How’s your chamber of commerce’s relationship with your members?
Really… If you asked them, Rotten Tomatoes style, what kind of a score would they give you?
Is that a scary question, or one you’d go ahead and roll the dice on?
Knowing that every one of your hundreds, or even thousands, of members has their own individual view of what you’re supposed to be doing for them… Well, a survey like that can go a lot of different ways. (I once had a member who I’d given two speaking roles and three referrals throughout the year tell me they didn’t feel like they were getting any value from their membership, so I’ve been there!).
At the center of everything we do at Momentum – whether we’re working with chambers of commerce OR working with their members – is creating a stronger, better, more interactive and more effective relationship between them.
From a member’s perspective, a stronger relationship is going to allow us to accomplish more within the chamber’s network and services.
From a chamber’s perspective… Well, that’s what this blog is all about.
STRIVING FOR A stronger, better, more interactive and more effective relationship with members
We like that phrase: having a stronger, better, more interactive and more effective relationship with members – and we believe achieving it comes from always looking at service delivery from your members’ point-of-view.
With the understanding that the more you know about what your members need to help grow their businesses, the better a job you’re going to be able to do delivering for them.
Last week, I spoke with the board of directors for a chamber of commerce in Upstate New York.
One of the primary things that we talked about is a chamber working to consistently get feedback from members.
During the discussion, one of the chamber’s board members raised an important question… How do you do that?
Simple, but critical question, because we all know that e-mail polls don’t work – I talk to chamber after chamber after chamber who are desperately trying to get their members to talk to them, and know that busy people ignore polls.
So, what is the solution?
How to you get the data and insight and information you need from your members, so you can best help them?
The answer I gave them: Any way you can!
Let’s talk about why this is important…
Why DOES A CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Need Feedback from ITS Members?
The whole premise of this exercise is…
The more you know about your members, the better your attendance will be at events, because you will know what kinds of events they’re looking for.
The more you know about your members, the stronger your programs and initiatives will be, because you know what’s top-of-mind for them.
And, the more you know about your members, the higher your retention rate will be, because throughout the year, you’ll be continually addressing the pain points and topics of interest they have.
We say it all the time… You don’t work for a chamber of commerce (or last at a chamber) if you don’t have a servant’s spirit.
From my own chamber experience, I know that if you could, you would provide hands-on, customized solutions and service to every member of your organization.
But, you can’t. There’s just too many of them.
You try, though, by creating content, programs and events throughout the year that will benefit as many members as possible.
A lot of that content – and I’ve seen it in action with chambers everywhere – is concocted by the chamber staff or pitched to them.
While there’s definitely intuition that goes into that, and a general understanding of what’s going on in the community, you have to admit there’s often some guesswork.
We say why guess?
Have your members tell you EXACTLY what they’d like to hear from you. What they’d like to see you spending your time on.
But, We’ve Tried – They Won’t Talk!
Some principles to bear in mind:
- Comprehensive surveys are much harder to get people to participate in than short ones.
- People get inundated with surveys and review requests every day… What would make them answer yours?
- Clearly, your survey helps you… How can you let them know that it ultimately helps them?
So, how do you do it?
Here are some ideas:
Yes, this is the ideal, if you can pull it off. Few chambers I’ve met have the bandwidth to meet with a large number of their members face-to-face – especially when it comes to small businesses. There are just too many. But, it is the best way to get feedback from your members, so somewhere in your daily activities should be connecting directly with as many members as you can.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Ambassador Program
A couple years back, we created our Momentum Ambassador Training, which received such good response in-person that we created our monthly Virtual Ambassador Training. As a result, we talk with a lot of chambers about their ambassador programs. Implemented correctly, a team of ambassadors can be your best conduit to learning what makes your members tick, and how you can best serve them.
One of the things chambers of commerce are best at is events. And, at every event, attendees generally have to walk past a registration table. What a great opportunity to ask them to answer a one-off question as they’re tearing the backing from their nametags.
We’re not fans of being entered in a drawing when taking a survey (have you ever seen the company offering it actually announce the winner of the drawing after it’s over?). How about when you come to a networking mixer and pick up your drink ticket that comes along with their registration, if they fill out a short, three-question survey they can have a second?
