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Chambers Need Change Too

Chambers Need Change Too

Having been involved with Chambers of Commerce for well over a decade, WOW how things have changed. The belief has always been “Open a business; join your local Chamber of Commerce”. Well chambers need change too and in today’s tech savvy world, things have evolved and change is upon us.

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Chambers Need Change Too

As much as businesses realize Chamber membership has its benefits, it’s not the only option available to grow and network ones business or services. So as times change, so has your local Chamber to keep pace with those changes. Some continue to approach change with caution and as the general observation many Chambers have not adapted well by continuing to do things the way they have always been done. The reality is “If you continue do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always got”.
Over the past several years I have worked with dozens and dozens of Chambers of Commerce to bring additional revenues into their operations. Sadly many continue to lose money as well as members and now experience challenges with membership retention. The monthly mixers, annual dinner and business expo are great but that may not be the end all be all for your business.

Chambers Need Change Too

That being said maybe it’s time chambers need change too and with a few easy tweaks or suggestions to improve Chambers, Chamber member services could breathe new life into improving the networking win-win bottom line for all involved.

Maybe it’s become more about enhanced programs, not mixers! With all the chambers I have worked with (or attempted to work with) most are offering the same old programs. Monthly they hold a mixer of sorts that generally brings in the same participants each and every time, or possibly do a new business member ribbon cutting here and there. Sometimes they offer a guest speaker to a workshop, which is awesome, however business members are looking for direction and continued education not just singular talking head workshop opportunities.

Again, it’s about programs, not just mixers, workshops and certainly not all about “feel good” ribbon cuttings. It’s rare to find a Chamber that has greater than 10% penetration of all available business owners as members…why is that? Should a community have a business population of 5000 businesses, it’s unusual to find more than 500 members in the Chamber. Simple math then tells us 95% of local businesses do not care enough or even know about the local chamber. This also should be understood to mean that 95% of all businesses are not openly available to refer business or be referred.

I have seen countless surveys of business members and non-business members. The result from those businesses that are not nor have never been members is very telling and consistent in nature. When all you see are the same people month after month, giving them another business card will simply not work most of the time.

In Chamber Life…Networking well with others is critical! A mixer is only the networking start point, not the end all be all. Growth in your business is not solely about membership numbers or Chamber leaders. Consider being open to having programs and offerings available from those that may not be Chamber members as well. Sadly, I have observed Chambers reject money making opportunities and other valuable programs that could double their membership numbers, simply because it was prefaced in their bylaw requirements of Chamber membership. This is a short sighted approach of days gone by.

Local Chambers, just like their members are in business to make money too. Maybe it’s come time for a Chamber to business relationship overhaul. When businesses question the value of Chamber membership or Chambers discover lack of loyalty and commitment from their local business population is possibly a “pause for the cause” in order?

Chambers Need Change Too

There are new and innovative ideas on the horizon that would help increase membership and membership retention. Ideas that would buy back the “win-win” scenario and undeniable values associated with partnering with your local Chamber of Commerce. In today’s economy business owners are watching every outgoing dollar and simply need to justify what’s working and what’s not.

When the money is going out and honest efforts are being made, with a bit of hard work, both Chamber and business members alike expect a return. Chambers Need Change Too, as all good things in life do. So is there room for improvement? Can Chambers and businesses once again dominate the landscape and become relevant to economic growth and prosperity?

…that being said, would love to hear your thoughts.