Your local chamber of commerce is your local power broker.
They have their hand on the pulse of every business in your local community. You can use their groups to generate leads, but only if the powers that be approve.
It's perfect for prospecting.
But that's also the reason why it doesn't work for most. There's a secret to networking, one insiders aren't eager to share with outsiders.
Prospecting at your local chamber of commerce is harder if you're just like everyone else
Here's how it's supposed to work.
You pay your membership dues (typically $300-$1000 per year). You attend meetings and events, volunteer and participate. In return, you're provided with a steady stream of leads, clients and sales.
Sounds pretty good, right?
That's the interesting part about your chamber of commerce. The strategy actually works for a select few.
What if you're unlucky?
What if you're not part of the fortunate few? Is there any way to make your local chamber of commerce work for your business?
Sure, but it's a lot of extra work.
If you're running an agency you have a tremendous amount of work on your plate. At any given moment, you're juggling demands from multiple clients. You're also working to promote your own business.
How your local chamber of commerce actually works
You pay your membership dues.
If you're like every new member, you arrive with high hopes and expectations. You're hoping the local chamber of commerce becomes your golden goose.
Everyone wants that.
In reality, every business owner there is looking for one specific thing.
Your local chamber of commerce wants more members (and membership dues). Individual members are hoping to generate an avalanche of leads. Chamber speakers are hoping to generate hefty speaking fees and the chance to plug their product or service.
There lies the problem.
The unpleasant truth here is the majority of attendees are looking out for themselves.
Well this is awkward.
Am I suggesting that your local chamber of commerce is filled with selfish and greedy people?
Not at all.
The majority of these people are eager and willing to share. They're just missing the relational components they need to share safely.
Relationship is the key to chamber prospecting
Want more sales leads?
You'll need to develop a relationship with three distinct member types in the group. What I'm about to share applies to almost every group with an established hierarchy.
It's the way of the world.
These rules apply to governments, corporations, dictatorships, your homeowner's association, the PTA committee and any other group you can think of.
This requires caution.
Some of the details I'm about to share are unpleasant. See these rules for what they are and proceed with caution. Work to be honorable, to go above and beyond whenever possible.
No person rules alone.
It's a fundamental part of working with groups. Every group has three distinct members.
1. Essentials: Those in power. They seek rewards for themselves and for the influencers who support them. They are the decision-makers whose actions align closely with the wants and needs of their influencers.
2. Influencers: Those with the clout, power and control to establish essentials, sway the group to their particular aims and make decisions. These influencers often replace or dethrone the essentials that displease them.
3. Interchangeables: Refers to the groups of people who provide the majority of the benefits for influencers and essentials but have the least amount of clout.
This is Selectorate Theory in a nutshell.
CGP Grey posted an outstanding summary of the Selectorate Theory. You can watch or skip ahead.
Remember, these rules apply to almost every group, political or apolitical.
What does this mean?
Your tasks and the work that needs to be done varies for each particular group. Your local chamber of commerce is an incredibly viable option for generating business.
But most fail.
Not because their product is poor or because they're unlikeable.
Not at all.
No, the reality boils down to the simple fact that they didn't know the rules. Knowing this, you'll need to adapt your agency's process accordingly.
Remember our categories?
Let's review them again with the chamber of commerce in mind.
1. Essentials: These are the presidents, managing members and leaders of your local chamber of commerce. Their goals are typically focused on (a.) growing membership (interchangeables) and bringing in more membership dues (b.) boosting their personal and professional reputation and creating opportunities.
2. Influencers: These are the influential businesses and organizations in the community. These members aren't like most of the other businesses in the community. They have a significant amount of clout and control in their local area. Essentials need to rely on their influence and support to retain control.
3. Interchangeables: These are the average businesses joining the chamber. They provide the lion's share of the group's revenues but they have the least amount of say in the comings and goings of the group. These interchangeables vary from year-to-year, depending on the level of return they see from their membership. Most of them don't stay long term.
Developing a relationship with each of these three members boils down to one word.
If you'd like to cultivate your local chamber of commerce as a reliable lead source, you'll need to be able to produce a disproportionately large amount of value for those in the group.
What do these three groups want?
