Susan Wan-Ross CEO Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce #01

by | Dec 14, 2020


  • eWaste recycling
  • Shredding service
  • Virtual State of the City
  • Membership drive

Susan Wan-Ross, President and CEO of the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce, a mid-sized chamber in Southern California, took an entrepreneurial approach to new non-dues revenue streams during the COVID-19.

Listen to the full discussion here:

Watch the full discussion here:

Connect with the Guest:

Susan Wan-Ross:

Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce

Key Takeaways:

  • Non-dues revenue ideas for associations
  • Be nimble and pivot without losing your step
  • Leverage creative partnerships
  • Build a profitable virtual event
  • Run a membership drive during a pandemic.



The following are two items discussed in the interview:

Virtual State of the City Video

Susan’s giant Post-It notes:

Poster 1

Poster 2

Poster 3

Full Transcript

Welcome to the premiere of more non-dues revenue. The first in a series of Zoominars sponsored by Chamber Marketing Partners, where we interview Chamber of Commerce leaders to share and discuss their creative entrepreneurial strategies for generating non-dues revenue. Now, before we begin, in the comment section, please tell us who you are, and what organization you’re with. And be sure to post your questions in the Q&A section, and we’ll answer them following the interview.

Helping us today is Judi Hays. She’s a former VP at a major Metro chamber. And now she’s an awesome LinkedIn guru in outside of New York City. I am Ed Burzminski, president of Chamber Marketing Partners. And if you want to be considered for a future zoom cast, let’s connect on LinkedIn and send me a message. Now let’s get started. Today’s guest is Susan when Ross president and CEO of the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce, a midsize chamber in Yorba Linda, California. It’s known as the location of the Nixon Presidential Library. Susan became CEO of the chamber in 2015, and has an entrepreneurial background, having been a small business owner and has many years in the real estate business.

Susan is a graduate of WACE Academy, and she’s also an IOM. She was recently appointed to be chairperson for women circle of wishes for Make a wish Orange County and Inland Empire.

Now for full disclosure of a few years ago, Chamber Marketing Partners was hired by Susan at the Yorba Linda chamber to produce the project manage a city map. And then again earlier this year in 2020, to help produce a Community Guide in business directory. Now having watched Susan’s trajectory in the chamber industry, I know her as being very creative, and absolutely unstoppable when she sets her mind on getting something done at her chamber. Don’t blush Susan. We’re excited to have Susan Wan-Ross for our very first seminar. 

Welcome, Susan, thank you for being here.

Susan Wan-Ross  07:46

Thank you, Ed. Thank you everybody for participating in this. And I just wanted to let you know that we are a small to mid-sized chamber. We’re in a bedroom community and our chamber currently has 420 members. When I first started, we thought we had 400 members. But after I scrubbed the list, it went down to like 280. So, we’ve been working hard to break the 300. Mark. We did that over time. By but we’re we have a lot more residents and old people in our community. And we have a very old school thinking neighborhood. So, it’s been interesting. The previous CEO that was here, she had been here for way too long. And I was recruited by some very aggressive people that were on the board of directors here to come over here and change things up. So, I’m a I don’t know what you want to call me. But I rocked the boat a lot.

Ed Burzminski  08:58

Yes, you sure have and things are really growing things have been really growing for your chamber quite a bit, of course until March and April, happened this year in 2020. So, these days, many of us are making a buck and nickel at a time and you got really creative with your non-dues revenue. Starting in March and April when things started to go, you know, South for all of us. You started small, can you tell us a little bit about that. Tell us what you were facing and then what you started to do?


Susan Wan-Ross  09:27

Well, So, in the beginning of the year, I had my 18 we were like thinking this is great. Nothing can stop us. We’re doing awesome. We did an economic forecast in February, and we collaborate with other chambers and we had the best event that we could have possibly imagined. We had Dr. Chris Thornburg be a part of that. And we actually made money. We held it at the Nixon library, and then right after that COVID hit and everything that we had in the plan Just went to a screeching halt. And we actually went, Oh, crap, what are we going to do now? We can’t have meetings.


So, I shifted to the thought that okay, if we can’t have people coming into the office, how we’re going to service a lot of our, our members. And one of the things that I had collaborated with other chambers was the certificates of origin. Even Irvine chamber had asked us, are you guys doing certificates of origin? I say, yeah, we’re doing it by appointment only. And we actually had offered a discount to chamber members. So, we offered that same discount to all chamber members from various chambers. But then I realized, I don’t want that many people coming into the office.


So, we went with the American World Trade Chamber of Commerce in went online. And the interesting thing is, is a lot of businesses who are not chamber members are going online and doing the certificates of origin and was at a higher price point. Before it was $10 per stamp. Now we’re charging $25 per stamp for members $50 for non-members. And I know for us, that was a huge jump, we, I want to say last year, we had or this year, this fiscal year was 650 certificates of origin that came through. So, non-dues revenue that we kind of slowly inched up, worked great for the certificates of origin.


Um, something else that we do in office is we have a shredding console. And we do two shredding events per year. And it’s a free service, because the city actually has a contract with us. And they were actually offering that service. But I wanted businesses to know who we were. So, we offer this shredding event for free, but it’s only twice a year. And because we didn’t have an event, they can come into the office and $8 per box to just dump their stuff in the shredding console. And then


Ed Burzminski  12:14

you have a shredding console in the office?


