Using the Tools Available – Chambers of Commerce

Are you using your chambers of commerce memberships to their potential?
Thinking of your membership as a subscription might help.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was a great little anecdote around offices as people got acclimated to life with a computer in front of them on their desk.

It was Microsoft’s Windows operating system (OS) that made it easy for anyone to learn how to easily access everything they needed to do their jobs on a daily basis.

Back in the day, when you purchased a computer with Windows, you got an actual box with software in it, in the form of disks, later replaced by CD-ROM – from these, you could install the OS.

In the box with the software came an actual user’s manual – a book that presumably told you everything you need to know.

I say “presumably,” because no one I knew ever read it.

There was a new feature of Windows 3.1, released in 1992, that made using it for office work particularly efficient, and that was the ability to press down the “Alt” and “Tab” keys simultaneously to scroll through open windows.

Multitasking at the time was a term relegated to the high-tech computer industry, and less of a daily business buzzword yet, so this was a pretty cool thing.

In fact, the feature was covered at the very beginning of the user manual in a chapter titled, “A Brief Tour of Microsoft Windows.”

Unfortunately, for many Windows users, it was years before they knew that feature existed because, well, they didn’t read the book.

This was a running joke among IT people for a long time, but this kind of thing is not abnormal in the business world – and I have to imagine even more so, the busier we all get.

What Are You Leaving on the Table?

We are all guilty of this.

I am. You are.

Sometimes it’s laziness and sometimes it’s just not being able to justify taking the time to read the manual, watch the 101 videos, or attend the orientation.

How about these?

  • Have you ever, two years into owning your car, unveiled a feature that you didn’t know existed, because you didn’t read the manual at the outset?
  • How many golf tournaments have you duffed your way through before realizing that a couple lessons to get better might improve your image and actually help your business?
  • Let’s go back to Windows for another one that I’m guilty of… Once I learned about Snipping Tool (now Snip & Sketch) as a Windows feature about five or six years ago, it is probably my most used tool in the operating system. Cool new feature, right? Nope. It was first introduced to the Windows environment in 2002.

Here’s the problem… Without taking this time, it’s a good bet (as I’ve learned) that you’re missing out on features and capabilities that would help you use whatever you purchased to its full potential.

And what is that costing you as far as time or cost savings… Or revenue potential?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Most of our clients at Momentum are professional service companies – people who specialize in understanding the tools available in their given area of expertise, so you don’t have to.

You’re focused on your company’s core competencies, so you hire experts in the other areas to make sure you’re covered where you need to be:

Lawyers know the law – because you don’t.

Accountants know tax regulations – because you don’t.

Grant writers can find grants that you can’t.

Marketing agencies can buy ad space that you have no idea how to obtain.

You get the picture.

Even so, once you have access to their array of services, knowing what’s possible through their services is essential to getting the most out of them.

It shouldn’t necessarily be that way, but how often have you been six months into a relationship with a vendor and they dropped something on you that forced you to say, “We can do that?”

It happens.

And while you’d like to push back on the vendor and ask them why they didn’t tell you earlier, a lot of it goes back to your “orientation” or “onboarding,” whether it was formal or not.

What plays into it?

The questions you ask at the beginning of the relationship – even during their sales process.

The expectations you make of the vendor for the fee for service you’re paying them.

The person or people that you put in charge of managing the relationship – are they tasked with making it work for you?

For us, this is akin to reading the Microsoft Windows manual and understanding the capabilities of the operating system you’ve just purchased.

If there’s no seriousness behind the initial exercise, how can you expect to fully benefit from the purchase?

Test Case: Data

Have you bought a prospective list or data subscription lately? How’d you do with it?

momentum, chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, networking, business development, sales, growth, business growthA great example for us of this “using the tools available” sermon is our partnership with rel8ed Analytics, who we’ve worked with many times over the past decade in various capacities.

Rel8ed is an innovative, forward-thinking data company that yields unbelievable results with their proprietary algorithms and approach to data.

They’re so good, in fact, that they’re often engaged by Big Data companies simply because their work makes the data better, through creating connections and insights that their lists alone don’t draw out.

I’ve told Bob Lytle, rel8ed’s founder and president, many times that he is the one speaker who I’ve heard present over a dozen times, who blows me away with something new every single time.

Rel8ed’s work is built around their Diligence platform, which is accessible to growing companies through various programs and relationships.

I can tell you unequivocally that the Diligence platform can change your business – make you smarter, more strategic and better streamlined.

Where am I going with this, given my examples above?

For subscribers to the Diligence platform, rel8ed provides customized training to help make sure they get the most out of it.

Then, like any subscription, you take what you’ve learned and make it work for you (with some degree of on-going back-up, of course).

Here’s a data company handing you business-growth-in-a-box, essentially.

And the data industry is an interesting one, because – and you probably know this but don’t think about it – data companies build their capacity and “knowledge” through the real-world work they do for their clients.

