Why Join a Chamber of Commerce?

In addition to joining a referral networking group, you should also consider further diversifying your network by joining your local chamber of commerce.  A chamber provides a broad membership base but usually within a defined geographic area, such as a town or a county.  Depending on the nature of your business, this kind of local membership could be of significant importance.

Unlike a referral networking group, professional society or trade association, a chamber does not limit the number of people who can join from any one profession or industry.  The local membership may include, for example, several commercial interior designers.  Membership in this chamber of commerce would thus give you an opportunity too meet more than one prospect for your word-of-mouth marketing team.

Chambers conduct social and business events where you can socialize and develop relationships.  Becoming a member of a chamber of commerce provides opportunities to give back to the community and capitalize on significant member benefits; serving in the leadership raises your recognition, visibility and credibility, as well as that of your business.

So make it a point to investigate your local chamber of commerce.  Find out where the office is and request membership information.  Ask for the names of members you can contact.  Attend an event or two to see whether the membership is a good fit for you; for a small fee, you can probably visit a chamber mixer.  Take your time, do your homework and locate a chamber that knows how to hold networking events and has strong membership.  Membership is not free, but it’s far less expensive than traditional advertising.

13 thoughts on “Why Join a Chamber of Commerce?

  1. I am part of a small online advertising firm, AdPropel. We provide a dashboard for small businesses to reach dozens of marketing channels online easily and affordably.

    We recently joined our Rancho Cordova Chamber of commerce and it’s already paid off. We’ve had several new clients sign up, including some larger national brands that we would not have been exposed to otherwise.

    The chamber people are great, the members have been friendly, and when it comes down to hard numbers, we’ve seen a positive return on investment.

  2. Doing your homework is what’s important here.All chambers are different, so it is important to go where you “feel the love”. Remember, however, that a Chamber of Commerce is a “casual” contact network where relantionships will only grow with a LOT of time and effort. So when you join any Chamber of Commerce, be prepared to “work” it over the long haul. Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County Ca.

  3. Ivan,
    2 great posts back-to-back that should be read together. The personal, face-to-face approach (as expoused in Susan RoAne’s book) is exactly what a local Chamber, BNI group or any in-person networking group provides. Digital networking done in a vacuum is ultimately ineffective and should compliment face-to-face to become truly powerful.
    Michael Kreppein, Inquisix CSO

  4. Chambers, like the rest of the business world, provide assistance based on what effort you put into it, and how you use the resources. Expecting a Chamber to “do it all for you” as a consideration of the membership price, is a waste of the fee. Good Chambers have a variety of member services for you to take advantage of, expose yourself and your business to like-minded individuals, and whether it is through seminars, counseling (like SBDC’s) or networking events, numerous opportunities to grow and sustain your business.
    Charles Gill, Integrated Property Services Group, Valencia CA

  5. As a member of BNI for 9 years and someone who uses networking as their sole marketing strategy I cannot agree enough. Charles Gill makes a very good point and I would encourage all, as we do in the businesses that we run (one of which is a business club) to use all the tools available out there, especially in times such as these. As that old BNI saying goes “Networking is a CONTACT sport!”

  6. Hi,
    my local chamber has monthly meetings that get about a 300-400 people turnout. Great numbers but usually in venues not big enough. So, networking is like dealing with peak hour on the New York subway.
    Not sure how to work with this ?

  7. Ivan is correct in his comments about participating in the local Chamber of Commerce. In a recent discussion of BNI Directors on Linkedin, a member wrote about some Chambers feeling threatended and now starting to “mimic” BNI by doing their own leads groups. I have seen this first hand but the difference, though, is that many Chambers require you to be a Chamber member first in order to belong to their leads groups, whereas you don’t have to be a BNI member to belong to the Chamber.

    I know that in the three regions in New York City that I manage, one particular Chamber views BNI as competition, despites many repeated attempts to show that we do not do what the Chambers do best: they promote business in their area, they protect business by lobbying efforts on the local, state and national level, they add to a business’ visibility and to a certain degree, credibility from the customer’s perspective. If anything, we promote that our members should join their local Chamber for these benefits.

    On the other hand, another Chamber wants to begin to work in a synergistic way with BNI to create a mutually beneficial relationship. That came about after one of its officers attended a few BNI meetings and just recently, a regional event we put on.

    What was the key difference between these two Chambers? Chamber #1’s reps never experienced BNI whereas #2 did! The experience is what makes the difference. Once they see how we do things and how we can add value to their members and vice-versa the lines of communication can become clearer and the path to working together becomes easier.

  8. I am a firm believer in being active in your local chamber(s). The biggest mistake I see people make is that they join a chamber, get their plaque and expect business to roll in. Joining is just what “gets you in the game”. You then have to consistentl network by going to chamber events and even better getting involved on committees. One great role is to be a chamber ambassador because it allows you to meet a lot of people.

  9. We have joined 2 different Chambers one did visit a BNI, meeting then started leads groups. The other made no visit; but as soon as we joined started leads groups. We have encouraged our members to be join the local chambers. We teach how to manage their time & efforts by being specific in their goals for each event. The most profitable for all is acting like a host. Even with a loud band playing & way too many people crammed into a venue. It is possible if you stay focused on business to create an opportunity for a BNI member to set up some great referrals for their fellow BNI members by introducing them to a good prospect for their fellow member. Follow this later; when their is no loud band, with an invitation to a BNI meeting. You have created a real win win situation.

  10. Chambers are funny animals. Although joining and participating in a chamber may help your business, these non-profits are in business to help stimulate and support the business community, not supply members with leads or business.

    It is a fine line, and much value can come from a chamber membership as long as the member is leaving more than they are taking and has the time to create an idenity before they start to ask for help.

    BNI is great, but it is ultimately referral marketing. If you treat a chamber that way, your identity will suffer.

  11. I work for a Chamber, but I fell into it purely by accident. I accepted my job after falling “in love” with what the Chamber was doing for both the business community and the community as a whole. I only like to work on jobs that I whole heartedly believe in and am not here to promote my Chamber but to say, no matter where you are…JOIN A CHAMBER! But as stated several times already here, you can’t just join you have to be active and become a familiar face.
    I hear day after day from my members about how the Chamber has helped them. Maybe it was a city issue, or making a connection or providing a referral.
    If you invest time into your Chamber the rewards will be great!

  12. On top of networking, your local chamber works on making the business climate better for all businesses through advocacy with local, state and federal governments, improving workforce by working closely with k-12 and higher ed and are often tasked to do economic development or tourism marketing.

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