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  • Writer's pictureChris Templeton

How Chambers of Commerce Can Benefit from "Best of" Awards Programs

Updated: Oct 16, 2023



Local Chambers of Commerce play an important role in supporting and promoting small businesses within their communities. But in today’s digital world, chambers face challenges in engaging members and the broader community. One effective strategy is implementing a “best of” awards program to recognize and promote local businesses.


I recently interviewed Ryan Griffith, the founder of Voterfly, a platform that helps chambers and other local organizations run successful “best of” programs. Ryan explained that these programs can provide a number of benefits for chambers:


• Increased membership. By engaging up to 15% of the local community through the program, chambers gain exposure to non-member businesses that they can then recruit as new members.


• Sponsorship revenue. The high visibility of “best of” programs makes them an attractive opportunity for local businesses to sponsor and advertise. Chambers can generate substantial non-dues revenue through sponsorships.


• Brand recognition and community engagement. Putting on a “best of” program significantly raises the chamber’s profile within the community. Local politicians, residents, and the media take notice, strengthening the chamber’s relationships and reputation.


• Fun and impactful for chamber staff. Chambers are often surprised by how much the program affects and engages the broader community. Staff enjoy promoting and executing the awards process.


Ryan emphasized that Voterfly works closely with chambers to ensure a successful first program. They provide templates, timing recommendations, category lists, and best practices based on years of experience. Chambers benefit from Voterfly’s expertise while having the flexibility to customize the program for their specific community.


The process typically takes 4-6 weeks to run the program and at least 1 month to properly prepare and market it. Chambers see the greatest benefits by casting a “wide net” and engaging as many local businesses and residents as possible.


While revenue is an initial attraction, chambers ultimately realize the biggest impact is community engagement and strengthening local relationships. A “best of” program can provide chambers with a fun and meaningful way to fulfill their mission of supporting local businesses and improving the quality of life within their communities.


If you’re a chamber leader interested in learning more about how a “best of” awards program could benefit your organization, I encourage you to reach out to companies like Voterfly that specialize in helping chambers implement and run successful programs.


Transcript:


Chris Templeton

I'm really pleased to be here with Ryan Griffith from VoterFly. Ryan, welcome. Tell everybody a little bit about what VoterFly is.


Ryan Griffith

Sure, VoterFly is a online platform, this high traffic and high visibility for community focused organizations such as Chambers of Commerce or newspapers, magazines, that are focused on a local community to engage that community and allow members of the community businesses and individuals to nominate and vote for the best businesses in that area.


Chris Templeton

And it really does fit for anything that's really locally based, this wouldn't work outside of a broad in a broad geographic region. Like the United States, or or a state really is hyperfocus locally isn't it?


Ryan Griffith

That's exactly right. We try to focus locally because we want to celebrate those businesses, we want to celebrate local business, we want to drive, you know, drive commerce to those local businesses, you sometimes hear this called a best, or Readers Choice Awards, People's Choice, it goes by some different names. But that's essentially what the VoterFly platform does. And we specialize in working with chambers of commerce, because that is our background. I'm on the board of directors with my local chamber. My wife was president for several years. So we were really plugged in, and we want to continue to stay plugged in.


Chris Templeton

This must be... R unning one of these must be a real kick in the pants for Chamber of Commerce. I mean, it's got to be fun and a great way to engage your membership and also to, to recruit new members.


Ryan Griffith

Right, right, exactly. So there's multiple benefits for running this. There's many reasons why the chamber might want to run this. But as you mentioned, new membership is a big one. Because when you we like to call it casting a wide net, we cast a wide net to the community to try to engage as as many of those community members as many of those businesses to participate as possible. And we've seen percentages up to 15% of the community actually getting involved. So when you think about population of an area, being able to engage 15% of them in this one product, that's huge. So So with that, and with all that attention, what the chamber is really getting there, as they're getting an introduction to new businesses that are non Chamber members, it's a perfect introduction. And it's a way to say this is were the chamber Nice to meet you. This is one of the many things we do for commerce and for businesses in our area. And a lot of chambers actually convert non members, non member businesses into membership.


Chris Templeton

So one of the ways that you are able to help a chamber generate revenue is through new members, which is a big, big one, I imagine, especially after COVID, I assume that there are a lot of chambers that are still kind of recovering membership from COVID.


Ryan Griffith

Absolutely. I know firsthand, by working with these chambers, many, most of them are still feeling the impacts of lost membership, and they are climbing back, we are getting back to normal, but they're still feeling some of that pain.


Chris Templeton

When you go in and talk to a chamber about VoterFly and what it can do for them, what are the things that chamber leaders are really most attracted to?


