Tell Your Chamber of Commerce Exactly What You Want

There’s a great scene early in the movie When Harry Met Sally – no, not that scene – when the titular characters share a meal for the first time. Here’s the dialogue:

Waitress: What can I get you?
Harry: I’ll have the Number Three.
Sally: I’d like the chef salad, please, with the oil and vinegar on the side. And the apple pie a la mode….But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally: No, just the pie. But then not heated.
Waitress: Uh-huh.

As fans of the movie will know, the scene was designed to help paint a picture of Meg Ryan’s Sally as on the obsessive-compulsive side, and a bit of a pain in being so.

Being in communications, I’ve always looked at this a little bit differently, because while Harry, the server and the audience may have rolled their eyes at her, she was actually communicating to the server what she and the restaurant could do to provide her the best service possible. She actually made the server’s job easier. What do you think Sally got when her order came out? Exactly what she asked for. “I just want it the way I want it,” Sally would say later in the movie when the conversation came up again.

If you’ve read our Momentum blog before, you know where this is heading…

While asking for “whatever the chef recommends” may impress the people at your table, generally it’s best to let the restaurant know what you’d like to eat to have the best experience. The same goes for your chambers of commerce and business associations.

But, strangely, very few companies actually do that. Most are content to send in their membership and then wait for the checklist of general chamber services to align with their needs. It’s no surprise that many companies join a business organization, try it for one year, and then drop because they “didn’t get any value.”

Some business organizations have picked up on this, and have put right on their membership applications: “What do you hope to get out of joining the chamber?” This is a great exercise, and a step in the right direction, but many companies, small and large, are not prepared for the question, itself. Because too often, purchasing a chamber membership is not matched to a full-blown strategy behind it.

Here’s the thing: Like Sally at the restaurant, the better you communicate exactly what you want to the staff at your chamber of commerce, the better they can provide it to you. We would argue that business organizations are at their most critical moment right now – during the pandemic, and now in what we’re calling post-pandemic, there are more questions than answers for businesses, particularly small businesses, trying to navigate the environment post-COVID. They’ve been pushed, prodded and penalized by governmental decisions, and desperately need someone to turn to for advice, guidance and hope. Fortunately, there are organizations set up to be exactly what they need – chambers of commerce.

But those organizations, themselves, have not been immune. They are understaffed, with budgets cut and dealing with the same challenges, while trying to provide day-to-day value to the hundreds of members they serve. So, when a company comes to them and says, “Here’s a check, and here’s exactly what I need from you to ensure you get a check next year,” it’s a godsend.

You know what your business needs for growth, and it’s a good bet that among its services, connections and membership, the chamber has resources from which you can benefit. You can hunt them down yourself, or you can communicate exactly what you need and let them go to work for you. And you’re not infringing on them in asking for it. On the contrary, you’re making their job easier!

Then, we can even help you learn how to order things, like Sally, “on the side”…

– Craig

Momentum – The Business Growth Agency helps companies develop, implement and optimize their chamber of commerce membership and sponsorship strategy. Want to learn how? Schedule a 15-minute Zoom call with us!