I had the pleasure of presenting a Whale Hunters workshop for the Academy Plus attendees at the annual training seminar hosted by the Western Alliance of Chamber Executives, headquartered in Sacramento, CA. These are experienced CEOs of local and regional Chambers of Commerce, dedicating time and energy to better serving their members and their communities.
There’s a lot going on in their world that is relevant to business owners and executives. Here are a few of the key issues that they presented:
- The economy. Members are paying closer attention to their dues and the value received. Cost cutting is everywhere, and Chamber membership can be perceived as “nice to have but not mission critical.”
- The customer benefit equation. Chamber execs are continually striving to deliver extra and extraordinary benefits to their members and sponsors.
- The sponsor hunt. Many Chambers host community events for which they seek high-level sponsorship. This process is truly a whale hunt. Matching the potential sponsor with the event and benefits package most attractive to a sponsor is all about Target Filter, Scouting, and developing a Whale Chart.
- The community. Chamber executives are not in total agreement about what is their role in economic development, job creation and retention, representing business interests in legislation, community-backed joint ventures, and other ventures that they are often asked to participate in and sometimes to lead.
What were the best ideas I heard?
- Be creative in new membership packages for current members who cannot renew because of costs. Chamber execs have been very creative in packaging and offering virtual memberships, email memberships, interim memberships, and others.
- Involve past board chairs and other past leaders in a consistent, significant way, empowering them to lend their influence to others in the community.
- Reach out to Gen Y leaders and employees through social media, including texting key messages, and embrace the ways in which they prefer to receive, send, and process information.
- Take a broad view of sponsorship, beyond members. Some organizations who have no interest in membership nevertheless have a strong interest to position in front of the Chamber members and their affiliates for a specific, relevant event. One example cited was an event with a clear ethnic focus, which attracted sponsors who did not value the membership per se but wanted to have their name and logo in front of participants.
Key lessons here are relevant to the community of for-profit entrepreneurs and executives.
- If you are not actively engaged with your local or regional or state Chamber of Commerce, seek out the leadership and let them know exactly why you have not chosen to sign on. Help them understand what value they could add to your enterprise and what would attract you to engage.
- If you are a member, step up to leadership so that your company and your community are powerfully positioned for economic development, job creation/retention, and reputation for business innovation and success.
- Encourage your local or regional Chamber to get involved in strategic alliances and joint ventures with related entities that have similar economic and business development goals.
How does your local or regional Chamber benefit you? If you are not an active member, what would attract you to join?