Susan Wan-Ross  12:18

Yeah, So, the shredding console, we asked the shredding company to drop it off. And So, it’s just locked. And the people just drop it drop their stuff in there. It hasn’t been one of the things that we can’t manage it. But the interesting thing is, you know, the doctors and the dentist, they’re the ones that usually come in, or the attorneys, you know, they come in with their stacks of files and stuff. And e waste was probably the most profitable out of all the non-dues. Revenue with Pat, I call it passive income because we didn’t have to do anything. We contract with a recycling company. They do all the advertising for us. So, they put up the banners and everything. We let the city know that we’re doing e waste. And we do it every other month. And I think our last check that we got from two months ago was 14 $100. Wow. Yeah. And it’s just from stuff that people don’t want. So, anything with a plug in it, or that was operating with a battery, they just drop it off. TV monitors and computers, CPUs have been the big thing that people are dropping off.


Ed Burzminski  13:34

So you you do an event and they drop it off at that point. You just kind of store it. And then


Susan Wan-Ross  13:40

yeah, So, what the what the recycling company does is they come out on So, we do two days. We do it on a Saturday and Sunday in our parking lot. And the company comes out with their crap in the pallets, and they actually manage the whole thing. Oh, we don’t we don’t do anything. I think the only thing that I do is I go to Little Caesars pizza, grab a couple pieces for the guys and go here. Thank you.


Susan Wan-Ross  14:06

Yeah, and all we do is we send out notices in emails or Constant Contact, the city advertises it on their website. And it’s the easiest bet non-event event that we do.


Ed Burzminski  14:23

And people have to be residents of the city in order to do that.


Susan Wan-Ross  14:26

Well, we say, you know, it’s open to residents and business owners of Yorba Linda, but we don’t check. Okay. You know, So, I think what we’ll do next year, because with the shredding event, it costs say $500 to actually have the truck come up there in April. We had one truck that came out he was full within an hour and a half of doing it. And he’s calling me saying I have to leave I’m overweight. What do you want me to do? And I said, I guess we have to do a shred event twice this month, because if everybody’s been sitting at home sorting through other stuff, they need to unload it. So, next year, probably, when we do it in April, again, I’ll probably have a nominal charge per box.


Ed Burzminski  15:19

Just So, easy to do, and you get a partner that just takes care of it. That’s great.


Susan Wan-Ross  15:25

Yeah, and we and then some of the other things that we did, like, I know a lot of chambers do a taste of their community or something. We, that was our biggest moneymaker. We net anywhere from 40 to $50,000, on our taste, and that’s a huge chunk of revenue that we didn’t make. So, this year, we actually did a Restaurant Week last year, we tried to tie it in with our taste. But Restaurant Week was more of a community give back where we were trying to help push out the information about all of our restaurants and the surrounding chambers and our neighbors. They did their restaurant weeks, the following month, too. So, we definitely got a lot more read last year, I think we had 13 restaurants that participate in Restaurant Week, this year, I think I lost count at 48. So


Ed Burzminski  16:21

tell us a little bit about the restaurant week.


Susan Wan-Ross  16:23

It was a digital campaign, lots of social media. And we offer prizes for people who visited the restaurants, if they brought in three receipts, from participating restaurants, they would be entered into a drawing. So, it was it was fun. And we said oh, you know, if you post on social media, and you tag us, and you get an extra entry into the drawing.


Ed Burzminski  16:55

Got it. And you’ve only done that once you said,


Susan Wan-Ross  16:58

this is the first year that we actually did it that way last year, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We kind of were figuring it out as we went along. But this Restaurant Week actually turned out great. And then the two chambers that are next door to us, they actually followed in and did it one better than us. So, it’s like okay, now we’re gonna get together wrong and do something similar.


Ed Burzminski  17:26

Yep. Now, when we were talking, you said you also did a virtual State of the City? Yeah. How did you approach that?


Susan Wan-Ross  17:32

So with the Nixon library, we always have a beautiful gala event for the state of the city. And being that Nixon library is a museum, it was closed. And we’re thinking Great, So, how are we going to do this. And what we ended up doing was pre recording the messages from our major sponsors, and also from our mayor. And then we actually launched, launched it The following day, after the actual date that we’re saying that we’re doing it. And we had a reception and outdoor reception for all of our sponsors, So, they can have the live feel. And we called it a premiere of our state of the city. And the one thing that I had to approach our sponsors with was, okay, So, when we normally have our state of the city, the next library only holds 300 to 325 people, and our sponsors touch that many people, which, you know, in some communities, that’s not a lot. But if we did it virtually, we can have the reach of 1000s, we, you know, we posted on Channel three, or you know, the local TV station, and social media and all those social platforms. And we have the largest Hoa in our community of 2200 residents. So, I had called up our two title sponsors, and I said, So, what is it that you’re looking for? Are you looking for actually seeing people in person? Or are you looking to reach out to the community and being that they are in the medical and health industries, they want to reach out to the community? So, I said, Okay, well, you know, here, here’s a proposition for you know, you pay the same amount as you did last year, but your reach to 2200 residents in one Hoa is far greater than the 300 people that you would actually be seeing in person. And I said, plus, this is going to be on our website, and Facebook and YouTube. So, there’s the potential for being seen multiple times instead of just the one time


Ed Burzminski  19:58

so if I hear what you’re saying You didn’t build it and hoped that they would come, you went and you asked your sponsors, what is it that you’re looking for? What are your needs, and you kind of created you adapt and adjusted an event to meet those major sponsors needs.


