I am often asked by new small businesses whether they should join the local Chamber of Commerce. With tight start-up budgets, they are concerned with watching every penny and do not want to waste it. When they ask me that question, I often respond with a question of my own: if you want to get in better shape, should you consider joining a gym?
Most of the time, the people answer my question with a yes. Well, that’s how I answer the question about joining a Chamber, especially when you are a start-up business.
There are several reasons why a business should join a Chamber and make it part of their marketing strategy: 1) networking; 2) educational seminars; 3) promotional opportunities; and 4) improving the community in which they operate. (There are more, but I am focusing on just these for this article).
Let us look at networking. Chambers consist of businesses and non-profits from all type of industries. You rarely will find the opportunity to go to an event that has such a diverse group of people. For example, at one Chamber meeting I went to, I met a person from a company that makes turbidity barriers. I didn’t know what they were (they are typically inflatable barriers that are used to contain silt when work is being done on waterways.) But after talking with her, I know something I didn’t and I know someone from an industry that I didn’t know before. If I just attended groups focused around my industry, I would miss an opportunity to grow.
Another networking benefit is you get to talk with other business owners who are confronting the same challenges that you are facing on a daily basis. We all need to talk to someone who knows what we are going through. You will not find much better place to do that than a Chamber meeting.
Perhaps the largest networking benefit you will get from a Chamber is joining one of the many leads groups they have. A leads group typically meets once a week and allows only one type of business per group. So, if you are a florist, for example, you will be the only florist of that group. By attending each week and networking with people who learn to know, like, and trust you, your businesses will grow from referrals. Do they work, you may wonder? Well, from my personal experience I can say they definitely do. And what is nice, from a marketing perspective, they don’t cost you thousands of dollars to get the results.
The second benefit of joining a Chamber is the educational seminars that are offered to members. Whether it be a seminar on how to get a small business loan or a seminar on how to market your business (my favorite), these free opportunities allow you get great advice without paying a fortune. Plus, attending them has the additional benefit of allowing you to network with other businesses. So, take advantage of it.
The third benefit of being a Chamber partner is the promotional opportunities for your business. Most Chambers are the go-to-place for people looking for a specific type of service. Whether it be a listing on a Chamber website, an ad in the Chamber newsletter, or sponsoring a Chamber event, a business can find a way to reach a wider audience of people without spending any money or a relatively small amount.
The fourth benefit of a Chamber membership is the opportunity to give back to the community. Most Chambers have a variety of councils devoted to that. You can use the Chamber’s organization to meet small business owners and non-profit executives who want to make their local communities a better place. This is an admirable goal and one I feel every small business should do. (I, for example, helped the Brevard Save Our Students campaign and am the Vice President of the Cape Canaveral Chapter of the Air Force Association.)
Now that you have seen some of the benefits of joining, I am going to add one more thing. Just like a gym membership, to actually get any benefit from it, you need to actually use it. That means you have to attend events and participate. And that means you have to get out from behind your desk or wherever else you are working to grow your business through the Chamber. Believe me, you will often be pleased with the results.
And if you happen to join a Chamber from this article, tell them I sent you.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community