Fargo area chamber rolls out virtual marketplace
Published in Prairie Business Magazine's June issue
By Leanna Ihry - 06/07/2010
For many businesses, a trade show is the ultimate way to showcase its products and services. It’s a one-stop shop for consumers to take a look at what’s available in the marketplace.
But packing up a display and hauling materials from one location to another for each event can become cumbersome for busy business owners.
The Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead’s new virtual marketplace offers a potential solution for time-starved businesses looking for additional exposure. The new online service — the first of its kind in the nation — offers all the perks of a trade show without the hassles of moving, setting up and taking down a booth.
Spider Johnk, the owner of Fargo-based Spider and Company, developed the service and approached the Fargo-Moorhead chamber about using it to help promote chamber members.
ChamberView’s Virtual Marketplace is free to all of the chamber’s 1,800 members in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“When the member is ready to set up their booth, we give them their password and the rest is up to them,” says Adrienne Olson, the chamber’s communications coordinator. While the process may sound complicated, Olson says it’s actually quite simple. Businesses set up their personal virtual showcase in their own virtual booth. It can be as basic as some text and a graphic or two, or it can contain more, like links to audio and video and social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s designed to provide chamber members with an online presence that allows them to promote their company 24/7,” Olson says. “It will change local online shopping and information gathering and provides a new dimension of marketing to chamber members.”
The chamber’s virtual marketplace was launched in early February and more than 200 chamber members had signed up for the free service in its first three months of existence.
Kyle Gagner of Nodak Mutual Insurance, was one of the first to jump on board. Now he’s lending a hand and helping to educate other businesses about the service.
“I have already experienced some good publicity,” Gagner says. “I’m really excited that the Fargo-Moorhead chamber is at the forefront of this. All I have to do is add my logo and a few nice words and I’m up and running. It is a turn-key marketing tool that is perfect for small and large businesses alike. Whether you already have a web presence or are just looking to get started, this is a valuable resource for members.”
Another chamber member, Galen Schroeder of Dakota Indexing, wrote to the chamber to convey his satisfaction with the service. “I see ChamberView as a very real added benefit for small businesses such as mine and/or shoestring start-up operations,” Schroeder explained. “When cash-flow and extra dollars at start-up are premium, simply choosing chamber membership is a big expenditure when there are so many ways those limited dollars have to go. The fact that ChamberView can create an immediate, tangible presence
for a business in the community and the marketplace is a real selling point not only for chamber membership but also for membership renewal.”
Olson says some small businesses that don’t have their own website yet also find the service appealing. Through the virtual marketplace businesses have the ability to create a unique URL and use it as their website.
“This is their marketing tool,” Olson says. “It’s a place for them to tell their story.”
Craig Whitney, the new president of the Fargo-Moorhead chamber, says the virtual marketplace is a good way to extend a member’s message to the community at-large.
“This Chamber has a tradition and national reputation for innovation in support of its members and this is another example of our dedication to that mission,” Whitney says. “I am proud to lead a team that has made this benefit to our members a reality.”
The creator, Spider Johnk, and his team are visiting with other local chambers about the service. Olson says if it catches on in other communities, it will become a valuable resource for business people on the go.
“In our vision we see that these systems could be linked together,” Olson says. “We all travel and if we believe in doing business with chamber members then we can actively hop on.”
Check out ChamberView’s Virtual Marketplace!