We work with several Chamber of Commerce and Association leadership teams. We help them with everything from social media training to social business strategic planning, goal setting, integration and execution (do for you social media marketing services).
Associations and Chamber of Commerce organizations hold a soft spot in my heart because they were of course one of the first business networking groups. They have deep roots and have the potential to offer much value to businesses new and old.
I can still remember the first day I walked into a local Chamber of Commerce event after starting my first agency. I remember the fears of becoming an entrepreneur and leaving behind the fat corporate paycheck, 401k, health benefits and security to follow a dream.
I remember the members of the Chamber and other Associations virtually holding up my back, telling me to “stand tall, you can and will do this.” A few people told me just that. They told me they could “see it in my eyes, feel it in my handshake and practically see it on my skin, that I wanted this thing and I wanted it bad.” They told me they were confident that I would succeed. I can remember their words like they were yesterday.
Chambers and associations have been hit hard by the change in technology and wide adoption of social media. What worked for them in the past, doesn’t work today. Yet, many of them are still using the same old tactics and wondering why they aren’t seeing the same result they did five years ago.
The purpose of this post is to provide some ideas and give a bit of an insight as to what I would do if I were the president of a chamber or member association that was committed to integrating social media into business for real results. Many of these tips will work for any business, association or franchise organization.
I of course am not going to give away all of my secrets or offer a full comprehensive strategy. I wouldn’t have time to do this in a single blog post anyway. I hope this post provides enough to help association and chamber leaders wet their whistle. If you want more help on any of the below or more, call us and we can help you build and execute a real plan that will drive results.
Most changes needing to happen within organizations today to enable them to become a social business are related to mindset. In a nut shell they have the wrong mindset. It may be a mindset stuck in the 80′s, an arrogant mindset, insecure mindset and the list goes on. As you read this post I challenge chamber and association leaders to look deep within your heart, soul, staff and board of directors. Ask yourself this question… “Is my mindset holding me back from success?” My guess is that if you have to think about the answer to question then it is!
20 Things I Would Do if I Were a Social Chamber of Commerce or Association President
If I was the the owner, President, Vice President of member services, sales, marketing, or simply sat on a board of directors for a chamber or association that I know needed help I would NOT be the silent person who knows they need to change but kept my mouth shut. If somebody at the local Chamber of Commerce does not speak up and help them make change they are going to be a dying breed and out of business in the next one to two years.
2. Hire and empower the needed help.
If I did not have the resources with the skills needed to take my business to the next level I would hire, train and empower them. I would hire the right agency, consultants or staff to take us where we need to go. I would prioritize and pay for the needed training, change management resources and empower them to do their jobs, not do them for them!
An intern straight out of college who’s face turns red when asked to open up her social media Facebook profile to the business membership is not going to take your chamber or association to the next level.
Have the guts to admit you do or do not have the right skills. Find them and empower them to help you, period. Don’t hire them and then overnight claim to be an expert on the exact skills you hired them to do. Continue to work with them even if they challenge you to take skeletons out of the closet, stop doing stupid things that are wasting money and even look in the mirror at things you, yourself need to change. Be their partner, their friend and help them help you!
The first thing I would do is to develop a comprehensive plan with specific goals and objectives. This does not necessarily mean a social media plan. What is needed in most businesses today is a real business and marketing plan. Sorry, stating you want to grow membership is not a plan. HOW will we grow membership? What markets will we grow? What percentage of members will purchase what memberships? How exactly will we expand to new markets, impact local government? How will we drive the intended revenue? How will we keep up with the online competition?
A business without a real plan is like a dart with out a dart board. A fish without water. Trust me, you will NOT be in business in two to three years if you don’t develop a plan to be in business in two to three years, period.
4. Include members in the “get social” plan.
The best way for a chamber or association to become social is to engage and tap into their already existing community of members. Ensure the membership is included at every step of the way. Start with focus groups, surveys, social network reviews, blog feedback sessions and more. Teach them how to be social, how to leverage social media to network, help one another and grow their business.
The chamber or association and their membership can learn and grow together if the right focus is put in this area.
5. Avoid Random Acts of Marketing and Social Media
Avoiding RAMS is a requirement. The only way to do such is stop doing them. Bottom line if it is not in the budget, isn’t in the plan and can’t be measured it is a RAM. RAMs will eat every last dollar of return on investment (ROI) without blinking. Don’t let RAMs consume your business.
I would rid my team of RAM addiction immediately. I would train them on what they are and teach them how to stomp them once and for all!
The first list I would create is the list of the things we are going to STOP doing. You can check out a post I wrote on this topic here->>#1 Social Business Action List: What You Are going to Stop Doing
Becoming a social business is going to take time and resource. Time and resource is one thing that most chambers and associations do not have in excess. Therefore, the only way you are going to find time and resource to become a social business is to make the time and free the resource. It’s simple math. Cut some events, projects, tasks off the list. Use the time to do the other things listed here that will derive real value and move you toward your goals.
Focus on analyzing every single activity your team is spending time and resource on. Is it providing a return? Value to members? Where are the bottlenecks? How can you combine activities to drive higher result?
