How to Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce
There are a number of ways a website design agency could help their local chamber of commerce. The most obvious is helping them with their website design, digital marketing strategy, and implementation.
Obviously they need to have the budget to pay for a proper, effective, and beautiful website/platform, but they must also be willing to give you the lead on how to best implement a successful digital marketing strategy for your work to be effective.
Why Get Involved With Your Local Chamber of Commerce?
Many agency owners (or freelancers) get involved with their local chamber to help grow their business. This was not the case for me. My choice to get involved was simply because I wanted to get more involved in the community, and work with other business leaders within the community.
Whatever your reason for being interested in your local chamber of commerce, here are some tips for navigating your involvement as a local website design and development agency (or freelancer), within your own community.
What If You Can Offer Them a Minimum Annual Growth Rate of 100%?
In 2017, the Marina Chamber of Commerce had a total membership revenue of $2,435. After implementing a new chamber website strategy and design in late 2017, as of January and February of 2019, the chamber’s membership renewal income is already at $3,325.
Projections for 2019’s total membership revenue is at $8,000 (conservatively). That’s a growth rate of over 230% in two years. How would you like to propose that kind of potential growth rate to any client?
Based on all the feedback we are receiving from members, the leading factor in their decision to become a member has been all the activity they see on our new website, social media channels, and weekly email newsletters. Thanks to the new digital marketing strategy we implemented, all articles and events on the chamber’s social media and weekly emails all lead people back to our website where an online community is being built up.
Every Chamber of Commerce Needs a Smart Digital Marketing Strategy
It is my belief that one of the greatest benefits a local chamber can offer its members, is through a smart and powerful website platform. Here are a few ideas that I have actually implemented with the Marina Chamber of Commerce, and the results have been phenomenal.
Take Advantage of Surrounding Communities
The Monterey Bay is a global travel destination location with people from all over the world visiting Monterey and Santa Cruz. Marina is a tiny little beach community in between these two locations, and it has a lot of great characteristics that the others do not have.
We are a quiet beach town just minutes away from both Monterey and Santa Cruz, with many inexpensive hotels, quiet/peaceful nights, great year round weather, and enough great international restaurants to wow any international foodie wanderluster.
Our goal was to capitalize on international tourists who are setting up their vacation itineraries via research on the web. We adopted a website slogan that says “Visit Monterey Bay, Stay in Marina”. We want people searching for things to do in Monterey or Santa Cruz, to find articles from our website, ranking on page one in Google Search results.
Make It About the Community & It’s Businesses
Most chamber of commerce websites are all about themselves. They inform the visitor about who they are and what they do. That’s what makes most chamber websites boring and ineffective in my opinion.
“I proposed to the Marina Chamber of Commerce that they need to make a major shift in their website purpose by changing it from an informational website about the chamber, to a travel destination website that would target people searching for things to do in the Monterey Bay.” – Geno Quiroz, Monterey Premier
The goal was to attract website visitors looking for businesses, restaurants, non-profits, service providers, and things to do within the local, and neighboring communities.
This way we could offer chamber members premium online exposure to a whole new audience and potential new customer base.
New Chamber Website Goals, New Chamber Website Features
With this new goal set in place, we had to implement several new features and strategies.
Community Business Directory
Obviously our ultimate goal is to promote our local business community, and especially our members. So we established a business directory that any local business can sign up for, but standing chamber members get top-billing featured spots in the category page they are listed in.
Imagine something similar to premium paid Google Ads within the business directory, with more information about their businesses than non-members. This way, people get the benefits of seeing all the local businesses, but knowing who are the businesses behind this informative Marina tourism website.
Members also get their own individual business page that they can update themselves. Many of our members cannot afford their own website so with this new feature, members could have all their information listed here and finally have a presence on the web.
Community Event Calendar
We also wanted visitors and locals to know what is happening in Marina. Most city and non-profit websites only list their own events, so by giving the entire community a place to submit and showcase their event (member or non-member), we are offering the community a very convenient service for free.
This also gives visitors an opportunity to see what is going on in Marina while they are visiting. It is a win-win-win situation. A win for the community, a win for the chamber members, and a win for the visitors.
We all know that it is time consuming to administer a local community calendar, so we decided to allow our community to submit all their event information themselves, through the front end of the website. So instead of a volunteer getting an email, and creating an event in WordPress, once the user submits their event information, the event post is automatically created. All we have to do is approve it, and it goes live with the click of a button.
This feature allowed the chamber to offer the community a premium service for free, with very little extra labor required.
In the same spirit of the community event calendar, we wanted a platform where people in the community could announce accomplishments, favorite things to do, employee promotions, city works updates, and more.
So in the same manner as the community event calendar we decided to allow our community to submit all their announcement information through the front end of the website. So instead of getting an email, and creating an announcement in WordPress, once they submit the information, the blog post is already created. All we have to do is approve it and it goes live with the click of a button.
This feature also saved the Chamber hours of labor each month.
Unseen Benefits of Member Management and Auto Renewal Invoicing Within the Website Itself
The Marina Chamber of Commerce used to send out print invoices at the beginning of each calendar year so a majority of our membership income was received between December and February.
By integrating a member management system within the website, the chamber is now able to grow their member base with 24/7 online registration and membership renewal. The “Join Now” form is linked to the Business Directory so once they submit the registration and payment, their business directory listing is automatically generated.
The system also sets up it’s own auto renewal invoice scheduled to be emailed 30 days before a renewal payment is required. All done automatically.
Now the chamber receives membership income throughout the year, instead of only during a few months of the year. And they are generating more membership income by not having to offer prorated discounts for members who enroll mid-way through the year.
The Chamber Website Can be the Primary Recruitment Tool
By automating the online membership enrollment process, we not only saved the chamber hours of labor each year, it reduced stress, increased revenue, and made it much more convenient for new businesses to enroll.
The chamber is now averaging 1-3 new members a month, many of which have never even spoken to a chamber representative.
The chambers new online presence speaks volumes to the community and has become the primary membership recruitment tool.
Support Major Chamber Events
Every other year the Marina Chamber of Commerce runs an event called International Flavors of Marina. It’s purpose is to allow guests an opportunity to taste samples from Marina’s finest foods along with beverage purveyors of wines from around Monterey County while enjoying friends, networking, and participating in the Silent Auction.
An event like this deserves it’s own website. Since it is only held once every two years, we were able to help sponsor the event by designing and managing the event’s website. With a value of over two thousand dollars, it is a great way to sponsor the event.
You can view the website here: https://marinaflavors.com/
Donate Website Services to Chamber of Commerce Silent Auctions
While it is impractical (and unwise) to offer your website services as a silent auction item without knowing the scope of work in advance, it is completely practical if you offer packaged website design, hosting, and maintenance plans.
In addition to custom and specialized website design and development, we also offer fixed price template package deals, and monthly hosting+/maintenance plans. By offering our most expensive template package plan and a year of our standard hosting+maintenance plan to their silent auction, we were able to offer an item valued at almost three thousand dollars.
We believe the winner of this silent auction item will love our monthly hosting and maintenance packages so much, they will decide to stay on for much longer than a year.
So as you can see, there are a number of ways a website design and development agency can bring a lot to the table when helping out a local Chamber of Commerce. Some may be interested in working with the chamber to help business, while others are doing it to be a more integral part of the community.
So, whatever your reason for helping your local chamber of commerce, make sure to let people know exactly what your agency can bring to the table, and make sure you are having fun along the way.
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