For those of us who work from home, staying connected is important not only to the growth of our business but in keeping our spirits up knowing we made the right decision to go for it, leaving the steady paycheck behind.
What does this have to do with the chamber?
The Rise of Lone Wolf Networking
Social media has allowed entrepreneurs to connect with one another in ways that in the past would have been difficult without a group to facilitate it. This lone wolf networking is independent of an organization and it means two things for chambers:
- Networking can no longer be the sole value you provide.
- The lone wolf networkers are talking about you.
Networking, and getting more business, is the primary driver for many small- to medium-sized businesses to join the chamber. While there are always going to be businesses who join because it’s the thing to do, we’re seeing fewer and fewer of these.
People can network with other businesses outside of a chamber more easily than ever. There are small business groups, women in business groups, meet-ups, tweet-ups, Facebook groups and so many more, with many boasting lower costs to entry than the chamber.
While networking may still be a huge pull for you, you have to go past that. Learning opportunities, resources, leadership opportunities, unique discounts…these benefits must be played up, not just the networking.
These lone wolf networkers, the ones who are former chamber members, are talking about you to the wolf cubs. They are telling the wolf cubs, “in my experience the chamber didn’t bring me any new business. It wasn’t worth the membership fee. No return on my investment.”
And that’s how people see dues – as an investment in their business. For instance, if I pay $295 in dues, I want to see at least $295 worth of sales from chamber members or referrals. This is especially rampant in small entrepreneurial businesses and work-from-home businesses.
When selling the chamber to smaller businesses, do your best to move away from this sort business versus dues conversation.
Offer courses for home-based businesses. Help them with administrative discounts like at cost copies. Show them how you offer more than just networking.
Or forget them altogether. Your choice.
Guest post by Christina Green
Image via Flickr by skedonk