Susan Wan-Ross  20:13

Yes. The other thing too, is we actually had to get the buy in of the idea with our mayor, because the maker had this whole gala event, you know, envisioned with, you know, meeting greeting all these people. And I said, Now, I think it’s better because your reach is further with the community than, than just those 300 people that you get to see, you know, just because we’re giving an award for citizen of the year Business of the Year doesn’t mean that, you know, the rest of the city is going to see it, we have a population of 68,000 people. And the potential for them to know who the citizen of the year is, is miniscule if it’s an in person event.


Ed Burzminski  20:59

So what kind of platform did you use for this? And who did you pull together? And how much did it cost you.


Susan Wan-Ross  21:05

So our state of the city, if it’s a live event, the expense is about $25,000. And this year, with it being virtual, we cut our expenses in half, we hire a video team, that, that has been doing some fabulous videos of everything that we do. And it was done on Facebook and Vimeo. So, Vimeo was the actual video portion of it, they edit it and everything. I think the editing is the most important part of doing something virtual because if you do a Facebook Live event, it’s really hard to try and edit stuff when it’s happening, you know. So, we put it on our websites. So, the city website and the chamber website and all the social media platforms that are out there.


Ed Burzminski  22:01

So you have the video company, do the videos, edit them, post them on Vimeo. Vimeo is like a hosting site for the videos, right? And then and then So, those were the pre recorded ones. And you stream those you kind of the kind of came all together. Yeah.


Susan Wan-Ross  22:19

Yeah. So, we pushed it out. So, people would not know that it wasn’t live.


Ed Burzminski  22:24

Also, it looks live.


Susan Wan-Ross  22:26

Yeah. So, we actually, um, we presented everything on one night. So, saying Wednesday night, we did everything. And So, the mayor got up there and introduced the video and everything. And then the next day we launched it. And it was actually really interesting, because every says, Well, why can’t we do a facebook live? I said, No, we need to record it. And then that way, we could edit it and have a perfect version of what we want to put out there. And then we pushed it out the next day. And we we actually instead of just letting the video go, we just said, okay, seven o’clock on Thursday evening. It’s going live. And that’s what we did.


Ed Burzminski  23:10

Make sense? And will we be able to, for people attending the webinar? Will we be able to send them a link? Yes. follow up email. Yeah, to view that video. It’s actually a really, really great video. I watched it the other day, really, really well done. And you’re right it the way it’s put together, you couldn’t tell that it was pre recorded. So, that that was that was a great idea. And you made money off of this?


Susan Wan-Ross  23:35

Yeah, we surprisingly, I want to say I can’t remember if I told you we netted once it was like 40% 40, or just under 50% of what we expected. Because you know, if we if you don’t net 40 and you got to scrap it.


Ed Burzminski  23:54

How is that compared to when you did the event live the previous year?


Susan Wan-Ross  23:58

It was a lot less work. And same, same percentage. But we also have a revenue share with the city. And when it comes to the live event. This one I said, you know, we were taking all the expense and working on getting everything done. We would prefer to keep it since we didn’t get any of the loans or the little grants that everybody else has been getting.


Ed Burzminski  24:25

Sure. Yeah, makes sense. And what was the feedback on the event?


Susan Wan-Ross  24:30

It was great. People were really impressed. I think I would love to do this for more of our events that we do live. It just took a lot of the manual labor out because it gave us time to adjust things and get it done right instead of just winging it when you’re in a live event.


Ed Burzminski  24:53

Sure. What other events do you think could be done in this format?


Susan Wan-Ross  24:57

Um, and installation would be great. Or even like our first responders appreciation that we do would be great if we could do that. That’s the first responders. appreciation is our next major event that we would have that I’m trying to figure out how we can roll it out and make it work. It’s hard because usually we have everybody there. And we serve a breakfast and we have a whole program. But I’m thinking, depending on what happens in the next quarter, we will probably have to do something virtual, you know, that are a drive thru.


Ed Burzminski  25:36

Drive Thru? I’m sure there are a lot of chambers that have done some interesting.


Susan Wan-Ross  25:38

Yeah, yeah.


Ed Burzminski  25:40

So just to close up on this one particular thing in hindsight, what would you have done differently?


Susan Wan-Ross  25:47

for the State of the City? Yeah, probably would, we had it in I want to say it was October, very hot time of the year. And we had a little mini reception for the sponsors. And I don’t think the reception itself was particularly necessary in the way that we did it. We, we had the we called the East Room in the Nixon library. And it’s a beautiful banquet hall. The way it was set up, everybody was spaced out in their chairs. So, it’s like, you know, six feet between each chair, I would have preferred to put it in the theater and have it like a red carpet theater type of premiere, or Academy Awards type of thing. I think that would have been really impressive. But, you know, we might be able to do that next


Ed Burzminski  26:48

year. With people distance, right? And yeah,


Susan Wan-Ross  26:51

yeah, yeah.


Ed Burzminski  26:54

And you change the focus on attention on membership to he didn’t know inducement revenue stuff, but you focused on membership. And you did a membership drive a membership event for the first time? Why did you do that? And how did it go?


Susan Wan-Ross  27:10

So in January, I was thinking, Okay, we want to break the 400 mark, and we’re right around the low three hundreds. And our goal was to be a chamber 400 or more. And after the WAC conference, you know, people were talking about boosting the membership. And I had seen some video ads, you know, that come through email about this membership event thing. And I have reached out to Brad Hicks to think is in


Ed Burzminski  27:47



Susan Wan-Ross  27:48

Medford Oregon. Right. And I said, Okay, tell me, how did you How in the world did you get that many members in an event of you know, two or three days? And he goes out just you gotta you got to check out this guy. So, your chamber connection is the company. Jimmy Cusato, he, he’s based in Texas he had called me and I guess Brad had said, Oh, Jimmy, you got to call Susan. And Jimmy calls me and he’s given me his little spiel of what they can do. And I was like, yeah, send me an email. And I hung up on him. And he could not believe that I hung up on him. And I said, Well, you know, I get, I’m sure everybody else does, too. You get a lot of solicitations from companies that think they can help you. And then I saw another email that came out from Your Chamber Connection. And I was thinking, Okay, well, I’m going to call this other chamber and find out and they say, whatever you do, you just got to make sure you follow what they say.


