Chamber marketing is a big topic. But I’m going to tackle it.
I’ll give you the vital basics and you can use this as a primer for your chamber marketing strategy. I’ll also help you understand the terms marketers use and what they describe. There are a lot of redundancies in the marketing categories and that can be confusing when reading marketing tips.
To be clear: this is not a detailed “how-to” post. It’s a chamber marketing guide.
Use it to better understand the advice out there, review and revise your current plan or even to begin setting up your new marketing needs/budget. This can also serve as a list to ensure every part of your chamber marketing is in place or you’re exploring the possibilities that are out there.
We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.
Marketing Is a Bed of Nails
Have you ever had the opportunity to recline on a bed of nails?
Unless … someone has told you the secret why no one is ever impaled while doing it.
The trick is that all the nails are exactly uniform in length and distribution. No one nail sticks out higher than any other and there aren’t any differences in gaps between the nails. That means all of the nails support the person on the bed equally. If even one nail was higher than another or there was a greater expanse between nails, it would be a very painful experience.
Successful chamber marketing works much the same way.
When all of your marketing components are set up to maximize performance and bear the weight of reaching potential members equally, you have an optimal marketing plan. When you spend all your time in one area of marketing and no time in another, you have an unequal distribution that leads to problems.
This does not mean you need to spend exactly the same amount of money on Facebook ads as you might on postcards. You need to check which return on investment is more worthwhile for you. It simply means that you should not sink everything you have into marketing solely on Facebook, for instance. That type of unequal distribution will be ineffective in helping you reach all of your target audience.
Review and Evaluate Your Chamber Marketing Ideas and Strategies
At the risk of sounding like I am backpedaling on what I just wrote, this chamber marketing guide won’t work exactly as written for everyone. You will need to review, evaluate and measure these ideas against the preferences of your ideal audience.
I will review the most important of the (many) marketing possibilities out there. You will need to see which ones work best for you and then diversify your efforts among the most effective ones on this list.
No matter what types of marketing you’re referring to, there are different types of media you can use. These include:
- video (recorded and edited)
- written copy
- images (pictures, infographics, art, etc.)
- audio broadcasts
- live-streaming and webinars
- music (jingles and parody songs)
Now, let’s talk about some of the different kinds of marketing terms you will encounter. There are literally hundreds of types of marketing. What makes this whole discussion so confusing (for non-marketing people especially) is that while there are generally agreed-upon definitions for these terms, people often use a mixture of these terms and types of marketing.
For instance, someone may refer to digital marketing and email marketing as if they are different. Email marketing is a form of digital market and while all email marketing is digital marketing, not all digital marketing is email marketing.
To make things even more confusing, there are additional terms that describe types of marketing like inbound and outbound, earned and paid. These, again, are categories with many subsets. You can have earned social media marketing as well as paid social media marketing.
But let’s start with the terms you may have heard in reference to marketing. Then we’ll go into the specific types of marketing.
Marketing Categories and Definitions
When you think of “old-school marketing” like letters, postcards, billboards, printed materials, and mailers, you’re in the realm of traditional marketing. Pretty much any form of marketing that would be available to you if your internet went down falls into this category.
Which brings us to…
The opposite of traditional marketing, digital marketing are any of the ways you might market your chamber using the internet. These things include email, social media, websites, etc.
This type of marketing can be thought of as magnetic marketing. You are attracting members to you through things like great content and directing them through the potential member’s path to a membership decision through nurturing.
This form of marketing has fallen out of favor recently as it involves “interrupting” the potential member through things like ads, cold calling, and unsolicited emails (they didn’t “opt in” to receive them). While it’s still necessary, in most markets it’s generally more expensive than inbound.
Search Engine Marketing and SEO
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a strategy to use paid (PPC – pay per click ads) and organic traffic to your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are used to optimize your website code and content and to obtain inbound links to help you rank higher for organic (i.e. non-paid) search results. It’s much like digital marketing and email marketing. SEO is a form of SEM (and both are part of a digital marketing strategy), although from a practical standpoint, most marketers are referring to SEM specifically as their PPC ad campaigns.
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing (although you could use it in outbound as well) that works to give members the type of valuable content they want.
