Membership Smiling on the Phone

Anyone who has done their one minute elevator speech knows how hard it is to condense all the nuances of your business into such a short time frame. But that’s the beauty of the elevator pitch—it makes you think about what is important to your audience and makes you look a little deeper at what message you want to convey. Like a sonnet, a well-crafted elevator pitch is more powerful because it is concise and confined.

In my elevator pitch, I rarely attempt to explain all the things that the Chamber of Commerce does for the business community, because there is no way to get it all in—and besides, the Chamber offers very different things to different members. For small business and start-ups, it is about networking, connecting, learning and saving money. For many it is about being a part of a dynamic business community or lending legitimacy to their organization. For many it is simply about supporting our advocacy role as “the voice of business” in the Tri-Cities, less about what they get and more about giving back.

Often I tell people that my job is to recruit new members and to make sure that our current members are happy with their membership so that when it is time to renew they do so without hesitation. We value each and every member and take the decision to renew or not to renew very seriously.

The process of retaining members is one that every Chamber struggles with. The key is to make sure that you are providing value and communicating that value effectively. It is important to know why members join, why they stay and what is happening in individual businesses and industries that may help us shape our policies.

The most effective way to get this information is to pick up the phone and call our members. With over 800 of you, the task is fairly daunting, but it is crucial to our retention efforts.

Each call is different. Many of our members I have never met so it’s a good opportunity for me to get to know them, to find out what is unique about their business and who are their ideal clients. I also like to ask if there is anything impacting their business that they want the Chamber to know about.

Sometimes the calls are difficult because business people are busy and don’t have the time for abstract questions. I know not to take it personally. Most of the time, I enjoy the conversations I have and learn something new every time. Some tell me about their challenges and there are a few common themes—difficulty hiring skilled workers, apprehension about the changing winds of provincial politics, or frustration (still) about the HST referendum results.  Most commonly I hear about the struggle to get back on track after the economic downturn.

Occasionally I hear from businesses that are growing rapidly and trying to keep up. One company recently told me about a huge multimillion dollar contract they just won. Often I hear relief that business finally started to pick up again in the first quarter of this year.

I feel very grateful when business owners take the time to talk to me and tell me about their experiences. Time is the most valuable thing that we all have and there never seems to be enough of it in a day, especially for business people. When I hang up the phone after a long chat with a member, especially one I have not met before, I get excited about what we are doing here at the Chamber and the possibilities that we have to help the business community thrive in the Tri-Cities.

The more we learn about what our membership is facing, the better we are able to serve you. It is important that our members know how much we value each of you and that we really do care.


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