Inside the Chamber column: Warning — joining your local chamber of commerce may be beneficial for your business
Inside the Chamber
OK, so you saw the title of this article and it piqued your interest. But you may be thinking my schedule is already very hectic and there is not enough time in the day so why would I join my local chamber of commerce? Something you may not realize is that the chamber is not a “one size fits all” type of organization. There are many different benefits suited to the needs of all types of businesses and nonprofits no matter what their size. My top reasons for joining are listed below:
Building Relationships at Chamber Events
We all know that a lot of successful business is done outside of those four walls of your office. We build great relationships with our foursome at a golf tournament, gather with friends and co-workers at after-hours events, and mingle with other like-minded professionals at conferences. Are you attending these events with the same group of friends or co-workers or going solo and trying to make other connections? The business people you could get to know at these functions may or may not be a good prospect for your company, but you could be building lasting relationships that may pay off years from now. So attend events, sign up to sit on a committee and interact with people outside your normal realm, and you may be creating relationship building skills that can crossover to improve nonbusiness aspects of your life as well.
Advertise your Business
Many chambers offer various advertising and sponsorship opportunities at different levels. Maybe your business is interested in sponsoring a program for an entire year or a single event to make your company more visible to other businesses in the community. Other than the usual pay-to-play advertising, a business with limited funds may utilize a free post to the chamber’s social media accounts, the opportunity to add your events to the chamber’s online calendar, offer a Member to Member benefit or a coupon on the chamber’s website.
Is Your Business Visible to All?
Many of us are connected via social media sites, your company website, text messaging or snail mail. But are you still going out to meet with your clients in person? Are you finding creative ways to connect with business owners to set up appointments? We all need to be recognized as the face of our business. Don’t just text a prospect that you hope could eventually become a client to see if they would like to grab lunch with you. Pick up the phone and call them to make an appointment or stop by their business to see if they would have time to grab a cup of coffee. Your local chamber has a list of businesses in town and may be that missing link to help you make the initial connection.
Ongoing Training & Education
For companies that do not have a large training budget getting to national conferences or bringing in experts may be out of the question. Is it possible that your chamber provides an inexpensive way to bridge the gap between no training and topic-expert training? There may not be better organizations at providing relevant speakers and trainers than chambers of commerce. Based on member surveys and communication with the members, your local chamber may be able to provide speakers at events or links to expert articles through emails and newsletters that the chamber members specifically request.
Programs and Events
Your membership may also be inclusive of access to chamber programs and events at various price levels. These may be networking related, awards galas and many other functions specific to each chamber. All of these are designed to build your business in some fashion, whether through training, promotion or networking and can be the perfect addition to the other methods a business employs for building their business.
My suggestion would be to try focusing on one of these benefits to see if it would be a fit for your business. Make a list of items within that benefit and check those off the list as you try that specific piece out. Think about this; What is your objective and outcome for joining, and can you fit the membership fee into your budget? Would it be an asset for your company to be part of the community and support the chamber’s ongoing efforts? The Glenwood Springs Chamber’s vision is “To make Glenwood Springs the ideal mountain community.” Would your local chamber’s vision and mission align with your company’s goals for the future? Ask the membership director at your local chamber to meet with you to discuss a plan. You may be able to pay monthly for your dues, which is typically less than a cup of coffee a day.
The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, conducted a national survey in 2012 of 2,000 adults. The survey revealed that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy. It also showed that two-thirds of consumers believe those companies use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers and are community oriented. The study showed that consumers are 10 percent more likely to think that chamber member businesses’ products stack up better against the competition if they are highly involved with the local chamber. Think about it — can your business afford not to be a member of your local chamber?
Joni Bates, IOM is the VP of Membership Development at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Call 970-945-1514 for more information about joining the GSCRA or if your business is already a member contact her to set-up a member benefits review.