[GUEST BLOG] If Everyone Goes Left, Go Right

by Frank Kenny

There is a real problem in the chamber industry.

It’s conformity.

Just about every chamber offers networking events, member promotions, business training, member-to-member discounts, etc.

This strategy of duplicating what other chambers offer is safe because it doesn’t get you criticized or laughed at. But it doesn’t help your organization stand out. It makes your chamber average and, when you think about it, average is never good enough, not if you want an organization that is making a big difference for your members and community.

Let me share three examples of chambers or chamber people who stand out, who refuse to conform, and are making a big difference in their communities.

The first is the Vail Valley Partnership, the chamber representing Vail Valley in Colorado.

They have a Trailing Spouse program.

What they discovered at the Vail Valley Partnership was businesses could attract executives to come run the major organizations such as the hospital, the ski resorts, and government. But those executives almost always had a trailing spouse or partner who couldn’t find work in Vail in their field.

The executives, who these large employers recruited at great expense, stayed for a little while but then went somewhere else where the executive and the spouse could find good jobs in their fields.

So, the Vail Valley Partnership, the chamber, invented this program that brought together human resource people from the major organizations in the area, and they agreed they would help the trailing spouse find a job in their organization commensurate with their skills and interests.

This is a very different program.

Most chambers don’t offer anything like this. It doesn’t conform to what people think they would get from their local Chamber of Commerce.

It stands out.

And it’s just one of nine of their signature programs.

Another example is from Rebecca Wildeboer, now with the Allendale Area Chamber of Commerce in Michigan. When Facebook LIVES first came out most chamber people were hesitant to put themselves out there on live video.

It was scary. It was risky. It was hard work.

But Rebecca didn’t let that stop her. She did Facebook LIVES just about every day. By doing something different, she stood out. She is now known nationally throughout the chamber industry.

She refused to conform.

The third example is Chris Russell with the Nixa, Missouri Chamber of Commerce. This chamber offers networking in the Metaverse. Sure, most of the members and community aren’t in the Metaverse yet, but they will be. And Chris’ chamber will already be well established there when the members are ready.

Just the fact that the chamber is so far out in front of the members and community makes this chamber stand out.

I urge you, if you see everyone in the chamber industry going left, go right.

Don’t conform.

Look for ways to bring unique solutions to your members’ problems. Be on the cutting, or even bleeding edge.

What are you doing at your chamber that is unique or different? I would love to know.

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Frank Kenny is an internationally recognized author, professional speaker, and consultant. He is the founder of the Chamber Focus Show and the Chamber Professionals Community Group on Facebook.

Over the past 10 years, Frank has helped hundreds of chambers reach their goals with staff and member training, strategic planning, board retreats and orientations, social media, digital marketing, technology, and more.

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