Chamber of Commerce Marketing: How to Attract Small Businesses to Your Local Chamber Membership

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Chamber of Commerce Marketing: How to Attract Small Businesses to Your Local Chamber Membership

Content Strategist
12 minutes read
March 01, 2024

As a Chamber of Commerce, growing your membership means more influence, revenue, and ability to provide value to your local business community.

But with small businesses often struggling with limited time and resources, what’s the best way to get them to join?

Read on to discover the most effective strategies that can make your chamber’s value clear and irresistible to the businesses around you.

Key Takeaways

  • Offer freebies, trials, or discounts to give potential members a taste of the chamber's benefits. This allows them to experience the value firsthand.
  • Actively blog and utilize search engine optimization to attract local businesses looking for resources and support. Feature member spotlights to showcase your expertise.
  • Foster engagement on social media through shareable, informative content and by highlighting member businesses. Be responsive to all comments and messages.
  • Incentivize referrals from existing satisfied members through referral programs and discounts. Word-of-mouth is powerful for organic growth.
  • Leverage advanced technology like chamber management software to streamline tasks and free up time to foster connections. The software's networking features also add value for members.

How Can Your Chamber of Commerce Attract Members?

An active, engaged membership is key to your chamber’s success and influence.

There are several creative strategies you can employ to attract and retain members. Here are some of the best for you to consider.

1. Consider the ROI of Anything You’re Cutting

Before slashing any member benefits or services to save money, carefully consider the return on investment.

  • Will cutting that networking event save you enough to justify the loss of opportunities for your members?
  • How does the reduction of certain member benefits impact the overall satisfaction and retention rates of existing members?

Analyze the true value each offering provides. Also, examine the impact on member retention and recruitment.

Conduct surveys and focus groups to quantify the value members place on different programs and services.

This data will reveal where cuts can occur with minimal impact versus high-risk offerings you need to preserve. Once you get the results of your surveys, ask follow-up questions to understand why specific benefits resonate.

2. Keep Your Chamber of Commerce Activities Up-To-Date

Demonstrate your chamber’s relevance by adapting programs and messaging for what’s happening now.

  • Add virtual events when in-person isn’t possible.
  • Spotlight member resilience stories during difficult economies.
  • Customize how you showcase value.
  • Stay on top of business trends and challenges to position your chamber as a solutions provider.

Form a “relevance task force” of engaged members across different industries to meet regularly and brainstorm timely ways for the chamber to support businesses.

They can identify opportunities or issues to address through adapted programming and communications.

3. Reframe Goals Around Something Other Than “JUST NUMBERS”

Member satisfaction, engagement, or renewals often tell a more powerful story than sheer size.

Touting such metrics also reassures small businesses that they’ll focus on quality over quantity for new members. Set specific targets around member participation and highlight progress.

Routinely share member testimonials across communication channels. Success stories focused on the business impact of chamber participation make the benefits tangible.

Also, dont forget to enable comments so prospective members can engage with happy members.

4. Broadcast When You Reach Your Goals

Celebrating wins, and the members who helped make it happen makes success tangible.

Use email, social media, and your website to share the news whenever your chamber hits a milestone or key target. This step will help you share your chamber's accomplishments while highlighting the collective strength of the local business community.

Also, make sure to recognize your member contributions and reinforce the power of the business community.

Whenever possible, publicly present oversized ceremonial checks or banners when benchmark goals are achieved. Capture photos at the presentation to post across social media to thank all contributing members.

5. Innovate


Always be on the lookout for new event formats, technologies, partnerships, and communication channels that could deliver more value.

Small businesses have to innovate to succeed—show them your chamber does too. Engage with your members through surveys and attentive listening to understand their needs, using this insight to drive innovative offerings.

Carve out time for your leadership to “think big” about potential innovations - This could be effectively done during an annual brainstorming retreat where ideas are explored without initial judgment.

Consider ideas without judging initially. Embracing a mindset of building on each other's creativity often results in the emergence of exceptional concepts.

6. Reward Your Stars

Spotlight model members who actively participate in programs, volunteer, regularly renew membership, and refer others. Positive reinforcement and public appreciation inspire other small businesses to follow suit.

Find creative ways to recognize engaged members beyond traditional awards.

You can also feature a “Member of the Month” across communication channels based on set criteria – spotlights could include video testimonials. Recognize referral partners and volunteers too.

These rewards encourage chamber members to become brand ambassadors and tell others about your organization.

7. Reach out Regularly and Offer a Human Touch

Direct outreach is one of the most effective methods of reaching out to people.

