“Chamber of Commerce Membership Prep for 2022” was far and away Momentum’s top blog post of the last year.
For a number of reasons, it’s time for an update.
The Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber has been an incredible partner for us at Momentum.
We’ve been engaged with PAACC for several years now, and have worked with their outstanding team on a number of initiatives designed to strengthen the chamber-member relationship.
In 2021, we started an initiative with PAACC to work directly with their Ambassador Program (if you’re not familiar with chamber of commerce ambassadors, check out this article).
The program was designed in three parts:
- Train the PAACC Ambassadors (who are a fantastic and dedicated group of volunteers)
- Run through the training with the PAACC Board
- PAACC President Chris Heck challenged me with this: “I want to bring the member value conversation directly to the members.”
We knocked out #1 and #2 pretty easily, but then came that third step… And when Chris asked me about it, I said, “I have something I want to try, if you’ll let me.”
Chris was game, and we created the “Member Value Workshop,” the first of which we ran in the beginning of October (next is scheduled for March).
In the Member Value Workshop, we walked about a dozen companies through the creation of their own strategy to get the most out of their chamber of commerce membership.
You’ve been to a “Membership 101” when you join a chamber? Think of our workshop as a Membership 101 on steroids.
In the session, we run through a worksheet designed to help participants get a better understanding of why they’re chamber members and what they need to accomplish there.
Essentially, the conversation is our own onboarding process here at Momentum for our clients – only our job includes implementing the strategy throughout the year, as well.
In the workshop, we fill it out together – with input and feedback from the rest of the group… It’s an energizing group exercise.
The last question on our worksheet is: “If we accomplish these three (3) things this year, we will consider our membership investment money well-spent.”
The beauty of the program is that at the end of the session, the participants turn and hand their completed worksheets to the chamber team – a blueprint for a successful experience.
I know when I worked for the chamber, if every member told me exactly what they needed from us, it would have made life a lot easier.
That’s the goal, and that’s where we want you to end up, as well.
Chamber of Commerce Membership Prep – What’s Changed for 2023?
In 2022, far and away our most popular blog post was “Chamber of Commerce Membership Prep for 2022” – both when it was written at the end of 2021, but throughout the year, as well.
That’s not surprising, because it was probably the most holistic piece we’ve published about chamber memberships and how you should approach them.
It’s time for an update.
I think you’ll agree that things are different now than they were a year ago – some of it good, some of it… challenging, but in other ways.
On the good side, we’re no longer surrounded by most of the “what ifs” of the pandemic when planning for the future.
We’re not forced to try to do business through our laptop screens anymore, and that stupid elbow-bump greeting is put-to-bed (thank goodness!).
Challenges? Well, the economy is, at best, unpredictable right now – though everyone we know seems to be as busy as ever.
You still can’t find people to work for you, and the cost of doing so is going higher and higher, necessitating implementation of systems – not even to make improvements, but to simply get the job done, in many cases.
So, how does this change the conversation you need to be having with your chamber of commerce when you send in your membership check for 2023?
Well, for starters, we seem to be a little more in control of our futures at this point then we did a year ago, so while we might not be able to safely rest completely on our strategies without contingencies, we certainly feel better about them.
Which means we can go to our chambers of commerce with a more concrete direction than we might’ve been able to last year.
Last year was largely about, “We need help.”
This year, it’s getting back to, “We need a partner.”
So, we’re going to dig a little deeper this year with our questions you should be asking yourself – the kind of thinking we do in our Member Value Workshop – to help you paint a clearer picture for your chamber on how they can best help you in 2023.
Why Did You Purchase a Chamber of Commerce Membership?
This is a great heading for two reasons:
(1) “Chamber of Commerce Membership” is Momentum’s far-and-away top Google search ranked term for 2022 and the algorithm seems to like when we us it (little SEO tidbit for you there); and
(2) It reframes a classic question in a meaningful way – instead of “Why did you join the chamber of commerce?”, it adds the monetary value of doing so.
Why is this important?
I’ll bet that you don’t have enough fingers on one hand (maybe both hands) to count the number of times you’ve purchased a subscription or membership and then not used it.
I’m as guilty as anyone.
You type in your credit card number, get an onboarding e-mail that you slide into your “to-do” folder, maybe watch a couple training videos, and then…
The next time you think about it is when they send you another e-mail eleven months later telling you that if they don’t hear from you, they’ll charge your credit card again in a couple weeks.
But picture this… What if every morning when you work up, you got a note reminding you that you spent $49.99 on that subscription?
It’d probably change your perspective on using it.
So, wording the question this way has a very different feel to it… You didn’t join a club. You shelled out money for a membership.
When you did so, you did it for a reason, and that’s what we want to get to the root of.
The important thing is that your reason is your reason.
Most companies in the chamber are there for new business and to grow their networks.
That might be you. Probably is.
But you might be there because you have an advocacy issue that affects your company, because you want to be part of “the conversation”, or because you simply want to give back and help the organization grow.
All of those things have deliverables, and you’re the only one who knows what those are.
As best as you can communicate those to your chamber – as soon as possible in your membership year – the better they can help you meet your goals.
Do Your Goals for Your Chamber of Commerce Membership Reflect Your Overall Business Growth Goals?
