6 September 2022
“Be positive, and see it as a chance to solve a need for your businesses.” Valley Chamber
How Valley Chamber of Commerce onboarded their businesses
The Valley Chamber Gift Card launched in May 2022 and is being led by the Chambre de Commerce de la Vallée/Valley Chamber of Commerce to support a variety of businesses in Drummond, Grand Falls, Saint-André and Saint-Léonard, following funding from the Canadian government and McCain Foods. Gilles Beaulieu is CEO of the Valley Chamber of Commerce and told us how he onboarded over 80 businesses to the program:
How did you on-board your businesses?
“The in person approach was the number one key to onboarding. In November 2021, I introduced the concept through my newsletter and only had about 10 responses. It wasn’t successful. Covid was a very tough hurdle but what has helped me moving forward was that the restrictions to wear a mask were removed. I’m a people person, I love to see smiles on faces and once I was allowed, I was out and about talking to businesses face to face.
“Even though you’re selling your gift card, you’re actually selling yourself first because people will buy from people they know and trust. Yes, you can be professional but you can also be approachable, and entertaining as this helps business owners to relax and feel comfortable with you.
“I think the main reason why people hadn’t taken the necessary steps to register themselves for the program was because they had questions and hoped somebody would drop by so that they could ask the questions. Email is still a good tool but for me, nothing beats that face to face approach.”
What kind of questions did businesses ask?
“At first, I didn’t know what businesses would ask but practice makes perfect and within a few days I knew pretty much what questions would come up. The first few weeks I was sending them the link from my iPhone before I realised, I could do the work for them right there in front of them and the last two weeks, that’s what I did. I had my phone, I’d fill out the 7 slots on the merchant agreement, swipe the card on their POS system and within 5 minutes they were signed up and I was gone. Even down to confirming their email address on their inbox from Adobe Sign.
“Another question was ‘is this trustworthy’, businesses have been scammed in the past so they are wary. Being able to talk to someone they trust is vital. Having a Visa approved program was reassuring for them. I had to explain that whatever their merchant agreement was through their POS, it fits in with that.
“They also wanted to know if it costs them anything and if they had to be a member of Valley Chamber of Commerce to be a part of the gift card. I said no, not at this moment but in 6 months’ time I will print out all the transactions that came to your place of business through the gift card and you’ll have to decide if you want to be a member of Valley Chamber of Commerce for 2023. The gift card offers added value to be a member of the Valley Chamber of Commerce, this was on my mind from day one.”
Are there any other benefits of the face to face approach?
“The best advertising is word of mouth so as well as onboarding businesses it was also a PR exercise. In 4 weeks I on-boarded 70 merchants with another 10-20 still to finalise. Each one of those businesses will talk to another business about the program. They’ll be saying: ‘You don’t accept the Valley Chamber Gift Card, you’re missing out’. It will be a domino effect.”
How did you sell the idea of the gift card to businesses?
“Because of covid, everyone has suffered, we need to encourage the consumer to support the local businesses. The discounted gift cards we are offering will be very appealing for customers, both to use with businesses they already buy from and to buy from new businesses. Through the gift card, we can educate the consumer to support local businesses, securing jobs and the local economy. Businesses want to be a part of that.
“If the consumer really enjoyed using the card and really took advantage of everything that was on offer. And if the business was really happy to see the consumer using their card in their place of business, then this is a program that we can use long term to lock in dollars locally.”
Was the range of businesses important to you?
“I see the Valley Chamber Gift Card as a ‘deluxe pizza’, with everything on it and more. I even have car dealerships on board. Not to buy a car, but to get an oil change, buy tires, or something small. I wanted to have a diversity of everything that Valley Chamber Gift Card offers. We have got grocery stores, jewellery stores, a dental hygienist, and chiropractors. It is a fully decorated pizza as I mentioned!”
Any advice for other programs getting ready to on-board their own businesses?
“There’s no secret recipe to bringing business on board. You have to be enthusiastic about your program or your plan. Businesses have to know you and they have to trust you, and they have to have the need for what you’re offering. Not everyone is comfortable with ‘selling’ face to face but if you feel self-defeated before you start, you’re putting a barrier in the way of your success. Be positive, and see it as a chance to solve a need for your businesses. Get prepared so you know how to answer questions and be ready to learn. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there to make things happen. I’m confident of the program itself and I can’t wait to see the difference we can make in our community.”