chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, networking, membership, social media, newsletter, marketing, best practices

The speed of business is insane – and for a chamber of commerce, taking care of hundreds or even thousands of members, even more so.

This is an “it is what it is” concept, and chamber teams everywhere and every day work to figure out ways to make it work.

But, being excessively busy comes with a couple realities:

  • You don’t have time to do things that aren’t bringing back significant return; and…
  • You don’t necessarily have the time to evaluate whether things you’re doing are bringing back significant return.

Where’s this leave us? With a pressing need to be intentional about getting the most bang for the buck for every task we take on as a chamber.

An area where we see chambers – let’s face it, not just chambers, but all businesses – miss on this is comms, specifically social media and newsletters.

These are critical tools in a chamber of commerce’s tool chest, and the predominant way for you to reach your members.

You need them working at optimal performance.

Let’s look at why they might not be (and how to make them do so)…

Social Media – “Posting to Post”

Social media is probably the best example of doing something because you’re supposed to, when it comes to chambers.

Everyone knows you have to be “doing” social media – you can’t exist without it.

Social media is the avenue by which you tell your story to a broad audience, rally your members and attract people to your events.

But, is your social media program really doing those things?

For the amount of time you’re spending on it, are you getting a return on that investment?

chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, membership, social media, marketingA quick look at chamber of commerce social media accounts would largely suggest not.

Oh, there are certainly outliers – chambers who are fantastic at social media, and who have trained their audiences to get their information there.

But, we spend a lot of time looking at chambers’ social media, and can tell you that those who are really good at it are few and far between.

That’s because the message has always been, “You have to be posting X times a week.”

When it should be, “Post with the intent of making an impact.”

We’re all users of social media, right?

What would you rather see? What do you find value in?

Daily posts of pre-packaged memes about how great it is to be a chamber of commerce member (these are out of control, people! Just sayin’)? Or, timely, relevant expertise that will help you with something you’re dealing with that day?

Metrics are important – but, different metrics than you’re thinking of.

Remember, your goal is not likes… Your goal is event attendees, engagement and new members.

If those goals aren’t being met, then your social media is not getting the job done.

Best Practices for Your CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Social Media Program

  • Identify your audience – Are you using it as a channel to communicate with members, or hoping that prospects will stumble onto your feed? I can guarantee you that prospects will be much more interested in membership if they see on social media that your chamber is the place to be because of great content.
  • Build content to create value for that audience – Chambers have their fingers in a lot of different things, so this isn’t always easy. But, you’re going to find that the sharper you target your content on social media, the better it’s going to do.
  • Create a culture around your social media – There is so much noise in the marketplace, and it’s getting harder and harder to get your message to your audience. Letting your members know that social media – or, even a specific social media platform – is the best way to hear from you can help you make and keep a stronger connection (plus, save you time covering all bases!).
  • Constantly assess and analyze – Times and trends are changing more quickly than ever. Just because Facebook worked for you three years ago, doesn’t mean it’s the best platform for you now. LinkedIn just blew up their algorithms – they’re completely different. Your up-and-coming audience – your next generation of business owners and employees – receive their information differently. Find where your efforts are yielding results. Then focus there.

Don’t use staff resources that you don’t have enough of to post for no one to see.

It’s time-consuming, and it doesn’t matter.

Take the time, and put forth the effort, to give your audience the good stuff, and they’ll make it worth your while.

Chamber of Commerce Newsletters – “If You Build It, They Will Come” (Hint: That’s Not Accurate)

When’s the last time you looked at your newsletter open rate? Click rate?

When’s the last time you went through your e-mail list and checked for dead accounts? Or, saw which of your members never open your e-mails?

For as many AI-generated spam e-mails as we all get on a daily basis, corporate spam blockers are getting more and more sophisticated every day.

You do have members who would like to be getting your e-mails who aren’t – I guarantee it.

You know this is true, because how many times has someone said to you they would have come to an event had they known about it?

Plenty, right?

That’s why in our free resource we provide for new chambers members – You Joined the Chamber of Commerce… Now What? – one of the tips we offer is to whitelist your new organization’s e-mails.

Despite what I said in the section above, your newsletter is your most precious communications commodity.

It’s a window for you to communicate directly with your audience – with their permission – without having to rely on algorithms, time of day or their annual “I’m done with social media” tantrum.

Your message goes right into their personal inbox, for them to consume at their convenience.

What does that mean?

It means that you should do absolutely everything in your power to protect that channel.

