Although Chamber of Commerce organizations are at the heart of every city and region’s economy, many board members have a difficult time knowing how to expand their membership base beyond just word of mouth referrals. Why is that so? Isn’t an organization that helps local businesses a win-win solution?
Here at SEO’D Digital Marketing, we’ve worked with several chamber of commerce organizations and their board members to analyze, rebrand, and strategize how they can increase their impact on the community.
Here’s what we’ve found:
Why Chamber of Commerce Organizations Have a Hard Time Expanding
Reason #1. You’re losing members faster than you’re gaining them.
When a local business owner decides to join your Chamber of Commerce, they are sold on the benefits of joining. Perhaps they want to make known their new business to potential clients. Perhaps they want to use the benefits such as discounted prices on ads or entry to events. Regardless of what specific benefits your Chamber offers, they’re there to grow their business and prosper.
So why do they stop their membership? Perhaps it’s because their needs and their desires were unmet. Did you promise them the moon when you could only provide them half? Did promotions and events fizzle out in your network? Did things continue to get canceled or postponed because of COVID? Are there not enough opportunities for growth, networking, or marketing?
The best way to keep your members is to help them thrive. Firstly, ask your members through informal and formal methods (such as a survey) what they’d like to see and what they want more of. Ask them about their business needs and what they want from their Chamber. Explore what other Chambers near you offer their members and see what you emulate.
Reason #2. You’re lost on how to market the organization.
This is a big struggle for most Chamber board members and directors. You’re great at running your own operations, at networking with people, and running the organization — but marketing? Ads? Online strategy? Social media? Forget about it. It seems like there’s so much to do and all of it falls on the shoulders of just a few members. Even if you muster the energy and time to work on marketing the Chamber, you may lack a clear strategy and plan on what to do.
Fortunately, it starts with a plan on what kind of audiences you want to reach and figuring out what the best platforms are for your target audience. Sounds easy, right? It will take time, testing and trials, and some researching into the various free marketing methods out there such as content creation, SEO, and SMS marketing.
Reason #3. You’re bogged down by administrative tasks.
As a Chamber of Commerce administrator, you may be in charge of hundreds of business profiles that live on your website and directory. If they change their information, who should be responsible for changing it on the website? Is it on the business owner or is it on you, the administrator? Depending on the layout and structure of your website (your CRM), the business owners may be able to directly update their information for their business profile on their own. Or it may be on you to updated everything. With a great website that is easy to use, this necessary process can be shortened and (less) painful.
Reason #4. You’re manually communicating and posting everything.
Communication is critical for every Chamber of Commerce. But with so many different platforms such as email, text message, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more… Some administrators find themselves needing to post the same message again and again. How many times can you really send out an excited message about the Friday mixer? Pictures need to be resized to fit the different platforms, you need to remember multiple accounts, you need to keep on schedule for events…. The list goes on and on, trapping administrators into a hamster wheel of posting. To resolve this, be smart about your communication platforms and utilize automation tools that post on multiple platforms for you and allow you to schedule out your posts in advance. Scheduling your posts allows you to batch create messages, set when they will be posted, and then voila! Step away and worry about it no more.
6 Creative Ways to Expand Your Chamber of Commerce Memberships
Along with having a great chamber of commerce website design, and implementing a local SEO strategy to help grow website traffic, below are seven additional marketing ideas for your chamber of commerce:
- Email Newsletters
The use of newsletters for email marketing has become a staple of businesses around the world. Why? Because it’s effective and doesn’t cost anything, with the exception of the time, it takes to develop and send the email. With the right software, you can produce a series of newsletters that are sent automatically based on the needs of members. The best part is that you can send email content that’s targeted and customized. There are a variety of email newsletter templates that can be found online to get you started.
Pro Tip: Make sure the subject line is catchy and creative, and you’re not making any of these common email marketing mistakes so that members actually open the email.
- Educational Seminars
The use of educational seminars for the purpose of marketing should be stable in the marketing strategy of every Chamber of Commerce. It’s because most members join exclusively for the purpose of learning what they don’t know in an effort to stay in compliance with regulations and learn ways to grow their business. In fact, educational seminars should be held on a weekly basis so that members know they can always gain value from their Chamber of Commerce membership. This includes educational opportunities in accounting, leadership, human resources, business licensing, and many other topics.
- Social Media Engagement
Increasing engagement on social media is important because building a strong online community can attract more members. Through social media engagement, you can provide information that’s useful and drives potential members to the Chamber of Commerce website. Social media engagement isn’t just about the number of followers you can get or the number of likes you can curate; it’s about how many people are truly engaged through comments and other communications. This means you’ll have to post on your chosen social media platforms with some level of frequency.
Given the busy schedules of most professionals, a webinar is often a preferred way to receive training. Hosting a webinar to promote the services provided by the Chamber of Commerce is a great way to get the attention of potential members. You are essentially providing them with an example of what they can gain by becoming a member.
- Blog Articles
Blogging is one of the best ways to promote any business. When doing so for a Chamber of Commerce, it’s important to write articles that are relevant and useful, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and other marketing requirements. You can keep readers coming back to the website with tips on how to achieve success in business.
- Networking Events
It almost goes without saying that frequent networking events should be held to attract new members to the Chamber of Commerce. Whether it’s an event that’s held in person or virtually, members should be able to connect with other professionals because it adds value to their business.
Are you going to try out any of these marketing methods and tactics for your chamber of commerce organization? Contrary to popular belief, marketing is no longer about promoting ‘me’. Instead, focus on promoting and helping your members and potential members (local business owners). By providing value to the community, you will increase your chamber’s reputation and presence in people’s minds and have a greater audience when you promote the value of membership.