5 Myths About Chamber Revenue and One Legend

Chris Mead with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives recently conducted a webinar on the title of this blog.

The following are his 5 myths and one legend with a follow-up comment or two from me, based on my experience working with chambers over the past 15 years.

Myth #1

Total resource campaigns are trending down - 35% - 40% of budgets are accessed by those chambers who do it.  15% growth in YGM's clients doing campaigns.  This method of raising money has proven to be very effective for many chambers around the country.  Not sure how I feel concerning the monetary benefits given to members, who participate in these campaigns, based on their performance.

Myth #2

All membership events (drives) have bad renewal rates - one or two-day events to gain new members (think a formal member-get-a-member campaign).  Don't forget, the membership dues raised comes in immediately.  You have a year to work on retention.  What better way to sell a membership than have one of your current members telling their peers that they should belong too!

Myth #3

Affinity programs are dead - they're not for everyone but if managed properly they can be profitable.  What's key is that you have a product or service that your members want or need and you have the numbers of members to support the offering of the product.

Think office supplies, printing, shipping, or myth #5 - the travel program.  What are those potential programs for your chamber?  A challenge for the local chamber is doing an affinity deal with a national company when you may have local members who can supply that same product, albeit, maybe not at the same discount.

Myth #4

Obama killed chamber health care and it's never coming back - legislation passed in 2018 to open up the country geographically to offer plans across state lines.  Stay tuned on how that will affect this affinity program.  But don't forget many chambers are in the business and making money.  Association Health Plans (AHP's).  I could make the argument that doing away with the state restriction will allow a national company to provide a plan across the country for the betterment of all. Associations were pushing for this for years.  Let’s wait and see how it plays out!

Myth #5

Chamber travel ran out of gas – they are still going strong. There are so many different trips available today by many different travel companies.

The China trip seemed to be the first that chambers started to participate in over 20 years ago.  Now there are multiple companies providing these trips to many places around the world.

And One Legend

Capital Campaigns - not to raise money for new staff but for something big in your community.  These campaigns are typically multi-year  (3 years or more) to raise a large some of money that it designated for something specific.  Why specific? That's what you're raising the money for, think a new chamber office building.

Thanks Chris for a great session and for anybody who doesn’t know Chris, he’s the author of The Magicians of Main Street and more information on that product can be found HERE.

Driving Member Engagement through Digital Channels

What are you doing in the digital space to drive member engagement?

I recently attended an educational seminar that spoke to this specific issue led by Melissa Harrison of Allee Creative.

Questions during the session addressed, effectiveness, lack of budget, inability to produce relative and timely content, and not willing to give content away for free.

The main message, don't think "free" but thought leadership, relationships and trust and deliver on those attributes.

A message that I did not expect is that print is back. Don't be afraid to send your members some printed pieces on your program of work.  I'm a fan of an all of the above strategize.

Digital channels are not a member benefit.  You are building awareness and building a brand through these channels.

Digital marketing is content focused.  It needs to be relevant content that provides value and you are engaging them, you ultimately want them to take an action.

Digital marketing reaches your audience on their time where they are.  The Internet is always open 24 hours a day.  So choose channels that you have the resources that you can respond to any questions or queries received from members or prospects.

You’re building relationships and trust through the digital channels.

46% of people check their phones for social media sites and their email as they get out of bed.  That might be a good time of the day to send your content marketing?

Four generations in the workplace and your membership.  Guess what, they are all on social media, albeit they use it differently.

While there are multiple digital channels, you need to focus on what you can handle and handle well.  Find out where the bulk of your members are spending their time in the digital space and plant your content in that space.

80% of the vetting process is done online so make sure your digital house is in order and easy to navigate.

Her final comment, "engage your members by creating a digital marketing plan with content that is about THEM.  Make it STICKY.  Make them see you as a RESOURCE throughout the year."

Put a content calendar together to manage your digital presence.  SPROUT SOCIAL is a great source to schedule your social media and has a robust analytics component

Communicating with Confidence

Carol Vernon, founder and principal, Communications Matter, conducted a great seminar on the title of this blog, communicating with confidence.

Her opening statement - "communications matter!"

