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Chamber of Commerce

16 Best Small-Town Chamber of Commerce Ideas from 2023

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks April 12, 2023
Table of Contents
9 min read

Chambers of Commerce exist to help support and grow local businesses. From hosting events to promoting local businesses to advocating for community and supporting charities, chambers are the real superheroes of their community.  

But fresh ideas can be hard to come by! After a challenging few years, getting those juices flowing can be tough—but we’ve got your back. In this article, you’ll find: 

6 Ways Chambers of Commerce Can Support Local Business

1. Help Businesses Recruit Top Talent with a Job Board on your Chamber Website 

According to Reuters, there were 11 million open jobs in the U.S. by December 2021. Similar work shortages are rising globally. One of the best ways you can support your chamber members is to help build or refresh their job boards.  

Most successful chamber of commerce models include a job board, but they’re not always easy to find on chamber websites, easy to use or regularly updated.  

Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you’re building a great job board

  • Make it easy to find. Many people include a link to the job board on the home page, often on the main navigation. 
  • Include a search bar so people can look for roles based on title, skills, part-time or full-time status, and location.  
  • Post job descriptions that are clear and provide contact information (usually an email address) for job seekers to use in case they have questions about the roles. 
  • Let members’ branding shine in their job postings by including their logos in the listings.  
  • Schedule regular time to ensure postings are updated.  
Job board example from association
The Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s job board is clear and searchable.

2. Provide Training to Your Chamber Members and Their Staff 

Did you know that you can add a learning management system (LMS) to your chamber website? This will give you the power to post online: 

  • Educational courses 
  • Relevant learning resources 
  • Online certification programs 
  • Digital training tools  

Business expectations are shifting because of COVID-19. As a chamber, you can help your members be ready for the future. Giving them the ability to learn skills that set them up for success. This also proves your commitment to local business growth by partnering with them to prepare for the unexpected. 

3. Set up a Membership Directory on Your Commerce Website 

A member directory is the most common way to promote your members to the community. It also allows businesses to connect and search for each other. Member directories are usually one of the most visited pages on a chamber of commerce website.  

A good membership directory has many of the same elements of a job board: 

  • It should be easy and clear to use.  
  • It should be searchable. 
  • It should encourage branding elements like logos. 

Member directories should include contact information and social profiles of all chamber organizations. If they can find one another, they can build partnerships and promote each other’s businesses. 

Big Lake Chamber of Commerce website's active member directory, including alphabetical listing, business categories, and a search function
The Big Lake Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s member directory lists their active members by category and gives the option for a basic and advanced search.

4. Promote Networking Among Members 

Encourage relationship building between your members by hosting networking events to build connections. 

Relationships between businesses and business owners means that they can: 

  • Collaborate on promotions 
  • Share business learnings 
  • Bounce new ideas off likeminded people 
  • Tackle local business challenges together  

Networking is valuable whether done in person or virtually. The flexibility in networking event types helps you create an event that works for your members. 

5. Share Your Members’ Success Stories 

Honestly, we all deserve a little recognition for getting through a tough year. Featuring your members’ success stories in a dedicated spot on your website, in your newsletter, and on social media is a small way to support local business. We call it a Member Spotlight

Video is a popular way to share success stories, and they don’t have to break the bank! Many of the social platforms allow for easy uploads of videos recorded on your phones. You could also have members record their success stories using Zoom or another popular video conference platform since so many people are now used to using those tools.  

If you don’t want to record a video, but you still want the human element, a quick interview featured in a blog or article is an excellent way for the community to get to know them.  

6. Turn your Website into an Information Resource 

Use your chamber website to communicate as much as you can to your members. Include topics like: 

  • News that relates to your members 
  • Resources and helpful facts and tips 
  • Relevant studies 
  • Local updates 

Turning your website into a resource center makes it an indispensable center for learning for your members to keep your members coming back for more. 

Not sure where to start? Check out other chamber websites to get inspired for how you can make your own website a real resource hub. 

3 Ideas to Help Chamber of Commerce Businesses Earn More Money

1. Explore Influencer Marketing Tactics to Promote Your Members 

“Influencer marketing” isn’t just for large brands on Tik-Tok. For local businesses, it can be done on a smaller scale. 

Influencer marketing is about getting someone of “influence” to talk about a product, business or organization. Often, it involves promotion on social media. Locally, it could mean partnering with well-known local leaders, subject matter experts or celebrities.  

These influencers can promote a business or product by: 

  • Wearing a product in public and posting a photo about it 
  • Talking about an organization on social media 
  • Participating in an event  

Influencer marketing can be very expensive—but it doesn’t have to be! For small or local businesses, there are many ways to get influencers on board without paying out big bucks. You can offer local influencers discounts or free merchandise or services in exchange for promotional posts that highlight events or products.  

2. Celebrate the Moment with Seasonal Promotions 

Lean into the support local movement by providing resources for self-promotion to your businesses. Seasonal campaigns are a great way to do this by promoting specific services, goods and products that are timely for the year.  

