How you get the Chamber to refer your business
Megan Roberts, Executive Director, Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce
Every time we hire someone new or have a new volunteer at the Chamber office, the newbie is amazed at the volume of calls, we get asking for phone numbers. Its like when the old school operators were discontinued, the Chamber girls took their place as directory services. Catch me sometime out and about and ask me the number for City Hall, what the landfill is listed under or what the name of the can redemption center is and you’ll see firsthand that I know this information better than my social security number because I have had to recite it hundreds of times each year.
The part that still surprises me, though, is when a newbie gets an angry call from a local business about how they were not listed in a referral by the Chamber office but their competitor was. This is the part where we explain the Chamber’s policy on business referrals. You see, it is a little different than sharing public information like the number to City Hall, and the line is fuzzy but for good reason. Let me explain.
The Chamber is a membership based organization. Our first priority is to be business based. We represent more than 250 members and they support the organization with their finances, volunteer hours and participation in Chamber events. Because of this support, we give them benefits in return. Referrals are, by far, one of the most coveted and most valued benefits of membership. It’s a leg up on the competition, it builds credibility with customers and it shows support of the local community. Nothing frustrates a member more than when they pay dues to support the Chamber staff and community activities and someone who doesn’t pay dues gets the same referral for new business as they do.
But isn’t the Chamber supported by taxpayer dollars, you ask? Sure we are, and our second priority is to be community minded. That is why I have memorized half of the phone book. The City of Atlantic contributes less than 15 percent of the Chamber’s annual revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax receipts. Arguably, the businesses that make up the Chamber generate a good portion of those funds in the first place through the sales they make. So, without businesses, there would be no LOST funds, but that’s another column. The bigger picture is that for those invested dollars, the City of Atlantic has an extension of their services which leverages other resources and then markets the community, provides free community events, assists people with relocation, assists small business prospects and acts as directory services. If I were to pencil out the return on investment, it would be pretty incredible.
Bottom line? If you are investing more into the organization, like our members do, you get more in return. Not a member? Give me a call sometime. I make house calls.