If you’ve considered a redesign or just want to compare what you have with what you should have done with your chamber website design, you’re in the right place. We’ve looked at thousands of chamber of commerce websites!
Now, based on that experience, here’s our ultimate guide to chamber website design best practices. Read on to learn how to build or optimize your chamber website to deliver more traffic and more conversions.
The Job of a Chamber Website
First, your chamber website is more than an electronic brochure like it used to be in the initial days of the “Interwebs.” Today you want it to act as:
- your front desk receptionist greeting people as they come in to check you out
- a resource for the community
- a builder of trust
- a nurturer/sales funnel to keep in touch with those who aren’t quite ready to join but will be after spending time on your website
- an inspiration to achieve great things
- an educator and storyteller conveying who the chamber is, what they do, and how they help. Cast your members as the heroes of your story (instead of the chamber) and you’ll inspire more people to join.
That’s a tall order for something that just a few years ago could get away with just a nice picture, street address, and hours of operation. That’s why using a checklist to ensure your chamber website design functions on all of these levels is a good idea.
A Complete List of Necessary Chamber Website Design Elements
These elements are part of your overall chamber website design user experience. If you’re wondering how effective your chamber of commerce website design is, here’s a checklist of what you should have on your site.
Do you have:
- A Join Now button. Purchases (and yes, membership is a purchase) are an emotional choice. A Join Now button allows people to join on their schedule when the moment strikes them, not only when the office is open.
- Your address, including the state. If a potential member Googles your chamber looking to find out more info and gets a chamber by the same name two states away, will they go back and Google again in the hopes of finding the right one or will they get midway through the joining process before they realize it’s not THEIR chamber? Avoid this confusion by being clear.
- Navigable menu items. Check with someone who didn’t design the site and tabs and ask them to find out when your next event is and how to join. If they can’t do either activity in three minutes or less, you have a problem.
- Your next event. Please remove all events that have passed. Websites with old information on them make people question whether the organization is still open and if the site is abandoned.
- Pictures. Beautiful inspiring, entertaining images should pepper your site. Look at the image-centric Cape Chamber website design:
- Social media directs. Only list the social media platforms (with links to your page) that you post to regularly. Again, when I see a site with a bad social media link or it refers me to a page that hasn’t had new content on it in months, I wonder if they’re still around.
- Member spotlight. Optional but nice.
- Member-generated content. It will save you time and can be a source of non-dues revenue for you.
- Helpful resources. Be the place people come to look for information on your town and businesses.
- Member testimonials. Print, video, podcasts, whichever. Just let people know what others think of you. The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce has put them to very good use in their chamber website design. The testimonials rotate every few seconds (which also adds attention-getting motion to the site as well):
- Legible font. This includes the font and the size. Remember people may be on their phones when they come to your site.
- Mobile-friendly design. Not only design but activities too. Easy to click buttons, basic info, etc.
- A mission statement written in plain English, not marketing or corporate speak. Enough said.
- Copy that appeals to your ideal member. You don’t want to attract everyone, only those you can most effectively help.
- Legislative initiatives. Make sure people know what you’re working on this legislative session. Consider giving it its own tab.
- Tab titles that people would use to search.
- Headlines that contain keywords or phrases that are important to your audience (again, something they’d search for).
- A blog. Yes, you need one. Grab our handy, free “Blog and Website Posting Reminders Checklist” at the end of this article.
- Search. The good kind that’s very intuitive.
- An FAQ page. You can create one that’s about general chamber questions or have specific sections or pages for topics you’re asked about all the time like your annual festival.
- Frictionless signup. I mentioned the Join Now button earlier but it’s also important to enable potential members to go through the whole membership purchasing process online. Allow them to enter info and pay their dues. If anything is missing, call them when the office is open. (You will anyway to welcome them aboard.)
- A warm message from the Board President or the ED/CEO of the chamber.
- Pictures and bios of staff. People like to know who they’re connecting with. Share fun tidbits about their lives.
- E-commerce. At the very least you need to sell memberships and event tickets on your site. But some chambers have enabled other e-commerce options like directory and sponsorship sales, town memorabilia, or even cookbooks.
- Up-to-date community content (outside of the chamber). People will debate the importance of this but here’s why I think it’s important. You want content your community cares about. If there was a city council meeting on an issue that is important to your business members, give the most up-to-date content you can. Think of your chamber as a publisher. Become a resource for all community-related things.
- Video. Video draws visitors in. The Rifle Chamber in the Colorado River Valley takes full advantage of their beautiful area by using video images as part of its website design right on the home page:
- Reasons to join. Don’t leave it up to them to figure out what those things are.
- Benefits presented as solutions. Tell them what each of your benefits does for their business. Don’t just list them.
- Obvious next steps that fit how someone got there. More about that in the next section.
and a bonus for the future…
Chat. It might not be something you’re thinking about now, but you will be. It’s easy to incorporate chat through Facebook’s Messenger.
Guiding the Potential Member’s Journey Using Chamber Website Design
Did you read #30 on the list and wonder — Huh?
When you operate a business website, you have revenue goals for it. Maybe the job of your site is to increase your branding, word of mouth, or reputation. But ultimately most businesses and chambers want conversions…a fancy sales and marketing term for…
Yes, we want to make money. Your website can be one of your sources of non-dues revenue.
There are a lot of other admirable things we want to do as a chamber but we can’t do any of those without memberships…
let’s move into the elements of conversion in chamber of commerce website design.
What Is Your Chamber Offering?
Somewhere prominently on the website, it must be clear what the chamber does. Not your mission statement, written in fancy words but a strong problem-solution statement. This should be “above the fold” in a prominent font.
What the promise-laden headline provides the visitor: a quick solution to their problems and the promise that the chamber not only understands but can help.
What Should the Visitor Do Next on Your Site?
Often visitors who are referred to your site come for one item (or piece of content) and then leave. The reason they came to your site was fulfilled.
If you don’t give them anything to do, they’ll be gone and your bounce rate will rise with their departure (okay, it’s not an exact calculation but every visit factors in).
You need to create safeguards so this doesn’t happen.
Think of your website as a party.
You don’t always know how everyone got there (although you should) but if there’s nothing to do, you can be assured they’ll leave. That’s why most hosts will great people and tell them where the food and beverages are, and where people are hanging out/what there is to do.
You need to do the same thing with your chamber website design. This often looks like suggestions at the bottom of your blog posts for additional reading or pop-ups when someone is about to leave.
Whatever you choose to do to entice your visitor to stay longer should be in line with the membership process that they’re in. For instance, if someone clicks on your reasons to join page don’t use a pop-up that refers them to your blog. Blogs are designed to help visitors get to know, like, and trust you. Someone who is visiting your reasons to join, likely already feels that way and is interested in what you can offer. Don’t send them backward.
How Can They Learn More About Your Chamber?
You have explained to your visitor how you can help them with their business challenges. You have presented content designed towards peeking their interest at the part of the membership sales stage they’re in. Now you need to capture an email address to help the nurturing process. You do this by offering a free content upgrade.
- a business start-up kit
- a networking ebook
- a guide to taking your business to the next level
They receive valuable content and you get an email address of someone who may become a member. Then it is up to you to continue to build know, like, and trust with them through periodic communications until they eventually join or decide the chamber is not the right fit for their business at that time.
While this list may be a little overwhelming, no one is insisting all of this be done to your chamber website design in one day or on one page. These chamber website design best practices will help you create a website that will become a home to your community and the first stop for many. By doing so, your organic search placement will increase and that’s never a bad thing.