When starting your business you are always looking for opportunities to meet other business people to try to sell your product/service to. 5 years ago one of the best places to make business connections was your local chamber of commerce. I have been a member to two different chambers over the years. The first one in Lancaster, PA where I ran my business before I moved to Texas and then the next one was the Fort Worth Chamber where I live now.
When I moved to Fort Worth, I knew only 3 or 4 people and had no business contacts. So I joined the chamber and hustled like crazy. In 5 years, I knew more business people than my wife knew people in Fort Worth and she lived here for 10 years or so. I loved the Fort Worth Chamber because they had a lot of events and groups to join so it was a great to make connections.
I personally only had mediocre success though. I got business, but 5 years in I worked really hard and felt I should of had more business for the time I invested. So the last year (year 6) I was very hit and miss with attendance since I needed to figure out why I wasn't getting all the business I wanted and needed. I personally need to take responsibility for being mediocre at sales while I was in the chamber. I do think there was more to it than that though.
Although I really liked the Fort Worth Chamber because of all their programming I started thinking that I was not getting in front of the right people at all the events I was attending. Now being a better sales person, I know I need to only be speaking with CEOs of companies making $500K annually and up. I would bet of all the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I met, only a handful would fit my ideal prospect.
Now how does this tie in to chambers and the global marketplace? Well, when it was time to renew on my 7th year in Fort Worth, I put the chamber on hold. I needed to find a gameplan that was going to work for me and I wasn't sure the chamber was the solution. I started a direct mail campaign focused on CEOs. This was a great campaign, but very costly. I then moved to the internet. I started inbound marketing which basically allowed me to cast my net wider. I was now not only fishing in the local fishing hole, but now the ocean and the whole world. For a business that is not confined to a local geography the internet can be a great solution.
I recently had a conversation with Rick Roberge (sales trainer) and he told me he was doing a presentation to the American Chamber of Commerce Executives entitled Selling in the 21st Century. The reason they brought Rick in is because chambers seem to be struggling with sales and keeping members. So this opened my eyes to the bigger situation. The problem I had with the chamber was more common and other businesses are dealing with the same challenges.
I can see how inbound marketing could be a better solution than the chambers, I went this direction myself. So how is a chamber of commerce going to deal with the changes in business and marketing? How will they overcome the issue of member loss? One solution is to change with the times and learn to sell to a prospective member in the way they need to be sold to. What about offering classes to help your members sell to a global marketplace? Think about what would happen in this case, you would help the local community bring money into the city and probably spend most of it local even though it is coming from outside of the community or even from other countries. How would this help your members? Do you think this would help the community at large and also entice more members to your organization? You bet it would!