If you read any articles on the subject of communications you've probably come across these statistics and they are worth mentioning again.

Communication perception:

  • Words - what we say - 7%
  • Vocal - tone, rate, volume, pause - 38%
  • Nonverbal - body language - 55%

While she talked about a number of communication principles - I want to focus on five she stressed:

  1. Speak up at the right time - be strategic, don't be the first.
  2. Stay on message - organize your thoughts first (what do they know, what do they want to know and then what do they need to know, and what do I want them to know).  Don’t do a data dump when communicating (think in three’s).
  3. Adapt your communication style to fit the audience - a one size fits all approach will not serve you well.
  4. Fine-tune your nonverbal language - what are you doing with your hands?  Are you using your eyes to make eye contact with your audience (whether it be one or many)?
  5. Practice active listening skills - this is a key skill that all of us could work on.  Are you listening, understanding what is being said, and then responding in an appropriate way?

She went on to talk about the four different communication styles:

  1. What - action oriented, direct and to the point, results oriented, purposeful - it’s all about the bottom line;
  2. How - process-focused, detailed step by step, factual and data driven;
  3. Who - people focused, relationship driven, communicative and more personal; and
  4. Why - ideas-oriented, brainstorm, inquisitive, question conventional wisdom.

You need to be adaptive with all four of these styles. There is no right or wrong way.  But having a strong presence is key.  Do you move purposefully?  You need to be fully present and use your face, eyes, and body to command the room.

At the end of the day, communication skills are developed over time and we all can continue to learn and adapt as we go!

For more information about Carol go HERE.

Engaging and Retaining New Members Using Drip Marketing

Amazon has 22 benefits - they introduce you to a few at a time through weekly or monthly emails.  I'm a member and I've personally experienced these onboarding emails. That's how I learned about e-books, prime music, etc.

I recently attended a session led by Larry Guthrie and Leslie Whittet, both from the Association for Corporate Growth where they talked about how to market the benefits of your organization a little bit at a time with your members.

If you're an Amazon customer you're familiar with their monthly email that talks about a specific benefit or two.  What they are doing is putting their benefits in bite size messages.

They spent a good amount of time discussing the difference of onboarding versus an orientation?

Onboarding improves retention rates - period!  An orientation is just the beginning of a true onboarding process.  The onboarding process could be the first 90 day period of your new members interaction with you.

This is where drip marketing comes into play. You communicate with them on a regular basis over this 90 day period by introducing the different benefits of your organization.  You might want to communicate on a biweekly basis.

The value proposition is a major part of your onboarding process.  Advocacy, education, networking are benefits that you are providing your members, are you doing a good job of communicating those benefits?  Your communications should always be member focused not chamber focused.

Maybe your onboarding (90-days) communications might be:

  • Welcome kit
  • Communication on an advocacy effort you're working on with a link with more information
  • Communication on how to participate in your next networking event
  • Communication on a couple of benefits that they might not be aware of

 Your goal is to have your members "learn it and use it!"

Drip marketing is showcasing your member benefits in your communications in a strategically planned out process.

I also think it's important that in these communications you are not asking for more money.  Remember, they just paid you a sum of money to join.

Think of drip marketing as a guided tour of your chamber.  You're breaking up your value proposition into small digestible bites of information. Make your communications clean and concise.

Biweekly emails focusing on a different set of benefits is a plan worth considering.

Once you've finished your 90-day onboarding with new members you might want to check in with them at the 6-month interval. Remember, at the 9-month interval you'll be sending your first auto-invoice.  That three-month window before an invoice is sent will be a great time to fix any problems from the information you might get at that 6 month check-up.

Good luck!

10 Ways to LOSE Members!

I recently attended a great session at ASAE's MMCC (a bit snarky) led by Andrea Pellegrino and Theresa Kramer-Burgess with their list of the top 10 reasons to lose a member.

Losing members because what you're doing not because what you're NOT doing!

Here's their list of 10 ways to lose members:

#1 Make it hard to find information - arrange your website the way they can find information in an easy intuitive way.

#2 Make it hard to give you money - do you have a one-click solution, think Amazon and their one click buy - your members expect that now!