So, I called Jimmy back. And I told him, I said, I really hesitant on this because our chamber, we don’t put up with gimmicks. And it’s too salesy, and we’re very judgmental. And, you know, we, we’ve had speakers coming from other areas that we just don’t like, you know, we want real stuff. And Jimmy says, I can train your people, I can tell them stuff about chamber that you’ve told them 100 times, and it’ll ring true. So, we actually said, okay, you know, let’s book it. And So, I booked it for, I think it was early September, and that was in January. Well, then when COVID hit, I’m thinking Holy cow, we got to we got to pull the plug on this because I don’t think we could do this.


But then in April and May, we saw a lot of businesses calling us asking us for help. And then by June, we had new members signing up online that we’ve never had before. So, I said let’s just do this and we had to push the data to the end of September early October. So, it was on September 29 30. In October 1, and I’ll tell you in two days, we ended up with 64 new members, and we never, ever in the world would have imagined that we could have done that. Jimmy said that we were like an experiment because he wasn’t sure if California would be able to handle doing something like this. And he was very pleased with the results. So, I, I’m ready to do it. Again, my board members are thrilled, and they want to do it again, our retention rate right now is 98%. Wow, yeah.


Ed Burzminski  30:34

What, I’ve got a question about that, with the new members and the businesses during this difficult time. What were they looking for? Was there a trend that they were looking for from the chamber?


Susan Wan-Ross  30:43

Um, when we started having the members reach out, they were more lost about some of the guidelines that were coming out, or, you know, who do I go for assistance. And the great thing is, you know, we’re advocates for them. So, we, we put together that COVID toolkit like everybody else has on their websites, and the information that we’re pushing out there was directly from the legislative offices or from our Board of Supervisors. Um, the one thing that I did tell some of the members, I had a member in April, she decided to join. And she’s a retail shop. And she said, I don’t know if I should open my doors or not. And I said, well, it’s up to you. And I said, I can’t tell you that you can or can’t do something. But the worst thing that you could possibly do is do something on social media, when you’re told that you’re not supposed to be open. And I said, So, just be on the sly. And I said, just know, social media will kill your business before anything. And So, a lot of people who are cautious or being real careful on how they promote their business.


Ed Burzminski  31:53

Yeah. Well, it’s really important to I mean, it’s there’s an old adage, you know, when you’re, when you’re the busiest you have to be promoting the most. But also, when, you know, when you don’t have business or when businesses slow down, you really got to be promoting because you have to stay visible, what in whatever way you can stay visible, a business can stay visible, social media, if it’s done properly. Advertising elsewhere. You know, that’s cost effective. It gets their message out, that’s super critical for small businesses, even So, many small businesses that have been devastating everybody’s community and it’s horrible to see.


Susan Wan-Ross  32:27

Yeah, we actually had a business that when, when everything shut down, they called me up and said, We are canceling our membership. We’re closing our doors, it was a limo company. And we had a lot of tears, because they were a big part of our chamber. And they said, We got to sell our fleet. And then in July, one of the legislative offices thinking it was the senator’s office, that they had called and said, Do you have any businesses that need help? And I said, you know, what, I have a business that closed their doors, and we actually, you know, arranged the meeting, and that business called us back and said, You know what, we’re gonna give it a go. We’ve got some great advice, and they’re back up and running. So, you know, just because you think that you’re defeated doesn’t mean that you are


Ed Burzminski  33:14

what you just said, Susan, for everybody listening. That is a fantastic success story of how the Chamber of Commerce was relevant during a crisis situation that helped a business that connected a business with a resource that helped it reopened its doors, and instead of that business failing, it was floundering, but the chamber was instrumental, and had the knowledge and connected them with a resource that could save their business and rescue them. That’s a great story to tell. After all, this is done for you that the Yorba Linda chamber to tell and everybody else had must have a story like that, too.


Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, it’s important for the chamber to be relevant during these difficult times. Because at the end of the day, this is the time to be relevant. You started we’re in California, and we’ve had some very challenging ups and downs. You started to do some in person events. Before we got locked down again in California, what are they What did you start doing and how did you handle keeping people safe?


Susan Wan-Ross  34:18

So the one thing is, we were doing a lot of zoom networking meetings, we have a very well oiled machine for our networking lunches. And it got to the point where the moment that I found out that we would be able to meet in person, I said, Okay, we’re doing this and we spread everybody out. So, instead of being in a smaller room, we expanded the room and, you know, everybody had masks on. We have the hand sanitizer, spraying everything down. And then we realize okay, now we got to go outside. So, we went outside and we started doing it. And yesterday, we had our installation And our Christmas party. And that was interesting. And I’m going to step back to, we had a CBA mixer. So, the chamber Business Alliance is a group of local chambers in our area. And we, we decided we’re going to do a mixer. And you know, it was like, Oh, no, you can’t do a Mr. And go, Yes, we can. We can do this outside. So, we went to a country club, we went outside, we were spread out, checking the temperatures and stuff, everybody wore masks, we had 75 people. Wow.


