Chamber marketing and handling social media, worrying about retention and membership sales can all be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do it by yourself. You can create an army of chamber ambassadors who don’t even work for you, happy members who sing the praises of your chamber. These folks will not only take over some of the heavy lifting of marketing but their opinions will be more believable than your own, thus helping to increase membership sales.
Why Better Chamber Marketing Means Creating Vocal Chamber Supporters
According to Inc., 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 9 percent of people regularly read them. That goes to show what other people are saying about you is important.
How about the fact that very few internet users ever go past the first page of search results. If people are saying negative things about you and those results make the first page, you could risk losing 22% of potential business. Also, in 2012 almost half of U.S. adults said they have Googled an entity or person before doing business with them. You know that’s increased over the past few years!
Your chamber marketing plan needs to create a positive presence on the internet because of how important it is to people deciding whether they want to invest in a chamber membership or not.
Plus, if you turn your members into salespeople for your chamber, you’ll have more time to handle other important chamber marketing tasks like content creation for members and potential members.
6 Things to Ensure You’ll Have a Strong Group of Chamber Marketing Supporters
Often with the chamber, it’s not that you don’t have vocal supporters. They simply lack amplification. You need to find ways to amplify their voices and ensure their message is heard. Create a strategy behind your word of mouth marketing that will help them to be noticed for greater effect. For instance, seeing a nice testimonial about the chamber once is great. But when you start seeing them everywhere, it makes an impression in a potential member’s mind.
They may begin to think, “Wow, I need to consider a chamber membership. All of these local business people are talking about how valuable it is.”
When they see one once in a while. It won’t register.
So let’s talk about the kind of components that can go into your chamber marketing and referral strategy.
1. Line Up Testimonials
Testimonials come in a variety of mediums. You can ask your members for them, collect positive feedback as you receive it, and place your chamber ambassadors in charge of getting them from other business owners in a laid-back atmosphere like over coffee.
Testimonials can be in the following format:
- Audio recordings you pair with strong visuals
- Written (with or without a picture of who said the quote)
- Image quotes (the testimonial laid on top of a powerful image)
Places to share testimonials: social media, your website, newsletters, and anything else that could reach prospective members. Encourage those who are featured to share them on their pages as well.
A powerful thing to note about testimonials:as mentioned earlier, they are highly believable when it comes to prospective members but they also help existing members feel good about being part of a winning team.
2. Seek Referrals
One of the best ways to ensure you get more good members is through encouraging in good standing. Sure, it’s important to ask for referrals but often the most successful referral programs require a little “greasing of the wheel.” That’s why smart chamber marketing includes a formal referral program. Even if you don’t have one in effect year round, you can create temporary referral incentives.
Here are a few examples from other chambers of what they offer for referring a business:
- A discount off of dues. If the member refers a business that then becomes a member, you can give a discount on the referring business’ next invoice. Depending on when the member renews, this will involve tracking through your invoicing or accounting software.
- A gift card for a member business. If you have a chamber buck’s program, you could give them a gift certificate that they could use with a member business anywhere in town. The upside to this is that awarding it is immediate so you don’t need to track it (or subtract it) from dues months from now.
- Additional free listing category for their business in the online directory.
- Discount on chamber advertising. This can also be a benefit for the chamber if the discount leads to new advertising possibilities going forward from the increased exposure.
- “Have Lunch on Us” card to be used for a free lunch at one of the chamber events.
Whatever you choose to do to reward referrals, letting your member businesses know you appreciate their efforts on your behalf is important. Your members are some of the strongest advertising you have. A fellow business owner who speaks highly of the chamber and the benefits they (and their business) receives from membership will sway more people to join than any membership marketing campaign can.
A note about referral programs: although referral programs are often the best way to get referrals, they also tend to be one-off situations. You are “paying” your members for their goodwill gesture. Whenever possible (and it isn’t always) your chamber marketing should aim to create a culture of referrals that focuses on help for one another, not payment.
3. Pair with Mutually-Beneficial Organizations
Is there an organization in town with which you share the same demographic? Perhaps a bank or a government entity that advises small business. If so, you may find it mutually beneficial to partner with them to get the word out about the chamber.
Make sure that after the initial program is set up that you ask chamber members who are associated with that group that they “put in a good word” for you at their meetings or events. It will be much more impressive coming from someone not officially associated with the chamber.
Choose your affiliations wisely. People will come to know these organizations as affiliated with the chamber, even if they aren’t, if they see you participating in join events.
4. Encourage the Message
Again, you chamber members likely have wonderful things to say about you but it may not occur to them to say it. Some chambers create a special group of social media ambassadors just for this reason. This group goes out onto social media and shares their chamber experiences with their tribe.
If you choose to do something like this, make sure you:
- give them information about all of the chamber events and local happenings, chamber legislative successes as well as any important stats (like business growth)
- let them in on the chamber mission and goals. Knowing what those are can give them a target.
- give them topics and information that you want to ensure gets out to the public
- thank them for their efforts often.
- let them in on things first so that they feel a sense of exclusivity.
- give them some rules about what you want them to do and what you don’t want them to do (like engaging a troll, for instance).
- share their content and set them up as experts or good community members. This makes them look good and you, in turn.
- create valuable content that business owners need and it will get shared.
- spark conversation online so people will share your thoughts.
5. Breed a Culture of Referrals
As you’re asking your members to share all the benefits of chamber membership with their tribes, ensure that they are seeing the same action from the chamber. There’s no doubt you are referring people but make sure it is a very visual part of what you do. For instance, you might:
- create referral cards so members know when you have referred a customer to them.
- share member content on social media.
- write blog posts about the amazing things going on in your community and highlighting the people who are doing them.
- talk up others at events.
- show businesses what you’ve done for them in a graphic every year (this will give them talking points when addressing prospects).
- host cash mobs that bring in money for a business and then ask that business to share their experience.
- ensure your employees are happy. Happy employees will share information about their work in social circles. Unhappy employees will share their discontent. It’s hard for someone to consider membership if they’ve heard the chamber is a bad place to work.
Generally, just be the positive influence in the community and people will start talking about it.
6. Create Content That’s Fun to Share
If you want members to talk about you, make it easy for them to share your content. One way to do that is to make it fun and entertaining. This is good for both the sharer and the reader. The sharer doesn’t want to always be posting “boring” business stuff. We’ve seen those accounts that do that. After a while, the audience will tune out. On the other hand, if you give them fun content to share, they’ll be able to entertain their audience and they’ll share more of your content.
Good, amusing content also benefits the viewer. Believe it or not, people are just looking for their type of place when it comes to joining membership organizations. If you make them laugh and they enjoy their time spent with you, they’ll be more apt to write a check for membership.
You don’t have to do all of the chamber marketing on your own. It’s much more powerful to get your happy members behind you. These techniques will help you amplify their voices so that more people in your community can see the value in chamber membership.