I was at a coffee shop sitting across from a friend a few weeks ago. He owns a regional business and has memberships in four different chambers. His business is doing great, but as we were catching up over a cup of coffee, he mentioned to me that he has no intention of renewing his membership in any of those chambers.
No intention of renewing.
Not a single one of those chambers has demonstrated to him that they are delivering any value to his business. That’s staggering to me. I would hope that out of four chambers, at least one would be making the cut.
There is a lot of talk in Chamberland about communicating value and this is a perfect example of how organizations are not getting that message through to their members. As business owners are becoming more thoughtful with their budgets and a younger generation of non-joiners rises into leadership and ownership positions, chambers can no longer rely on the hope that businesses will join the local chamber or remain a member because “it’s the right thing to do.” For chambers to survive and subsequently thrive, they must communicate value to members that are investing in them.
Communicating value isn’t difficult, but it does require a shift in your mindset. So often, we rely on the “bells and whistles” of membership to make that initial sale and to help us out of hot water when a member is considering dropping. It’s a band-aid approach at best, and unless those tentative members somehow stumble onto a value message, you’ll be in the same situation come renewal time next year. And likely whatever you pulled out of your sleeve the last time to coerce a renewal won’t work a second time. You must be communicating value every day for the message to stick and for your members to “get it.”
Let’s break down the approach into six easy steps.
Defining the Problem
The first step is defining the problem.
Think about all of the communications that you send out as a chamber as solutions to problems. You send them out so your members will be informed, right? So your big-picture problem is an uninformed audience, your communications, as a whole, hopefully solve that problem. Now let’s drill down to a another level, looking at just one small slice of what your chamber does, and analyzing and adapting your communications approach so your end product falls in line with the communicating value philosophy.
How about sponsorship development as the problem we’re trying to solve? Let’s narrow it down even further by taking on sponsorship development for your chamber’s After Hours Mixer.
So, the problem is that the chamber needs more mixer sponsors. No—scratch that. That’s the wrong way to look at it. Let’s look at it this way. The problem is that members don’t fully understand the value of an After Hours Mixer sponsorship. Defining the problem in a more member-centric way will help you develop a message that resonates more with your audience.
Identifying Your Audience
So who’s your audience? Chamber members? Let’s be more specific. How about members who could gain value from sponsoring an After Hours event? Let’s face it, that’s not all of your members. Narrowing down your target is also going to help you deliver a more effective message. You may be speaking to a smaller audience but your message has a better chance of being received.
Defining Your Purpose
Now let’s define our purpose. Our purpose is to make members who would gain value for sponsoring an After Hours event aware of the value.
Setting a Goal
Your goal would be to secure more satisfied sponsors. The keyword here is satisfied. You want to match the right members with the right opportunities, not just book events and collect checks. A satisfied sponsor this year means there’s a good chance they’re going to renew and sponsor again next year. Sell quality and quantity will follow.
Developing Your Message
So, what’s our message or key take away that we want our members to remember after they see our pitch for an After Hours sponsorship? I think it’s that sponsoring an After Hours is a good marketing decision. This is where we sometimes stumble. So many chamber marketing flyers, postcards, brochures, etc. highlight the “bells and whistles” of a sponsorship, but gloss over, or fail to mention the value. There’s a lot of time and space spent communicating details about logo placements and how much time the sponsor will have at the podium. These are great details and should not be ignored, some of them may actually help close the deal, but they don’t communicate the value of the sponsorship.
Value can be subjective. So that’s why it is important to hone in on your audience and on what their marketing objectives are. It’s possible that your message may be different depending on the type of member you are trying to reach. A Business After Hours sponsorship may be just as valuable to a bank as it may be to a retail shop or restaurant, but they will likely see the value in different ways. A bank, insurance company etc. is probably more interested in brand recognition and being seen as partner with the Chamber. A retail shop or restaurant, on the other hand, will likely see more value in the opportunity to host chamber members at their location to showcase their menu or their products or services.
Let’s use that aspect as the focus of developing our message. Sponsoring and hosting an After Hours event guarantees the sponsor that a crowd of business professionals (i.e. qualified customers) will walk through their door, spend time in their business and have the opportunity to learn more about what the business has to offer. My guess is there is no other form of advertising available in your community that can bring potential customers into a place of business as effectively as hosting a chamber After Hours function. But don’t take my word for it…see what this sponsor of one of our client chambers has to say about it.
You will notice that this video did not include details about how many times a sponsor’s logo would appear in chamber e-mails, or what kind of signage would be displayed at the event. What it did do was deliver a clear and effective message of value to any business watching that was considering an After Hours sponsorship.
Often, no one can deliver that message better than a satisfied customer. So when you are trying to come up with message points and trying to write convincing copy, it’s worth consulting with happy members to find out what they see as value and how they describe it.
Delivering Your Message
The final step is to deliver your message. This message was delivered in video form, but you could use the same verbiage for a flyer or other marketing tool promoting an After Hours Sponsorship.
The thing to remember is to keep your message focused not on selling, but on communicating value. When you dive a little deeper and strive to communicate value rather than sell the bells and whistles, your message is stronger and stickier. Remember, frequency is important too. You can’t just send it out once and hope for the best. This message could be spun off into several forms (flyer, email, social media post, video etc.) and delivered in a variety of ways to help ensure it is received.
This method doesn’t just work for sponsorship development, you can apply this process in promoting every aspect of chamber membership that provides value to your members…advocacy, networking, economic development. It just takes some thought, a shift in your mindset to see things from your members’ perspective and a little more effort to develop a message that connects with your members.
So, what are you waiting for? You can do this. Get out there and communicate some value. If you need our help, you know where to find us.