Where are their opportunities to combine activities, events, tactics to drive higher efficiencies and return. I can guarantee most chambers and associations are not thinking about these things. They are instead thinking how they can keep current staff busy to justify their role. The problem is they are keeping staff busy with the tasks of yesterday, the events of last year and few projects and programs that are going to ensure they are still in business next year!
If your current methods are not working, then stop them. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
7. Do an internal mindset analysis.
I would take a serious look the mindset of my entire organization. Do they have what it takes to be social? Does my leadership team have the right mindset to lead my organization through massive change? Or will they get insecure, stay stuck in their ways and refuse required changes? A team ready to embrace change inclusive of a new way of thinking is a requirement, not an option.
Do they have a sharing and giving attitude? Or do they want to hoard information, require people to attend an event to learn new skills? These ways of thinking must be thrown out with the bath water, period!
Do people like them? Do they treat my members like human beings? Or do they hide behind avatars and email blasts? Do they sit in the back of an event and whisper about members? Or are they in the middle of the action, guiding and leading conversations to bring people together?
I would look at everything from staff, processes, email marketing, content, board of directors, involvement with and support for government organization, event strategies, membership structure and business models, revenue analysis, event attendee analysis and the list goes on.
I would literally peel back the onion, pull the skeletons out of the closet and not be afraid to lay them on the table in front of my entire leadership team. If they can’t handle looking at them and dealing with them then I would have the guts to fire them. Keeping a leadership team around that can’t move a business forward is a recipe for failure.
I would look at every social media network launched. Dig deep into the data, analyze the data and make decisions based on such.Who is liking the Facebook page? Who is clicking “like” on posts? Are they more females or males? Who is engaging and why? What is it they are looking for?
I would dig deep into Google Analytics as there is gold in them there anlytics! Having an understanding of how your current customers, prospective customers and general website visitors are engaging with your current or past website and blog is critical to success moving forward.
If I didn’t know how to do an audit or where to even begin I would hire someone asap who does. If this is you and you need help, call us. We offer comprehensive audits at an affordable price. We can save you thousands of dollars in wasted execution and lost membership revenues. How much is your time worth? How much is one year of member revenues worth? Check out our audits here-> Social Media Business Audit & Assessment
9. Conduct market research.
I would start with my existing and prospective members. I would conduct an online anonymous survey with a 3rd party and conduct several focus groups with members and prospective members. I would dig deep into the reasons why they are or are not members. I would find out what they need to run and drive better results in their business. What gaps in knowledge, networking, collaboration, do they have and how can I fill them? How are they using social media?
Second I would look at the broader market. I would not do this so I could copy my competition or take the easy way out. I would look at new market segments I could attract with real value. I would analyze trends, buying patterns, technology platforms we could leverage and integrate into our membership programs and the list goes on.
I would force my staff outside of the walls of our organization and restaurants where we host the events. I would include the staff and ensure they were part of conducting the research. They need to learn first hand the changes taking place in the market today.
10. Hire leaders.
Chambers and associations have an amazing opportunity to lead change today. Yet, most seem so stuck in their ways. Their revenues are falling, leadership teams are working two or three jobs each and they know they are losing ground in market share, value and every aspect of their business.
Since I would have done a comprehensive audit as a first step I would know what team members are delivering value. I would know who has the right or wrong mindset to implement change and help our members implement change. I would also have the guts to fire or layoff the people who are incapable of being trained, inspired, motivated to do such. As hard as it may sound many businesses need a full overhaul when it comes to internal staff and leadership.
11. Teach my staff the word WHY!
The most important word in social media is WHY! Why should anyone like our Facebook page? Why should they follow us? Why should they be our friend? Visit our blog? Why should they share our content? Why should they attend our events? Why should they be members of the Chamber? Why should they give a rip about anything we do or say?
If you can’t answer this question from the start you are unlikely to ever become a social business with results.
12. Put my action where my mouth is.
If I say I am going to become a social business, then I would do it. Many businesses have the desire to become more social. They hire the right agencies or consultants.They pay for the annual contract to get started and have a team to support them. However, when it really comes down to it, they are not ready for change. They don’t want to share the data, lay the skeletons on the table or get past the insecurities.
Bottom line the worst thing a chamber or association can do is to continue making false promises to their members. How many times have you heard an organization say “we are going to get social this year.” Yet, you are lucky if you see them launch a Facebook page and tweet buttons to their website. Sorry, a tweeting website is not going to deliver results.
13. VALUE – become the most GIVING Chamber or association on the planet.
After my staff learns the word “why”, the second word they must learn is VALUE. The focus must be on providing real value to members.
The Chamber is packed with knowledge and relevant information. Content is the king, queen, jack, joker and spade of social media. The purpose of this post is not to argue about if content is king or queen. However, I will guarantee you that content is the key for the local chamber and association. If leaders do not learn this fast, their days are numbered. Sorry, charging people to come to an event so they can network is not giving or providing value! It is taking and it is providing little value. My true belief is that the chambers and associations that will survive longer term are the ones with the biggest, most giving hearts.
