Chamber of Commerce Membership Prep for 2022

For many companies around the world, their chamber of commerce membership renewal is happening now. We hope that you’ve gotten lots of value out of your chamber of commerce in 2021, and that the decision to re-up with them is a no-brainer for you.

We also know that the last two years have been tough for everyone, and that you might have a whole new approach to spending marketing dollars that is more scrutinous that it might have been not too long ago. Which means that you’re looking a lot more closely at how much every dollar you put out brings back to you.

Which is great for us – we can work with that.

Because we believe that spending money on a chamber of commerce membership is one of the best, most efficient, targeted ways that you can invest marketing dollars and get a solid return.

In fact, we’ll put it up against many other forms of marketing as far as value and visible ROI.

But, like any marketing dollars you spend, you have to have a plan.

So, let’s talk about what you have planned for 2022, and how your chamber of commerce membership fits in.

How Did We Get Here?

One of the services Momentum provides is we train chamber of commerce ambassadors.

You know who they are: when a new member signs on to the chamber, an existing member reaches out, meets you for coffee, finds out about your business, and then works with you to make sure your chamber experience is a good one.

When we do this training, we start by asking, “How did we get here?”

First, I give a quick history of chambers of commerce:

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I like to point out that a membership with a chamber isn’t just two organizations doing business together. It’s actually part of global movement to keep the business community connected.

If you think about it, that’s a powerful sentiment – that when a company attends a networking event, or a chamber staff member makes a phone call for someone, or a chamber board member votes to go after new grant funding… These same things are happening in similar organizations around the world, every day.

Kinda changes your perspective on filling out that form, doesn’t it?

Why Do People Join a Chamber of Commerce?

Next, we talk about why people join chambers of commerce.

Because, it’s changed over time.

Here’s our take on it:

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The old “chamber of commerce” model is obviously long gone – a bunch of men convening to talk about the community.

But, the model continues to evolve even up to the present time.

Think about how you might’ve used the chamber before the pandemic, and now.

Chamber activity was widely characterized by large events, and lots of them. Three, four, five nights a week, you could legitimately find networking events to attend, and have yourself “out there” to help grow your company or forward your cause.

That came to a crashing halt in March, 2020, and is only starting to trickle back now – and depending on what part of the country you’re in.

So, to deliver value, chambers have had to become more surgical.

They’ve had to dig deeper into what their members need in order to better connect with them, while seeing them through what for many will be the most difficult time of their existence.

At the same time, chambers have had to strengthen their roles in the community, as many tough decisions were thrust upon them from day one of the pandemic: how do you maintain a vibrant business community, especially small business, while keeping people safe?

That certainly changed the dynamic of the chamber-member relationship – we would argue not only for the better, but also more mutually beneficial.

Members not only needed their chambers more, for the hands-on assistance they could provide, but the chambers needed their members more, for the expertise they brought to the table.

Yes, the membership dues were important, and that’s a whole other issue how that went down (literally) during the pandemic, but it was the interaction that became so critical.

Is it Working?

So, for the past two years, we’ve had a situation where (1) companies pulled back on discretionary spending; (2) companies needed chambers of commerce more; (3) chambers of commerce membership dues were down; (4) it was essential for chambers of commerce to be available and accessible; and (5) the workload was very different than it had ever been before.

Sounds like a perfect storm of collapse, doesn’t it?

But that’s not what’s happened.

Yes, some chambers elected to close up shop at the toughest times, which was a mistake.

But most chambers answered the call…

They got on the phone and talked to their small businesses one-on-one, to make sure they filled out their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) paperwork correctly, or understood the state and local regulations that seem to change daily.

They rolled out Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting with important education on health requirements, re-opening policies and the path forward.

And they rolled up their sleeves to support community efforts to find a way through the pandemic and still have a business community left at the end of it.

In other words, they made the chamber-member relationship not just beneficial, but essential, and we’re now seeing the fruits of it.

chamber of commerce membership, chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, chamber, networking, sales, business development, momentum, north jerseyOn the IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW PODCAST by Momentum, North Country Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Garry Douglas told us that their 2021 was one of their best financial years ever.

One of the great organizations where Momentum has a membership, the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, also featured on the podcast, has been averaging dozens of new members per month since the summer.

And check out this post I pulled off of LinkedIn (right) just the other day from the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Chambers didn’t see 40 new members a month before the pandemic.

It’s a testament to the importance of the relationship, and the great work that chambers did in the role they were forced to play.

What Does All This Mean for My Company and Our Chamber of Commerce Membership(s)?

It’s been established that chambers of commerce have many services and activities that can provide you value.

Now, it’s time to find and use them.

