One of the challenges facing chamber of commerce executives is ensuring a quantifiable return-on-investment for members. With so many opportunities for sponsorships and investments, it is critical to continually demonstrate the value-add that chambers represent.
Strategic marketing initiatives, particularly around time-sensitive issues that are relevant to the member base, can translate organizational leadership, effectiveness and success into perceived value by members.
A significant issue facing Texas, and states across the nation, was the reauthorization of the 80-year-old Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), which provides loan guarantees and export credit insurance. The Texas Association of Business (TAB), which represents 4,300 businesses and 200 chambers in Texas, knew it needed to act on this issue, which could potentially jeopardize thousands of jobs statewide.
Conducting a needs analysis, identifying the audience, creating and delivering targeted messages, and evaluating the efficacy of the campaign were the key components in this initiative – all of which can be easily replicated by other chambers and organizations.
In the Lone Star State, exports represent a $33 billion industry – one-fifth of the nation’s exports – and accounts for 135,000 jobs, many of which were created by EXIM. While businesses could understand the direct implications of losing EXIM, key members of Congress were skeptical.
TAB started with businesses who would be most affected by EXIM’s expired charter, including supplier companies – both large and small businesses – and their employees. These are the ‘who’ that would quickly be impacted by the lack of EXIM support.
The messaging was clear: reauthorize EXIM and implement necessary reform in order to protect U.S. jobs (and specifically those in Texas). TAB aligned its messaging with other pro-business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Association of Manufacturers.
The organization used local/state/national publications, chamber-hosted events and regular member communication – such as its website, social media and email newsletters – to deliver its #EXIM4JOBS message and engender broad-scale support from the business community that could, in turn, influence legislators.
TAB also leveraged partnerships to rally support from local chamber of commerce partners in key congressional districts. The message was delivered at targeted times – around key votes in the House and Senate, action from opposition groups and release of major media stories that complemented TAB’s message – and used vehicles including editorial board meetings, press conferences and forums with members of Congress.
The successful culmination of the campaign came with President Obama signing EXIM’s reauthorization charter into law on Dec. 4, 2015. Thousands of export-related jobs and businesses in Texas were protected as a result of collaborative efforts by TAB and countless other organizations from coast-to-coast.
The EXIM campaign provided a replicable model of strategy, audience and message development, member education and engagement, and targeted outreach to key influencers in moving the needle on this important issue. More importantly, it delivered quantifiable results for member organizations and proof-positive that TAB is delivering on its mission, namely, working to improve the Texas business climate and to help make Texas’ state economy the strongest in the world.