That means, they’d almost rather not have you as a client if you’re not going to use their stuff.

Which is why companies like rel8ed go to great lengths to train new clients, give them the tools they need, and get them set up to win.

But, unfortunately, it’s too easy to hand this training to someone who probably doesn’t have the time to dig in and engage.

Don’t do that. You bought the subscription for a reason. Do what it takes to make it work.

Make sure your leadership enunciates that it’s important, train multiple people, and create benchmarks.

That doesn’t just go for data platforms, but anything else you purchase to help your company grow, including….

Chamber of Commerce Tools

What do we normally write about here on the Momentum blog? Chambers of commerce.

Well, they’re no exception to this phenomenon.

MANY companies join chambers without having any idea what chambers of commerce do, and how they are well-positioned to help them grow their businesses.

Unfortunately, many companies also end their first year of membership with the same understanding.

The chambers, themselves, do their best at getting information and education into their new members’ hands – some have ambassador programs, some host Membership 101 sessions, and many send out a formal “new member” packages.

All of these things are incredibly helpful.

But let me ask you a question…

Did you attend Membership 101?

When you received your “new member” box, did you go through all the items in it?

Be honest.

Like Microsoft Windows or new data software, your understanding at the beginning of a purchase you make has a lot to do with the results you get from it.

Your Chambers of Commerce… A 12-Month Subscription?

A chamber of commerce membership is, after all, an annual subscription.

You’re purchasing an array of services for one year, at which point you’ll be invited to pay again and continue to participate.  

For Momentum, and for our clients, we take this subscription – and the schedule it creates – very seriously.

Knowing that it would be incredibly rare to walk into a chamber of commerce and leave immediately with a new client, there’s a business development process… A sales cycle… That has to take place once you join.

For many companies, a sales cycle is actually longer than 12 months – meaning, if chamber of commerce networking and marketing is part of your strategy, you may need to make the commitment for the long haul.

No matter what, though, you’re not likely to reel in a new client a couple weeks after starting to engage with the chamber.

So, if you’re paying for a 12-month “subscription,” wouldn’t it make sense to get to know the chamber staff, network and services as soon as you possibly can to make the most of it?

We would argue yes.

A New Approach to Your Chambers of Commerce Memberships

We’re very excited to be working with the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce (PAACC), as they’re letting us try something new this fall.

First, let me explain how Momentum works, in general. (Here’s the full story)

We’ve been on both sides of this relationship – in fact, we still are… We sell memberships and sponsorships (through our association with World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara), and we buy memberships and sponsorships.

Which gives us a unique perspective on the value proposition that has to exist where those relationships intersect.

As a purchaser (for ourselves, and on behalf of our client roster), we spend money in hopes of getting as much value as possible in return… In general, that means expanding our networks and finding new leads.

But as a seller, we’re trying to get into the heads of our members, because the better a job we do for them in meeting their goals (above), the better a chance they’re going to write a renewal check with the time comes.

This is what Momentum does every day: helping companies create an investment strategy (time and money) that will help them get the most of out the money they’re spending on chambers of commerce; and helping chambers of commerce better understand their members.

So, back to the PAACC… What were going to be doing this fall is taking the Momentum service, and turning it into a workshop.

We’ll be presenting back-to-back sessions on making the most out of your chamber membership.

But this won’t be your traditional Membership 101.

No, we’ll be asking each participant to identify why they’re there, what they’re looking to accomplish, and who they hope to meet.

Then we’ll be helping that company create a strategy specific that they can then present to the chamber, as in, “These are the things you can help me do during my 12-month subscription that will ensure it turns into another.”

We’re looking forward to this because it’s a different look at how you can, and should be, approaching your chamber of commerce membership.

And, I think it will open some eyes, because while that “new member” package you received has an awful lot of information in it, there are actually a lot more things your chamber can do for you to help your company grow.

Just like Alt-Tab, you just need to know they exist.

Wrapping Up

In a more general sense, I’m hoping that this article will spur some thinking in you about taking the time to learn new software, processes or technology when you make a purchase.

We’re all guilty of not doing it.

I bought Doodly several years ago, knowing it would be a great tool for me in our storytelling.

I’ve used it – and I definitely feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it – but I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do.

My intent is to practice what I preach here, and get to know that software (I literally just stopped writing here and went and downloaded the updates).

I hope you’ll consider taking the same approach to your subscriptions, but especially when it comes to your chamber of commerce membership.

There is so much your chamber can do for you, but you have to know what’s possible, and then see how your needs match with the wide array of services they can provide.

And remember, what you need from them might not be listed on their web site.

Sometimes, the chamber team making a simple phone call for you can change your year.

Read the manual. Watch the videos. Attend the 101.

And if you need help navigating, book a 15-minute call with us here. That’s what we do.