Ryan Griffith

So I the first question is always non dues revenue. So how do we make money with this program, and we touched on that just a little bit ago, membership is a big one. Because you're you're getting the revenue from the new member right then in there, but the big thing there is the recurring revenue. And that member may also then bring in new members, right. So so it's important to continue to expand into to grow that membership. So I think that that's a big one. The other, the other big piece is adding sponsorship revenue. So again, this is a high traffic platform, a high visibility, we can get 10 to 15% of a community, like I said, is not uncommon to hear. So with all that those are eyes. And that's a perfect opportunity for an advertiser or a sponsor to get in front of that local community. So chambers make revenue through ad and sponsorship sales to the platform.


Chris Templeton

And I imagine that for a business that wants to either be a sponsor or an advertiser for this, this is really a great way for chamber to to put the spotlight on itself in terms of what it's doing to help the community.


Ryan Griffith

You got it. That's, you know, that's another non it's not financial necessarily, right. It's non tangible. benefit, it's, it's getting out there and getting the brand recognition of the chamber or the organization putting this on. So it's putting that name in front of so many people. And that's a big soft benefit that that just really kind of makes an impact


Chris Templeton

I n terms of actually implementing this, your platform allows for identification of businesses that to be selected for this and advertising. Is that right? And sponsorship?


Ryan Griffith

That's right, that's right. So we actually connect with Google. So when businesses are nominated, we reach out to Google. And we supplement that nomination information with information from Google to basically beef up that nomination, pull in more information. And that can actually be turned into a lead list for the chamber. So we've kind of talked about how to recruit new members how to get more more membership. And so with that supplement information, we have now contact information, address, phone, et cetera. And so it's a perfect, perfect way to just kind of bring that chamber closer to being able to make contact with that business.


Chris Templeton

We kind of touched on it a minute ago. But in terms of that perception of a chamber being a part of the community, how important is that to the leaders?


Ryan Griffith

Oh, I think I think that's completely vital. I have in the past spoken with some chambers, where some businesses aren't even aware that a chamber exists. And that's could be absolutely detrimental. So making sure that the chamber is prominent within that that business community is so important and making connections with affiliate organizations or you know, sibling organizations like a park and recs etcetera. So it's so important that the chamber is out there showing that they are prominent in that community.


Chris Templeton

And from that standpoint, you know, strengthening relationships with local government, with the newspaper with Parks and Rec is just, I feel like there's so much intangibles here that are so important in terms of that perception that, hey, as a chamber leader, we're really connecting with the community and that the community begins to feel the same way.


Ryan Griffith

Right. Right. At Yeah, absolutely. And again, this is by doing this, you're touching so many people who haven't had that introduction. And it's not just businesses, it's the chamber isn't just touching businesses in this. They're also touching community members, residents and putting themselves out there. So you're right. There's lots of intangibles to doing something like this.


Chris Templeton

And I think it's important to just say that, you know, just because it's a business related thing, that you're because of what it is, it does involve the broader community. And that's also really important for a chamber to be considering, isn't it?


Ryan Griffith

Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. You're right.


Chris Templeton

Talk about talk about the process of putting one of these together, and what kind of a commitment is involved and doing the best of.


Speaker 2

Right, so usually, this is an annual thing, you'll you'll typically see, we'll go back to the concept of a best our Readers Choice underneath those terms that you might hear out there, you're gonna see something like the 2023 Readers Choice Awards. So it's an annual program. And so with our model, we have annual subscriptions. That's how it works paid for the year. And then we actually work with you to establish your best off, we don't just hand you the keys to the software and say good luck, we hope you succeed. We've done so many of these before. We know what works and what doesn't work. And if you haven't done one of these before, it's very difficult to pull off, especially on the first year and pull it off in a way that you can walk away and feel successful. And so I think that's one of the big advantages that we bring is that we work with you, we share all of our knowledge of how to execute this successfully. And so long as we follow the patterns, we end up having successful races for organizations doing this for them very first year they they walk away going this was fantastic. So So in terms of what it takes, it's an it's we do it annually once a year typically. And then you're going to run your best stuff for about four weeks to six weeks. And you might have a couple of weeks before that preparation. So that's really what it looks like. Some organizations will take a step further if they have the resources and actually put an event at the end of this where they award those businesses. And so that's, when we talked about revenue, that's a whole additional opportunity there for the Chamber's to generate more revenue at then on the event side of things.


Chris Templeton

One of the things that you mentioned is the first go around, it can be a little more difficult. What are some of the things, some of the challenges that an organization runs into that you guys are able to really help them get through and then be ready to goa second year?


