In days gone by, a welcome wagon or chamber member would reach out to every new brick and mortar store/business. Today, people are starting businesses with just a laptop and an Internet connection. It’s impossible to just “stop by” but how do you make all new businesses feel welcome when they don’t have a physical presence?
Most chambers have a new member welcome program? But what about if they’re not members yet?
Here are four ways you can make new business owners in your town feel like they have been part of the community for years:
- Create a coffee event for new businesses, not just new members. Host an event designed to share stories. Pass out helpful things like town maps and member directories. If they’re new to town, give them tips and important information about your town’s events to make them feel comfortable right away. This event can be held quarterly in order to introduce new business owners or solopreneurs to one another. The key to making this event successful is to make it about helping them with their business, not selling a membership.
- Explain all about local currency, so they can make a decision about whether it’s right for their business. It’s a great way to get new customers and support their community. They needn’t have a storefront to be a part of your program.
- Create a welcome basket/baggie with items from other businesses in your neighborhood. Add in business cards with contact information and a member directory. This can provide additional revenue opportunities for your chamber as businesses may pay to “advertise” or be included in your new business packets. For the recipient, you’re also providing a helpful resource for ways to connect with reputable businesses that could complement theirs.
- Host a new business welcome reception so new business owners can network with other Chamber members. Consider creating a mentor program for new businesses and matching them with existing members. If you start this program before the business becomes a chamber member, that may give them reason to join.
Starting a new business can be scary, but knowing there is a supportive community behind them will make new business owners feel welcomed and confident that they chose the right place to start their dream. You can be a big help in that journey by implementing these easy, “welcome to the neighborhood” tips. You needn’t wait until they’re ready to join the chamber to become a resource for them. Chambers are advocates for local businesses and showing them you support them from the beginning may go a long way to boosting your membership in the future.