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Learn from the businesses that DON'T join your chamber of commerce

Posted by Curt Moss on Jul 30, 2013 12:33:00 AM

If your chamber of commerce is like most, you go through a certain process to sell memberships to local businesses.  At some point in this process, the business will decide to join or not to join.  

If the business joins, you can be well on your way to recording information on why they joined so you can deliver benefits to them and gain valuable member intelligence.

But what if they don’t join?  What can you learn from these businesses?  Plenty!

Let’s start with this, “Why not?”  Ask them why they didn’t join.  AND, record that information in your database!  You’ll soon be able to determine the top 5-10 reasons why businesses don’t join your chamber.  You probably hear things like:

  • I don’t have time
  • The corporate office says we don’t join chambers
  • Dues cost too much
  • You don’t have “X” benefit
  • I’d like to, but the boss says no
  • I was a member once and didn’t get any new business from it
  • We’re already a member of an industry trade group


Create a way to track these objections in your member management software and assign them to these prospects that don’t join.   (If you can, be sure to record their type of business, how many employees they have and how long they’ve been in business, too…more on using that information later.)

Over time, you’ll notice trends for why businesses don’t join. Then you can adjust your messaging or benefits packages going forward.  For example, if you continue to hear “I don’t have time,” you may want to alter your advertising, website text and selling process to focus on how businesses get benefits from your chamber even when they don’t participate. 

You can also revisit some of these businesses in 6 months to a year and demonstrate to them the ways you chamber has benefited businesses just like theirs in the past year, using their own objections “against them.”   First, find businesses that are similar in industry and/or size, by mining data from your membership database.  Then check the objections from this business when you first tried to sell them a membership.   Run referral and benefit reports from your member management software and get testimonials from these similar businesses to use in your conversation.  You can create mini “objection kits” for most objections to help you go back to those businesses that told you “no,” and demonstrate why they now should say “yes.”

For example, you might say “When we talked last time, you said that you didn’t have time.  I want to show you how some other businesses like yours are seeing value from our chamber even though they don’t attend events or participate on committees.”    

The effects of such a conversation can be very powerful.  Foremost, it shows that you listened.  And, it shows that your chamber cares about the businesses in your community and you are interested in forming relationships with your members, not just collecting dues.  And, listening and strengthening relationships go a long way toward improving member retention and generating additional new member sales.

How has your chamber learned from the businesses that did not join?  Please let us know in the comments below.

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Topics: Membership Marketing & Technology


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