The initial job of a chamber website was, essentially, to function as an electronic brochure. With the growth of technology and our collective dependence on the Internet, today’s chamber website must be so much more. Your site should serve as a receptionist who greets people who electronically wander in to check things out. The chamber website is a resource for the entire community and a builder of trusts with those residents. It is also a place to tell the story of your village or town, the history of the chamber itself, and what it is you do and how you help your community.
There are a number of sound website design elements and standards that any organization should follow. There are also some items particular to a chamber of commerce website that each group should discuss and consider to determine the appropriateness for inclusion on their own chamber website. Let’s take a look at some of the components of effective websites and, more particularly, which elements can help create an informational and professional chamber of commerce website.
Great Overall Design
Perceived value and trust levels are impacted by a website’s design and usability. The key to building an excellent online reputation for your chamber is to provide a website that looks amazing and functions perfectly every time, regardless of the device being used to view the site. Responsive, mobile-friendly design is a must for any website.
Well defined color schemes, consistent layout and topography, clear images, and easy to read content also help to establish the credibility of your organization. Navigation within the website should be intuitive and allow visitors to easily move from one page to the next. Be sure to include a search bar option for those visitors who prefer to get right to the point versus browsing through menu selections.
Following search engine optimization (SEO) best practices is also a must. Research consistently finds that more than 90% of online interactions begin with the use of a search engine. Consequently, it is important to have established foundational SEO elements throughout the design and development of your website. SEO should be one of your main lines of questioning when looking for a company to design your website.
A Welcome Message
Feature a message from the Board President or another executive member of the chamber. This can be shown, in part, on the home page and with the addition of several other topics, flesh out a dedicated web page on your site. Instead of listing attributes of the chamber and generic ideas of what you do, include this information in the executive messaging.
State clearly the chamber’s mission in a strong, problem-solution statement. Avoid fancy words, clichés, and broad statements. Use the message to communicate the chamber’s understanding of the needs of the business community and community at large. Phrase the message in a manner that provides readers with absolute and positive reasons to join the chamber and exactly how they will benefit from their association with the group.
A Join Now Call to Action Button
A simple and seamless sign-up process is essential. Make it possible for potential members to join at any time 24/7 meaning they can not only sign up but also pay the required dues at the same time. A clear and concise call to action button should be included on every page. Use direct and persuasive language to communicate exactly what the visitor needs to do “next”. Consider featuring not only a button for joining the chamber but another for inviting site visitors to join the email newsletter list if they, perhaps, want more information before committing to a membership with the commerce.
Ensure that all contact information for the chamber is available on your website. Provide a mailing address for the location of your physical offices, email addresses, and phone numbers. Equally important – ensure that all contact information everywhere on the Internet is exactly the same so your chamber of commerce is consistently recognized as the same organization regardless of through which channel you are found.
Organized Directory with Map
Offering a document with comprehensive information about businesses and landmarks in the community is an excellent means of driving community engagement. The chamber of commerce directory can be organized categorically, alphabetically, or by date of membership. (I’d throw in the caveat that displaying information about each businesses length of membership is helpful but not necessarily the best way to organize a directory. And, truly, it wouldn’t hurt to provide the directory in two formats – alphabetically and by category – since today’s electronic resources make it simple to do so.
Include information from both inside and outside of the chamber. Establish a communication process that informs you of what is happening throughout the community and includes it all on your website calendar. Request and display outcomes of various meetings and happenings. Your website can become an important community-wide resource in this sense. And it goes without saying, keep the content up-to-date. Make sure the Easter Bunny Parade is not still being featured in June!
The Next Chamber of Commerce Event
In addition to a community-wide calendar of events, showcase the events specific to the chamber of commerce. Your events page can help bring different aspects of the community together for the benefit of all. The main feature on the very next event coupled with brief looks at what is coming next is a sound approach. Do be sure to remove past events unless you are posting pictures or images from the event and sharing outcomes with the community at large.
Member Profile Page
Networking within communities is imperative to the success of all businesses. This is another way your website can be a resource for all. Feature a member profile page that provides basic information about each member of the chamber of commerce. At a minimum, the member profiles should include the company logo, images of the brick and mortar location, a description of the business and the services or products offered, all contact information, and a snippet of the area map to show where each business is located. You can also encourage your members to link to the profile page giving both of your organizations an SEO boost.
Feature testimonials from your current members to show the local vibe and positivity within the community. These can be text content paired with an image of the member, short videos, or podcasts. You can determine a regular posting calendar for each testimonial or feature them all on a carousel set up that allows visitors to move through the information as they please.
Pictures and Video
Include on your website photographs and video of the community, its residents, its businesses, any important landmarks. Ask members of the chamber and others in the community to submit photos they have of different events. Consider creating a contest around the submission. It is important to have in place guidelines for the use of such photos and videos. There should be a release procedure to obtain the permission to use pictures with identifiable people in the content. It is also important to feature only high-quality images and videos on your website.
As an organization, determine which social media platforms you will use to interact with community members. Establish social profiles for the chamber on those channels and then assign a tech-savvy member to be in charge of making sure the accounts feature regular posts and updates. The simple act of being able to like or share content from the chamber will increase community engagement. Include social share buttons on important pages like your blog posts and event pages. Of course, that also means the door is open for negative interactions to occur. This is another reason it is imperative to have someone assigned to regularly monitor and update your chamber’s social feeds.
Providing high-quality content is important so establish a content strategy for your blog page. Post content that visitors will find useful and usable. Your blog posts should provide excellent value propositions to help your blog page become a communication tool that nurtures an online community. Consistent blog posting is important for both acquiring new readers and retaining regulars to your site. Solicit from residents and businesses ideas for blog posts and be sure to write about any trending topics relevant to your community.
An FAQ Page
An FAQ page offers a timely resolution to common questions. Create a comfortable forum by using a conversational tone and active voice. Your FAQ page should be a source from which viewers can quickly find out more about the chamber and the community as a whole. A solid list of FAQs can go a long way towards fostering good will with potential and existing members as well as with community members at large.
In addition to these design elements and content ideas, your advertising strategy should be integrated into your website. Establish a way for businesses to advertise on your website and other marketing channels. On your website, you can sell space for banners, sponsored content, and sponsorships for different events or the community map. You can also offer spotlight advertisement on your social media accounts. The integration of email offers multiple opportunities. In regards to advertising, you can offer to members spotlights similar to the ones available through social media.
You can also benefit the chamber’s own efforts through growing and managing an accurate email list. An effective piece of email marketing for a chamber of commerce might showcase community events, new members or businesses, local real estate and more. Messaging that includes images have been found to grab readers’ attention more than text so don’t be afraid to include pictures relevant to the email content. A virtually free marketing tool, email communications should be integrated into all campaigns coming out of the chamber of commerce.
Whether you are looking to build a chamber of commerce website from scratch or optimize an existing site to increase traffic and conversions, the experts at Strategy Driven Marketing can help. We have worked with businesses of all sizes and across industries. We’d love to help you create an amazing resource for your chamber and community that is catered to your specific needs and budget. Contact us today to get started!