I always loved the word “convening” when it comes to the role of a chamber of commerce – it’s just so well-stated, but also so versatile. One of the often overlooked secret powers of a chamber is the ability to get 12-15 companies to get together, sit around a conference table, and talk about… anything. Well, how about talking about themselves? Our Member Value Workshop uses this discussion format to help companies tell their story, air their challenges and build a referral network – and provided invaluable information for the chamber.
Once you get their attention, though, how can you make both of your time and effort valuable?
What Info Can You Get Out of Your Members?
For us, this falls into the same category as above… If you’re collecting information whenever you can, collect whatever you can.
Obviously, there are initiatives your chamber will run that will require more comprehensive feedback.
But, sometimes, hitting them up one question at a time can be incredibly effective.
Some of the questions we like include:
- What topic affecting your business keeps you up at night?
- If you had $10K extra right now for your business, what would you spend it on?
- Who are you looking to be introduced to through the chamber of commerce?
Last year, we attended the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals in Gettysburg.
Under the leadership of Tiffany Ott (Podcast Episode), PACP does a neat thing for sponsors at their conferences – they do a speed networking session, where attendees come to each table and the sponsors get five minutes to give their spiel, then participants rotate tables.
I decided I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity – to collect some information.
On our podcast, IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW, we ask every guest a question… “If you had a blank check to do whatever you wanted in your community, what would you use it for?”
As each group arrived at my table, I circulated blank index cards and asked them, while I talked, to write an answer to that question on the card.
Why did I do that?
Well, that exercise, from being in front of 25-30 chamber of commerce executives, has informed our content, spurred new ideas and created points of connection right up to today.
Why communicate about whatever I want to write about when I had 30 people, my perfect audience, tell me exactly what they’d like to hear from me?
Just look at that list of topics that they care about.
You can do the same with your members.
Of course, sometimes it needs to be more strategic, such as feedback or input on a current local or regional issue, or how a specific topic, e.g. workforce availability, is affecting them.
But, start seeing all information you can gather as useful and useable, and you’ll be able to purpose that data in many different ways.
Instituting a Culture of Data Collection at your chamber of commerce
At Momentum, we are very fortunate to have partnered with Rel8ed Analytics (a Coface company) to work on a number of projects and initiatives together, including our Diligence Leads for Chambers of Commerce program.
While we’re very proud of the work we do with Rel8ed, one of the most important things that we’ve taken from the relationship is an appreciation for data and data analytics.
We know full well that the better information we can gather from our clients, prospects and stakeholders, the better job we’re going to be able to do in communicating with them, and serving them.
So, under the tutelage of Bob Lytle, Rel8ed’s founder and Chief Innovation Officer, we have developed a mindset of data collection at Momentum.
It’s not an intentional survey here, or a social media poll there… It’s a culture. A way-of-life. Where every conversation, e-mail chain or inquiry is an opportunity to collect information that can then be used to enhance not only that relationship, but others.
Now, now, now… Don’t look at it as invasive. We really are always trying to make relevant connections that provide benefit, such as:
Solutions – If you’re stuck on something in your business, tell people in your networking circle about it. One of the great things I’ve found about chamber of commerce ecosystems is that people, especially small businesses, like to help each other. I can tell you, once a colleague talks about a challenge with me, my brain starts working on their behalf.
Referrals – This is our bread-and-butter… If you tell me you’re looking for something, and in another conversation someone tells me they have it, it’s an easy and invaluable connection to make.
Content – I’m a firm believer that if I talk to two or three people who are concerned about the same thing, it’s worth a blog. If I talk to five people concerned about the same thing, it’s a viable webinar. If I talk to ten… We go to a chamber of commerce, make them aware, and offer to do something in partnership with them for a bigger audience.
That mindset, spread throughout your chamber, will help you to make the most out of every interaction you have with members, to collect information, data and anecdotes that you can use to strengthen their membership experience.
We believe wholeheartedly that when it comes to chamber programming, you don’t need guesswork – if you have open, two-way communication with your members.
At Momentum, we offer a number of services designed to help you understand your members better, to help you more effectively deliver for them – and retain them at the end of their membership year.
Want to talk about how we can help your chamber of commerce grow? Set up a 15-minute Zoom with us at your convenience.