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Recruiting For The Long Run Part 1 - Small Businesses

Chambers are in the solutions business with a myriad of services, resources, programming, and initiatives.  So, why don’t more businesses retain?   Even when you provide excellent member service, benefits, and value, retention won’t improve if the businesses you recruit are the wrong fit to begin with.

Chamber leaders must recognize that there are wrong businesses for every chamber model.  And, they must accept that all wrong-fit members have one thing in common; somebody at their chamber recruited them in the first place. 

We recommend that chambers apply strategic targeting to identify the common characteristics to look for when prospecting for new members and investors. Establishing prospective member profiles is a very effective way to hone in on smaller business members that will likely be a good fit for chamber membership.


Prospective member profiles describe the businesses that a chamber should proactively pursue to join.  Businesses that meet these profiles are more likely to join, engage, gain value, and retain.  All outbound engagement calls and sales activities should focus on attracting your chamber’s ideal members.

The basic starting point for creating a prospective member profile calls for chambers to establish a minimum employee count.  We also recommend taking a hard look at B2C companies to confirm whether they tend to be a good fit.  Most importantly, the profile must include the key reasons why successful members are happy.


Once they look at the data, many chambers discover that micro businesses with one, two, or even three employees, simply don’t tend to renew.  With regional chambers, the minimum employee count might be higher.  

With so much happening in their world, micro businesses often are just too busy to take advantage of chamber resources.  As such, they don’t gain an advantage and drop their membership.

With many chambers, B2B businesses have a more enhanced membership experience because their focus is on one-to-one interactions and making business connections with other businesspeople.  

Micro B2C businesses typically drive success through volume sales.  As a result, they can’t make enough connections, don’t get the same ROI as a smaller B2B businesses, and generally don’t retain.


Finally, understanding what makes successful members happy allows chambers to develop targeted discovery questions for prospective members.  

Chambers generally confirm that their smaller business members are transactional and expect something from their chamber.  Their most pressing challenges typically converge on building their business and access to useful resources.

The discovery questions that chambers develop should attempt to uncover challenges and problems the business is facing that can be solved through the resources of the chamber. The answers will provide a roadmap for member reps to connect how specific chamber resources and services can help solve those problems, and provide a logical guide as the prospect progresses through the recruiting cycle.


Through tracking, chambers can uncover more clues over time and build out their prospective member profiles.

For example, establishing a baseline for number of years in business has helped chambers recruit smaller businesses that are a better fit.

Sometimes chambers establish an annual revenue minimum for their market because a particular minimum level of revenue proves to be a valid indicator of whether a business will be around for the long haul.

Other potential data points include location, industry, business model, and more. The key is to track and assess the data to identify key indicators for your chamber.


Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Chambers receive inbound membership inquiries, guests at events, referrals, and the like.  Whenever a business proactively expresses interest in membership, your team should follow up with them to join your chamber – even if the business doesn’t meet your prospective member profile.  

If you want to set up a long-term recruiting strategy for small businesses, establishing a prospective member profile and fine-tuning it over time is an effective way to recruit members who will be a good fit for your organization.

For larger prospective investors, we recommend a different approach. We’ll cover that in our next blog article - part two of Recruiting For The Long Run.

As always, we encourage you to practice these techniques, make them your own, and let us know how it goes.

Remember, we’re easy to talk to. Feel free to reach out with questions about these techniques or other issues.

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