#3 Make them wait - give them instant feedback or acknowledgement of joining, not on a weekly/monthly schedule.  Use auto respond emails to make that instant connection.

#4 Tell them what's good for them - it's important to continue to ask your members what they want, think annual needs assessment survey. Ask, listen, track, respond.  Do a focus group as qualitative research from time to time.

#5 Ask for more money, right away - let them get settled and take advantage of the membership before bombarding them with new ways to spend money with your chamber.  Think engagement first and help them solve a problem.  Communicate what you're doing for the community.

#6 Make discounts a main benefit - talk about the value of membership in your chamber (advocacy, economic development, community development) not a discount on a future purchase.  Make your interactions with people transformational, not just transactional.

#7 Don't personalize - there is no reason with today's technology that you can't personalize every communication with your members.  Always use their first name, don't ever use "Dear Member."

#8 Don't talk to them - if a member calls your chamber will they get a real person or will they get the phone voice mail tree that takes forever to leave a message.  We're in the relationship business and your members should be able to easily get in touch with you and get their question or problem fixed.

#9 Ignore the user experience - are you tracking how your members are accessing your information on your website.  Are you using Google analytics to track your members interaction with you and make it easier for them to get what they want. Don't waste their time trying to navigate your website, just fix it, no excuses.

#10 Ask for everything all at once - ease your new members or current members into the work of the chamber.  Have them make "one decision at a time."

Bonus #11: Fuhgettaboutem - don't do this!

Their final thought, engage with your members throughout the year in a piece meal kind of way and continue to listen to them and respond in an appropriate way.

Digital Marketing Essentials

At a recent breakout session I attended on digital marketing by Aidan Augustin and Jeff Bunkin of Feathr was focused on retargeting, geofencing and lookalikes.

Retargeting - someone visits a website and you get an ad later when you're on a different web pages (Facebook, papers, etc. - banner ads or a video ad).  This is all about getting you to purchase a product once you've left a site where you were browsing.

Retargeting is all about paying to reach a warm audience and you don't need their email.  They've just visited your website.

You can use segmentation to dig deeper in what they viewed on your website and then you can decide what ads they may get from you to make sure you're delivering relevant information to them - think an exhibitor versus an attendee and giving them the right information to sign-up.

Another example is the shopping cart abandonment, where you can retarget them with the registration process and get them to check-out and finish the process.

An ad exchange is an auction site to decide what ad is shown at the higher price on the webpage that is being loaded in real time.

Geofencing - showing ads show within a specific geographic area, think a 4 block radius.

For a great resource on the specifics of retargeting go HERE for an article by Social Media Examiner.

A Data Driven Approach to Member Recruitment Strategies

At a recent membership and marketing session I attended addressed membership recruitment strategies based on data.

It was conducted by Kerri McGovern and Joseph Cephas, both staff members of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

The main point I want to focus on from the session is identifying what to focus on and how you are communicating with members and prospective members.

Speak in your members terminology not yours.

Current issues that need to be addressed as you move to the future - aging members, value proposition, legacy members resistant to change

You must be mobile friendly!

Resources - they talked about how your website main page must be enticing to your members.

They also talked about the sales funnel, and oh by the way, the sales funnel is not dead as some may say, and depending on who you speak to or which article you read there is always a tweak in how you are using it.  By the way, it's a great way to organize your sales:

  • Lead generation - prospects who have visited your website, list purchase or attended an event.
  • Lead evaluation - prospects that took an action, clicked through your email, etc.
  • Lead qualification - prospects that respond to direct membership outreach.
  • Qualified lead outreach - ongoing dialogue of prospects who have expressed an interest.
  • Closing qualified leads - point of sale.

For a resource go to Wikipedia's site HERE.

Messaging is key when putting together a membership campaign.  You must have a consistent message weather it's a direct mail piece, website, or your social media presence.  Their organization tapped into the theme of "belong" as their messaging - "You Belong Here!"

Are you leading with a similar theme?  Your Community: Be a part of a better future!  When discussing membership with a prospect lead with your advocacy work, economic development, and community development initiatives versus leading with a list of benefits of membership.  That should be on the backend of your communications.

If you've not read the study by ACCE titled Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 you should and it can be found HERE.