To effectively implement this method, set reminders to check in with both current and prospective members via email or phone to update them on new offerings, see how they’re doing, and ask for input on their chamber membership needs.

No spam or sales pitches—just a regular, warm conversation. This personal outreach will make members feel valued and give you insight into better serving their interests.

Make sure to schedule monthly check-ins, especially with new members, to address concerns, provide mentorship, and support their transition into the chamber. These might only need to be 15 minutes but demonstrate an ongoing commitment to understanding their experience.

8. Be Attentive

Actively listen and respond when members provide feedback through satisfaction surveys, emails, calls, or conversations. Thoughtful follow-up reassures them they’re heard and your chamber leadership cares.

When you implement suggestions or address concerns, tell that member, specifically citing their input. This closes the loop on listening and makes their membership feel worthwhile by seeing their voice impacts chamber priorities and offerings.

Summarize member input and stories shared when you gave them your attention, then proactively identify others who could relate or benefit. Facilitating those connections multiplied the value of listening in the first place.

9. Network


Facilitate both structured and casual opportunities for member-to-member networking year-round.

Small business members often value referrals and leads from their chamber affiliation. Events, mixers, and programs make introductions possible but also reach out individually to make connections between members with complementary offerings.

Curate and share “Member Spotlights” to promote awareness of the diverse businesses in your membership. The more they network internally, the more value they gain.

Pay attention to member interactions at gatherings and take note of who seems to hit it off. Follow up with personalized introductions to help promising connections continue beyond that initial meeting.

The support you provide to the chamber in strengthening relationships enhances the word-of-mouth marketing capacity of your organization.

10. Enable Members to Update Their Information

Enable members to easily manage their own chamber listings and profiles on your website directory and materials.

Create a centralized dashboard for posting events, managing contacts, updating business descriptions, and uploading photos and videos. Give them autonomy over their pages rather than requiring emails or requests through staff.

Self-service controls over their presence, which implicitly doubles as chamber-hosted marketing, add worth to the investment of membership.

Consider superior, upgraded, or premium packages allowing members greater profile visibility or automatic sharing of their posts and materials through the chamber’s overall communications.

The higher the membership tier, the more autonomy and reach they can leverage from their affiliation. Just be sure baseline membership still proves highly useful.

11. Help Them Promote Their Businesses

Promotion should be at the core of chamber membership packages and offerings.

Provide members digital and print exposure through website profiles, member spotlights in publications, event programs listing participants, signage, and advertising partnerships.

The more impressions their brand makes through chamber channels, the more value they gain.

You can also facilitate members connecting into bigger marketing campaigns from their local community, tourism boards, and city partnerships. Bring sponsorship and participation opportunities to their attention directly rather than requiring them to seek it out themselves.

12. Communicate

Communication must flow consistently between leadership and the membership, among the network of members itself, and externally conveying the chamber’s overarching messaging.

  • Give members easy means to contact staff and leadership when input or assistance is needed.
  • Listen and respond to their feedback and stories showing their voice matters.
  • Internally, spotlight members and organizations so they better know each other and can connect.
  • Externally, amplify what the chamber membership collectively offers to attract community interest and commercial participation. Highlight successes, milestones, and scope of the industry to showcase the value proposition inherent in participation.

13. Provide Them Access to Educational Programs

Education adds tremendous incentive for engagement with chambers.

Offer access to programs, seminars, workshops, training, and conferences furthering professional development, continuing education requirements, and general business practices knowledge.

These could be chamber-developed, run through partnerships with higher education or organizations, or simply opportunities for members to instruct sessions.

Topics might range from leadership strategies to finance management to utilizing new technologies and everything in between, including industry-specific education.

Coupons for members to attend partner events are a simple, low-effort education perk to provide. The more knowledge you will share through your chamber, the smarter its constituency will become.

14. Maintain a Job Board

Workforce development is central to community prosperity. Being in the center of this leadership, you are perfectly positioned to facilitate employment, staffing needs, internships, and general career opportunities between member businesses as well as area educational partners.

Thus, start with maintaining an online job board that allows your members to self-post openings which the broader membership and public can browse as a localized Indeed or Monster.

Host periodic job fairs connecting employers and academic partners’ students or recent graduates. Spotlight career-based content through email newsletters, social media, and chamber events.

Provide interview space or hiring assistance through the broader chamber office and the staff itself. Finally, enable your members to find talent and workers to find jobs.

Chamber of Commerce Digital Marketing: 8 Compelling Online Strategies to Attract Local Businesses to Your Chamber Membership

1. Entice with a Freebie

There is no better option than a freebie to enhance the appeal of your chamber to potential members.

