Upping the Value of Your Chamber of Commerce Membership this Fall

Kids are headed back to school. Temperatures are starting to come down. Football’s kicking off. And your chamber of commerce has stocked its calendar with a full slate of events.

The fall season is here.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we’ve now got three months of full-steam-ahead business growth opportunity before people start to disappear for the holidays.

And it goes by fast. Too fast.

So, how are you going to use your chamber of commerce membership to make the most out of it?

The Crazy Season for Chambers of Commerce

When you work with chambers of commerce around the country, like we do, you see a lot of similarities in how they do business, no matter where they’re from.

chamber of commerce, events, networking, momentumAnd when you try to engage with chambers of commerce around the country, like we do, your schedule quickly becomes quickly cluttered, because all of them schedule their events around the same time.

That’s nobody’s fault – it’s just the times of year when events are scheduled. It is what it is.

It’s hard enough to manage in a single region, with various organizations vying for the same dates and times – but check out our next eight weeks…

In September and October, we have multiple events to attend in our home community of Buffalo Niagara, and will also be attending chamber events with Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and AMPLIFY Clearwater.

It’s a lot, but if there’s any question as to whether we’ve drank our own Kool-Aid as to the value of joining chambers and then using the hell out of the memberships… That should do it.

We get it. You might not be as aggressive (crazy?!) as us when it comes to this stuff, but there’s still an awful lot you can do even if you’ve chosen to belong to a single chamber.

Here are some easy things we think you can do right now to make your three upcoming months of chamber events and activity more effective and purposeful…

They Don’t Know What You Need if You Don’t Tell Them

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 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.

Your chamber of commerce 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.

And they’re trying to figure out what makes hundreds or even thousands of businesses just like you tick.

That’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.

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.

By telling your chamber’s 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.

Now’s a great time to have this conversation – however is best for you to have it: invite a staff member for coffee, catch them in-person at an event or, at least, put it in a short e-mail…

Dear Mary:

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.

– Craig

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 Membership/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. (I’m hearing that Cornhole Tournaments are getting to be a huge opportunity, drawing both participants AND sponsors… Think about it!!!), 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 – and let your chamber know that you’re excited about them.

That can be an e-mail to let the staff know you’re coming (and reinforce your goals you’ve already sent them) or, even better from the chamber’s perspective, post it to social media.

That’s huge for chambers, when their members help do their marketing for them.

And what’s it take you? 30 seconds? Do it. It’ll pay off.

But… In the header for this section, 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
  • Presence: “I see ABC Company everywhere!”

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, 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?

In our adventures with chambers of commerce over the past decade, perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that the best way to get value from your membership… Is to provide as much value as possible to the chamber.

More precisely, providing as much value as possible to your fellow members.

It’s tried-and-true… We’ve used it for years, and our clients have, as well.

A chamber of commerce is largely a generalist organization.

They have to be able to cover any topic that comes through their door, either with in-house expertise or referral to the appropriate resource, whether it’s a strategic partner or a member.

chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, chamber, networking, sales, business development, momentumYou have expertise that is much more specific to the arena in which your company plays.

There’s a partnership to be had there, because while the chamber will definitely take on some topics to a greater level of specificity, they can’t do all of them.

Also remember, chambers have a wide swath of companies to take care of – every size, shape and, importantly, time in business.

When they put on programs, that has to come into consideration.

So, where do you fit in?

Anywhere you want, really… IF, you always focus on providing value.

Think about the things you can offer to a chamber:

Money – The most obvious, through sponsorships, etc.

Time – Volunteering on committees, helping with event set-up… There are many, many ways to get involved if time is what you have to offer

Your Network – You may be “plugged in” in areas that are valuable to your chamber and its members… Again, lots of possibilities, from government to economic development to not-for-profits to grant writing… Sometimes, a single referral to another business can be of enormous value.

Expertise – In your field, you are coming across news, trends and advancements every day that it’s not possible for the generalist chamber staff to stay on top of – things that are valuable for your fellow members. Find a way to give it to them, regularly, and position yourself as a go-to resource.

Since we’re always striving for mutual value, this is where you’re going to build the strongest relationship with your chamber this fall.

Your busy. Of course, you can’t do all of it.

But out of those four things, we guarantee that you have something you can bring to the table, and the chamber team will be appreciative.

Quick note on expertise/content – your chamber staff can see a sales pitch coming from a mile away… It is essential that the foot your putting forward is focused on providing value – the return will come later.

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.

And think about what you’ll be working on, who you’ll be working with, and what kind of capacity you have this fall, and how they can all help you be a resource to your fellow chamber members.

If you need help with any of this, as always, we’re here. This is what we do, for ourselves, and for our clients. Happy to grab a 15-minute Zoom call with you to discuss!

Have a great fall!