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Local Businesses 'Activating Prosperity' By Connecting To Customers

EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman Addressing Capacity Crowd at Largo, MD, March 15, 2016 - Yesterday, more than one hundred local companies attended the "Enhancing Relationships with Customers for Long Term Growth" forum; part of the 'Connections to Success' interactive panel series hosted by the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation and the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce. The event connected small business owners to the key strategies they need to expand their customer base, which in turn increases their sales. Attendees were provided with a series of hands-on, interactive scenarios designed to make the personal connections with their customers easier and more productive. The highlight of the morning was the "Perfect Elevator Pitch" role-playing exercise, which showed attendees how important first impressions can be toward gaining a strong customer base.

"A successful business owner needs to be able to talk very clearly about their company in a manner that it memorable," said EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman. "As the "Chief 'Excitement' Officer" and "V.P. of Sales" for all of the companies in Prince George's County, I am completely motivated to 'Activate Prosperity' for them by helping them focus on making a personal connection with their customers. If you truly understand the needs of that customer before you 'sell' them on your product or service, you can create a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship that 'Activates Prosperity' for the both of you."

The winner of the forum's "Perfect Elevator Pitch" contest was Sonia Srivastava, President and CEO of Diya Candles. Ms. Srivastava pitched her 100% soy candles manufactured in Bowie Maryland by telling the crowd "We all need a little help in setting the mood".

"Today's forum was like squeezing an entire semester of grad school classes into three hours," said Ms. Srivastava. "I am very thankful that the Economic Development Corporation is so willing to help the business community in this way. This was truly time well spent."

Attendees also learned that seemingly basic details in business can bring a personal touch to the sales process. A company in need of a sales boost should always remember that picking up the phone to provide clear, instant feedback, sending a personalized note of acknowledgement or thanks, or scheduling a face-to-face visit with a customer is a great way to establish trust and strengthen a relationship.

"The customer life cycle is like a marriage," said EDC Business Development Director John Mason. "A successful business gets 'married' to its customer in the same way any relationship develops. They must reach out to the customer, acquire basic information about the customer, develop the relationship with the customer to retain the relationship, and then inspire the customer to stay with you. This type of relationship breeds long term commitment and growth."

Tata Global Beverages, the makers of Eight O'Clock Coffee, was one of the sponsors of the forum. This multi-million dollar company, based in Prince George's county sells products throughout the United States and Canada. As part of the EDC's commitment to "Activate Prosperity' by connecting businesses to customers, Mr. Coleman announced that the Economic Development Corporation would work with Tata Global to create an international business plan for Eight O'Clock Coffee that will connect this company to millions of customers all over the world.

"Networking has been one of the cornerstones for Eight O'Clock Coffee in Prince George's County," said Nicole Hall, Volume Acquisition Manager, Eight O'Clock Coffee. "Our relationship with the Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce has been monumental in terms of networking and outreach. To make that outreach effective, a company must figure out what they can do differently to their customer that their competitor can't. Bring something memorable to the table and your customers will not forget you."

Yesterday's forum was the 3rd of the Connections to Success breakfast series that the Economic Development Corporation and the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce began last fall. Through these forums, small businesses in Prince George's have had the opportunity meet and hear from top executives that specialize in federal and local procurement opportunities, traditional and non-traditional access to capital and key strategies to attract more customers.

"There is no better place than Prince George's County with the level of connectivity that the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation have," said Prince George's Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Harrington. "We are coming together to expand business and wealth for the residents of Prince George's County by creating a platform and environment to do amazing business and make amazing money in and around Prince George's County. No one does it better than this business community."

Other sponsors of the forum included Berman Enterprises and NAI Michael Companies.

The forum concluded with tips on how a company can become customer-centric and how communication through social media is another key component to a successful long-term relationship. Companies should always anticipate what their customers are in need of, even before they develop a business plan and share information in real time through all available forums of communication.

"Companies must distinguish between customers and users," said June Evans, Interim Director of the Prince George's Community College Center for Entrepreneurial Development. "When a customer pays for a service or product, their satisfaction with the overall experience in your company equals your success. Poor customer service, not following through on delivery dates, or not being aware your customers needs can hamper your success."

Companies interested in more networking opportunities to practice their Elevator Pitches and connect with other companies to do business should attend our next 'Thirsty (for Business) Thursday on March 24th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Original Ledo's Restaurant, 4509 Know Road in College Park, MD. Please RSVP to Crystal Ballard 301-883-8254 or cballard@pgcedc.com today. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Contact Nichelle Holmes naholmes@pgcedc.com or 301-583-4621 for more information.