It starts with you, and your own growth plans – whether you’re a for-profit company looking for new business, a not-for-profit trying to position yourself in a community with lots of hands already out looking for money, or an entrepreneur navigating the start-up ecosystem.

As you look to 2022 in hopes of strengthening the return-on-investment you get from your chamber of commerce memberships, we recommend that you focus on three things:

  1. What Are Your Goals?
  2. Where Will You Spend Your Money?
  3. Who’s Responsible for Finding ROI?

“Of course,” you might say. “We have a plan for any marketing dollars that go out the door.”

But do you?

For some reason, there is a hole here for many companies.

Too many chamber of commerce memberships are purchased and ignored.

Too many companies come to us and say “I joined XX chamber and didn’t get any value out of it, so I dropped after one year.”

The insinuation is that the chamber didn’t provide enough value – I can hear it in their voices.

But the reality is, most of these companies didn’t answer the questions above to put themselves in a position to succeed.

Let’s Talk About Return on Investment for a Chamber of Commerce Membership

I want to put your chamber of commerce membership in perspective.

Instead of looking at the cost, let’s look at the opportunity for value.

Most chamber of commerce membership rates are not terribly onerous – typically, you can get into a chamber membership for between $200 and $400 (we’re talking about basic memberships here, but for larger companies you can get to even the silver, gold, etc. levels for $1,000-$2,000).

To a small, bootstrapped business, that may seem like a lot on paper.

I hear people complain, in fact.

But let’s change your thinking.

You see, a $300 investment in a chamber of commerce membership is just that – an investment that you have 365 days to get a return on.

You know the value of an average client’s business.

How many clients will you need to get during those 365 days in order to make your money back? How many will you need to get to 5x your investment? 10x your investment?

I would guess that for many professional services companies who tend to make up a bulk of chamber members, one new client is enough to cover the cost of the membership.

Even at the higher levels, which offer more engagement, securing the clients necessary to match the expenditure is not the lift it’s often made out to be.

In an environment that is created primarily for the purpose of you finding new clients, can you find one new client in 365 days to justify your expenditure?

I’m betting you can.

I Want More Momentum from my Chamber of Commerce Membership in 2022!

Convinced yet?

Let’s get you there.

Back to our three steps from above:

  1. What Are Your Goals?
  2. Where Will You Spend Your Money?
  3. Who’s Responsible for Finding ROI?

For you to have a stronger 2022 with your chamber of commerce, the first thing you must do is answer these questions.

Second thing you must do is communicate them with your chamber(s) of commerce.

What Are Your Goals?

Don’t think about these necessarily as your goals for your chamber of commerce membership.

No, these are your general growth goals.

Bring them to the chamber staff, and let them help you find solutions among their wide array of services and network.

Where Will You Spend Your Money?

Which chambers of commerce in your community, or in your target markets, fill your growth needs?

Not all chambers of commerce are built the same, and all have different strengths and priorities.

You’ll want to look at the make-up of their membership – does it align with your prospect list – as well as the level of competition you’ll face once you get in.

We are believers in belonging to multiple organizations (one of our clients now belongs to 11!), and working to build strong relationships with each – nothing wrong with having a bunch of people out there looking out for your interests.

Who’s Responsible for Finding ROI?

Unfortunately, this is an often overlooked aspect of chamber of commerce membership, with the responsibility often falling to an overworked marketing department.

It is essential that someone take the reins on the membership, and be able to monitor throughout the year that value is not only being provided, but sought after.

We find that it’s often not the marketing team that does the best job with this, but the salespeople themselves, who are in the trenches and have the most to gain from making it work.

This is so important for 2022, that we made it the topic of our Wednesday #ChamberChallenge series on LinkedIn this week!

Of course, if you don’t have the capacity internally to make sure that someone is thinking about your chamber membership every week, that’s what we do!

Getting Started

There’s just a few weeks left before January hits and everyone’s schedule gets crazy again.

We encourage you to take a few minutes now and tackle the three big questions we’ve posed:

  1. What Are Your Goals?
  2. Where Will You Spend Your Money?
  3. Who’s Responsible for Finding ROI?

Don’t just answer them in your head – put your answers on paper or on your tablet.

Having a meeting with your team isn’t a bad idea, either – this is an important enough task.

If you want a little bit of a deeper dive, take five minutes and utilize our 2022 Membership/Sponsorship Self-Evaluation Form.

Still not enough? Need some additional help? We’d be happy to connect with you for a 10-minute Zoom call, hear what you’re looking to accomplish in 2022, and walk you through how we go after value for our clients from their chamber memberships. Book a call with us today.

The last two years have been tough.

But out of crisis comes opportunity.

Take advantage of that opportunity and have a great 2022!

Use your chambers of commerce to help get it done.

We’re here to help if you need us.