I recently posed this question to the Chamber Professionals Group on Facebook.
We received a slew of input from chamber professionals from across North America.
Here is my 2 cents.
I believe most things in business come down to systems. Michael Gerber discusses this at length in his E-Myth best seller.
A chamber needs a system that identifies a new business when they open. Maybe this comes from city business licenses. Maybe it just comes from everybody on staff keeping their eyes open. Whatever the system, your chamber has to know when somebody in your community is now in business.
Then what? It depends on your staff size but at the very least some activity has to occur that shows that business owner that the chamber is glad the person started a business and that the chamber is there to help them in any way it can. This probably isn’t the time to close the sale, although that can happen.
This is more of an awareness and relationship building phase. For me, because I love social media and technology, that new business person would go into my Nimble Social CRM. I would learn what I can about them and their business and go to work trying to serve them. Before they are a member, you may ask? Yes. I believe strongly that when you give gifts and are generous that life rewards you. This can be called reciprocity or karma or any number of other things. But the fact remains, the world is built around give to get, not get first and then give.
At some point your system has to tell you to move from the awareness and relationship building phase into the conversion phase. This is best done, in my opinion, by inviting the business owner to a free luncheon or other event where you can introduce them to the chairman of the board and mayor. A few days later, ask for the sale. For some prospects, they don’t want that networking, they just need to know that they will get an ROI. Whatever the case, create a system to move people through your funnel.