Data is soooo important. Right? Everyone says so. But what chamber data, exactly?
The data you choose to track can tell you a lot about members, potential members, your events, maybe even your community, but only if you’re tracking things consistently, analyzing the numbers you record, and finding some ways to use them for the chamber.
After all, it’s not data that’s important. It’s actionable chamber data that will have the biggest impact on chamber membership. Keep reading to see what you should be tracking.
How to Know What Chamber Data You Should Be Tracking
The answer to what types of chamber data you should be tracking is an easy one.
It’s easy because your data should be aligned with your goals for the chamber. Notice I didn’t say mission; I said goals. Your chamber mission is usually painted in broad strokes. It talks about happy things like business and community improvement.
Non-trackable, often subjective, things.
But your goals are specific and time-oriented. They have deliverables associated with them so they are much easier to quantify. Let’s take a couple of chamber goal areas so that we can figure out what data you need to track in order to chart progress toward those goals.
Increasing Membership by X%
This is by far the easiest goal to track data for because it’s very clear. You had X members and brought on X new members. But you lost X additional members. Now subtract those you lost from those you gained and figure out what percentage of new members that is versus existing members.
While that shows you your growth rate, and may help you figure out next year’s membership goals, it does little to help you grow that number. You need to break it down into a much more granular fashion.
Look specifically at the data on new members:
- What’s the average size of the business?
- What industry are they in?
- What area of town are they in?
- How did they find you?
- Are they corporate-managed chains, franchises, or individuals?
- Are they more or less likely to invest in event sponsorships?
Note patterns in who’s joining the chamber. Next, think in broader terms. Is there a month you get more new members than others? Why might that be? Do you have a big event that month? Maybe a member appreciation dinner? Maybe it’s a month where new budgets start or old budgets end and there’s extra money in the budget.
Being able to analyze the similarities in your newest members may help you understand who to market to and how to be more effective in the ways you do so.
Next, ask these same question of people who are leaving the chamber.
Do you see a pattern in the types of businesses that no longer find value in chamber memberships? For instance, maybe most of your lost members are from the east side of town where parking is a struggle and maybe they were upset by a recent city ordinance and are blaming the chamber.
Next, sort by types of business and length of membership. How long do most doctors or lawyers remain chamber members? What about manufacturers? Notice any patterns? I’ve frequently heard that service businesses like healthcare, dental, and legal join for 1-2 years to build their practice and then they leave. Is this true of your chamber?
How to Use Your Chamber Data More Effectively
Now you need to apply what you’ve learned. If you find the same low joining average across your service businesses, for instance, consider how spending a lot of time on them in the recruiting phase might not be worth your time. Or let’s approach it from a different angle and measure your most loyal members.
- What industry are they from?
- How long have they been members?
- What interactions do they have with the chamber?
After asking these questions, or others like them, what have you derived?
Maybe your longest members are manufacturers who come to, on average, 3 events a year. Or maybe they don’t come to anything but hold at least one committee membership position.
Then you know what that means?
It’s your job, or the job of the person who acquaints new members, to ensure that all new manufacturing members come to 3 events or sit on a committee. While you can’t force them to, your data suggests your most loyal and successful manufacturing members do those things.
Good data is only as good as its application. If you’re not analyzing it and applying it to something helpful (ahem…your goals), you’re wasting your time.
Wow Your Board with Actionable Data
It’s also a lot more impressive to your board. For instance, maybe right now you’re going to your board once a year and presenting your membership growth numbers.
Membership increased by 5%.
Maybe, with a little help from your peers in other towns, the state chamber, or ACCE you’re even giving the board some context.
Membership grew at 5% for us this year, 2% higher than similarly-sized chambers here in our state.
That’s good. They probably get pretty excited about that.
But what if you did an industry breakdown and you could say:
Overall, membership grew at 5% this year. But…
Membership in healthcare grew 26%, while manufacturing decreased by 2%.
Then you could present your new spring marketing initiative on how you plan on calling on more healthcare practices building on the momentum of recent joins; while at the same time getting back to basics with manufacturing members and understanding how you can better serve their industry.
Data and Your Shop Local Campaign
Maybe membership is growing nicely and you’d like to concentrate on something else like a shop small or shop local campaign. What should you measure then?
This data is less about members and more about community business so tracking may be a little more complex in that you may need to ask for assistance from non-member businesses. However, when they understand the point is to bring them more business, they’ll hopefully agree to help.
Chamber Data: The Whos and Whens
With all campaigns, you need a starting point. When it comes to shopping local (or small), you need to either figure out what portion of shopping is done at your smaller businesses or you need a couple of key businesses that fit your campaign demographic (members or nonmembers) who are willing to share the percentage of revenue change after your campaign.
Ideally, you would have several different types of businesses for comparison. You would also need multiple businesses that fit each type. For instance, you would want a statistically relevant percentage of your restaurants to share data with you as well as your souvenir shops, and/or dress shops. If you collected data from one restaurant, one flower shop, and one gift store any upticks in revenue could be explained away by holidays or some other factor not related to your efforts.
Speaking of which, ideally these businesses would also be able to tell you revenue changes year-over-year. They needn’t divulge actual revenue numbers. You’re more concerned about change here and whether your shop local campaign moved the revenue needle for them.
When tabulating the numbers for your campaign, always list anything else that could affect the data. That’s why it’s critical for those businesses to provide you with historical data. That way if they always have an uptick in sales in July, for instance, you can’t take full credit for it as an indicator of success for your campaign unless it’s astronomical and far exceeds previous years.
Critical Components of Data and Data Analysis
It’s difficult for me to tell you exactly what to measure when it comes to data because that depends entirely on what your chamber goals are. In this article, we featured two possible data analysis campaigns you might undertake but what if you have other goals and are wondering what data you should analyze to achieve those successes?
Let’s instead talk about the basics of actionable data so that you might apply it to your own goals. No matter what you plan on charting you need the following components to make the most of your data:
- Data from before. Always collect information about how things were before you did anything. Break this down as granularly as you can so that you can apply it to individual industries or specific-sized businesses. If your sample base is too small for that, then let it go. Applying data on one business to the community doesn’t mean anything statistically.
- Note your key performance indicators. What numbers will prove (or disprove) that you’ve done what you were planning to do?
- How can you use that information to do more of that in the future? Application is what transforms average chamber data into what consultants refer to as business intelligence. It’s the gold behind your numbers. Use your data and extrapolate the variables behind it. Look for commonalities and patterns.
- Create a plan to use the data. Use the patterns and business intelligence you’ve gained from the previous three steps and create a plan based on that knowledge. Maybe you’ll discover a new way to market or you’ll better understand your current members’ needs and change up your offerings accordingly. Good data always leads to new insights and applications. How you chose to use it affects your success.
Data is all the rage. But without application and goals, they’re just numbers. On the other hand, when chamber data is entwined with your goals and key performance indicators and you use that newfound understanding to change your approach to something like membership recruitment or marketing, it becomes invaluable to your chamber and how you meet the needs of your members.
A must read for all Chamber Professionals...