18 Mar 2014

Keeping Chambers of Commerce Relevant in a Digital World

There is no denying that the world is quickly moving towards a complete dependence on technology.  We have reached an era in which the answer to every question can be found on the smartphone in your pocket.  Twenty years ago it was instinctive to call the local Chamber of Commerce if you had any question about where to eat, what mechanic to use or the best hotel to visit.  Now with the help of Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and dozens of other interactive websites, referrals from Chambers of Commerce are declining year after year.  


This technology revolution has brought local small businesses to a point where they are questioning the value of their Chamber membership.  Taking an “Us vs. the Internet” stance is probably not a battle anybody can win. How will your Chamber use technology as an ally rather than keep it your competitor? How can Chambers stay relevant in a digital world?

Two years ago at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management I attended a class called “Innovate or Die”.  This class stepped on a lot of toes in the chamber world because the professor brought up an idea that was unspoken around the country: Chambers are going to have to tear down their old structure and adapt to the changing world or they will cease to exist.  The prof explained that our predecessors joined their chambers because it was the right thing to do.  They knew the chamber was vital in the business community because most commerce started with them.  If a family was looking to relocate, they contacted the local chamber to get a new member info packet. No longer. Today’s relocating families do a simple Google search. In the past, if a business executive was interested in the best restaurant in town they called their chamber, but now they download the Yelp app and ask their peers. 

Change is hard. And in a digital world, this unfortunately begs the question about why any small business should join their local chamber. They should, of course. And it's important that chambers of commerce be prepared to show them why.

The first answer to that question is that chambers of commerce offer prime local/regional networking opportunities that help connect businesses to other businesses.  I’ll be the first to say that these are excellent events for members to attend., offering unparalleled opportunities to learn new strategies, create new synergies and connect with like-minded business owners.

However, some small business owners may feel they don’t have time to attend events in real time because of their busy work schedules.  There will always be those potential members who opt out of the chamber of commerce because they think they can get the same value from LinkedIn or other online tools. The reality is that they are missing out on the local/regional market intelligence a chamber can offer.

The clear solution to this is to offer them the kind of high quality digital tool they need to succeed. Chambers can appeal to business owners short on time with value that requires little of their time, because they can take advantage of it right from their place of business or their home.  SizeUp Local Business Intelligence (LBI) offers chamber members local data that is typically only available to large corporations who can afford it. By providing this data to the small and medium-sized businesses who need it most, you can give your region’s business owners direction with things like where to most effectively advertise or the best place to open a second location.  The data provided by LBI will directly impact how much money comes in and out of member doors.  There are few small businesses who could afford this data on their own but your chamber could supply this tool available 24/7 to members from your website.

Try it out for yourself on the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce SizeUp LBI site. 

Become a digital chamber of commerce for our digital world - that’s where your new relevance lies. To learn more about SizeUp LBI, contact us today.


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