WESTBOROUGH, Mass. – These days, a lot of businesses are reaching out through social media campaigns. Twitter feeds and viral YouTube videos seem all the rage. However, nothing appears to have replaced the marketing appeal of basic human contact–meeting a client face-to-face, a handshake and a slap on the arm. That seemed to be the case at the Corridor Nine Open For Business Expo, held Wednesday at the DoubleTree Hotel Westborough.
Barbara Clifford is the president of the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce. She said past business expos had an attendance of about 1,300. That number seemed to be supported this year by the line of cars that wound down the street outside the hotel on Wednesday. Inside, the ballroom and corridor was packed with businesses ranging from information technology to car detailing.
"We sold out in a week," Clifford said, regarding available space.
Clifford said the expo is popular, in part, because it is compressed into four hours, as opposed to being stretched out over several days. This makes it easier for more businesses to attend, because they don't have to commit the time or resources to staff a booth for days on end.
The expo allowed businesses to build stronger relationships and generate leads, while enjoying some free food and take part in raffles and other prizes. "Business-to-business is the main purpose," said Clifford.
"I have total respect for social media," Clifford said. "However, there's something about connecting with people physically."
Those who attend the expo year after year, she said, "really want to see old friends and business partners, and to meet new people."
Corridor Nine's core towns are Westborough, Northborough, Southborough, Shrewsbury, and Grafton. Many businesses appeared optimistic about that area's economic potential. The Worcester Business Development Corporation, which is trying to strengthen the Worcester region's economy, is trying to get companies to "look west" of Route 128 and even Interstate 495, according to Roberta Brian, WBDC's senior project manager.
Brian said her group was a supporting sponsor of the expo because the chamber was dynamic and organized. By supporting the expo, she said, her group also benefits.
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care was this year's major sponsor. The insurance company has a new office in downtown Worcester, but also wanted to make a splash in the Route 9 corridor. Attending the expo, Harvard Pilgrim staff said, was a sure-fire way to do that.
"We want people to know that we're immersed in the central Massachusetts market," said spokesperson Jane Barnes.
Attending the expo, Barnes said, sends the message that, "We're real people. We really care. It's not just a big name."