These could include: 

  • Summer season outdoor services 
  • Springtime cleaning tips 
  • Holiday buying guides 
  • Seasonal celebrations of business anniversaries and new members 
  • Buy-one-get-one promotions across multiple businesses (book a stay at a hotel, get a discount at a partner restaurant) 

You can promote seasonally through: 

  • Email campaigns 
  • Chamber newsletter 
  • Special social media posts 
  • Print ads 
  • Special highlights on your website 

These types of promotions can be adapted year after year, meaning less work to promote businesses because the idea is already in place. Make the posts shareable so members of the community can pass them along.  

And don’t forget to encourage your members to promote each other’s events and deals as well! Building a local community of businesses benefits everyone. 

3. Get Your Local Community in On the Action 

Encourage people to share their love for their favorite local shops, create social campaigns complete with unique social image and hashtag that will let people know that your chamber members are back in business.  

support local social banner example for associations and chambers
This customized social image from Estevan Chamber of Commerce encourages different levels of engagement from their social followers and indirectly points people to small-town businesses.

New to social media? Learn how you can get started and crush a social media strategy.  

7 Small town event ideas for chambers

Events do so many things for chambers, including: 

  • Bringing members together 
  • Creating a sense of local-business community  
  • Encouraging collaboration between business owners 

Whether virtual, in person or hybrid, events provide value to your members while driving non-dues revenue for your chamber.  

These events can be limited to chamber members only, OR you can open them up for the entire community. After all, the better relationships between your businesses and community, the better the businesses will do.

1. Networking Breakfast, Lunch or Happy Hour 

Everyone loves food. Mixing networking with snacks makes an event extra appealing.  

Spice up a networking meal event with: 

  • Speakers 
  • Sponsorship presentations 
  • Ice-breaker activities 
  • Educational talks 

Networking breakfasts, lunches or happy hours give an added perk to encourage people to addend. Everyone loves food but food AND learning? That’s a bonus.  

2. Professional Development Workshop 

Hosting a professional development (PD) workshop gives your members a chance to build real skills — and can sometimes be more appealing than a regular networking event.  

You can host a PD workshop online through courses and videos. Keeping it affordable, updated and engaging will keep your members coming back. 

Professional development workshops can cover: 

  • Practical training like social media how-to’s or tips for generating a professional bio  
  • Advertising basics 
  • Accounting 101 
  • Hiring and recruiting 
  • Training on specific online tools or software 
  • How to run a team  

PD workshops can be more general or can cover a specific topic. Either way, it should always leave attendees with the feeling of learning something new. 

3. Speaker Series 

Hosting a speaker series connects your chamber to new knowledge and noteworthy people! While finding the right speaker can be a challenge, the research is worth it.  

Speaker series can be free to members and you can offer paid access to non-members for non-dues revenue. These events can help expose your chamber to potential members as well.  

4. Seasonal Festival/Market 

There’s a reason that millions of people flock to Germany for their notorious Christmas markets. Seasonal events are traditional and so much fun.  

Seasonal events can include: 

  • Fall markets 
  • Harvest festivals 
  • Summertime celebrations 
  • Spring flings 
  • Holiday markets 
  • New Year kickstart activities 

Seasonal events can easily become a yearly tradition that members can look forward to. You can open markets and festivals to the public, allowing members to have a booth to sell their goods and services.  

5. Concert 

Do you have some local bands you want to highlight? Invite them to play for guests and show how much you love to support local. Or maybe your members are fans of a certain kind of music. Booking a big-name artist is a crowd-pleaser and can improve attendance for a concert.  

6. Auction 

Show off your members’ products and services by hosting a charity or fundraising auction. Silent auctions are great if you have a bunch of products to auction off or if you want people to have time to browse items. Silent auctions, for example, could be great for lunch or meal-focused events.  

You can promote auctions through your members’ businesses and in local ad spaces to spread the news.  

7. Business Expo 

Business expos are large gatherings where businesses share, show off and display their products, goods and services. Business expos include both professional development opportunities and regular convention booths and focus on businesses and their needs over individuals. 

Really, business expos can be whatever you want them to be – or more specifically whatever your members want it to be. Combine PD events, speaker sessions and even markets, auctions or lunch-and-learns to create a massive you-can’t-miss-it expo.  

Expos can be a lot to organize but can generate a lot of buzz about your chamber. Check out our planning tips to get started.  

Bringing Chamber Members and Community Folks Together

As a chamber of commerce there is so much you can do to help your small business members lift off into 2023. Organizing events and supporting your local businesses is easy if you have the right chamber of commerce management system to keep you organized.  

Having a productivity tool to help you manage your website, communicate with and manage members, keep track of dues, host a job board and plan events allows you to do more with your chamber with less stress.  

Supporting your local businesses and hosting events to promote your chamber and celebrate your members will set you apart from other chambers of commerce.  

Check out our full guide on how to simplify your chamber operations for more tips and tricks to make 2023 your best year yet.  

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.