I’ve been toying with some language lately that I like – the idea of thinking about your chamber of commerce membership as a subscription.
Doesn’t matter what kind of subscription you compare it to.
Could be as simple as a magazine subscription. Software subscription. Cheese of the month.
That’s not to weigh the importance of any subscription against another, but if you consider how you approach any subscription you purchase, it may offer some insight as to how you should be approaching your membership (and then I’ll tell you how we’re working with the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce to help you do it!).
But let’s go with a magazine subscription for this comparison, as I imagine its something that most everyone has experienced in their lives.
Your Magazine Subscription “Strategy”
Presumably, when you sign up for a magazine subscription, you have an intent to read the issues of the magazine that show up in the mail, or in your e-mail box, yes?
Take a moment and consider the decision-making that goes into a magazine subscription.
If you’re a professional, you might have to make a decision as to where to send the magazine: is it something you’ll read at home, or at the office?
When will you have time to read it? That might help you make the decision as to whether you keep the issues on your desk, in a rack near your favorite chair or, dare I say, in the bathroom.
Will you read the magazine straight through, cover-to-cover, or do you like certain sections and skip others? (I’m a loyal reader/user of GAMES Magazine, and as much as I try to shake it, every single issue I do the puzzles in the same exact order!).
Will you be disappointed if an issue arrives, and you aren’t able to make time for it that month?
Once you’ve read it, can you repurpose the issue in your office or waiting room, for others to enjoy?
See what you did there?
For something so elementary as a magazine subscription, you created a strategy for making sure you’ll experience return on your investment.
You’ve made a plan, you’ve set up metrics (in your mind) to make the most out of the subscription, and given yourself a starting point to determine if, after 12 months, it’s worth spending the money again.
That new issue arrives in the mail, and something inside you reminds you that earlier in the year you spent $19.99 to get it, and that you’ve laid out steps to get your money’s worth.
So, how does this apply to chamber of commerce memberships?
Your Chamber of Commerce Membership “Subscription”
Think about what you’re purchasing when you sign up for a chamber of commerce membership.
You’re buying 12 months of membership, with an opportunity – if you see a suitable return on your investment – to renew at the end of those 12 months.
Making the most of it – getting the best ROI possible – requires similar thinking to what we laid out above.
Only, of course, the likelihood is that your chamber “subscription” will yield far higher ROI than your dozen issues of Coastal Living, in the end. (Nothing against Coastal Living – it’s an awesome publication, but we’re here to grow our businesses!).
Strangely, we find that many people put far more thinking into their desire to get ROI from their easy subscriptions than they do their chamber membership.
(Software subscriptions are another issue altogether – but we dealt with that in our last blog)
We’re here to change that – broadly, as the business community thinks about allocating marketing dollars in the post-pandemic environment… And individually, as we work with companies to develop their own chamber membership and sponsorship strategies.
Let’s talk about one way we’re doing it…
“Taking Membership 101 to the Next Level”
A cool part of building strong relationships with various chambers of commerce is that some are willing to help you explore ideas, in the interest of creating a better experience for their members.
I’m very pleased to have such a relationship with the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber (PAACC) and their outstanding staff.
For the past year-plus, we’ve been working with the PAACC Ambassador Committee, helping them to identify and create mechanisms for delivering the most value possible to the companies with which they interact.
It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’ve had the great opportunity to work with a fantastic team of chamber volunteers.
When PAACC president Chris Heck told me the next step he’d like to see is how to bring the member value conversation directly to the members, I told him I’d been working on something.
I ran past him our idea for a Member Value Roundtable – what I call “taking Membership 101 to the next level.”
We’ve all been to Membership 101 sessions for our chamber memberships, and they are invaluable for meeting the chamber team, getting an overview of chamber offerings, and getting a “feel” for chamber events.
The Member Value Roundtable, which I proposed to Chris, and which he agreed to partner with us on, now scheduled for September 22, is like Membership 101 on steroids.
What we’re going to do is run two separate workshops with 12-15 companies at a time, and walk them through the creation of a strategy for their PAACC membership.
In a group setting, we’re going to draw out of them why they’re there, what specifically they’re looking to accomplish, and who they want to meet.