And, you know, that’s huge for, you know, putting seven different chambers together, and everybody’s afraid of contaminating each other in some way. Everything was boxed box meals, box samples of whatever it was, and served, and served everything in cans, and bottles. But we did yesterday for our installation. We were supposed to be up at the golf course, they told us on Monday at 10 o’clock, okay, we’re canceling you. And I said, Okay, we’re supposed to do this on Tuesday. So, in less than 24 hours, we found a private location because we had an issue with public versus private and city owned property.


So, we went into a courtyard patio, at a local restaurant, and just went, we did it. We did it outside, we wore masks, we had a microphone that nobody had to touch. And it worked. And everybody you know, we want to end on a happy note for everybody, because we need to celebrate something. Because you know, when you look at the news, everything is just not So, fun. So, we had a lot of fun with that.


Ed Burzminski  36:40

Sounds like it was a really good success. And sadly, he did a really good thing to select So, many chambers, you were faced with a challenging situation. And you took an entrepreneurial approach to create new opportunities. What are your thoughts about generating more non-dues revenue going forward?


Susan Wan-Ross  36:57

I, at night, I sit there and think, Okay, what can I add a price tag to? Well, what we’re we have realized is all the costs that we’ve had of all of our previous events, or anything that we do, it’s going to cost us twice as much just like you know, some of the groceries, items that we have, it’s costing us more, and even the restaurants, they, it’s costing more. So, we will be switching over from a fair share membership structure to tier dues. Or in the middle of that, and training the staff, and my board members and ambassadors a lot more than what they’re used to. Just So, we can actually understand what we do. We didn’t know what we did, until COVID hit. And So, I have this big, huge posted posters throughout the Office of everything that we’ve done, because of COVID.


Ed Burzminski  37:57

So tell me a little bit more about that. What do you mean, what you do?


Susan Wan-Ross  38:01

You know, we all know what we do, you know, and the problem is, is we as a chamber of commerce, we think that a lot of the stuff that we do is very heavily done on events. But the events is just a small portion of what we actually do. And So, I wrote down, okay, So, for marketing, what kind of things that we did for marketing or business development or advocacy. And I just had a powwow with staff. And we wrote down everything that we did, and we put it in a category. So, now we understand what somebody calls us. They know Oh, it’s not about advertising. advertising is just a small part of what we can help with. But it’s not really what it is, what is, what do the members really want? Do they want to reach out to the community? Do they want to give back? Do they need access to legislative offices? Or do they need to know what direction to go as far as you know, the city? And, and it helps because you were kind of visual learners because we only retain about 7% of what we hear. So, putting it up on paper. And when I had a huge turnover in July and August, October, staff and So, having these posted posters in the office helps the new staff understand what we’re actually doing.


Ed Burzminski  39:24

What a brilliant idea to just have everybody you know, I hate to say it this way, but drink the Kool Aid and yeah, understand it. I mean, there’s negative connotations to that. But other So, non-dues revenue is just a continuing evolving process for you.


Susan Wan-Ross  39:46

Yeah. Um, we come up with all kinds of things. For one thing that we do at our network lunches is we came up with actually one of our board members came With an idea of Well, why don’t we have a sponsor for the tables? And So, we, you know, 100 bucks here and there for anybody who wants to be a table sponsor.


Ed Burzminski  40:11

of your recent live events?


Susan Wan-Ross  40:12

Yeah, they just put their business card and any marketing materials on the table. It works.


Ed Burzminski  40:21

Now, question for you, I asked this earlier, and I thought it would be interesting to share, you’ve got a really nice background on your zoom, and it’s the chamber. What do you think about selling logos to sponsors or major investors on your zoom backgrounds?


Susan Wan-Ross  40:39

If your zoom friendly, I think would be great. I’m, I’m trying to shy away from doing zoom events. I want to do them live. And we do only meetings. But yeah, this is this is all space that can be bought by somebody who wants to have their name up there. Um, we were doing zoom networking meetings, and we had anywhere from 25 to 48 people attending those, that one time So, that that’s great. space. Great. Yeah. Yeah.


Ed Burzminski  41:15

Well, well, Susan, my gosh, thank you So, much for your insight, and sharing your experience with us. And, Judy, do we have any questions for Susan coming up in the q&a?


Judi Hays  41:26

We certainly do. These out. Okay. So, yeah, there’s a lot of questions here. So, one of the questions early on is, is who pays for the E waste event? The recycling company? How do you wind up generating revenue from that,


Susan Wan-Ross  41:41

oh, the recycling company, depending on what state you’re in the recycling company, they make money too. And there’s certain types of recycling that we can actually benefit from and then other recycling that they benefit from, I would recommend that if you’re looking into doing an E waste event to check out different companies, because they’ll pay differently per pound. Something that we have to do in the state of California is we have to report to Cal recycle. So, we have to have a proof of designation of where the waste is coming from. A lot of cities don’t like signing those. But it’s just a tracking a way of tracking for them to know where the E waste is coming from and where it has originated from. So, if you don’t sign it, it can be up to 50% difference.


Judi Hays  42:34

Excellent. Okay. The next question is, how do you make money on Restaurant Week


Judi Hays  42:39

specific details


Susan Wan-Ross  42:40

sponsorships, um, it just depends on how you want to roll it out, we, we did have a sponsor. So, Cal gas came in and wanted to be a sponsor. So, we had one of the restaurants actually do a video on why they love SoCal Gas, because you know, they’re cooking with gas. And So, our sponsor paid for all the advertising. So, we actually netted a little bit, it was something that we weren’t planning on making a whole lot of money off of, but other restaurants can sponsor, you know, prizes and stuff. So, it just depends on how it gets rolled out, you know, any collateral material to can be sponsored?


