We talk a lot in the blog and on the IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW Podcast about our strong belief that spending marketing dollars with chambers of commerce is a smart investment.
We believe it so much, in fact, that we built Momentum’s entire business model around the concept.
Our clients have actually pulled investment away from other kinds of marketing to join and sponsor chambers and their activities.
When the pandemic started, and companies started cutting their chamber spending, we had one of our clients actually INCREASE spending, and joined 13 chambers (and it worked!).
Why’d we do that? Because it’s incredibly easy to identify and justify the ROI you get from being a chamber member and sponsoring chamber programs – if you know what you’re doing, and have the right mindset.
We’re going to help you develop that mindset in this blog.
And don’t get me wrong – in classic “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client” form, we do this at Momentum, and I’m going to talk about that a little bit.
What Are Chamber Benefits Worth?
At Momentum, when we assess the value of certain activity through our chambers of commerce, we try to look at what it would cost in the outside world to obtain the same results.
Referral that Leads to New Business – This is the easiest to calculate, because if you were paying commission to a salesperson or referral partner, it’d likely be 10 percent. If the chamber directly and actively introduces you to someone, it’s worth 10 percent of the sale you make from it. For many B2B companies, that means that one sale from a chamber referral easily pays for your membership. COST: 10% of the deal
Referral that Leads to a Productive Relationship – Sales cycles being what they are, a referral from the chamber sometimes won’t turn into an actual new client within a 12-month membership. However, the chamber team will often introduce you to folks who become a key part of your network, whether for referrals, partnership, collaboration or camaraderie. “You need to talk to this person” is a powerful, third-party validation, chamber value. COST: If you could actually get to the person elsewhere, between a few hours of time, marketing resources and patience (or frustration) – opportunity cost – you’re looking at a few hundred dollars, at least, to bring a new contact into your network.
Networking Connection that Leads to New Business – The question is whether you would have made the connection if you weren’t a member of the chamber, and attending the event where you made the connection. Is there another avenue for you to have met this person in the world outside the chamber? What would it have cost you to make that contact in a purposeful way? COST: Again, if you were paying referral fees, figure 10% of the new business.
Content/Marketing Opportunity – This is important to understand, because often with chambers of commerce, speaking roles or content opportunities carry a sponsorship to obtain them. (Notwithstanding, we believe that the best chamber content is that which is NOT tied to a sponsorship, but that’s a different topic). We spend a lot of time talking about how companies can get content sharing opportunities with chambers, and break down the value as such:
- Newsletter (Share Blog/Expertise): Newsletter marketing opportunities can range from $250-$1,500 with a chamber. Doing it on your own? You don’t have the mailing list they have.
- Speaking Opportunity on Your Expertise – Webinar/Seminar/Panel: Sponsorships range from $500-$2500 for speaking roles.
- Share Social Media Post with Chamber Members: Many chambers will do this for free, just for being a member. Who else will repost your content to several hundred businesses in your community?
Why Do You Spend $$ with Chambers of Commerce?
Earlier this month (March 2023), the Pittsburgh Airport Chamber of Commerce, one of ours where we’re a member, sent out an e-mail offering a unique marketing opportunity…
They were getting ready to send out their package with membership stickers to all of their members, and in the envelope, staying under first-class letter rate, they were able to include five marketing flyers from members, which they were offering for $225 each.
I am not a fast decision-maker, especially when it comes to spending money, but I knew these would go quick, so I snapped up one of the five.
In fact, I thought it was such a good deal, that one of our clients, impulseGUIDE, grabbed #2.
Why’d I do that?
- The PAACC has more than 800 members, every single one of which (because I already know they belong to a chamber of commerce) could be a target prospect for me – something no other form of marketing can offer.
- For $225, I’m reaching all of them for $.28 each, less than half of what it would cost sending my own mailer, and more than competitive with what I might be able to do on social media – IF I could actually target the audience.
- The flyer gives us the opportunity to complement the in-person work and name recognition we’re building with the chamber, though our Member Value Workshop, Ambassador Training and at networking events.
Again, we’re slow to spend money, but this one – I’m more than confident that, in utilizing the chamber’s network and building on everything else we’re doing, we can, at the least, recoup that investment, and likely 10X it.
