worth your time and money.

The Chamber offers business learning that is personalized to your community. They offer reasonable rates and local expertise. Learning through the Chamber is affordable and improves your networking as you’re doing it.

Building an Audience

Who has time to build an audience? Well, if you want to be successful in business, you need to find the time. But a Chamber membership can almost be a life hack in this department because you’re getting exposed to a whole new audience when you connect with the Chamber. For instance, there may be an opportunity to write a guest blog post for your local Chamber. Now a whole new set of eyes is looking at your materials and seeing you as an industry expert.

The same could be said if you speak at one of our Networking Referral Sessions.

Engage with the Chamber on social media. Chambers often have large followings and engaging with the chamber places your content in front of their audience.

Get by with a Little Help from Your Friends

Finally, if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have many business owner friends, you may find you have few people to bounce ideas off of. You may long for a group that faces the same challenges and one that will celebrate your small professional victories, knowing that they’re much larger than they sound.

Joining the Chamber exposes you to a whole different group of people, people who understand the importance of business in the economy and ones you can talk to about business without their eyes glazing over. Connections made through chamber membership do more than just cultivate sales for your business. They become lifelong friends and a staunch professional support network.

Don’t join the Chamber because it’s an expectation for business success. Join it because of what it’s able to do for you and your business. Membership will make your life easier as it extends your marketing reach and their offerings increase your business knowledge.

Do it for you. Because sometimes, just sometimes, it’s okay to be purely selfish in your motivations.

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A member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, Mac-Weld Machining and its human resources manager, were recently featured at an event promoting inclusive hiring in the province.

Sarah Nishimura, the Mac-Weld official, said overcoming the stigma that exists around mental health is one of the challenges faced by businesses around the province.

Nishimura appeared in a live-streamed panel discussion that took place last Thursday (October 24) from Richmond Hill that was presented by the Ontario Disability Network.

Everyone has something worthwhile to bring to the workplace, said Nishimura. “Unfortunately, I find there’s still a bit of a stigma (when it comes to hiring people with disabilities), especially when it comes to mental health, and I’m not sure why it’s like that,” she added.

The employment rate for people in Canada with disabilities, ages 25-64, was 59% in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. The rate for people without disabilities is 80%.

At Mac-Weld, Nishimura has worked with a local group, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton and its Job Path program.

“That alleviates some of that pressure from the employer,” said Nishimura, who has been recognized her as a champion for inclusive employment. She was nominated to participate in last week’s panel by Community Living Sarnia-Lambton officials.

More information on the work of the Ontario Disability Employment Network can be found online at www.odenetwork.com.

 

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