By Kelly Fanelli


How To Get New Chamber Members Through Referrals

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kelly Fanelli



This is the eighth post in the guest blog series by Kelly Fanelli, the Membership Director at the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Need to catch up? Start from the beginning.)


New members energize your Chamber with the fresh contacts current members are looking for, and they ensure that your organization remains a strong component of the business community. 

Referrals are the ideal path to new members.

Do you need some new ideas for your chamber’s referral program? Today’s post will teach you why referrals work best and how to get them.


Why Referrals?

Referrals generally come to you from a current member. That member has painted a picture of success for your prospect, so the prospect will be anxious to have that same experience.

Also, once your member has made the referral, they feel an obligation to ensure that the new member is successful, so they will facilitate introductions.

Essentially, a referral comes with an automatic testimonial and assistance in getting that new member engaged.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

Now that you understand why referrals are important, let’s talk about some ideas for your chamber’s referral program.


3 Ideas For Getting Referrals 

1) Be specific.

Don’t request referrals in a general way. Instead, ask for a specific individual.  Use phrases like:

“We are closing our Health Care Directory this month, and we're looking for area business owners and professionals who would appear in that directory.”

“This time of year we work with the hospitality industry, and I am looking for referrals there.”

“I am looking to meet new business owners and marketing directors who need help in getting the word out about their businesses.”

 The more clearly you can describe the specific person, the quicker your members will recognize the referral you’re looking for when they see it.

2) Make it easy. 

Design forms, create a button on your website, do whatever you can to make it easy for your members to send you referrals. The easier you make it, the more often referrals will happen. It's your job to make the process easy.

Remember the Ribbon Cutting Request Form from a previous post?  Include a spot for referrals on your Ribbon Cutting Request Form. You’ll be surprised how many members will fill it out. 

fa-star Kelly Fanelli 101

Members Like You (Form)

I use this primarily with committees, since I am (literally) looking for members just like them.  They are among my most involved members and tend to be among the most successful.  It’s a simple form with a call to action, a quick section for contact information on the company they are referring, and instructions to scan and email or fax it back to me.  I bring one for every attendee at committee meetings.

The text on the form reads: “Do you know someone who would benefit from the visibility and networking the Chamber offers?  Send me their contact information and we will invite them to an event free as our guest.  Once they meet our members and feel the energy of our Chamber, they will thank you for taking the time to introduce them to the Chamber.” 

Members love being able to invite contacts to an event as their guests, and prospects love free events.  It’s a win-win. 

3) Ambassador Happy Hours – The #1 way I get referrals

An Ambassador Happy Hour is an invitation-only event.  It’s not open to the general membership, only Ambassadors and “special guests.” 

Who are the special guests?  My prospects.

I’ve trained my Ambassadors on how to greet a prospect when I introduce them, how to ask questions to figure out what part of our Chamber programming to focus on, and how to then introduce them to another person in the room before leaving them. The Ambassadors love being among the first contacts the potential new members make in the Chamber, and I know the prospects are in good hands when I make the introductions. 

Also, in order to attend, the Ambassadors must bring a non-member to the event. 

The Ambassador Happy Hour is among the most successful programs in our Chamber. The closing ratios for my prospects are extremely high, and it provides me with nice stream of new prospects—brought to me by my very own Ambassadors.  Talk about a warm referral!

fa-star Kelly Fanelli 101

Remember, this is an AMBASSADOR HAPPY HOUR.  It is not open to the general membership.  You want your Ambassadors to feel privileged to come to this and excited about bringing a non-member.  It’s an exclusive event.  Do not promote its location on your website or allow other members to attend.  Keep an RSVP list at the door, and collect business cards for follow-up and to share with your host.



You see now why referrals work so well.  They are coming with a testimonial and a warm introduction. After reading today’s post, you’ve got a couple ideas for how to ask for referrals, as well as a tailor-made event to bring them to a close. 

So, how do you get referrals?  Have you found something that works really well for your Chamber?  Please share! 

Remember, the stronger we make our individual Chambers, the better it is for our industry.  We are the connectors, the driving force behind our business communities.  It’s up to us to lead the way to success!


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