I want to put you, for a moment, in the shoes of your favorite chamber of commerce rep.
September is approaching quickly, and while there’s still one more summer weekend to be had, you know that the day you get back to the office, things take off – and don’t really slow down until about mid-December.
That’s the nature of the beast in the chamber business, and it’s not surprising that chambers hire people who thrive under those circumstances…
Events. Member meetings. Committees. Roundtables. Shuffling off to the state capitol on an advocacy trip. More meetings. More events. More committees. Oh yeah, it’s time to print the directory for next year. And go get more new members!
The ratio of chamber staff to members is often in the range of 150 or 200 to one.
Taking care of all of those members in about 14 very busy weeks is a monumental task.
So, back to (real) you, what does that mean for you and your business?
Chamber Staff: Catching Moving Things
I think is was the 2nd J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie where they spend time talking about being able to beam people onto a ship already going at warp speed (I’m sure it’s also in the old series somewhere, too, but I’m a Star Wars guy).
It’s a good metaphor, though, for getting the attention of your chamber’s staff between September and December – which, incidentally, is why we encourage people to connect with them in the summer.
Their pace is frenetic, and they don’t have as much time to provide customized service to every member – even though they’d like to.
But, to effectively use your membership over the next three months to grow your company, staying connected to them is essential.
By being proactive, you can make yourself stand out from rank-and-file members, and get better results this fall.
Here are three easy things you can do this fall to make sure you stay top-of-mind for your chamber of commerce team (and make the next three months more purposeful for you):
Let Your Chamber of Commerce Know Exactly What You Need
Data analytics are very good these days, and the top data-using companies can often tell you, based on your behavior on social media or in purchasing, what you need, possibly even before you know, yourself.
There’s the now famous story made popular by author Charles Duhigg where a dad went screaming into Target because they were mailing his teenage daughter coupons for diapers and baby formula, only to ultimately find out that they actually knew more about his daughter than he did.
It’s a new world when it comes to commerce, and with people inviting devices in their homes, into their pockets and on their wrists that are designed to know everything about you, it’s easy to assume that everyone’s in on it.
And, with AI tools now accessible to everyone and anyone, it’s not just the big guys doing it anymore. (Want to play, too? Check out Diligence Leads)
Your chamber of commerce, however, doesn’t work that way.
They don’t have a speaker in your living room listening to your conversations, or are THAT tapped into your social media.
Every day, they’re trying to figure out what makes hundreds or even thousands of businesses just like you tick.
It’s an impossible task – even if their hearts are in the right place (and they are).
How do you remedy it?
You be one of the small percentage of their members who tells them exactly what you’re looking for.
What you want to accomplish.
Who you need to meet.
Why you bought the membership in the first place.
Doing This Sets You Apart
I will tell you, this doesn’t happen often. And that percentage gets even smaller when you talk about chamber members actually knowing the answers to those questions, themselves.
It’s why we created our growingly popular Member Value Workshop program.
By telling your chamber of commerce team exactly what you’re looking for, they can deliver customized guidance and assistance to you that, and let’s be frank, actually makes their job a thousand times easier.
They’re getting busy, though, so your job is to be succinct.
Give them your story, make your ask, and respect their time. Show value.
I just registered for the Blues & Brews Mixer next Thursday. Great idea for an event. I’m looking forward to it.
We talked previously about the possibility of connecting with David from ABC Office Supplies. You’d mentioned he usually goes to the mixers events. Could I bother you for an intro at the event? Thanks so much.
You will be amazed at how much stronger your chamber experience will be this fall, just from this simple exercise.
Get Engaged (and Get Engaged Deep)
We’ve talked many times in this blog about the Chamber of Commerce/Gym Membership analogy – you know, “You have to use it to get value out of it.”
Of course, we have our qualms about it, but on the surface, it’s ok.
As your chamber is stacking its fall calendar with events, seminars, webinars, etc., you need to be at them.
Not all of them… That would be too overwhelming.
But, you should be assessing the offerings now to get them on your calendars, and build time into your schedule for pre-event prep and post-event follow-up.
Look for events that are going to gather the right people – the people who you need to connect with to grow your business – in the room for you.
Make getting to these events a priority.
In the header for this section, though, we said, “Get engaged deep.”
What we mean by that is for you to look at who else in your company should also be involved and engaged?
There are many benefits to having multiple people engaged with the chamber, including:
- The option to “work a room” in tandem
- Coverage – the capacity to actually make it to more functions
- The ability to represent various areas of expertise – e.g. your HR person will have different conversations at an event than your marketing person
- Presence: “I see ABC Company everywhere!”
