Henry Ford was rumored to have said — if I had asked the customers what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses. Mr. Ford (allegedly) didn’t think very highly of the public’s vision when it came to innovation. While you may or may not share his feelings about your chamber members’ ability to realize what they want from your organziation, it still doesn’t hurt to ask them. By doing so, you get a better idea of your chamber member needs and they feel invested.
But survey fatigue is becoming a very real thing. You don’t want to overwhelm your members and community with too many questions about what you can do for them. It becomes tiresome. A single survey, conducted once a year is expected. But many businesses are sending one each time a person interacts with them. So, if you feel the need to ask more than once a year, and you long for feedback, consider some of the following ideas to make giving feedback a little more enjoyable for them.
9 Ways to Understand Chamber Member Needs
Engaging your chamber of commerce members and meeting their needs is crucial for a successful organization. Here are a few ways to do it:
Okay, let’s knock this one out as quickly as possible. Surveys are the most common approach to requesting feedback. They’re also the format your members are probably the most tired of. It’s not your fault. Everyone is asking their opinion from their banks to their doctors, even the DMV is using customer service surveys.
If you employ surveys, keep them quick and to the point. Use creative questions that fit your chamber tone. If you’re emailing them, add a very poignant subject line not “Chamber Survey.” Instead, use something like the 2024 Community Needs Questionnaire. In the body of the email tell them how long it will take to fill out.
If you have a lot of questions, instead of using a long survey, offer an abbreviated one in multiple parts with a new question or two each week.
You can use surveys to gather feedback on all aspects of your chamber’s activities just don’t do it all at once. No one wants to spend 30 minutes filling out a survey unless they’re getting a reward or bonus for doing so.
Hold Focus Groups
Organize small focus group sessions to have in-depth discussions with members. These are especially effective when you want to help a particular industry or geographic area in your community, such as restaurants. Again, don’t ask generic questions. Do your research. Find out what most people in their industry (or area) struggle with and ask if they share those struggles. When you take this approach instead of simply asking what their challenges are, they will feel heard and understood.
Check out what the Minnesota Chamber Foundation did with a focus group on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
After the conversation about their challenges, encourage participants to share their opinions on existing programs and suggest new initiatives. Once you have them talking, it’s easier to keep up the communication. Speaking of…
Maintain open lines of communication through newsletters, emails, or social media. Share updates on chamber activities and ask for input on future plans. When chamber members are used to hearing from you, they’ll openly share what’s on their mind.
Additionally, when they do, you want to ensure their thoughts are welcomed. No one wants to share their opinions in a vacuum never to be heard again. Instead, thank them for their suggestion and let them know where you plan on going with it.
Employ Networking Events
Networking events are a great way to take your members’ temperatures about onging challenges, concerns, or interests. Host networking events where members can interact and are encouraged to express their needs.
Use these opportunities to gauge their interests and preferences. This sharing needn’t be done in a formal fashion. You could add a ballot box with preselected answers on the bar or food tables. If you’re looking for feedback on how someone enjoyed the event you could give them one happy face sticker and one sad face and ask them to stick the one that reflects their sentiment about the event on a poster as they leave. Get creative with how you find out if the event was a hit or not.
Here are a few ideas:
- Interactive Feedback Wall. Set up a physical or virtual wall where attendees can post sticky notes with their feedback. Use different colored notes for positive comments, suggestions, and areas for improvement.
- Storytelling Corner. Designate a corner at the event where attendees can share their experiences through short stories or anecdotes. Provide a recording booth for those who prefer to share their thoughts verbally. If you have an outgoing group of attendees you can do this by using a traveling mic as well. Finally, make sure you record their comments for video testimonials and social media content. Make sure they understand your intentions behind the recordings’ usage.
- Collaborative Mural. Hang a large mural or canvas where attendees can contribute by drawing or writing their thoughts about the event. Encourage collaboration with sections for different aspects of the event (food, speakers, etc.). If you’re hosting a buffet, or something that requires waiting in line, place the canvas near the line.
- Themed Feedback Booths. Create interactive booths with different event-related themes related. Attendees can visit these booths to provide feedback in creative ways, such as writing on a graffiti wall or hamming it up in a photo booth with props.
- QR Code Scavenger Hunt. Incorporate a QR code scavenger hunt within the event venue. Attendees can scan QR codes at different stations to access short surveys or interactive feedback activities related to each area. Give prizes for those who complete it.
- Instant Feedback Stations. Place interactive kiosks or tablets throughout the venue where attendees can provide instant feedback using touchscreens. Publish results on a screen that’s visible to all in real time.
- Award Prizes for Interaction. Host a drawing for people who have participated/given feedback mid-way through your event and at the end. By doing it mid-way, that allows people who haven’t given you feedback to do so before the second drawing.
- Collaborative Vision Board. Set up a vision board where attendees can add images or words that represent their vision for future events. This not only gathers feedback but also helps in co-creating the future direction of the chamber’s activities.
Analyze Previous Data
Analyze data from past events, programs, and member interactions. Look for patterns and trends to identify what has been successful and where improvements are needed.
Create a Member Advisory Board
Establish a member advisory board with representatives from different industries. Seek their input on strategic decisions and use their insights to guide chamber initiatives. Host special events for them. Make the invite exclusive and ensure they feel valued for their input. Market it like an R&D group for the chamber.
The Manatee Chamber of Commerce has an advisory board to guide public policy decisions.
Listen (and Ask Questions) on Social Media
Monitor social media platforms for discussions related to your chamber. Pay attention to member comments, concerns, and suggestions.
Host Collaborative Workshops
Host workshops where members can collaborate and discuss industry-specific challenges. Use the insights gained to tailor chamber initiatives to address those challenges.
Ask One-off Questions in Your Newsletter
Your newsletter is a great format to run a poll on a specific subject. You could ask a different question with each send. After all, recipients are already opening the newsletter, clicking a button on a poll is simple and a lot more apt to yield results.
Finally, if you’re going to all the trouble to get feedback from your members and/or community, make sure you’re doing something with it. You don’t want people taking time out of their schedules to provide answers only to feel like you never look at them. Use the data you’re getting.
Additionally, perform regular assessments on the relevance and effectiveness of existing programs. Be open to making adjustments based on the changing needs of your members.
By implementing these strategies, you can create a feedback loop that helps you understand your members’ needs, preferences, and expectations. Regularly reassessing and adjusting your approach based on this feedback will contribute to a more engaged and satisfied membership–faster horses or motorized vehicles aside.