“Value-added” chamber memberships seem like a no-brainer, right? Of course.
Every chamber professional wants to add value to their memberships. They want members to know that a chamber membership is valuable.
But that’s not exactly what we mean in this context.
Let’s explore what “value-added” memberships are and how you can leverage them to improve member retention and sign-ups.
What’s a “Value-Added” Chamber Membership?
Yes, all chamber memberships should be valuable, but not all chamber memberships are “value-added” memberships.
A “value-added” membership leverages the buying power, or the voice of member numbers, to get benefits that a business likely could not do on its own.
Programs like this might include:
- health insurance
- car insurance for fleet vehicles
- rental car discounts
- group dental
- life insurance
- vision coverage
- identity theft protection
- disability coverage
- discounts to business services such as basic law needs, tax preparation, or wills
A strong “value-add” includes things that are appealing to the business because they can usually get it cheaper from the chamber than they could on their own.
Why Your Chamber and Your Members Can Benefit from These Types of Programs
Many of the programs mentioned above can be costly for a small business and yet in a competitive job market, not offering them can place the business at a recruiting disadvantage.
People understand how important health care and insurance are these days. Working for a company that doesn’t offer those things means the employee either is covered under a spouse or partner, they’re going to go without or they must buy their own. Most people are not willing/able to buy their own. If they’re interviewing with a company that’s willing to provide it or–at least–cover some of the costs, even when a higher salary is offered, most people will select benefit coverage.
Yet, many of these types of benefits are cost prohibitive for a small company. This can place the chamber in a very strong position.
By working with a company or broker, it may be possible to leverage member numbers to secure deeper discounts or lower rates than the small business could negotiate for themselves.
The chamber can then pass this discount on to its members. The member business can be competitive in its hiring practices and save money. Everyone wins. Plus, the chamber has now extended a benefit to its members that they cannot do for themselves, making membership indispensable, even if that one benefit is the only one the member business uses.
Examples of “Value-Added” Chamber Memberships
So now that you know what they are and how they can benefit the chamber and its members, let’s dive deeper into these programs and how other chambers are using them.
The Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce in Wisconsin created a “Value-Added Membership” web page detailing the programs they have available to members. This is a great idea because it’s also visible to non-members, who might consider joining for a discount or service they need.
These services and discounts include;
- discounts at Office Max/Office Depot
- Chamber calling discount plan for cellphone service
- email marketing service discounts with ConstantContact
- discounts on automobile insurance
- discounts on educational services with a local provider
- YMCA corporate wellness plan
- membership to the US chamber of Commerce for members (this one may require some education for your members to explain what benefits they would receive from their free membership)
- free one-day car rental from a local dealership
The Vail Valley Partnership also provides a lot of member discounts and value adds. Some of those include:
- a discount on Worker’s Compensation Insurance (upon certain requirements being met)
- discounts on professional skill seminars
- discounts on bus transit when purchased in bulk
- merchant ski passes
They also offer One Valley Healthcare Program. According to the website,
“Vail Valley Partnership’s One Valley Healthcare Program, in partnership with the Small Association Leadership Alliance (SALA) Healthcare Program, is a comprehensive and cost-effective alternative to traditional plans. While not a replacement for traditional health insurance, this new program offers affordable, accessible, and effective healthcare options for Vail Valley Partnership members – both businesses and individuals alike.
“The One Valley Healthcare Program provides a high-quality, affordable healthcare solution for employers, employees and sole-proprietors. While not health insurance, the program provides preventative care, options for co-payment features for additional services, and addresses unforeseen medical expenses, such as illness and injury.”
The Lubbock, Texas Chamber of Commerce also offers a program with LegalShield (formerly known as PrePaid Legal) which provides discounted and build-in legal services to members. You’ll notice they use the phrase “affinity program” as well. That can be part of a value-added membership while also providing non-dues revenue.
The Greater Parkland Regional Chamber in Canada provides a host of insurance options and discounts through its partners. It also partnered with a group to help keep credit card processing fees affordable and keep small businesses competitive.
What about discounts on gas? Those could really add up for businesses with fleets and travel. Parkland worked with Petro-Canada for two-cent discounts per liter and discounts on car washes.
How to Implement “Value-Added” Chamber Memberships
So where do you go to look into a program(s) like this?
A first step might be looking around your community for entities you can partner with. This could be a business alliance or association, an insurance broker, or even a co-working space/business innovation lab.
You may even see some value in getting together with a group that you formerly saw as a competitor such as a women’s business association or downtown merchant’s association.
If you have a predominant industry in your area, you may be able to work with a bureau or association that serves them such as an agricultural group.
The Johns Creek Chamber partnered with Purchasing Alliance Solutions, Inc. and the Healthy Business Alliance, to negotiate advantages on group insurance and related products and business solutions. According to their press release, they are able to offer “reduced premium rates ranging from 5%-15%…on products such as group dental, vision group term life, and group short term, intermediate term and long term disability income protection…Health Savings Accounts, identity theft protection, individual disability coverage and pet insurance.
“Other products and services available are innovative health insurance products, compliance solutions, human resources outsourcing and integrated payroll services from qualified partners. Mobile applications to help save 15-60% on prescriptions are available to chamber members as well as discounts on other types of coverage.”
In order to ensure local sales people of these solutions were not negatively impacted by this program, “Products are distributed through Chamber-member independent insurance agents.”
Many chamber pros believe offering discounts doesn’t work. But while “value-added” memberships may start at discounts or look like discounts on the surface, they offer much more. A successful program will help small businesses be competitive by providing them with things that would be difficult for them to negotiate on their own.
Consider what your member businesses spend money on or what would they like to be able to offer but can’t afford? What would help them become “employers of choice” in your area? What benefits could they offer to be more competitive in recruiting employees? Answering these questions can help lead you to the types of value-added memberships that would make members think twice before leaving the chamber.
If you could retain a very high percentage of members while helping them be more profitable in their business, wouldn’t you want to?