This article isn’t for everyone, obviously. But if you’re dissatisfied with the number of businesses joining your chamber or wondering why people don’t join the chamber, and you want to do something about it, keep reading.
Ever wonder why membership is down or not at the level you were hoping for? This article highlights the most common struggles chambers are dealing with. Some are painfully obvious, while others might be things we just don’t like to talk about.
Either way, we’re tackling the elephant in the room on membership.
And since no one should ever come to the table with a problem without a solution, we have suggestions for each on what you can do to remedy them.
5 Reasons People Don’t Join the Chamber
The following are the most common reasons chambers may be struggling with recruitment (listed in no particular order).
People Don’t Know What a Chamber Does
The chamber is no longer the first stop for most people when they start their business. Although it certainly should be.
Still, there’s a generation of business owners raised to believe the answers to all of their business problems are online. While there are a lot of business solutions online, there’s also a lot of value in face-to-face business solutions.
For people who don’t join the chamber because they don’t know what it does, the remedy lies in marketing. Not just marketing your individual chamber and its offerings, but the value behind what a chamber does. This can be accomplished in a quick infographic or a series of member testimony videos talking about how the chamber helped them specifically in their business.
To overcome this reason you want to focus everything on education. Look at every part of chamber communications as an opportunity to educate the community. For instance, even in the video series that was mentioned in the above paragraph, don’t use a title that lists the member name and the word “interview.” Instead, name it for the solution that the member found with the chamber.
Underperforming video title: Jack’s Pets Video
Educational video title: Jack’s Pets Increases Revenue with Chamber Membership
Best video t
Now even if someone doesn’t watch the video, they come away with the knowledge that joining the chamber helped Jack’s Pets get more revenue. It also makes it easy for people who are skimming your video library to find one that is applicable to their needs.
Look for opportunities in all of your Communications to add these little pieces of information.
They Can’t Afford It
Many membership salespeople argue that the price of joining the chamber is the same as a cup of coffee. While that may be true, people understand very clearly what they’re going to get out of a cup of coffee every morning. So they may be a little confused as to the daily value of the chamber perks when it’s compared to something else.
There are two parts to the excuse of why someone can’t afford to join the chamber:
cost and unrealized value.
Cost. If someone can’t afford the cost that means they have
But in the meantime, if they simply don’t have the amount for dues there’s not much that you can do to recruit them. H
Unrealized value. For most businesses the issue is more about the perceived
On the other hand, if they understand the value you provide or could provide, they likely will not put up an argument about
Then the membership director of the chamber tells me they are doing a lunch and learn series on social media for business and my employees can attend for free. If chamber membership is less than what I would pay for training those employees, the value of chamber membership far outweighs the cost. I will likely become a member for that reason alone. The rest of the benefits are all just icing.
To overcome the question of non-realized value you need to understand what the business is struggling with. If you can be the entity that solves that particular problem, the cost of membership is well worth it.
However, you could offer hundreds of benefits and give them a book-sized list of the benefits you offer. If you are not giving them something they need it won’t matter what the cost of membership is. They won’t be interested.
They’re Getting Their Networking Elsewhere
Most business owners understand the value of networking, even if they don’t like it. Today, they have a choice in how they network. There are m
Again, marketing can help you address this issue. Not only do you want to convey that you have the best networking opportunities in the area
Take a look at your networking competition around town. What do they offer? How are you different from them? What do you provide that they do not? When you’re marketing your networking events make sure you highlight these things.
They Don’t Understand the Value of Face-to-Face Networking
Some people don’t realize that as business owners they need in-person networking. Some think online networking is all the businesses need today especially if their business is mainly online. But there are advantages with in-person networking that aren’t online. For instance an online networker, even one who’s using FaceTime or Skype, cannot fully see body language.
If you are online, you may be missing a very critical message being conveyed in the other person’s body language. There is also an intimacy that is formed when you can make direct eye
It is also very easy to multitask during online networking especially if it’s being done via chat and not on Skype or FaceTime. At an in-person networking event, on the other hand, it is obvious if someone is multitasking. You can see that you do not have their undivided attention.
They Don’t Know How to Join
It seems silly that a business owner may not know how to join the chamber. But some people still see the chamber as they would a country club. They assume there is some sort of sponsorship, application, or invitation required for membership. This probably stems from the fact that many community leaders are a part of the chamber. So the average business owner may assume that only elite companies can be a part of the organization.
This is another marketing challenge. You need to make sure the business owner understands there isn’t a business that is too small to benefit from chamber membership. While you may have some mega-retailers as members you also likely have mom-and-pop businesses. Make sure in your marketing collaterals you have content that appeals to businesses of different sizes. Focus on what those businesses need and become a resource for them.
After you’ve handled the marketing challenges and ensure that people understand all businesses in good standing are welcome, then you need to make it easy for them to join. That likely means adding a very prominent join now button to your website, helping remove the friction in the joining process, and encouraging referrals.
Make sure that the application only contains the information you need initially to process their request to join. There is no reason to have a 5-page application. If you need lots of information for the businesses, look for ways to get that from them in the future. You can do so at a welcome breakfast or through direct contact from the membership director.
You can easily collect the basic information for the application, process payment, and then contact them for an informational interview on how you can better assist them in their plans for business growth. There’s no need to find out their entire business history and growth strategy on the application.
While some of these challenges to membership may seem silly and small to you, a business may be short-staffed or focused on things other than
Create content that is targeted to particular business needs and demographics. If you feel like you’re spoon-feeding them information, that is a good thing. Very few business owners have the time to investigate potential ways to solve their problems. Many of them want proven solutions without having to do the research
The chamber is in a great position with an established reputation. Most of the time it just requires reiterating that information and getting it in front of the potential member. But it also must speak to them and solve the challenges they’re struggling with. If you can show them that, you’ll have fewer challenges in recruiting members.