There are businesses out there that see value in chamber membership but they have zero wiggle room in their budget. Even though you can argue a chamber membership is a couple of cups of coffee at the coffee house every week, there are still those that can’t get the finances together for something that isn’t essential to operation.
Chamber membership may be essential to business growth but it falls below paying rent and utilities.
So what’s a small business just starting out to do? And how can the chamber help show the value of membership without discounting dues?
Affordable Solutions for Startups Looking into Chamber Membership
There are a few things you can do as a chamber.
- Offer scholarships. The business would need to apply and the scholarships would be limited in number.
- Let them perform sweat equity. Let them “work off” their membership by volunteering or serving the chamber and/or community in some role.
- Give free memberships to companies participating in local business incubators.
- Make introductions. Introduce these new businesses to people in the community that can help them grow quickly and save money. This also shows the value of membership and creates loyalty. Terri Hayes from the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center suggested, “We hand hold those members a bit more. Introduce them to people we think would be good partners for them. Help them if they need referrals for a good bookkeeper, etc. If appropriate, recommend which events would help them the most to get involved with. We don’t discount their membership, but we explain why it is a good investment. I actually love these members. Yes, they take a little more time in the beginning, but they are super appreciative and become your biggest champions. We practically single-handedly helped a new food truck get started and three years later, she cannot say enough good things about us still.”
- Offer a payment plan. Let them pay for membership over 2-3 months. They may not have a couple hundred dollars extra in a given month but may be able to scrounge up that amount over several months.
These ideas are just a sample of what the smart folks on the Chamber of Commerce Professionals group on Facebook were discussing. Join the conversation here.