Recently we have let our membership in our local chamber of commerce lapse. It was completely by accident. We got busy trying to get our business off the ground and spent most of our money, energy and time on our own business. However, over the past couple of weeks, the Director of Business Development for the chamber reached out to us to try and see if we would reconsider joining again. So we thought it would be a good idea to do some research in preparation for our meeting with him on the pros and cons of joining a chamber of commerce.
If you are presently in a chamber, be sure to leave a comment below on what your experience has been.
What is a chamber of commerce?
Also known as a board of trade, or a business council, a chamber of commerce is a type of business network. They are an organization, volunteer-run and operated, that represents the business community. They are a collection of all types of businesses, trades, and industries under one roof.
The goal of the chamber is to advocate on behalf of the business community and work to more efficiently network each business together.
In comparison to social media, Google ads, and other marketing techniques, the chamber of commerce is a more traditional way of marketing. Chambers usually aim to build the local community, attract visitors and investors, create a pro-business climate, and reduce transactional friction, to name a few.
Did you know? The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France.
Where do you find them?
Locally, nationally, and globally. There are chambers of commerce all over. Currently, in the USA, there are roughly 4,000 chambers of commerce registered with at least one full-time staff person. But there are estimated to be thousands more with fully volunteer staff.
To find one near you, simply run a Google search of your city or county + Chamber of Commerce and you will be able to find more than a couple near you.
What are the benefits of joining a chamber of commerce?
The CEO and/or president of the chamber of commerce is motivated to find new members. They are always looking for new members to join. This might be disconcerting at first. And it may look to be more of a marketing tactic by the chamber itself, but it is a way to benefit both you and the local businesses already established.
The chambers of commerce usually offer networking opportunities, mailing lists, discounts, and other types of connection and exposure that you wouldn’t be able to facilitate independently, at least as easily as the chamber can.
Fast Facts: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest lobbying organization in America.
The more an audience can see your logo, the better. A chamber of commerce recognizes this and will most likely put your logo on their website, their email chains, and any pamphlet that they produce.
If you are feeling like you or your business is in a rut, a chamber of commerce offers a wealth of experience and like-minded people who can spur creativity, or opportunities to collaborate with other local businesses. The chamber will likely have continual networking events, workshops, or other types of events to spark innovation and collaboration.
Fast Facts: “If a consumer knows a business is part of its local chamber, the business will have a 63% increase in the likelihood that the consumer will shop with them.”
Joining a local chamber of commerce shows consumers that you are a dedicated part of the community. You get involved and are not in business just for the money side of it. Joining a chamber of commerce also signals that you use good business practices. It can be an effective way to communicate that your business has a good reputation, based on your participation within the chamber.
What are the costs of joining a chamber of commerce?
Because a lot of chambers are either non-profit, they are most likely going to charge a membership fee. This will no doubt vary from chamber to chamber.
You will need to be active in the organization. This is not only to help you but to also help out the chamber as a whole. This will require a new time commitment, outside of your operating hours. The more you participate, however, the higher your chance on the return of an investment will be.
Simply by joining will not instantly connect you with clients and contacts. Just like everything else, it takes time to build true relationships. It also takes time to build up a reputation for clients to see you. While the chamber affords you a better opportunity for visibility, it will not come automatically once you pay your membership dues.
Membership in a chamber of commerce can bring your business credibility as well as visibility within the local community. It allows you and your business to have a voice in local government. And it is a far easier way to network then setting up your own networking events every so often.
However, being a member of a chamber does require a financial and time commitment from you. This can be hard if you are just setting out. It’s a difficult decision to make. Either spend the money and time to join the commerce and gain access to other business owners and potential clients, or spend the money and time on your business set up so you have a strong foundation.
Are you part of a chamber of commerce in your community? What has your experience been?