This article on the established business is part of the Meeting the Needs Series that is designed to help chamber professionals meet the individual needs of certain market segments. See the footer of this article for a list of posts in this series.
Established businesses are great boons to the community. But they can also be a hard sell for chamber membership, especially if their business is doing well and they’ve never had any help from the chamber. It’s difficult to get them to see that although everything is going well, they can do better.
You can appeal to them. You just need to understand what they are concerned about and what their future goals are.
What Are the Pain Points of a Successful Established Business?
If you want to appeal to a successful established business, you need to understand their struggles.
I just wrote that they were successful so what do successful businesses struggle with? Here are a few ideas:
There may be legislative proposals that could bring about an end to their successful business. Think about the ramifications of proposed legislation and if it will negatively impact any industries in your area. If so, you may want to reach out to them proactively and explain how you can help.
If they aren’t a mega superstore with legislative connections, they may be worrying in silence unsure of what to do. Or they may be so busy running the day-to-day operations that they aren’t even aware of the proposed bill.
They are successful now because of the current state of business but that doesn’t mean that will continue. They may be concerned about existing competition or a new business that’s moving into town.
Chamber membership can give them an advantage over the competition if it’s new or uninvolved. Today, people want to do business with those they know, like, and trust. Chamber membership is viewed like the Better Business Bureau by many people. They see members as community-minded and that is likely to make them more apt to buy from the business.
At one point in time, Blockbuster Video was doing incredibly well. Then their industry changed and they failed to see it coming. The established businesses in your town may be anxiously watching new technology or offerings and wondering how it will affect them.
They may not even know how to articulate their concerns. They may need your help in talking about it and plotting a course that can help them recognize changes that are already happening. These are good topics for lunch and learns. Things like:
- how chatbots will change your business
- plugging in to the experience economy
- riding the monthly box trend
In an economic downturn, some communities and industries remain unscathed, while others go out of existence if the downturn is deep enough. The chamber of commerce can hardly safeguard a business from economic disaster but it can help bring a mix of business to town to help develop a community that is impervious to minor dips and hiccups.
Talk to your established business non-members about your vision for the community and find out what their suggestions are. Together you can help transform the community into a place people don’t want to leave and companies want to expand.
Creating a community everyone wants to be a part of is a good start but a successful business owner will always want to know where his employees are coming from. In recent years, there’s been an increase in people going to college and that means a decrease in trades. Many businesses are having difficult times finding skilled workers or even those who want to learn the skills necessary for the job. In fact, several communities have provided incentives to entice younger people into career areas that are underrepresented in their community.
Talk to these established businesses about how you can help with their employment concerns. What training exists in the community and what could be added easily? Make sure you get a clear indication on what they need and work with other economic development professionals to figure out how you can make those interests into something you can help with.
Just because a business has been around for a long time doesn’t mean its impervious to PR problems. An errant tweet, a misspoken quote in front of the wrong audience or one taken out of context and they could face reputation difficulties overnight. When this happens, they may need help being seen in a more positive light in the community or they may want a chance to improve their existing reputation.
The chamber can help with this as many people believe chamber membership is akin to responsible stewardship. According to the oft-quoted Shapiro Study, consumers were 44% more likely to think favorably of a business knowing they were a chamber member.
How to Sell to an Established Business by Talking Goals
But these, of course, aren’t the only reasons an established business may want to join. Membership doesn’t have to be a sell based on fear or pain points. Sometimes there are goals the established business wants to accomplish. The chamber can help in these areas too:
Established businesses can fall into a rut in a community just as any established relationship can. It’s up to them to keep it new and fresh. For instance, an established restaurant can gain a reputation as being a steakhouse that only older patrons enjoy, thus not being something the young. hip crowd wants to be a part of. Or with a little rebranding, this same established steakhouse can become retro-chic reminding the younger generation of Mad Men and becoming ultra-cool like the way the speak-easies have caught on with people in their twenties.
The chamber can help with the rebranding project by sharing their amplification with the business member. They may even be able to host an event at the business to bring in a new audience.
Some successful established businesses want to give back to the community and a mentor program is an ideal way to do this. If the established business doesn’t want to provide one-on-one mentorship arrangements, perhaps they are willing to share their knowledge with the young people at the chamber through a presentation.
Voice of Business
An established business, even one that is not a member of the chamber, may understand that the chamber is the voice of business for your town or area. They may get to a point where they see a real value in being heard and contributing to that voice. Make sure you extend that invitation to them even if they’ve turned it down in the past. Sometimes as a business (or person, for that matter) matures, they want to give back on a higher level.
Many businesses are starting to understand the value of members of their team being thought of as experts in their field. They then need to find a path in which they can begin being recognized for their intellectual contributions. Often that means speaking in public. But how do they get the opportunity to speak in front of their ideal audience and possibly receive some press while doing so?
The chamber of commerce can serve as an excellent springboard that they can speak in front of professionals on topics of interest, hone their presentation skills, and start putting together video of themselves and their presentations. They can also present their thoughts through guest blog posts or member interviews or showcases with the chamber.
Succession or Sales
An owner of an established business may be looking for someone to take over, buy them out, or merge operations. The chamber of commerce is in a unique position to be able to make those introductions. The chamber is plugged into the business community and can make inquiries without stirring things up.
If the business owner does not want to go through the chamber staff for these sorts of sensitive introductions, they may find the type of person they are looking for through joining and networking.
If there are successful, established businesses in your town who have turned down your approach in the past, don’t give up. They may not have realized their needs at the time or they may not have been willing to voice them. It’s possible that you could use a seasoned ambassador to talk to the business owner on your behalf. They may be able to open up to one another about the benefits and challenges of being an established business.
Even if the ambassador doesn’t make the membership sale, you may discover something that would benefit them or get insights into what they’re looking for. With that, you could consider a new angle to approach them in the future.
Wondering about how to meet the needs of other specific demographics? Read the previous articles in our Meeting the Needs Series.