Offer something small but useful for free to give potential members a no-strings taste of your chamber’s benefits. An informational guide, discount code, or access to one virtual event can go a long way.

Consider hosting a free webinar, social media workshop, or networking happy hour to showcase the value your chamber provides. These events should not only be informative but also provide attendees with something tangible that demonstrates your expertise.

Promote your free offering through social media ads and your email newsletter to drive sign-ups.

This integrated approach of providing a taste of your services, coupled with strategic promotion, can significantly boost interest and engagement among potential members.

Read more: 20 Proven Membership Campaign Ideas and 4 Steps You Shouldn’t Miss

2. Start a Blog

Blogging keeps your website full of fresh, helpful content focused on local business topics.

Don’t overtly push membership—just demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the community. Feature guest contributors like prominent local business owners to provide diverse perspectives.

You can also ask for suggestions on future blog topics to spur engagement.

Furthermore, enabling comments on your blog posts fosters dialogue and positions your chamber as a vital platform for connecting professionals in the area.

This approach not only enriches your content but also emphasizes the value of being part of your chamber.

Read more: 8 Ways to Use Content to Acquire and Engage Your Members

3. Utilize On-Page SEO

seo for chambers

Make sure your chamber’s website contains relevant keywords and phrases that match what small businesses search for locally around resources, support, events, etc. This helps them find and get to know you online.

Research target keywords using Google's keyword planner and work them naturally into page titles, headers, content, URLs, alt text, and meta descriptions.

Don’t forget to perform regular website audits to identify new optimization opportunities as your content and membership offerings expand.

4. YouTube Videos

Short videos allow you to put friendly faces from your chamber team front and center.

Give real members screen time to discuss the benefits too. To further enhance social media engagement, share video clips that offer an insider's view of recent chamber events, engaging Q&As with board members, and virtual tours of your facilities.

Additionally, be sure to optimize video titles, descriptions, and tags to rank higher in YouTube and Google search results.

5. Be Active on Social Media

Maintain active and engaging feeds on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn by consistently posting content that is both shareable and informative. This should include a mix of resources, conversation starters, and responses to all comments and messages, fostering a sense of community and responsiveness.

Be responsive to all comments and messages. Also, regularly posting relevant industry news, spotlights on member businesses, and upcoming events can provide additional value and increase engagement.

If you have a big budget. You can consider paid promotions to expand your reach to targeted audiences who may be interested in chamber membership.

6. Start an Online Referral Program

Encourage current satisfied members to share chamber perks with other business owners for rewards or discounts. Word-of-mouth goes far. Consider offering current members a discount on their next renewal for every new member they refer who signs up.

This strategy not only incentivizes your existing members to actively promote your chamber but also expands your membership base organically.

Make sure to prominently feature this referral program on your website and in all communications with members, making it an integral part of your member engagement and growth strategy.

7. Offer a Free Trial

Offer prospective members a unique opportunity to experience the benefits of your chamber firsthand with a complimentary 30 or 60-day trial membership. This approach allows them to 'try before they buy', giving them a concrete sense of how your chamber can support their business.

Allow trial members full access to events, resources, and networking opportunities to showcase everything your chamber has to offer. Provide exceptional service so they see the value.

Additionally, proactively follow up with these trial members to gather feedback and answer any questions they may have.

By paying attention to membership requests, you can demonstrate your commitment, as well as get valuable insights that will help you improve your service.

8. Entice Them with Advanced Technology

chamber management software

One of the most effective ways for you to attract new members is to showcase advanced technology solutions that add value for local businesses.

Glue Up’s chamber management software is designed for organizations like yours that want to retain and engage their members.

This all-in-one software, powered by advanced AI, streamlines your administrative tasks so that you can spend more time fostering strong connections with your members.

The software has a private community for engaging your members in a community-like setting.

It has robust features such as user groups, forums, business card sharing, and 1-on-1 messaging to help your members easily network, communicate, and access important business resources.

The right mix of heart and technology can amplify your chamber’s ability to attract and retain satisfied small business members. Use a people-first approach backed by digital tactics optimized for relevance, convenience, and results.

By leveraging the robust capabilities and easy integration of modern platforms like Glue Up, you can shift your focus to providing top-notch membership experiences that will drive ongoing small business participation and satisfaction.

To understand how a people-first approach combined with digital strategies can enhance your chamber's impact on small business members, schedule a demo with Glue Up and learn how the solution can elevate your engagement and member satisfaction.

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