Three Special Requests You Can Make of Your Chamber of Commerce

When you sign up for a chamber of commerce membership, you’re presented a menu of benefits that are available to you. Between traditional chamber perks and innovative concepts that may be unique to your specific organization, these benefits are well thought out, have provided value to many, many chamber members before you, and give the chamber team a mechanism to provide value to hundreds or even thousands of companies each year. You should use them.

But every membership experience is different, and while chamber staff is stretched from trying to provide individualized value to those hundreds or thousands of members, they want to be able to give you the specific ROI you’d like to get from your membership investment. Here are three special requests you can reasonably make that will help them do that:

Can you introduce me to X?

In truth, we try to use this request very rarely, because while it might not seem like it, it’s a pretty big lift for a chamber of commerce. The problem is not the introduction – that’s what chambers are there for. No, the problem is usually what happens afterwards, because many people in sales can’t control themselves from turning an introduction into an aggressive sales pitch. It’s sad, but true. REMEMBER: A chamber introduction is not for sales. It’s for relationship-building.

So, can you ask? Certainly, you can. But understand not only that they might not be able to make a direct connection, but that you have a responsibility if they do. Every chamber is filled with people who want to help their community grow, but don’t necessarily want to be barraged with sales pitches every time they attend a cocktail party. It’s why regional manufacturing associations often don’t allow vendors at their events: because the manufacturers know they’re the prime target for B2B pitches, when all they want to do is meet with their peers without being harangued. Same goes for chambers of commerce.

Many chamber of commerce staff have been burned before – where they made an introduction that got them a “please don’t do that again” from the target. Because of that, sometimes the “e-mail introduction” or “set up a coffee” requests can be too much to ask. But, in their interest of helping you as a member, there are options that make the question worth asking:

  • Many chamber staffers would be willing to let you know when a specific contact you’d like to meet has registered for an event. This gives you inside info, but puts the ball in your court to make the connect.
  • Think about mutual value. “Can you introduce me to X so I can pester them about my services?” is a different ask than one where the value you’re bringing to X is obvious, and can be communicated by the chamber staff. Not your product or service – selling for you is not your chamber’s job. But a well-enunciated value proposition will get you a lot further.
  • Sometimes your investment level can open a door a little more smoothly. That’s not to emphasize that a $5K platinum member is going to simply get a better answer than a $250 bronze member (though reasonable), but sponsorships can often be used to facilitate a connection – i.e. one of the benefits I’d like to receive from sponsoring this event is to meet X, which can usually be done if the connection is relevant.

Remember, the chamber wants you to get the value you’re looking for, so they will help as best they can. Just don’t put them in a tough spot if they help you.

Should I attend this event?

You might think that asking this question of a chamber of commerce staff member would be fruitless. OF COURSE, they want you to attend their events! The more people attend events, the more attractive it is for sponsors, and the longer they get to keep their jobs!

But, remember that not wasting your time, which you have little of, is one of the great services that your chamber of commerce can provide for you. That being the case, a staff member telling you NOT to go to a specific event is of incredible value. It may seem counter-intuitive, but such guidance can be a great thing.

When I worked for the chamber, I had a member who would call me regularly and ask about our upcoming events. We would walk through the ones on the calendar, and which would be good for him. Since we’d already had the conversation about what he was looking to get out of his membership, it was easy to help him optimize his time. You know as well as we do, that (once things get going again post-pandemic), you can take up just about every evening in your community with 3-4 events if you’re crazy enough, and probably justify being at each one. What we’re talking about is optimizing your time, and the chamber staff will be more than happy to help you do that. If you ask.

Can I provide some content on topic ABC?

We talk about this often, and believe that you should consistently be putting your best content in front of your chamber of commerce. After all, if your clients are dealing with something, it’s a good bet that many more of your fellow members are also. Hopefully, when you’re creating content, you’re exhausting the uses you get from it. It never hurts to ask your chamber of commerce if they can use it, as well.

Now, how does it possibly get delivered? It depends on a few things – (1) how many of your fellow chamber members are affected; (2) how timely and relevant the information is; and (3) what else your chamber has going on at the time. Those factors play into whether your content could range anywhere from a retweet (easy) to a full-blown webinar opportunity (hard).

Your chamber already has lots of members, lots of resources and lots of important information to be getting out. The good thing (for you) is that they can’t possibly know everything, so your perspective can be invaluable, if given in a thoughtful way. When you’re ready to ask your chamber if they can use some of your content, make sure you’ve thought it out, defined the value it will be to other members, and prepared to give them everything they need to communicate it.

Your chamber team is there to help you, and they wouldn’t have taken the job if they didn’t have a servants’ spirit. You’re going to get the most out of your membership experience if you communicate to them what you’re looking to accomplish. Don’t be reticent to ask for the kind of help described above – and always strive to make sure that in any interaction with your chamber, value will be provided to everyone involved.

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