Launched in July, the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce’s new website (www.libbyChamber.org) is still progressing, but already the effects are evident.
Kim Peck of Glacier Insurance — also a member of the Chamber board — said she is having new customers find her business from the Chamber’s website for the first time. Glacier Insurance has been in business since 1976, before the Internet was even a factor.
“And we’re finally getting hits off of the Chamber website,” she said.
Seeing such direct benefit from Chamber membership does add a sense of value, Peck acknowledged.
Peck said she expects that aspect to only improve, as the Chamber upgrades their business listing from the current format.
“When you go to Glacier Insurance, it will have a photo, a paragraph and then also a link with a map to get here,” she said.
On the current website, listings have information such as hours and contact information, but rather than a linked map, simply offer directions to the business.
Chamber president Amber Holm said the Chamber hopes to launch the new directory within the next month.
In addition to giving members a better presence, the new business directory will save the Chamber money, Holm said.
Currently they handle the directory using a service that charges them a $140 monthly fee. The new directory will use a “plug-in” for the site with no ongoing cost.
Holm said there is still a lot of work to do, such as entering all of their member information into the new system. Yet, by doing most of that work themselves and using a plug in rather than contracting out the work, Holm said the Chamber is saving thousands of dollars.
When they first looked at updating the business directory, the cost was estimated between $10,000 and $15,000, and would have required the Chamber to apply for another grant in addition to the one that paid for the initial update to the site, Holm said.
Instead, they found a plug-in for their Wordpress site, which was installed by their hosting company, Montana Sky (where Holm works). Aside from the time the Chamber is putting in, there was no additional cost, she said.
“It was a lot of extra work, but I think, big picture, it worked out better,” Holm said.
The business directory isn’t the only part of the site that is being handled more directly by the Chamber staff, Holm said. They have moved from a site that they had to contact a third party if they wanted to change somethings as small as a phone number, to one where they have total and immediate access to update all their page content.
On top of that, they previously had to pay a fee for every update.
“Doing things in-house is so huge,” Holm said.
Holm has also seen the impact on public awareness of the Chamber from the new website.
During their six-week winter marketing campaign, the subscribers to their newsletter more than doubled, from around 200 to around 500.
The public can subscribe to the newsletter directly from the website. They can also request information packets there.
“We tripled the amount of visitor packets and relocation packets we sent out in 2017 from the prior year. Part of that is the website,” she said.
Holm also acknowledged that changes being made across the board for the Chamber are contributing to increased engagement.
Where the website may be different from some Chamber of commerce sites, however, is that it has a lot more than just the business listing.
There are community analytics and information about schools and hospitals, Holm said. The site also has information about trailheads and an interactive map of boat launches, among other information on where to do outdoor activities such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
“We have 256 community partners that help us fill that content with what our community has to offer,” she said.
“And we’re still adding,” Holm said. “There’s a lot of trailheads and outdoor recreation opportunities that weren’t put in, so we’re adding that information also. We want to be a one-stop shop.”
Along that line, one of the things Peck said she hears commented on most is the website’s new event calendar.
She has even encountered visitors to the area who planned their trip based on the events they found on the calendar, she said.