Judi Hays  43:20

Perfect. I have two questions that are similar. So, I’m going to group them together. The first part is, how do you sell virtual events without putting lesser value on the live events? And that go back to starting to sell them? And then the other thing is, how do you successfully monetize those virtual events?


Susan Wan-Ross  43:36

So the, and I’ll go back to state of the city. So, say our, our title sponsor was $5,000. And already remember, that’s what it was, but they’re there $5,000 in a live event would only touch 300 people and maybe 75. VIP that they can have a face to face with. I had to ask them specifically what they were looking for in their reach what was more of a community and not the legislative people or the VIPs. And I said well, here’s the numbers, here’s the hard figures, 300 live people of all business people that might not necessarily be in your, your area of interest of reaching out to them, or our whole community. And we advertise this out to all the ways and the biggest Hoa is you know, 2200 people or 2200 residents, and they all get the same e newsletter about this event. So, they liked that idea. And we actually have another sponsor that with our economic forecast, we’re going to do that virtual also same way to stay the city and they’re interested in giving us more, because they know that the reach is going to be a lot farther than just the 300 live people. So, it’s how you sell it to them, you have to make sure that they understand that either you get like people who will say, Oh, yeah, that was great. And then, you know, that’s where it is. or to the people that are watching online or through Facebook or social media. Okay, perfect.


Judi Hays  45:27

Um, can you share some of the things that you are doing for retention? How are you keeping your members,


Susan Wan-Ross  45:33

we went old school on that phone calls. And the interesting thing is, you know, we thought we were doing phone calls before, but now we’re doing more phone calls than ever before. And retention wise, what we do is we send out a note card from either myself or one of the staff members, we use send out cards, and it’s a generated card, then we have our ambassadors send out a card to the new member, or the renewing member. And they write in that little note, thank you for your membership, you know, and they’re the ones that are going to be doing the mentoring, um, you know, if you are interested in something, please reach out to me, you know, I can help you. And these are the reasons why.


And I have a staff member that calls to verify that any contact information, So, they will call and say, you know, you’re up for renewal in you know, two or three months, and we just want to make sure that this is the correct information. Or if it’s a new member, they call and say, what kind of information do you want on our on our website? And then our actual website, they have a support team that actually reaches out to them via email also, just asking, Can you double check, you know, how your listing is, and if you like, what you see. So, there’s a lot of different touches that we have, but it’s definitely not as digital as it used to be, it’s a lot more real touches,


Ed Burzminski  47:06

I’d like to send out a shout out to send out cards. I know chamber where they’re, it’s they’re individuals, I guess that are part of that program. And it was one chamber that we’ve worked with, for a lot of years of Send Out Cards person is very prominent in the chamber, big member, and really leverages that membership in the chamber, to use the Send Out Cards and to sell this and it’s called send out cards for those people in the country that maybe haven’t heard of it. Great service, send out gifts sent out. I love the brownies that you can send out to people. And it’s just a nice thing. And it’s automated. You just write it in and it gets done cost a little bit of money. But it’s really nice to get a card from somebody, or even a small little gift. And all you do is you just sit at your desk and do it you put a credit card you’re done.


Susan Wan-Ross  47:53

Yeah. Or you can do it on your phone. I have the app, right. It’s super easy. Yep. And if you don’t, if you don’t have a send out card rep, ask one of your realtors or mortgage people in your membership, because I’m sure one of them has a rep.


Judi Hays  48:10

That’s a great tip. Yeah. Okay, we have another question here. counties are really affected by COVID. You know, outdoor dining, close, restricted occupancy, etc. How, what do you do? Being able to help businesses afford to pay their dues because of the pandemic?


Susan Wan-Ross  48:28

We actually sent out? A letter? Oh, gosh, almost it was in July. Um, Carl Sexton actually was the one that generated some version of a letter, because I was doing his little daily webinars. And we tweaked it enough to you know, if you’ve been a member for a year, you get $50 off one time, depending on how often they are not how often how long they’ve been a member, they get a certain percentage off. And I’ll tell you, not everybody does it. It was the percentage of the people that actually decided to take the grant, we’re calling it, the chamber grant was very minimal. And I I was thankful to see that they appreciated the offer, but they said no, we’ll just pay our dues. That was great. So, you’re just offering it to some of those. I know, I know, some of the smaller businesses that are maybe home based businesses or you know, a single person might need a little bit more financial help with that. And I said, You know what, you know, if you’re, if you’re really struggling, well, we’ll make it work. But just know next year, the price is going to go up, and you’re going to have to pay near the current price.


Judi Hays  49:49

Okay, great on that topic of dues. Can you talk about how your dues structure is today and what you’re moving to how is the transition going and how long is the transition taking? Okay, so


Susan Wan-Ross  50:03

the transition is taking a lot longer than expected, because we want to roll it out the same time that we had our membership event, we’ve had to reformat it quite a bit, our lowest level or right now is 320, for one to five employees, and then an admin fee of $49.95. And we call that to bump them up to the premium membership. So, it’s like 369 95, currently, we will have the first tier will be $399, which would be the minimum, and I’m getting rid of the single resident nonprofit pricing, the tier is just going to be $399. And it’s going to be mainly networking and minimal access to things you know. And I think a lot of the people who want to do networking stuff, that’s all they do, they won’t attend anything else. And they don’t participate in anything else. So, we have we have a Membership 180 is who was actually helping us with our tiers. And it’s a lot more work than I ever expected it to be. And I didn’t realize how much stuff that we actually do. You know, trying to dissect every single event and monetize it has been quite a challenge. But I’ve learned a lot of what we’re losing money on going through this whole process.