Ryan Griffith

Sure. I think timing is a big one. So so if you're not familiar with how to structure, the timing, and then announcements of launch of nominations, launch of voting, close of voting, if you're not familiar with how to put together a good category, list, a category list that's going to be inclusive enough to where it's actually going on to attract businesses that aren't, you know, speaking about chambers knock Chamber members, you need to be thinking about these things. So we've, we've learned trial by fire through years and years of doing this, what is what's necessary to make it successful, and what to avoid to make sure that we don't, you know, fall in those traps. So So those are some of the things that I mentioned that that, you know, someone would want to look out for, if they were to do that for their first year. But again, with us, we walk you through all that to make sure we don't run into those those issues.


Chris Templeton

And do talk a little bit more about the timeline it obviously, I can't engage you today and have one of these up and running tomorrow, can I?


Ryan Griffith

You'd be surprised. So as far as our software system is concerned, we absolutely can get the site up and running. But it's very important to consider the communication to the community. If you're going to engage 10 to 15% of a community in this. No, you're not going to be able to launch it tomorrow, you you need to think about, what are you going to say? What do we have press releases? Do we have imagery that we're sharing on social media? Again, these are all things that that we provide, we have templates to get you going so you don't have to come up with this. So...


Chris Templeton

That's got to make a huge difference having those those templates available. So what is the best timeline in terms of from the time that I engage with you? Yes, I want to do this to the time that I actually start this process with a, you know, actually having the vote in what's the best timeframe?


Ryan Griffith

Yeah, so three to four weeks before launch would be reasonable. We have actually engaged with a chamber that launched in under a week and a half from talking to us. So we were able to turn that around very quickly with them. But again, they couldn't have done that if we weren't able to share those resources that we have to fast track it, s o that's it was key to making that actually happen without those resources, we wouldn't have been in that that position.


Chris Templeton

But I also imagine that's not an ideal timeframe. I mean, I think from a marketing standpoint, that I'd want to kind of hype that it's coming and engage my membership, hey, this is what's coming down the pike and really kind of build it up and and and at the same time, have it be something that's really fun for the chamber staff to be promoting and getting going.


Ryan Griffith

That's right, yep. So So one month would be our recommended minimum. But we certainly could do it faster. If a chamber knows what they want to do, and they have a vision already about how they want to execute, and they come to us, we can accommodate that, and have had success doing so.


Chris Templeton

When you look at the number of these that you've run, what are some of the most surprising comments that you get from chamber leaders.


Ryan Griffith

There's some fun ones in there. So we've had members of state assembly that have come up to some of these chamber leaders and and joked about how they want their own category and they want to win we've had mayor's come up. So it's kind of interesting to see how far the reach of this can get. So I think one of the things that's interesting that I hear from chamber, chamber leaders rather, is how much it affects the community, not just the types of individuals I just mentioned, but the community in general. That's just an example. So the effect is huge. And then what ends up happening is their previous goal, the Chamber's previous goal of wanting to get that non dues revenue now becomes a secondary goal because they realize what the impact that this is, and so that becomes now their number one benefit, if I ask them. So that's I think, what's really interesting, when you first start a conversation with the chamber and they're not familiar with you, they want to know, tangibly, how can I make money after they run the program, they say, Money secondary, but this right here is really showing benefit by being out in the community. So I think that's one of the surprising things.


Chris Templeton

I love that because my sense has always been that chambers, as a generalization are not the best at really promoting what they do in the community. And this is such a fabulous way to engage members, additional businesses that aren't members and the community at large. In a way, that's fun, and, and for the most part, easy and exciting. I really think what you're doing is fascinating. And I think it's really great that you are involved on the board of chambers. So you see it from a number of multiple, a number of perspectives. And you now have seen what to do to make these things work the best. What is the last thing that you think a chamber leader should know about VoterFly and why it's important?


Ryan Griffith

I think I think it's important for them to know that if they want to experiment with this, they are not on their own. I mentioned this before, they are not on their own, they do not have to come up with this. A chamber is very interested typically in in making sure that whatever they're doing, if they're adding a new program, they need to make sure whatever they're doing is easy to implement. And so that's what we're here for. We're here to make sure that it's a success. And you can grow with the platform. It doesn't have to start out being an event with with many categories and a complex endeavor. It can start out simple and you can grow with it. So we're here to help that entire process. So...


Chris Templeton

Ryan Griffith, you're the president and founder of VoterFly there to help chambers and any organization that's locally based newspapers, government even to create greater communication and awareness of these organizations in the community. totally appreciate what you're doing and I wish you the very best of luck.


Ryan Griffith

Thank you, Chris.



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