Your Chamber of Commerce Appreciates this Very Much
There’s also significant benefit to your chamber in you taking this approach.
One of a chamber’s most frustrating things to deal with is having a “good” member lose their main point of contact.
A chamber can spend years building a relationship with a company, but if the person who’s always been the “face” moves on, an excellent relationship can quickly become ZERO relationship.
Sometimes, they get lucky, and the value of membership has not only been evident, but well-communicated throughout the company, and the next person carries on.
Often, though (way too often), that conversation goes out the door with the person, and the chamber has to start from square one.
It’s awful. I’ve been there.
You can help by bringing more of your team into the fold – getting them to events, putting them on committees, etc.
And if you’re the boss, and you’re reading this… Especially in this era of job-hopping, this is an important strategy to maintain what we believe is one of the most important relationships your company has.
Get engaged, and get engaged deep.
Where Can You Provide Value to Your Chamber of Commerce?
“Giving back” is supposed to be altruistic, right?
Well, if you’ve spent even one day in business, you know that’s not always the case.
Even if your heart is in the right place, there is almost always something to be gained by volunteering your time, energy and expertise – especially when it comes to chambers of commerce.
First and foremost, thanks to the law of reciprocity, by pitching in you naturally build a stronger relationship with your chamber team.
No denying it. Tried and true. Yields results.
But, it’s rare in the chamber world that volunteer efforts don’t also put you in front of many other companies.
Take committees, for example…
We would never suggest (a) asking to sit on a committee where you don’t have relevance; (b) going into a committee looking for sales opportunities; or (c) going into a committee not willing to do some work… BUT…
Very often, a chamber of commerce committee roster – no matter the topic – is made up of engaged, connected people.
You can certainly bump into those people at networking events, or hope to catch them outside the chamber… OR, you can sit next to them six times a year, and work on a project together.
What’s going to build a stronger relationship? You tell me.
One of our other favorites is offering to help with registration at one of your chamber’s bigger events for the year – the gala, the golf outing, or, we love the government/advocacy events, because they bring out decision-makers.
First of all, managing the registration table at a big event is a big job.
Fluidly moving 200+ people through the line so they can get to their networking and cocktails (or cheese danish, as the case may be) is a lot of work, and your chamber team appreciates the help.
But, what happens while you’re helping?
You get the opportunity to say hello to every single event attendee as they pass in front of you.
Try achieving that out on the floor once the event starts.
Volunteering and Protecting Your Professional “Image”
Now… I know enough business owners who might look at something like that, and suggest that volunteering at the registration table is beneath them.
As if it’s presenting a better image to be seen out in the crowd, as opposed to in the trenches of chamber volunteer work.
We maintain, though, that if you’re an expert networker, nothing is beneath you when it comes to building a relationship.
One of our clients – president of his company – is perhaps the best networker we’ve ever encountered.
At our last chamber gala, earlier this year, the banquet staff poured coffee during the awards portion of the event, but then we didn’t see them again for a while. (I guess this is a no-no… I’m not a coffee drinker).
He wanted a refill, so he took matters into his own hands, going up to the server station and grabbing the pot of coffee.
Except, there were others also looking for refills.
So, he spent the next ten minutes – and multiple pots of coffee – pouring refills for not only our table, but the five tables surrounding ours.
Do you know how many people he had the opportunity to connect with?
During the AWARDS portion of the event, when you’re usually just sitting there checking your phone while pretending not to check your phone?
It was brilliant.
Easy way out, if you’re worried about not being seen as a rightful executive while you’re volunteering at an event…
“I think it’s important to give back.” Done.
We’ve done it.
Believe me, I work on a daily basis to present myself as a consultant, speaker, creator, expert and executive, but I’ve stuffed my share of nametags into those little plastic holders, collected centerpieces at the end of events and helped the chamber team carry boxes of event materials in front their car.
It goes a long, long way. And it feels good.
Where can you pitch in to help this fall, while at the same time maximizing your time doing so?
Three Months Go By Very Quickly
Our recommendation is to start this now, because you’re going to blink and suddenly you’ll have bumped up against the holidays.
Outline your goals for the fall and connect with your chamber’s staff.
Check your chamber’s calendar… Get some events on yours.
At Momentum, we do all this for our clients, every year, because we know it works.
Like I said earlier, if YOU do it, you will be among a small percentage who actually make the extremely busy lives of the chamber of commerce team easier – something they remember, big time.
Don’t have the time or capacity to get on this yourself? Let’s talk about how we can help. Happy to grab a 15-minute Zoom call with you to discuss!
Have a great fall!