Ed Burzminski  51:37

That’s important to figure out what you’re losing money on where your money, and the process that you went through with staff to come up with what we do and who we are, and come up with those charts on the wall. Did that help with kind of prepping to the to do structure?


Susan Wan-Ross  51:52

Yeah, yeah. Because you know, there’s always like five areas that you know, you have your, your networking, you have the events, business development, community advocacy. And So, depending on you know, what your chamber is focusing on, you put that in the category, and we came up with all kinds of stuff. So, you know, my walls are wallpapered with all kinds of notes. And it’s great because a lot of stuff will cross over. But that also helps putting them into a tear. Well, that’s business development. But with business development, you’re in developing business, but you’re also marketing yourself and your networking.


Judi Hays  52:30

So on do’s on that topic? Is it going to work to have tiered dues? Is it worth going to tier dues talk a little while.


Susan Wan-Ross  52:41

So we had an actual, we have currently the fair share, and we have chairman’s circle. And So, chairman’s circle is more of a hybrid version of to dues, we figured everybody wants to be on some level and get some kind of recognition. So, why not just have everybody do that, I know, going to tear dues is not going to happen overnight, it’s probably going to be a year to two years before everybody is in that one tear of whatever it is that they’re going to end up in. But we have some members that are constantly writing a check to be a part of an event. So, why not just write one check for the whole year versus, you know, check here in there. So, we never have to keep asking for money. Perfect. Okay.


Judi Hays  53:24

And this may be a question you can answer. Talking about, have you done anything in the paid advertising paid social media realm?



What what’s going on with that right now?


Ed Burzminski  53:33

paid advertising paid social media? Well, chambers, a lot of chambers have their e blast, that are very helpful, because that’s timely for businesses to get their messages out. In the most chambers. Their email database is not just members, but it’s past members. A lot of them are just anybody who’s inquired, So, reaching out to chamber members or even just businesses in general these days, you know, a rising tide helps float all boats. I think that’s a really strong electronic advertising piece. That gives people visibility. And obviously, you can, it’s monetized. I know, the chamber master has a really good program with that, and just constant contact, you know, putting out an email blast that is just for that business. in Beverly Hills Chamber in California does it very nicely, they have a very nice template, that’s a single message for their member businesses when they’re putting them out. And so, that’s I think, a very, very strong way to show relevance and value as a chamber to the general business community.


And I would suggest right now, just opening it up to the non-members as well, just to help get through this crisis and it helps show the value of the chamber social media Most chambers, a lot of chambers have Facebook pages, the chamber pages, it could be a worthwhile little shout out. And a shout out with a little profile, like maybe a one paragraph profile about that business or something that they have going on. And you can again, open it up to non-members, but with a standard rate, which is a non member rate, and a member rate. Obviously, membership has its privileges to steal a line from American Express. But that also shows that Yeah, we’re a membership organization. But we’re also an organization that’s helping the entire business community, because at the end of the day, we’re a business organization, helping to build a strong local economy and help everyone prosper. So, that’s our that’s what we’re doing.


You know, I think those are very strong and monetizing them. Absolutely. You know, you’re providing value, you’re providing visibility as a chamber, and you’re relevant, and you’re a business, just because you’re a 501 c6, nonprofit, that doesn’t mean you don’t make a profit, you’ve got to be in business, and you know, it to make a profit. So, certainly monetizing those things is extraordinarily important for businesses, and they may not even know that that’s available to them.


Judi Hays  56:13

additional question came in on the idea of non-dues revenue and paid advertising. Can you talk about the state of books and directories right now?  What’s going on with that? Is that still a good Avenue?


Ed Burzminski  56:24

Sure. So, the state of advertising right now, during a pandemic, it’s, you know, if you see one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber, it kind of really depends on the community, we’ve had, you know, our model is to help chambers produce their publications on their own without using a turnkey publisher. So, we’ve had a number of clients that just stopped. In fact, Susan, at Yorba Linda was one we were about to get started on a on a publication on a directory guide. And we said, let’s stop in April, that’s not get going. And it was a good thing that we didn’t get started because it would have been challenging.


But then on the other hand, there are other communities or two other communities that we’ve been working with that were one is only selling ads through the pandemic in a printed business guide. One is a destination guide and business directory in Nevada. And the other one is a destination guide and Business Directory destination guides in Southern California in the Los Angeles area in a coastal community. And they’re only off like one is off 8% from last year, and the other one is awful. 12% from last year, it’s mind boggling. It’s like, really. So, what that means to me is in certain communities, businesses really want to get back to normal, and they recognize the value of promoting themselves. And I also have to say that the publications that they’re advertising in, have been developed over time to be relevant and have value. They’re not the same old, same old business directory, or membership directory, they’ve evolved to be niche publications.


So, I think if you have a niche publication that has a strong message, the things that you need to understand before doing any publication these days is what do we want to say? Who do we want to say to? And how are we going to get it there, you’re identifying your niche and your target audience and how it’s going to be delivered to them. Once you identify that you can do things like Susan did, to go out and talk to her major sponsors to understand what it is that their needs are. There’s one chamber that we work with in Southern California, they wanted from the board level down, they wanted to abandon their printed publication. Well, okay, So, the CEO said, Okay, we’re not doing another publication. Well, guess who got upset about that their major investors?  Their hospitals because the hospital says “well print is part of our marketing strategy. So, if you’re not going to do print, we’re going to take our $5,000 ad or $4,000 ad and put it somewhere else.” So, the CEO, being a savvy CEO said, Wait a minute, went back to the board and said we’ve to do a printed guide. So, they did.


