Chambers advocate for, and benefit, all size businesses but networking and training benefits can fall short in promoting your chamber and marketing to big businesses needs.
Large companies can still benefit from your chamber but the approach and “what’s in it for them” conversation is different than what you use for smaller organizations.
Here are a few things that can help if you’re hoping to make a member out of a 200+ employee company.
Tips for Marketing to Big Businesses
For the purposes of this article, a big business is any company or organization over 200 employees. However, not every one is the same.
A large company that is headquartered in your area will likely be an easier sell than one headquartered elsewhere. For those headquartered in another state, or even country, there may be a lot of bureaucracy and hoops you have to jump through to be considered. Still, they’re worth pursuing.
Understand Structure and Do Your Research
The first thing you need to do prior to approaching your target marketing to big business is to research and understand its structure.
- Is this company headquartered in your area? If not, where are they?
- Do they operate as franchises and, if so, how independent are the franchises?
- Does corporate rule over them or do they each make their own decisions about community involvement?
You also want to learn if big businesses have a community involvement department or perhaps a diversity initiative that may be interested in some of your programs.
One of the larger banks in my area had a community relations group with a sizable budget every year. The people who worked there were charged with finding local programs to support. Your chamber could help make their job much easier. Find out if your potential new member has the same type of program.
Dig Up the “Dirt”
In this case, “dirt” means the issues that have caused them problems. Research may uncover something they’re trying to crawl out from under. Perhaps they want to start anew in your community.
- Maybe they’re trying to shake an old reputation or launch a new brand.
- Maybe they’ve come under fire for hiring practice or a lack of diversity.
- Maybe their marketing or customer service had missteps that they’ve since remedied.
These are all things the chamber may be able to help with by offering them an opportunity to be seen and affiliated with a well-respected organization.
It’s important to note, that if they have a dire need for reputation “rebuilding,” you don’t want to bring it up directly. There’s no reason to say, “We know you need some help reestablishing goodwill in our community after your last layoff. We’re here for you.”
Instead, talk about the love your community has for a particular event and how the naming sponsorship is currently open. They can draw their own conclusion about how that might begin to improve goodwill in the community.
Offer to Make the Introductions and Go to Bat for Them
It’s costly to move a large operation. If big businesses have moved into your backyard, they likely want to stay. But that becomes hard if the business environment is not friendly. As a chamber pro, you have connections they may not have had time to establish yet.
Speaking on the company’s behalf at council meetings or making an introduction to area leaders can be very valuable. A warm intro places them on a higher level.
Create/Offer Opportunities to Shape the Current Landscape and Future One
A large company is making an investment in your area and likely moved because they found tax benefits and the skilled employees they needed as well as good opportunities for growth.
But just because they have what they need now doesn’t mean that will continue. Or they may be looking to branch out and that creates additional needs.
Inviting them to be a part of a long-term workforce planning committee working with local educators to ensure they have they skilled employees they need to succeed can be very appealing. You may also have a transportation or infrastructure planning committee that benefits them, other big businesses and their future requirements.
Asking them to join or give feedback (regardless of whether they are a member or not) can start to build the necessary relationship that will culminate in membership or high-end sponsorship.
Know Their Hot Buttons
Again, research plays a prominent role in bringing on a large company.
- Spend some time on their website.
- Research their press coverage.
- Find out what causes are important to them.
- Discover what extra benefits they provide employees.
- Learn about their culture.
Use that information to shape a pitch that’s tailored to what they are most interested in and what aligns with their goals and culture.
Talk About Diversity
Many big businesses are focusing on diversity these days in hiring initiatives, employee relations, and community involvement.
If you have launched a diversity program, host workshops, speakers, or any other diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, make sure the company knows about it. If it’s inline with their efforts, they may want to sponsor your programs.
Target Individual Employees
When you think of marketing to big businesses and addressing their needs, those companies are still composed of employees. When a company joins, no matter what the size, their employees can use chamber benefits. For example, a large multi-state cable company moved into a suburb in Texas. A chamber pro approached them knowing they had a history of joining local chambers. They worked with individual sales people who were interested in joining their leads group because no one from their industry was represented. Make sure when you speak to your large companies they understand all employees are welcome.
Do research on their departments. Learn which ones are sales oriented and how they sell. This information will help you bring the company in through an understanding of what they need. In many cases, individual salespeople are given budgets for joining membership organizations. Sometimes the best way to “crack” a big business is through an individual contributor.
They Won’t Join Them All
If you are looking to a large company headquartered elsewhere and you’re not the large metro chamber in your area, you need to know that even companies that are interested in joining the chamber may go with the default — a large metro area chamber.
Often headquarters is making the decision and they simply select the largest nearby city. For instance, a company moving into the Columbus market–even if they’re located in New Albany–may decide to join the Columbus Chamber because the person who’s one thousand miles away and writing the check, knows this new location as the “Columbus office.” If you’re from a smaller suburb, you need to be ready to explain why the company needs to join your chamber and not the large metro chamber or why they need to join your chamber in addition to the metro one.
Companies can (obviously) join more than one chamber but you need to make sure they know about you before they can write you a check. If you’re a suburban chamber, you’re likely not the default selection so be ready to tell them why they need you.
Even if you’re not competing with the metro chamber, you want to give them reason to choose you among all the other area chambers.
Talk to Others
The Chamber Pros Group on Facebook is a great resource if this company you’re interested in has other locations or is headquartered elsewhere. The members of that group can give you intel as to whether the company has joined their chamber or not. Chamber pros often know of a contact person or understand how the company makes membership decisions.
Landing a large company as a member is possible but you want to ensure you do your research first. You will not approach this group in quite the same way that you would a retail store on Main Street. Gather your information and approach the larger entity in a tailored way. Focus on a mutually beneficial relationship. Tell them what’s in it for them. Remember, they are not supporting you. They are making an investment in the community for a thriving future for everyone.