For the chamber, what a brilliant program…. Take an activity that they (1) have to do and (2) are already spending money on, and create a well-priced marketing opportunity for their members – instead of it being an expense, it becomes a revenue generator. Love it!
That’s what we call a win-win.
There are plenty of inexpensive, cost-efficient marketing opportunities through your chamber of commerce. Find them.
By the way – we’re kinda proud of the piece we put together for the mailing, knowing full-well that these flyers often get tossed. Check it out: https://www.momentumforbusinessgrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/PAACC-Flyer-March-2023.pdf
Where Else Are You Spending Money to Accomplish Your Growth Goals?
In our Member Value Workshop that we run with chambers of commerce, one of the key questions we ask companies is, once you’ve identified your target audience and growth goals, where besides the chamber are you investing to reach that audience, and meet those goals?
… and are those tactics working?
We consistently are having our clients pull marketing dollars from other areas to invest more in chambers.
First, chambers of commerce, we believe, offer as efficient marketing targeting as you’re going to find. Whether it’s committees, events, e-communications or simply asking the chamber to help you gather the right folks, within a chamber’s existing body of work it’s generally very easy to target exactly the people you need to be talking to.
Second, you can often find some really great values among chamber sponsorship opportunities – especially if you target well. While your biggest competitors may dominate the chamber gala or the golf tournament with big-ticket sponsorships, often educational sessions, committees or newsletter opportunities offer a comparatively inexpensive way to get in the game, and access your ideal market.
Third, while it might not seem like it on the surface, chambers have a great deal of flexibility on what they can “give” in exchange for sponsorships. If their standardized sponsorship sheet doesn’t exactly fit your needs, it is more than ok to go to them and say, “I have a budget of XXX, and I would like to accomplish A, B and C.” They will work with you to come up with a solution that works for your budget and your needs. Pretty cool!
Using Chambers of Commerce Is a Long Game
When using the chamber for business development and creating ROI, always bear in mind that such a strategy is a long game.
Far too many companies purchase a chamber membership to “try it out,” and then after a year, when they haven’t landed a new client yet, give up on it.
Forget the fact that they may typically have a sales cycle that’s actually longer than a one-year chamber membership – its too common to hope for instant gratification.
The likelihood that you’re going to show up to your first chamber event and land a client from it is low. It can happen, but it usually doesn’t.
No, your strategy throughout a 12-month membership is key, and you need to work it… Meet people. Engage. Get involved. Know your target audience. Be ready with your talking points. And seek out long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships.
Depending on your product or service, it could take more than a year.
But, if your sales pipeline process is sound, you’ll know throughout that year that your efforts are working.
And during that time, you’ll continue to build your relationship with the chamber team, who will become advocates for you to meet your goals.
“We’re Not Just the President, We’re a Client”
I said earlier I’d talk about our strategy.
First off… We’re a small business. And, as I said earlier, we’re pretty risk averse, and we spend slowly. We take lots of time to make decisions.
So, we have to be super tactical in our spending with organizations.
I’ll admit, I love having clients that can toss $2,500 or $5,000 around and pretty much buy their way into any room they want – it’s exhilarating, because we can do some serious damage adding our strategic thinking and processes to those numbers.
But for us, and for many of our clients, our strategies are much more surgical.
That being said, chamber and business association marketing accounts for 100% of Momentum’s hard cost marketing spending.
We’re in chambers here in Western New York, in the Pittsburgh market, in Clearwater, Southern Ontario and North Jersey. We’re also members of the National Small Business Association.
These are all strategically chosen, and our goals in each market, and with each organization, have been communicated to their teams and leadership.
We also do strategic sponsorships when we see the confluence of a great market and good value – the PAACC flyer above is an example, and we were very pleased with our results from our sponsorship/table at last year’s Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals conference.
For a small company, we are casting a wide net, and optimizing our spend, certainly.
But, that’s our spend. We don’t do paid social media. No print ads. Direct mailings haven’t worked in the past. We’re all in on chamber engagement… And it works (which is why we’re all in on it!).
This is what Momentum does – work with you to create a strategy to increase your ROI for membership and sponsorship spending.
We’ve sold memberships and sponsorship and provided member value for almost 20 years, so we know how to buy memberships and sponsorships and GET value.
If you’d like to make your chamber memberships and sponsorships work better, and return more ROI, for you, let’s set up a Zoom call and talk!