We experienced a lot of firsts in 2020 and most of them weren’t great. But it was also a decent time of growth for some businesses. However, in most industries it was circumstances, not something that happened organically. You couldn’t have come close to predicting what the best business investment would have been if asked in January.
While watching WW84 this holiday weekend, I was struck by a line in the opening sequence that certainly applies to 2020:
“Sometimes you can’t see what you’re learning until you come out the other side.”
That seems to be the case for many of us struggling with the reality of COVID. What can we learn from our experience? We may not fully comprehend that until we’re able to look back on it years from now.
Many of us currently are just feeling the raw emotion, the disappointment, the loneliness, the frustration.
But there is potential for learning something too.
For businesses to be successful in the coming months, they will need to tailor their offerings to their audience’s needs and continue to evolve with those needs as restrictions and orders change.
While you know exactly why the chamber is the best business investment of 2021, it’s necessary to tell your community often and in different ways.
How to Sell the Chamber as the Best Business Investment of 2021
Take the ideas in this article and use them to create engaging content for your members and community in a way that reinforces this message.
Then share the ideas and concepts in this article in subtle forms. You can:
- mention these concepts in a post at a time.
- share in a comment on a post.
- post pictures of examples in action.
- share testimonials of these types of concepts.
- write a blog post about them.
- add them to your calendar.
- use keyword headers in your copy that reflect what benefits you offer.
- create interviews around a single helpful concept or benefit. You can interview a member who has a story to tell about a single benefit.
- sing a spoof song or parody adding ways you help in the song lyrics.
- put the benefits on a t-shirt in a humorous way.
- create swag that highlights benefits through humor.
- design an infographic of benefits of joining a chamber.
- host a class or webinar on helpful benefits. Have one of your ambassadors who has their own business lead it so they can provide their personal experience.
Chamber Membership in 2020 and Beyond
Chamber membership has always been a good value but in 2020 and beyond it is essential. Many small businesses can no longer afford to do what the chamber can do for them on their own. This list includes:
- introductions and networking
Many businesses understand how the chamber provides these things but they may not yet realize how it can impact their businesses during this pandemic and through the recovery.
Be very clear and specific about what you are doing for them.
You are helping businesses but even though that help still works when it happens behind the scenes, there are some benefits they need to actively pursue in order to take full advantage of them.
The chamber has long been the voice of business on a legislative level, keeping an eye on important bills and their impact on business as well as making sure businesses are heard by those legislators casting votes.
But with a global pandemic, advocacy has taken on an urgent outcry. State and municipalities’ reactions to the pandemic and numbers of cases have varied greatly from completely closed down to just requiring social distancing. That means in some states (or regions) most businesses are entirely closed while others must provide only the minimum of precautions.
Never has there been a greater need to help legislators understand the ramifications of these shutdowns. While everyone wants a healthy world, many chambers have been called upon to share the experience of their business members so that those making decisions are fully aware of the impact.
Chambers have also been essential in advocating for greater access to small business loans, more attractive loan packages, and the Paycheck Protection Program. Chambers were also involved in calling out the issues with some of the previous rounds of funding and how many big businesses benefited, while smaller businesses were left out because of the time it took to navigate the application process.
Some chambers noticed large needs in individual areas that they serve such as hospitality, the food/drink industry, and personal services. The Alameda Chamber created coalitions for their bars and restaurants as well as their personal services providers like hairstylists and salon owners. These industries were hit particularly hard as mandatory shutdowns were required.
The Alameda Chamber acted as a catalyst to bring together owner-operators–both members and non-members–in order to speak about their individual needs. They also worked with the city in order to ensure the city understood the industries’ needs as well. The conversations that occurred through these introductions were invaluable.
The voice of business requires amplification now more than ever before. It’s important members and potential members know what that means because advocacy is not something you can take a picture of for your brochure or website.
These days businesses have had to pivot. Many have ramped up their online presence to meet demand. Others have increased their time on–and built relationships with–social media.
But some businesses have been paralyzed by a lack of know-how. If they lack the skills, then they need to find a way to learn them. Some business people don’t have the budget to take classes and they don’t know where to find quality courses even if they did have the budget. Some have been burned in the past by seemingly “free” learning opportunities that require a larger investment to learn anything substantive.
Most chambers offer free (or nearly so) webinars on the types of skills that businesspeople need to know these days. Focused training on specific topics is the best business investment of time, especially when someone has researched and curated the sources.
It’s likely you have done some research and polling to understand what your community is missing, what they need to know, and either created learning opportunities with chamber pros or have worked with members to lead panel discussions or other educational webinars. Some chambers are working with their city, local SBA branch, and/or SCORE chapter to create or share vital info and courses.
When sharing these learning opportunities, it’s important in the webinar descriptions to be clear about what attendees will learn and why that’s important. Include things they’ll be able to do by the end of the webinar, actionable info is always best.
Introductions and Networking
Most people know a chamber of commerce offers an excellent opportunity to network. But it’s also a fantastic place to make very specific introductions as the chamber has a good reputation in the community.
Explain to members and potential members that one of the services you offer is specific introductions. Perhaps a business hopes to expand. A chamber pro can match them up with the individual who can help them meet their goals. A business might want to start some sort of professional partnership with another type of business. Maybe they have space they want to rent inside their store. Perhaps the owner is hoping to give consigners or artisans a spot in their showroom.
The chamber can help make introductions as it is one of the best-positioned entities in the community. If a business can’t seem to make any headway in zoning or has a question for a city department, the chamber can figure out the specific person who can help the business get their answers or appointment and make that introduction.
Making appropriate, advantageous introductions is an advanced form of networking that is the hallmark of a leader.
In 2020, many businesses pivoted their offerings. While those pivots brought them closer in line with their customers’ needs and desires, the pivots wouldn’t work if the community didn’t know about them. This is another benefit of chamber membership.
The chamber has a wide audience in both the public and private sectors. It can help a business market in commonly-known areas like social media (and shares). A chamber can also help in lesser-known areas like community boards and websites.
The chamber knows what local online resources there are to help each business reach their desired markets. Sometimes a business can be so caught up in the pivot and what’s needed on the operations side to see it happen, that it forgets that marketing and letting people know of the change in the business is as important as the change itself.
Chamber membership is always a sound business investment. But in 2021, with many businesses watching where every dime goes, many businesses are talking themselves out of joining. Even a few hundred dollars right now can seem enormous.
But if these businesses feel the benefits from joining the chamber and investing in the community outweighs the cost of not joining or they can see the value in the dues, they’ll be more likely to join. One way to do this is to show them the value they will get as it relates to the pandemic. What do the businesses need and what are you giving them?
You need to be the one to tell them. Many simply don’t have time to figure it out on their own. 2021 does have the potential to be a year of growth for many. It all depends on what they choose to invest their resources in.
If you want your community members transcending COVID feeling like they learned something and made some good investments with their limited resources, then help them see that the best business investment of 2021 is your chamber.