This is where it gets real, and the questions get tougher… But finding these answers will help you to create a more fruitful experience with your chamber membership.
Marrying your growth goals with your chamber goals will be especially important as you look to engage through out 2023.
From events to committees to leadership to advocacy, there are plenty of ways for people to engage with their chamber.
And here’s a secret: Chambers LOVE when people engage.
If you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and helping to get the job done, your chamber can use you.
And they will.
Out of a chamber’s hundreds, or even thousands, of members, the percentage who are able and willing to actually get involved beyond attending events is pretty slim.
I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and I can’t disagree with either:
On one hand, volunteer support can dramatically improve the chamber’s chances of fulfilling its mission.
On the other, I just gave you a check to get something done on my behalf – go do it.
So, finding those people isn’t always easy.
We’ve met way too many chambers whose leadership is in place because they drew the short straw, or they’re saddled with the position they hold because no one wanted to move in so they could be done.
I recently was asked to chair a committee THE SAME DAY I joined an organization.
Why? Because I’m engaged, and engagement stands out.
We encourage our clients to get heavily involved in their chambers and other business organizations, but…
We make sure that where they’re spending their time is congruent with their purpose for being there.
Being asked to serve on a board, chair a committee or lead an initiative can be flattering and enticing.
Who doesn’t want to be recognized for their leadership skills?
The same goes for spending money, of course… Supporting your chamber with sponsorship is great visibility, but make sure that you’re spending where it actually gets the job done for you.
But does that time and money you’ll spend move the needle on why you’re there in the first place?
To know that, you need to understand where your company is headed and why.
Yes, sometimes just being seen can be a huge boost for your company.
We’re a good example at Momentum.
We’re a small shop, but we’ve gotten incredible value from our chamber of commerce memberships by making ourselves available when they needed us, taking on initiatives and committee roles, sponsoring where strategic, and whatever else we can to help.
But that happens to work perfectly with our business model and growth goals.
Where’s your company headed, and where can engagement with the chamber best support it?
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to engage your chamber, and your chamber team will help you find them, once they know what you need.
Where Else Are You Spending Money and Time to Meet Those Goals?
We say it all the time – we often steer clients’ money away from other forms of marketing toward chambers of commerce.
Why? We have not found a better way to target your audiences than through chambers, who most often already have them organized for you.
This is another critical question we ask workshop participants to answer, because it directly addresses allocation of resources – both time and money.
The question actually helps to support the previous one, because it becomes not about where can I spend money and time to achieve our goals, but where’s the BEST place to spend money and time to achieve our goals.
There are LOTS of places out there to spend money to tell your story.
Did you know that soon you’ll be able to advertise in-game on Xbox or Playstation?
Meaning, when your kids are in their basement smashing up cars driving around some virtual city, the billboards in the game will feature advertisers out here in the real world.
That’s mind-blowing. And it will further eat into marketing budgets.
My point in mentioning that is that advertising opportunities have gone off in many directions at this point, and it’s becoming more confusing every day as to where’s the best place to put your money.
Chambers of commerce are great, because while their memberships are diverse, they generally have various subsets of their membership collected in various ways.
There are topical committees that gather like-minded people and companies together.
There are newsletters that go to categories of their membership, with defined interests.
There are events and content that cater to specific industries or, sometimes even better yet, specific titles.
Your target audiences have already been gathered.
Let me ask you: What’s going to get you a better connection? Someone in your target market seeing your ad at their leisure, or someone in your target market having a five-minute conversation with you at a chamber event that you sponsored because you knew they’d be there?
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the second one all day, every day.
Now, can you get access to these resources without spending any additional money above and beyond your membership?
Perhaps – if you’re a master networker and very good at creating (and selling) mutual value to your organization .
But can you definitely reach them through a sponsorship? Yes, you can.
Sponsorship costs money, of course, and it might not be something you’re thinking about, or haven’t budgeted.
But think about marketing dollars you’ve frittered away in the past – we’ve all done it! – with little or nothing to show for it.
Think what you could’ve gotten by giving that budget to the chamber and having a team of people helping you to achieve it.
It’s real, and it works.
We’ve been doing it with our clients for years, and have gotten tremendous results.
But you have to know why you’re there, what you’re looking to accomplish, and how all of it supports your company’s growth.
The toughest thing about our Member Value Workshop?
Getting people there.
Getting people to understand that spending one hour creating a chamber strategy will change their membership experience dramatically, and enhance their opportunities to grow their business.
But feedback tells us that those who came got a lot out of it.
Which is why we keep writing these blogs, talking with chambers and their members, and doing what we do – because we know you can change the trajectory of your company’s future through your chambers of commerce.
2023 is approaching fast, and your membership renewal is a great excuse to connect with your chamber and let them know what’s currently top-of-mind for your company.
Calls to Action
Chambers: We have a steady flow of content for your members surrounding how to get more value out of their membership with you… Follow me on LinkedIn and steal, er, repurpose, anything you need! If you’re interested in perhaps running a Member Value Workshop and would like to learn more, let’s talk about that, too!
Chamber Members: Don’t want to wait for a workshop to be scheduled? Book a 15-minute Zoom meeting with us, and let’s talk about your 2023.