Building a successful chamber is a matter of meaningful, well-planned strategy and execution. The potential for growth is endless and in the process, you can serve members while raising your profile. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard. With these 10 chamber success strategies, between themes of offering, planning, and membership, we have outlined the best ways to build a chamber you can be proud of.
When passionate, enthusiastic people come together on a regular and punctual basis, good things can take off in the local community!
Long Term Strategy
Marketing & Branding
In the world of work, networking contacts are easily forgotten. But once in a while, we connect with someone who makes a significant impact on us. Being that person for someone else gives members the chance to contribute to the wider business community in a variety of ways.
Each member brings their own experiences, skill sets and networks along with them, so why not maximize them and create even more? Value is what makes members feel connected to each other and to your Chamber, so putting it at the forefront of your chamber success strategies is sure to create lasting worthwhile relationships.
Growth never stops and as professionals, upskilling is a way to ensure that you can get the most out of your industry. Chambers can play a role in providing opportunities for education through events and dialogue. From digital transformation to mentoring, providing opportunities for members to improve themselves not only makes your Chamber worth their contribution but enriches your quality relationship with them.
Equally, it will set your Chamber apart from most others and create a reputation of self-development and opportunity. Providing education can equally take place through a diversity of means. Blogs, Q&As, and surveys allow you to find your member’s specific preferences and cater to them. Being attentive lets you know your members inside out.
Education is one of the most organic chamber success strategies because it creates a two-way relationship in which both sides can benefit and collaborate.
A sense of community is what separates your Chamber from a business that just talks at disaffected customers. Communities are made up of like-minded individuals who are working towards a greater goal for their joint benefit. You can create community through engaging with the immediate location of your Chamber. Education, parks, local spaces, and healthcare are all part of the bigger picture.
Meeting the needs of your local community is how you demonstrate care and passion for the symbiotic relationship between community and business. Being a prominent part of the community builds a trust that could attract others to want to be a part of your Chamber and make it a success.
The community can even be extended to the online world. Professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn can become equally as key to keeping everyone in the loop. Successful chamber strategies often start outside the Chamber with the community surrounding it and focus on how these groups can be brought closer to the Chamber itself.
Short term results are an easy prize. Interest, however, is short-lived. Focusing on enabling long term relationships will benefit your chamber more. Not only are these in themselves a powerful resource, but they can also supply repeated results that will grow consistently over time with your Chamber.
Thinking long term means doing away with personal self-gain and instead investing in a meaningful future for your Chamber - it may not produce instant results, but it is truly rewarding in the long term.
Giving your Chamber its own identity makes it unique and easy to differentiate from others. Branding is a way of creating a story around yourselves and marketing is a way of communicating this to potential members. Digitally, it is the best way of engaging with the upcoming, millennial audience of young professionals and diversifying your membership.
Catering your marketing materials to the specific demographic your chamber aims to represent equally makes your marketing more precise. Whether it is young professionals, entrepreneurs, family businesses or agriculture, each must feel like the materials they interact with were made specifically for them.
A successful chamber has leadership at its helm. The role of a committee is to steer a chamber’s general direction, but executive leadership is what provides the driving initiative for them to follow.
Good leadership listens and directs while ensuring that the Chamber fulfills its purpose - both members and committees should be involved in decision making and the results recorded and assessed so their successes and failures can be recorded.
Leaders can become a part of important conversations that move commerce forward through joining committees, legislative affairs meetings and interactions with local government policy. If your chamber can position itself as a leader of opinion, more people are likely to engage with it as a body they respect.
Data is the number one tool for understanding, processing and planning goals for your Chamber. Using an online contact management system (CMS) to track your members' attendance, preferences and availability is just the beginning. Your chamber should be able to understand what they are experiencing within the business world, what their challenges are, and where they see themselves heading in the future.
All-in-one software is convenient because it takes the pressure off Chamber staff and it creates success stories too. The Italian Chamber of Commerce’s 30% growth with Glue Up shows that when data is used and combined with an all-round strategy, solid growth can be achieved. This part of the modernization that all Chambers need to undergo to put their best foot forward in a digitalized world.
An operating philosophy is made up of the core principles of your Chamber. What guiding principle unites your membership, executive and committee? How can they be projected in a way that attracts people? What place do these principles have in your Chamber’s future and what do you hope to achieve with them?
An operating philosophy is much more than just words on display. It should be representative of your Chamber and the ways it operates, true authenticism is the one consistent attraction for new members and acts as a reminder of those within your chamber of what they are striving for. This is one of the chamber success strategies you just can't fake!
More important than attracting new members, retention is what gives your successful Chamber strategy sustainable longevity. Whether it is over 9 months or 5 years, member retention maintains steady growth. The 2017 Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Trends in Chamber Operations report shows that average member retention levels stay between 85% and 87%. When first-year membership is examined specifically, this figure drops even further down to a concerning 63%.
Making sure members stick around is all about giving them something to look forward to that is worth the fee. There is a positive correlation between membership and value - the more value provided, the more chance of your retention rate reflecting a satisfied and happy membership.
Member retention is boosted by a combination of meaningful engagement, feedback, and interaction. Organic, non-forced engagement with a chamber is what makes members join and stay for the foreseeable future.
Participation is one of the key ways of interacting with your membership; not only at events but through surveys and emails to collect feedback and allow them to shape the chamber they are a part of. Active contact makes members feel that their voice is valued and appreciated, and brings them even further into the fold. This successful chamber strategy is sure to help staff relate to members as unique individuals with their own separate interests and occupations to build a rapport with them too.
The digital economy has changed the way chambers communicate with their membership and vice versa. Because more people are spending more of their time online, communication must be done both online and in-person to make sure that no one gets left behind. Being adaptable enough to operate on both fronts is essential for capturing the majority of your membership, irrespective of their age.
Community leadership creates an enthusiastic, engaged membership. Get involved with community leaders at ground level - their visibility can transfer to the Chamber and this can create a local buzz. Celebrating those who are leaders in their own way is a great idea - i.e. awarding “Student Entrepreneur of the Year” and similar awards in partnership with local education institutions can drive interest and publicity. Successful chamber strategies are all about appealing to those who are already existing members and those with just as much potential to join in the future.
Building a successful chamber starts with understanding what you are offering, what you plan to do and what this can do for your membership. In the long term, these measures can become the key to repeated, consistent growth. Any dynamic organization can reinvent and adapt itself, no matter the landscape.