As businesses examine their budgets more closely, even once-prized memberships are at stake. Chambers are facing difficult obstacles to successful recruitment and retention. However, predicting challenges (and planning for them) is one of the best ways of surviving through them. As the voice of business, chambers must not just survive these challenges for their own sake, but for that of their members as well. Identifying potential struggles makes it easier to create an action plan to survive them.
4 Challenges Facing the Chamber Industry in 2023
It’s important to consider trends and challenges that could derail the chamber’s strategic plan and goals for the community. While every geographic area is different, through hours of conversations with our clients (and as chamber members ourselves) we’ve identified these challenges as the most common that chambers are facing in 2023 and beyond:
Growth of the Entrepreneur
With the growth of the entrepreneur post-COVID, many chambers assume these independent businesspeople will gravitate to their offerings. But this has been slow to occur. Part of that may be because many chambers simply don’t have a membership tier that appeals to them. Or it may be because these independent individuals are too busy to come to networking coffees with large groups of people.
Since an entrepreneur’s time is one of their greatest resources (and the most in-demand), they guard it valiantly. They want to be involved with organizations and activities that have shown a palpable return on investment. So, if the chamber is offering networking and you want entrepreneurs to join, you need to show return on investment in the networking you’re offering through referral tracking or another value spotlight.
A Younger Generation That Doesn’t Understand the Business Value of Networking
This is at once an opportunity and a challenge. Young professionals were raised to appreciate a team structure and approach to projects from school. They understand the value and power of consensus building.
However, the importance of networking—or their ability to become a good networker—may not be something they are considering when planning for their career. As a generation with helicopter parents, they understand that who you know is important to making things happen. But they may not understand the how behind building a network.
Educating them on the benefits of organized networking and how the chamber can help them find a group of professional friends and a referral network or perhaps a mentor system, can be very enticing to this group. But they won’t come to it on their own.
Showcasing the importance of organized networking can be accomplished through an easy investment in technology. This helps you show them the impact of your efforts on their career.
Limited Spending and Spending Cuts
Chambers have already felt the pain of cuts in members’ budgets due to COVID, supply chain shortages, workforce shortages, and now 40-year-record-high inflation. The first line items companies cut are things that don’t provide enough value for the expense. Will that be chamber membership?
Here marketing is key. A savvy chamber will highlight services and benefits that members can’t easily get for themselves. Sharing the benefits of advocacy, introductions, office space, valued referrals, member discounts, and other similar benefits helps members realize what they receive from chamber membership.
Establishing (and communicating) value is one of the most difficult challenges the chamber has. Chambers must know what’s important to each of their members. Blanket benefit packages won’t convince them of true value. Chambers everywhere are speaking with members to uncover the benefits they need and want most.
Competition in Events
Due to an increase in demand for customer experiences, many brick-and-mortar businesses are hosting events. Some are pairing with other businesses to create evenings out, while others are offering DIY classes. This may feel like competition for the chamber. But it doesn’t have to be.
Most of these types of businesses aren’t in the event business. See if they need assistance. Chambers can co-sponsor events with these businesses, helping them with invitations, technology, attendee registration, and event marketing. Helping them host a successful event can establish a strong relationship and make your chamber a critical part of their growth.
Do these challenges match up with what your chamber has experienced?
At ChamberForge, we were chamber members first. We loved the leads/referral group. But there was no technology to help us understand the ROI of group participation (knowing how many leads we received and the business that grew out of our leads group membership). So, we created our own. Now we help chambers easily show the value behind lead group participation.
Contact us today to see how your chamber and members will benefit.