By Lise Elcock
After several years of unprecedented membership growth for our chamber - and breaking into the Boston Business Journal’s top ten list of largest chambers in the state - we thought it was time to take a look at just what was driving this engagement from the local business community and how we could ensure that - as we continue to grow - we also continue to provide the utmost in member service and satisfaction.
First, we took a look at where our new members were coming from. Increasingly, more of our new members are coming from outside our original footprint of Newton and Needham. But how is that trend reshaping our membership as a whole?
Historically about 30 percent of our member businesses have been located outside of Newton and Needham. But in the past year, that’s jumped to 40 percent, with Wellesley and Boston leading the way and Waltham, Watertown, Brookline and Framingham next in line.
We then sent out a member survey in late summer that included three of the same questions as a prior survey in 2017. While the overall response was lower (survey fatigue anyone?) we were very pleased with the results.
First, we asked members how does the chamber do representing the interests of the region’s businesses and nonprofit organizations? After all, as the voice of the business community, we want to make sure the chamber is in line with our members.
In 2017, 70 percent of the respondents rated us as excellent, with another 25 percent falling into the good bucket. In 2019 the results just shifted slightly to 68 percent excellent and 26.8 percent good. (The other five percent both years was split between fair and not sure.)
Second, we asked about the chamber’s programming and events. With over 100 events, programs and workshops a year, it’s important for us to know if we’re delivering the topics, presentations, seminars and infrastructure communication that is relevant and informative to our members.
The 2019 member survey results reveal that 70 percent of respondents consider our programming and events to be in the excellent category, with another 25 percent placing us in the good column. More members gave us the excellent mark in 2019 than 2017 – clearly a move in the right direction.
We’re already planning our 2020 chamber calendar and will look to continue to offer new networking opportunities; updates on transportation, real estate and employment trends; and keynote speakers from the business, civic and community spheres.
One of the most oft-cited reasons for joining our chamber has consistently been a member referral. To that end, our third question in each survey asked how likely is it that you would recommend membership in our chamber to a friend, colleague or another business owner.
This year nearly 80 percent of the respondents replied very likely, up from 74 percent two years ago. Another 16 percent said they were likely to recommend others to join.
I cannot think of a better indicator of member satisfaction than recommending to your peer that chamber membership is a value proposition.
Thank you to all the members who took time out of their busy days to give us their feedback. It will help guide us as we strategize a long-term plan on sustaining the growth and quality of this chamber.