Again, it just kind of depends on the community right now. And the outreach is we’re producing a publication with a digital component, you have to have a digital component. That’s not a membership directory. That’s not just a business directory. It’s a Community Guide, economic profile, destination guide, you know, there are still places where hotels are running at 80% capacity on the weekends. here in Southern California, surprisingly enough, So, people are doing staycations it’s out there, I would approach it cautiously. Print is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just very niched, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Thank you, ed.


Judi Hays  59:51

We have a two part question. When you’re using a company to do a membership drive. First of all, do they take a percentage of your membership sales. And then the second part of that is, what’s the average two to three year retention rate after hiring membership firms. So


Susan Wan-Ross  1:00:08

talk a little bit about that. So, the company does take a chunk, I want to say it’s about 30%. I think we negotiated, what their commission was. And any, anytime you have a new member, you have a 50% chance of retention unless you really massage it well. And I realized that the way the membership is sold is where your retention is going to either do really well, or you’re going to fail. So, I had a salesperson, and hopefully, nobody’s watching that has been an employee of mine, I had a salesperson that had 0% retention, years ago, she would hire or not hire, she would get the, the bottom feeders, I call them the low level members in and within a year, they’d be gone. And I said, Why are we doing this, because it’s costing us more money to just keep turning them over. She was So, she was turning to Burnham. The main thing is, is making sure that you’re not just selling a membership, you’re selling something more than that. So, you have to know what it is that those potential members are looking for. And make sure that we deliver to them what they’re looking for. Because if you tell them, oh, it’s all about networking, and then and that’s all they want, then they’re probably better off going to be an AI. Because if that’s, you know, they want to be passing leads all the time on the BI is a better fit for them. So, I, I interview all the prospects a little bit more with the membership drive, you know, it actually was a membership event, we had Jimmy actually train the members that were involved in it, on what to say and what the chamber actually does. So, everybody who was joining the chamber, they weren’t joining, because they wanted to network with people or advertise or attend events, they were joining for various reasons, you know, either education, advocacy, or being a part of a community. So, that’s the main thing, the retention will determine what it is that you’re telling them, and what they’re looking forward to. Because I have actually told some potential members, I don’t think the chamber is the right fit, you won’t be here in six months. Because if all you’re trying to do is just past leads. That’s not what we do.


Judi Hays  1:02:43

That’s, that’s great. Thank you. Um, one other question, you mentioned something about a poster of what we do, will you be able to share that,


Susan Wan-Ross  1:02:51

um, it’s, it’s, it’s literally the post it note, the sticky post it note things and we had right on it. So, I don’t know, if you want me to go get one and show you what we did.


Ed Burzminski  1:03:04

Or maybe when we do the we email blast out to people who participated. Maybe you could give a snapshot,


Susan Wan-Ross  1:03:11

okay, I can do that. It’s, it’s just handwritten stuff. And, and every chamber is going to be doing something different. So, if you just take your notes, and you just write on the wall, basically, what it is that you do, we came up with all kinds of stuff, you know, education, like what is education means? are we are we furthering our education for our members? Or are we giving education to them? You know, or it doesn’t mean that we’re working with the education of, you know, students for Workforce Development. So, it’s all determined on what your chamber actually does.


Ed Burzminski  1:03:53

And one of the things that I really like about your approach, Susan, is you’re asking questions, you’re not just you’re not transactional, you’re looking for members that are going to stay with you for the long haul, you’re looking for retention, you’re looking to give value and you’re by doing that you’re creating value as an organization for the long haul, and retention will continue. I mean, your retention rate is incredible. That is key to understanding and firing a member firing a vendor firing a client, that’s super important to be able to do to you don’t have to hang on to everybody. That’s I think that’s really, really important in the way you’re approaching it. Susan, it’s your, qualifying your members, rather than just doing a transaction. Yeah.


Judi Hays  1:04:40

Okay. That’s all we have time for today. Do you want to conclude?


Ed Burzminski  1:04:44

Yes, Susan. Thank you very much, Susan when Ross from the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for being here today. Thank you to Judi Hays for assisting. I’m Ed Burzminski of Chamber Marketing Partners, www.Chamber Marketing Partners.com.


Our core business is helping chambers of commerce generate substantial non-dues revenue from publications without a turnkey publisher. We’ve got a lot going on here Chamber Marketing Partners, we like to call ourselves CMP.


We’re finalizing a training program for chambers of commerce to generate substantial non-dues revenue from their publications without using a turnkey publisher, meaning we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about planning and producing a terrific directory guide, profile map or magazine and make a ton of money. You can pre-register again, Chamber Marketing Partners.com I hope this seminar brought you some value. And if you like what you heard here today, our next more non-dues revenue seminar will be on December 22.


And if you want to be a panelist for one of our next more non-dues, revenue events, connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s talk onward and upward everybody. Thank you for attending.


Judi Hays  1:05:54

Thank you, Susan. Thank you. Thank you, everyone.


Susan Wan-Ross  1:05:56

Thank you, guys.

About the interviewer:

Ed Burzminski is President/CEO of Chamber Marketing Partners, Inc., a publishing project management and consulting firm helping chambers of commerce generate substantial non-dues revenue from publications without using a turnkey publisher.  CMP’s unique model gives chambers total control, full financial transparency, utilizes local vendors and lets the chamber decide how much money to make.  Learn more….


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