This is all fairly straightforward, right? Here's the good news about these wants and needs.
They need you (they just don't know it yet)
I'm going to give you two simple strategies you can use to rapidly develop a close relationship with each of these three groups. You're going to provide these three groups with a remarkable amount of value.
You're not going to have to reinvent the wheel here.
You're going to copy.
Other organizations have done the work for you. All you have to do is adapt these details to your situation, apply consistent effort and reap the rewards.
Strategy #1: Give like Google
Google offers, give or take, more than 251 products, all tailored around search. Here's the interesting thing about their products.
Only 15 or so are paid products.
These products produce the majority of their revenues. They also subsidize all of the other products and services Google offers. Google gives almost everything they create away.
Here are a few ways you can do the same.
First, create an irresistible offer. Your irresistible offer should be a three-pronged attack. It should cater to your interchangeables, influencers and essentials. Here's an example of what those offers could be:
Second, speak or present at a variety of chamber events. Teach attendees about the value of review management.
Third, make your presentation entertaining.
Remember, information + emotion = MEMORY.
Give them food for thought, deliver massive value to your audience. Then at the end of your presentation, after you've delivered value, pitch your irresistible offer to attendees (interchangeables)
Fourth, massively over-deliver for these clients. Boost their conversions, turn them into the dominant leader in their local/regional market. Help them to dominate. Next, turn them into raving fans. Share their live feedback, video, audio and written reviews on stage during your next speech or presentation.
Finally, repeat steps one through four.
See what we've done here?
We've focused our entire attention on giving. Here's the thing with this strategy. The entire group won't admit it, but they'll be watching carefully. They're looking for an answer to their question.
Can you deliver?
If you do, perceptions around you will change. You'll go from being a peer or interchangeable to an influencer + essential in your own right.
You deliver results!
Strategy #2: Play the matchmaker
Matchmaking requires nuance.
You'll need to identify the people who can make a difference for each of the three segments we've discussed. This isn't as easy as it sounds.
What do I mean?
Playing the matchmaker is a long-tail strategy. It requires you to gain the access you need to systematically build a relationship with each of the members in your group.
It requires a mind shift.
If you're going to play matchmaker here's what I'd recommend. You introduce yourself to the group as a speaker, influencer or thought leader first.
You build influence first.
You keynote your local chamber of commerce's events. You sign up as one of the speakers or presenters of the event. You create visibility and publicity in the local community.
This is crucial.
Do this for some time then, once you've developed the appropriate levels of authority in the community, you quietly join the group.
Here's the thing.
This depends on the group. If you're seen as an authority and later you join a particular group as a member it can produce an immediate loss in status and prestige. Whereas joining a different group may produce overwhelming levels of pride and gratitude in the ranks.
You'll need to feel this out.
If the group you're targeting is cliquish, highly political and very competitive you're probably dealing with the former. If everyone is supportive, laid back and casual, you're probably dealing with that latter.
Take some time to observe.
Then begin working your strategy. If you're dealing with the former, begin serving, and helping others as an outsider. This allows you to maintain a powerful social frame.
What if it's the latter?
Join the group quietly. Then, begin building relationships outside of chamber get-togethers and events. Take some time, in the beginning, to get to know everyone.
Then, start connecting.
Connect members in the group with influencers outside of the group. Assist them with their marketing efforts. Connect them with key influencers who can help them.
Be the connector.
Do your very best to deliver quantifiable value to each group in your local chamber.
Follow a five to one ratio. Give five times more than you receive. Do your best to serve those around you. Then, when you're ready to ask, tie it to your business and the services you provide.
Show them why you're different.
Your local chamber of commerce offers a major prospecting opportunity
You can choose.
With the right approach, you can approach key your local chamber of commerce with confidence. These three segments all want the same things.
You can be the bridge.
The credibly thought leader that delivers the results they need.
It's perfect for prospecting.
Every new member arrives with high hopes and expectations. You're hoping the local chamber of commerce becomes your golden goose. Which is what everyone else is hoping.
Shift your perspective.
Approach your local chamber of commerce with an attitude of giving. Look for opportunities to give and serve wherever you can. Become indispensable and you'll find your chamber of commerce has all the leads your agency needs.