Goals for Your Newsletter

  • Consistently optimize your e-mail list – Bigger chambers may have someone on staff whose job this is, and certainly when you’re doing your annual member directory is a good time to make updates. Pay attention to your metrics regularly, but don’t just accept the numbers for what they are (e.g. when I send a Momentum newsletter, I have eight e-mail addresses that immediately and automatically come up as opened AND clicked every time… Nothing I can do about it, but as I’m always looking to improve, I recognize that my percentages aren’t as high as the system says, as a result).
  • Get deep – We talk about “getting deeper” into your members often, which means make sure that more than just your main contact are seeing your e-mails, coming to events, joining committees, etc. When a new member signs on, that’s when they’re the most excited to engage. Get the e-mails then. This is especially important today, with rampant job-hopping in the workforce.
  • Consistently evaluate your effectiveness – One of the nice things about e-mail newsletter metrics is that they give you lots to work with. Experimenting is a big part of newsletter success – from your content to your layout to time-of-day… Some approaches are going to hit better than others. If you’re running the same Tuesday morning e-mail, in the same format, that you’ve been running since 2018… You’re probably missing people.
  • “White Hat” your newsletter – Loved that phrase since the day I heard it. Black-hatting is cheating offline to get better online results (e.g. paying for reviews). White-hatting is using real-life efforts to support getting better online results. A great example of this is, a few times a year, poll a dozen members offline to see if they’re actually getting your blast e-mails. Use their feedback to make enhancements and do better.

As a chamber of commerce, you have to do a newsletter… And, it’s a good bet that it’s your best resource for reaching people.

Can it be even more effective? We say yes, it can.

If you have an open rate of 25%, 30% even 40%…. Find out why the other 75%, 70% or even 60% aren’t opening your e-mails.

Find out why people don’t click on your links.

Then, fix your newsletter so they do.

Creating a Culture of Having an Impact at Your Chamber of Commerce

A critical component of implementing these kinds of continually-improving systems and analysis is ensuring that everyone on your team is a part of it.

Your chamber executive can sit all day in her office designing strategies, but if those aren’t implemented out on the floor, they’re pointless.

Everyone on your team should be intent upon improving the return on the tasks they take on every day.

If that means going into the database, confirming contact information and looking at newsletter open rates for 20 companies a day until you’ve done them all… It’s worth the time. (It’s important to note that if you’re sending your newsletter to dead e-mail addresses, it triggers spam filters, and actually affects your deliverability to your good addresses!).

If it’s going through one of your social media accounts and making sure you’re following your members, in hopes that they’ll reciprocate… It’s worth the time.

Has someone on your team looked at which of your newsletters had the best open rates, and what might’ve been different in them to inspire people to click?

Chambers have a lot to do on a daily basis.

chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, newsletter, momentum, membership, networkingWe would argue that taking some time daily, weekly, even monthly, to make your communications with your members better would bring a greater return on that time than a lot of other things being done.

Have interns?

This would actually be a great job for them… Think about it:

Yes, there’s database work – kind of cliché for intern programs.

But, information needs to be verified – I think we would all argue that it behooves young professionals to learn how to talk on the phone.

In addition, this is the science of marketing at work.

It’s not flashy billboards or YouTube commercials.

It’s taking someone who already said they want to do business with you – a member – and finding better ways to guide them into renewal after renewal after renewal.

This is the kind of takeaway that interns will get tremendous value from as they embark on their careers…. And it will make your chamber of commerce stronger.

Take Action (EASY)

I want you to do one easy thing, just to get started on this…

Pull up your metrics on your recent e-mail communications and take a look at how they did.

If you don’t have time right now, print them out and save them for when you’re sitting on your couch at night watching Survivor.

I will guarantee you, just in that simple act of looking at your numbers, you will find something interesting and useable.

Maybe your e-mails sent during the lunch hour performed better than the ones sent in the morning.

Perhaps that one newsletter where you started with a personal note from your executive director got more opens than the ones that have your upcoming events at the top.

Why would your board members not be opening your e-mails? (they may not be seeing them)

It’s all usable information, and if you use it, you will see the level and quality of your interactions with members grow.

Wrapping Up

I laugh all the time about this kind of stuff, because I was always the full-steam-ahead “idea guy”… Spending time sifting through a database was absolutely foreign to me.

Then, I became a small business owner, and I learned attention to detail.

The reality is… If I’m spending time on messaging that no one is reading, then I’m wasting my time.

And none of us have time to waste.

So, it’s in all of our best interest to get it right: understand your audience, find out exactly where they hang out, craft a message directly for them, and follow up to make sure it’s all working.

Understood, the days can get overwhelming, and the idea of digging into this is sometimes just too much.

So, let’s talk. (Set up a no-strings-attached 15-minute Zoom with us here)

Our job is to help you make your chamber of commerce stronger.

Helping you to optimize the time your spending is one of the many tools we use to do so.