Good content feeds search engine marketing (SEO specifically, content doesn’t affect ads), social media marketing, and a host of others by keeping your potential members interested in getting to know, like, and trust you. It’s also a component of nurturing potential members into a sale. Creating a lead magnet of value (we have 50+ ideas for you here) for your members or potential members is a form of content marketing.
This is marketing that involves an experience like a flash mob or special adventure around a brand. It ties the beneficial feelings surrounding something new and interesting with the brand. Hosting a “Taste of” event could be a form of experiential marketing. Chambers of commerce excel at experiential marketing aka “events.”
Word of Mouth Marketing
WoM marketing concentrates on generating reviews and referrals by making it easier to share your opinion about the chamber. Your Ambassadors Group could be a part of word of mouth marketing.
In influencer marketing, you pair with someone who is well-known in your area or industry in the hopes they will speak to their audience or tribe for you. Influencers can also be paid to promote a product or service. Since people are more apt to take advice from people they know, they’ll likely listen to them about membership. The Ambassadors’ Group and even your board can participate in influencer marketing as business owners and community leaders.
It will only cost you a cool million dollars per post to have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tout your chamber on Instagram.
Earned marketing is free publicity, media quotes or other forms of mentions that you did not pay for. This is what a solid public relations campaign can do. You don’t simply wait for it to happen, but send out press releases, cultivate media relationships and provide quotes when there is an opportunity.
Just like the name sounds, this is marketing that you’re spending money on. Things like Google ads and print ads fall into this category.
Now let’s talk about individual ideas you might implement in your chamber marketing.
20 Ideas for Chamber Marketing Campaigns
Using what we learned from the list of categories above, here are a few ideas you could use to improve your marketing efforts. We have a mix of tried and true as well as a few fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Some of these things may not feel like marketing but everything that gets your name out there is marketing these days just like posting content makes you a publisher.
- Email nurture campaign.
- Direct mail/postcard welcoming new businesses to the area.
- Events like a How to Become an Entrepreneur Lunch and Learn.
- Print ad in your local newspaper.
- Television, cable, on-demand, streaming network ads. (These would likely work better for large metro areas.)
- Billboards– some chambers make these available to members to help offset the cost.
- Reviews– posting testimonials on your website.
- Referrals– a formal referral marketing program can make referrals worthwhile for your members and for you.
- Voice marketing with AI’s like Alexa and Google Home- Alexa offers things like Flash Briefings.
- Flash Mob– flash mobs attract attention and video notoriety but they also take some advanced planning. A flash mob of local merchants can be done live or recorded and shared..
- Cash Mob– invite people to come spend some money with a member.
- Local subscription boxes or Tastes of Your Town boxes– you could put something like this together for a raffle, sales at the holiday, or as part of an ongoing basis.
- Local currency (aka “Chamber bucks”)- this associates the chamber’s name with currency used at local and/or participating merchants. When people see it, they see the chamber’s logo. It can be a form of print or digital marketing..
- Digital (or print) magazine– whether your focus on providing a resource for people new to the area, a guidebook for economic development and businesses interested in relocating, or a “Best of” listing, there’s a lot of room for creativity in this space.
- Pop-up book or game based on your area.
- Texts– this is a great way to get attention and many younger people prefer to get info this way.
- Apps– if you decide to venture into this space, make sure your app does something of value for people. The greatest benefit for the chamber of an app is to be able to employ push notifications. If you can provide something people need, they’ll download the app and use it. If not, it will remain a faceless number in the App Store. For example, the City of St. Pete Beach partnered with a parking app that will allow people who have selected the feature to be notified of available parking spaces.
- Affiliate programs– give the chamber a “finder’s fee” for directing customers to the affiliate. It’s good for the chamber and the members Ince they often receive a good discount. The chamber is also helping members with needs they have for their business. The member will identify the chamber as important to their business success and continue to renew year after year.
- Newsletters– these can have a life of their own if you provide good, relevant content. The better the value of your content, the more often they will get shared.
- Partnerships– think about other organizations in town. Can you partner with any of them to benefit both of you? Partner marketing can be advantageous for everyone and help remove the idea that you are competing with one another.
There are many forms of marketing. A lot of them overlap. But if you create a nice mix of marketing programs or channels, your chamber marketing program will be more robust and likely to reach your audience in a way that they will enjoy and respond to.