The group setting is important, as opposed to sitting alone and filling out a worksheet – because when you say out loud to a roomful of people that you’re looking to accomplish X, Y and Z… (1) you take the extra steps to ensure your answer is a worthwhile one; and (2) you create a roomful of allies in your quest.
That’s one of the coolest things about chambers of commerce is people’s willingness to help you meet your goals.
But they have to know them.
Which means YOU have to know them.
We’re going to draw it out of you, and then help you create a strategy for reaching them – within the parameters of your chamber of commerce membership “subscription.”
But here’s the best part… Also in the room will be members of the PAACC staff, listening to the conversation in real time.
Why is that important?
Because the chamber staff are the ones who can actually take the guidance you give them about what you need, and help you to fulfill it.
Essentially, what were doing here is the first step – call it the onboarding process – of what we do at Momentum with all of our clients, which is helping you do develop your own marching orders in a way that’s going to yield results.
It can be hard work honing down to exactly what you need, but when you do, it’s much easier to not only focus, but to communicate your goals.
Anyone who joins us in the 9/22 session(s) will have the chance to do just that – with a great deal of support in the room with you.
Remember: The Clock is Ticking
Imagine if you purchased that magazine subscription above and for the first six months of the subscription, you left the issues sitting in your mailbox, before you finally grabbed the seventh and read it.
It would really put a damper on your ability to achieve good return on your investment, wouldn’t it?
Again, we look at chamber memberships the same way – and this is a critical piece that many don’t pay attention to… Why the magazine subscription is such a good analogy.
There are many factors that play into your ROI for a chamber membership.
Your sales cycle – provided you’ve identified new business as your primary reason for joining the chamber – is probably the biggest.
If you’ve got a six-month sales cycle, and you don’t engage right away in a meaningful way when you start your membership, the chances of you signing a new client before the end of your membership subscription get narrower every day.
Other things play in, as well… Your company’s capacity. Or, the nature of your content calendar.
It’s important to jump in as soon as possible and start using your membership, so that when key milestones in your own business model hit, you’re ready to engage the chamber in amplifying them.
Accounting firms are a great example… If you’re an accounting firm and you don’t aggressively utilize your chamber membership between June and December, you’re missing out – because everyone knows your team isn’t going to events or taking on speaking roles between January and April.
If you’re in retail, are you going to start working your chamber network in December, when the Holidays hit? Or six months before, to plant the seed with as wide an audience as possible?
How does your calendar match up with your 12-month membership subscription, and how can you take the best advantage at the right times?
Make sure that when you pay for 12 months of chamber membership, you are ready to use 12 months of chamber membership.
Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce Members… Join Us on 9/22
I want the PAACC Member Value Roundtable to work.
“Work,” is an operative word here, because I will guarantee that any company that sits in either of the sessions will get value from it.
How do I know? Because it’s what we do on a daily basis, and have built our entire business model around the concept.
But I do hope that people attend.
It’s a new program. A new idea. And, sure, coming from the chamber, itself, it can seem self-serving, to some degree.
“Come take an hour of your time to learn out to use our services better.”
But, chamber members should always remember that every single staff member at the organization’s day is better when you get value out of your membership.
Yes, customer service-oriented people are drawn to the various roles within a chamber, but let’s take that out for a moment… Remove the personal piece (even though the PAACC staff rocks when it comes to personalized attention!).
Bottom line is… If you’re happy, and you feel that you’re getting value day-in and day-out… Then chances are you’ll continue to renew your membership, purchase tickets to events and support the chamber financially.
That’s why, as much as I want this program to work and to be well-attended, Chris and his team at PAACC want that even more: a roomful of members telling them exactly what floats their boat… So they can go make it happen.
If you’re a PAACC member, I hope you’ll join us on 9/22 for one of the two morning sessions – just an hour of your time, and I promise worthwhile networking while you’re at it.
If you’re in a different market, I will keep you posted on how the sessions go, and hopefully have the opportunity to reprise them at your chamber in the near future.
PAACC members can register here for the Member Value Roundtable.
Can’t attend the workshops, or need more hands-on help building momentum through your chamber of commerce membership? Book a 15-minute call with us here.