14. Start focusing on the members who are NOT attending events.
We see many chambers and associations focusing on the people who are attending their events. This includes both online and offline events or training. The sad thing is that the same people are attending these events over and over. It’s the same group of people and it represents a very small, usually broke, percentage of the membership.
Instead I would focus on the people who are NOT attending the events. Who are they? What are their business demographics? What is their business model? Business size? Why are they not attending events? Do they attend any events? If yes, which ones? Why do they attend those events?
If the events are not offering a good majority of your membership value then where are they deriving value? This is the segment I would be the most concerned about. How am I going to keep them as a member two years from now if all I am doing is face to face meetings that they never attend?
We must dig into the real cost of attending a Chamber event. Not only is there often a charge for the event itself, there is a charge for the luncheon. What about the time? It takes time to prepare and attend an event. It takes money and gas to drive to the event.
The events must provide value above the cost of getting there, being there and getting back to the office or home. If the value doesn’t out weigh the cost, well that right there my chamber and association friend is why the same people are attending your events over and over. You are not understanding the value / cost equation. You better learn this fast.
16. Overhaul the traditional membership program and business model.
Sorry chamber leaders and associations, many of your business models are broken. In case you haven’t noticed there is an entirely free social networking event happening across the globe 24/7 on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, blogs, and more. The days of you building a business model based solely on live events are dead and done. We need more value than what you are offering. We need integration online and offline.
I would get in the head of my dream customer segments. I would build a business model that offers them the most value packed membership program possible. I would focus on how we can help them meet goals and objectives, fill gaps they have in knowledge and learning, help ensure they don’t miss key deadlines for state legal requirements. I would provide them opportunities to connect with other business leaders who can support them, who they can build relationships with and help grow their business. I would do this WITHOUT forcing them to attend a meeting, event or in real life training. I would provide opportunities to obtain the information via webinars, podcasts, downloadable whitepapers, slideshare presentations and the list goes on.
The people attending the events today are the same over and over because there is no value for those who are not there. Locally we find the same people who are broke, looking for people to take to a free lunch and have no money to buy our services. It’s often a depressing group of folks who are not inspiring the new attendee to stick around.
The membership business model presents tremendous opportunity to provide value if social is integrated properly.
The only way my chamber or association is going to survive and use social media with real result is if I integrate it into the DNA of business. I would make this a top goal and find real ways we can integrate social media into processes, events, communication, membership programs and the list goes on. Social media can be used to improve sales close cycles, membership communication and feedback, membership satisfaction, relationships with outside partners and government entitities.
The time spent here will deliver a return far better than any list of RAMs or events. Stop the nonsense and roll up the sleeves to make the needed changes pronto.
18. Make it about the members, not ME!
Most chambers, associations and offline networking groups specifically focus on the me, me, me. How many times do you get a message “come to our event, buy our tickets, rent a booth at our event, like our page, follow us on Twitter.” Where is the value to the members? Where is the “here is what we can do for you, you, you?” The truth is the word YOU is seldom found in most of these organizations to date. If your team doesn’t have the mindset to understand this, call us, we can help. Enough said. You can’t fake relevancy. Read this post for more tips on this topic: “You Can’t Fake Relevancy In Social Media, Business or Life!”
19. Empower and train the RIGHT team.
After we have a plan, goals, objectives and a strategy for social business integration, hiring and training the right team is the most important investment to ensure success.
Each team member must have integrity and trust in their DNA. Team members should be trusted not to share and leak out competitive information from members to member competitors. I have experienced this first hand with documented proof and I’ll tell you it is not pretty. It is happening at numerous chambers and association and it is a sign they need to overhaul not only their processes but their team. This is the fastest way to not only lose your members but also your greatest supporters and evangelists.
I would hire, empower and train my social power team. I would not be afraid of competition stealing them as I would give them a reason to stay. Provide them the best possible working environment where they can learn, contribute and add the highest possible value to paying members.
I would ensure I had the right coverage in the areas needed to lead, integrate social, communicate, manage events, video tape, engage people both online and offline, measure, monitor, and implement needed changes.
The team should offer something of value. They should be more than a facilitator at leads groups. They should have the skills to help people learn how to network, communicate, leverage social media for real results and grow business!
20. Get video and photo savvy.
This person must have a mindset of serving the members. Sorry, but the videos should not just be about you, selling tickets or getting people to events. Focus on providing real value, knowledge and inspiring people to engage with your team.
What You Say?
How is your local Chamber of Commerce serving you? How are the associations you are a member of doing to provide value? Are you seeing trends of them moving in the right direction? What are they doing right? How can they better help you? What should they do more or less of? If you have cancelled your membership, why did you cancel? What would inspire you to come back?
I would love to hear your opinions here, good and bad. Let’s help these associations and chambers stay in business. They may not like what we have to say, but they need to hear it. Let’s give credit to the ones doing it right and use them as a role model.
Get a Grip on Social Media:
This is part of the series titled “How to Get a Grip on Social Media.” The series will include a free newsletter, webinars, whitepapers, tips and best practices to get a handle on your business and social media.
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