Joining a local chamber of commerce is still a popular first action that many companies take when they decide to launch. There are undeniable benefits to membership, though some business owners might not fully utilize what’s available to them.
In the following article, we’ll be exploring the reason chamber memberships are still beneficial to businesses of all stripes and how to make the most out of one if you decide to sign up. First, however, let’s address why you need the chamber in the first place.
Common Obstacles to Business Growth
Before getting into the particulars of why a local chamber membership is beneficial, let’s examine where “going it alone” can create problems. There are four primary obstacles you’re likely to encounter.
It’s tough to find top talent. The types of companies that can help grow your region won’t invest there without any initiatives to cultivate a strong workforce. In a moment, we’ll explore how local chambers of commerce help address these issues.
Getting Your Name Out
Can’t afford a professional PR person? Don’t know where to start when it comes to contacting the media about business initiatives underway? It’s something every business has struggled with at some point in development, and that’s a point of emphasis for many chambers across the country.
Forming Beneficial Partnerships
Success is not built in a vacuum. Eventually, many business owners need other products or services to help them handle things that they can’t handle on their own.
Beyond that, there is strength in numbers. The more positive business relationships that you can have, or even partnerships, the further your reach will be. A local chamber of commerce is terrific for building these types of connections.
It’s easy to get trapped in the monotony of daily operations. This can lead to stagnation in your business education. It can also mean a false sense of security in how you’re handling your business.
Every now and then, it helps to stick up your head and see what other resources are out there from which to learn. Chambers of commerce will give you ample opportunities to learn about business trends, tools, and resources. It will help make your life easier as the road bends up ahead.
11 Business Benefits of Joining a Local Chamber of Commerce
Now that we’ve looked at the obstacles you’re likely to encounter to business growth, it’s time to dig into what the chamber of commerce can do to address them. Here are 11 benefits of membership that immediately come to mind.
- Getting to Attend Seminars
The word “seminar” takes on a different tone when you move into the world of the smart business person. What sounds boring to a high school or middle school student is great for the growth-minded entrepreneur.
Chamber of commerce members attend seminars on a number of topics vital to their success. Understanding how legislative policies work, succession planning, and how to use social media are among the topics available through chambers of commerce.
- Attending Large Networking Events
Large networking events have a different vibe from smaller meetups. Most chambers of commerce will put a lot of emphasis on their keynote speakers. They want to bring people into these events that will have regional or even national influence.
The better the event is planned, the more value it will have to the greater area. Being able to attend these events will provide an opportunity to expand your business network to new parts of the state or country. It will also expose you to different perspectives, deeper knowledge, and a better overall chance to succeed.
- Coffee Shop Discussions
Business ownership can sometimes feel like a lonely person’s game. You have the weight of so many decisions sitting on your shoulders. Hiring employees, balancing the books, keeping customers happy, growing your profit margins, controlling your expenses—it’s a lot to do alone.
Fortunately, joining your local chamber of commerce will give you the chance to get off your island and commiserate with other business owners who are going through those same challenges. Call them coffee shop discussions or smaller networking events, they can be highly useful.
Watch your chamber’s calendar and look for meetups where you can exchange business information, chat over coffee and lunch, and pick each other’s brains. You might have a solution someone else didn’t think about as well. Strengthening those local business bonds is incredibly rewarding.
- Being Able to Host Events
We’ve focused a lot on attending events to this point, but that’s only half the reward of joining your local chamber of commerce. You can also use that resource as a way to host your own events for a built-in audience.
Plan a class or presentation on an area of interest or expertise. Make sure whatever you do has ample crossover appeal to ensure the event is well-attended. From there, follow these suggestions:
- Keep it short (30 minutes to an hour)
- Use audiovisual content
- Showcase your specific expertise
- Think about common questions you’re likely to receive ahead of time
- Incorporate rewards, giveaways, or other benefits to keep people interested
- Make yourself available for follow-up
Create a strong impression with your very first event. This will enable you to establish your expertise and expand your footprint.
- Access to Volunteer Opportunities
A dependable tool to help grow a local small business is giving back. Finding opportunities to volunteer and better your world will help in ways that no advertising campaign ever could.
If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. You are improving the lives of your friends and neighbors each time you capitalize on a charitable opportunity. The chamber of commerce will keep you connected to these opportunities and even help you create and promote one on your own.
- Ribbon Cutting Events
Ribbon-cutting events might seem tired and overused, but they wouldn’t keep happening if they weren’t effective at promoting a business. You have two great opportunities with ribbon-cutting events.
One, you can attend them, wishing your fellow small business owners well and networking with others who are there. Two, you can hold your own.
Being the focus of ribbon-cutting attracts local media, which can help you expand the reach of your business to the people likely to be your everyday customers. Your chamber of commerce will happily set the whole thing up for you and advertise it to the right people.
- Swag and Discounts
Another great benefit of small business networking that you get through the chamber of commerce is access. Access to freebies, discounts, and other goodies that you might not otherwise enjoy.
Popular chamber programs include invite-only launches to new restaurants, discounts to existing businesses, and cash giveaways at chamber-sponsored events. You also have an easy portal for offering the same to your fellow community members.
- Mailing Lists
It can be tough building a mailing list on your own. Per the requirements of government organizations (in the US, it’s the Federal Communications Commission), everything must be opt-in. Chambers of commerce provide you with a workaround.
The businesses in your chamber of commerce provide easy access to the contact information that can help you grow your own mailing list or partner in ways that enable you to do so. Most make this accessible through their members-only website.
- Built-In PR
Starting out in the world of small business marketing, it can be hard to get your messages into the inboxes or voicemails of the right media personnel. Chambers of commerce do not suffer from that issue.
In fact, the media comes to them! Everyone who’s anyone in the local media landscape is signed up for the chamber of commerce emails, newsletters, or social media accounts. They keep a close watch on what’s going on for local story ideas.
The more events or promotions or public relations opportunities that you can plan, the more likely those things will end up on the proverbial newsdesk. This can grow awareness for your business overnight.
- Boosting Your Individual Reputation
A local chamber of commerce is still the first place that many new and existing residents look for companies when they need specific products and services. Being a member of your chamber of commerce gives you instant notoriety. That is a good thing, especially when you deliver on your customer’s expectations.
- Plugging Into Hiring Resources
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about worker shortages in the news of late. US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark even recently weighed in on this very thing. Businesses are having a hard time filling all their postings.
Supporting the chamber of commerce, however, helps you to plug into the hiring resources that are there in your community. Additionally, your financial support goes toward educational initiatives that help cultivate a stronger workforce, which has tremendous long-term benefits for your region.
Joining Your Chamber of Commerce Has a Tremendous Upside
Entry into a local chamber of commerce usually requires a small annual due, but that payment tends to come back to you in the programs and access that membership provides. It helps to connect you to customers, other business owners, education, and media resources that are invaluable to your business.
Seriously consider signing up if you have an interest in starting a business or gaining traction for an idea, product, or service. For more business tips, check out some of our other posts!