My name’s Jeff Zimmerman, and I’m the VP of Sales at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. My role involves growing our membership, both by bringing in new members and retaining our existing members. Our objective is to create a ‘raving fan’ relationship with our members, so they can both understand and describe the benefits they’ve received to others, and will routinely renew their membership without hesitation.
The Chamber of Commerce is now 136 years old. We operate in Central Ohio, which comprises the 11 counties that surround the city of Columbus. Our purpose is to advance our members’ business plans by supporting them with resources including opportunities to connect with others, improved visibility for their organization, and access to research data.
We also help with consulting services in areas like:
Our community is an ecosystem of small, medium, large, and mega organizations.
Small and medium-sized businesses benefit most from our services platform. They typically don’t have the resources necessary to drive marketing, or to be represented at the statehouse legislatively through a lobbyist, or human resources support to recruit and search for talent. By joining the chamber, those businesses get assistance in areas where they can’t have a dedicated employee covering the role. We become their strategic partner.
Larger companies typically already have that infrastructure in place, so they tend to join us to be good corporate stewards and support a vibrant economic movement. In turn, we can continue to do good work in the region. Additionally, many of their customers are our members, so membership is a good way for them to reinforce their brand and support the community.
Spending more time with prospects
To continue to grow the chamber’s membership, I lead a team of sales hunters. They reach out to prospects and ask for an opportunity to explain the benefits of chamber membership.
However, there was a long process our team had to go through before they got to talk with a prospecting client. They needed to target, qualify, then reach out and attempt to book an appointment. Put all together, 65% of their time was spent in that outreach process. That meant only 35% of their time was spent actually talking with prospects.
A more professional service
That’s when I received an email from Belkins about their B2B lead generation service. They offered a more robust, sophisticated, and professional service than the previous company, so I felt confident they would deliver on what they promised.
Currently, Belkins take care of our outbound process. I assisted in developing the messaging by providing collateral, and through a brief interview explained our value proposition. Belkins then pulled the messaging together and executed the outbound campaigns on our behalf. Through our dashboard, I can see the number of research contacts they’ve identified, the number of outbound emails, the number of opens, the number of replies, and what the replies are.
I review every inbound response and I determine through our CRM system whether we've already got a profile for them or not. If we do have a record, then we've likely already got someone attached to that account, so I'll forward that message to them and ask them to follow up and book the appointment.
Where a prospect responds with ‘not now’ we do the same process, we just mark our calendar forward a few months. If they decline a meeting, we update our CRM system typically follow up in six months.
I’ve been delighted with the collateral, the web presence, and the reporting. I’m particularly impressed with the team and their communication skills. Anytime I send our account manager an email with an update or a question, he’s always quick to reply.
Increasing our opportunities
So far, Belkins have done nothing but delight me, based on results and service support. Open rates for outbound messages average between 65 and 70%, far above industry standards. In the six weeks, we've been working together, we've been able to reduce the time spent searching for new prospects from 65% down to 50%. Now our sales team gets to spend more time in front of potential clients.
Sure, we had an existing process that worked before, but it wasn’t at such a robust pace. Think of it as a cake; our sales team was already baking the cake, but Belkin helped us pour the icing on.
With Belkins’ support, we've not only filled our funnel with more opportunities, but we've also been able to drive that activity through our funnel to positive outcomes. Remember, this is all in a relatively short period of time. We haven't had to wait quarters or even months for the results. They’ve become evident quickly, in just six weeks. They've delivered, and they continue to deliver.
Looking forward, there's lots of opportunity in our field, and I anticipate Belkins will continue to navigate in that space successfully for us. I can't tell what tomorrow will bring so I'm depending on Belkins to help me understand the fertility of the market and to carry on hunting, farming, and research on our behalf.
Belkins continues to be a valuable asset in my day-to-day operations. I endorse the process they’re using, including the communication tools and technology that make their engine hum. It’s state of the art in enabling the age-old practice of business development.
I said before that I want to foster a ‘raving fan’ experience with the Chamber of Commerce members. Well, I'm a raving fan of Belkins, and I highly endorse them.
If you're a business in the Ohio Area, becoming a member of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce provides a whole host of benefits, including networking opportunities, reliable advice, sales lead funnel improvement, and HR support. Learn more and sign up for a membership that suits your needs.
If you represent a Chamber of Commerce and are looking for ways to boost your membership acquisition, Belkins can help by taking care of all of your lead generation needs.
I encourage you to get in touch with Belkins experts today to receive your free consultation.