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Should You Join a Local Chamber of Commerce?

Before we dive too deep into all the reasons why you should considering joining a chamber of commerce, let’s first define what that even means. To put it simply, these are organizations that promote the local business community. Presidents, Public Relations Specialists, and other company reps can all come together, exchange business cards, and maybe collaborate on future projects together.

Chambers of commerce are still relevant, even in this world of cell phones, social media, and online shopping. If you belong to one, you can expect cool promotional giveaways, advertising opportunities, and maybe even a new best friend in the business community.

Despite all these advantages, there are still some downsides to joining a chamber of commerce. For starters, you have to pay membership fees. The average cost depends on the size of the company and the number of employees, but it’s typically anywhere from $300 to $1000 a year. Not to mention, it requires time away from the office. You have to rub elbows with strangers and might find yourself caught in a boring conversation about tax deductions.

Time to get your ducks in a row and figure out if joining a chamber of commerce is right for your business! Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.

Pros of Joining a Chamber of Commerce

Publicity boost: Your business will have more exposure both online and offline.

Many chambers of commerce run programs that welcome new businesses into the community. Plus, members receive an online listing (with a link) to help people find your business through Google searches. If you want to take full advantage of these perks, consider offering coupons or some kind of other promotional giveaway like water bottles featuring your logo. This could be helpful for people who are moving into the area or other people trying to find something cool to check out in the community. That sweet coupon or promotional gift gives you an edge over the competition!

Customer Networking

Networking opportunities: You’ll be in direct contact with other professionals.

Chamber members typically gain booth access to expos and conventions before non-members, and sometimes at a worthwhile discount. These events are great ways to spread the word about your business, therefore, this incentive shouldn’t be taken lightly. Going to these events also gives you the chance to make new connections. Of course, you can’t go try and network empty-handed. People might not remember you, but they will remember your advertising strategy, especially if it’s good. Get creative with your promotional giveaways, business cards, and booth setup.

Mailing list access: You can directly market to other business owners who may require your services/products.

Chambers of commerce have access to mailing lists that you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. These are especially helpful if your business is primarily B2B (Business to Business), because you’ll be able to directly contact or visit the person in charge instead of throwing darts in the dark hoping to reach someone with buying power. Also keep in mind that chambers are more likely to refer members’ products and services over non-members’, which means you’ll also gain referral opportunities. It always helps to know someone, and the local chamber of commerce will help you build a network of people who have your back.

Cons of Joining a Chamber of Commerce

Membership fees: Upfront costs gives people pause, especially newly-established businesses.

When you’re just starting a business, you’re more worried about making sure your phone and computers work than anything else. Marketing can sometimes be put on the backburner. With this in mind,  the membership fees associated with chambers of commerce may deter many startups from taking the plunge. It’s hard to equate any kind of extra expense into the budget before you’re actually making a profit.

Effort and Time

ROI urgency: Chambers will not yield an automatic return on investment.

There’s a strange idea out in the business world that joining a chamber of commerce will be the magical solution that makes all the money and customers come running through the doors. However, that’s definitely not the case. You still have to pay your dues and put in the work building your brand. While you might not see immediate results, it’s more about the bigger picture and what will happen for your business in the long run.

Potential conflicts: Sometimes you’ll be face to face with competitors.

You probably won’t get into any fistfights or screaming matches because you’re a mature adult, but still, you’re going to be in a room with the competition. Of course, you need to maintain professionalism, while at the same time being unique and making an impression. Chambers of commerce often organize community events and fundraisers and you might find yourself marketing to the crowd with your nemesis right next door.

Should you join a chamber of commerce, or not?

Ultimately, the final decision is in your hands. If you have the money and time, chambers of commerce can be great marketing opportunities. Membership fees can seem intimidating, but if your budget allows, being part of these local organizations can mean big things for your company. businesses and it’s very likely that your company won’t be able to justify them right away. Either way, carefully consider the pros and cons before making your decision.

Do you belong to a chamber of commerce in your area? What’s your take — is the cost worth it? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Any other points worth mentioning?



Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa loves food. A LOT. Particularly pizza and popcorn, but she knows beggars can’t be choosers. When she’s not stuffing her face (which is rare), she loves watching movies, playing volleyball and softball, and engaging in any number of interesting shenanigans. If she had to pick a spirit animal, she’d be an otter because they are playful and love to laugh. Most of the time she’s laughing at herself, whether other people are laughing with or at her is to be determined.

Comments

  1. Eric

    Back in the day, I can see the importance of joining-up with a local COC. The welcome packets have always been a smart idea, but as most things go nowadays, even those have become translated into the digital age. Tweet so and such, and we’ll send you a $5 giftcard! Like us on FB! Check in at our restaurant on Foursquare! Etc etc etc. Sure, grandma and grandpa aren’t going to be facebooking it up, and you can’t totally do away with print campaigns, but it will be interesting to see how COC’s fare in the digital age.

    • Eric

      Come to think of it, you could practically take any COC and turn it into an “app.” Problem solved. Come to think of it, I’m sure that has already happened.

      • LaDonna

        As handy as apps can be they will never replace the good ol’ COC and knowing the right people. So while you may choose to just push the button on your app and see where that gets you, I’ll take the old fashioned approach and rub elbows with the COC and all its members face to face and reap the benefits of truly getting to know fellow business owners. P.S. I’m older and I use Facebook and Twitter too, but they will never replace common sense.

    • Alan

      Like us on FB…it’s not the end all to today’s young business folk. Sure, it’s cut into some of the advantages once held by a chamber, but an App will never replace all that. An App won’t get your foot in the door to a new business like a face to face meeting at a network event.

      That said, our chamber has an App for that. We’re evolving to embrace social media and use it to enhance the services we have.

    • Kevin

      No, Eric, I don’t do any of those things (seriously: no apps, no smartphone, no social media), and when I last looked I still seemed to exist. OK, I’m 64 (to some people that seems to be an excuse), but I’ve run my own one-man business for over 30 years and am having to fight clear of assignments (simply too many to cope with) rather than losing custom. Again, perhaps you were joking (that ‘Pssh’ does suggest a tongue deep into your cheek), but I’ve a feeling you really can’t imagine a world in which anyone might manage without all these (to my mind) superfluous things. Though I’m not a creationist, perhaps I’m living evidence that dinosaurs do walk the world alongside humans 🙂

      In any case, I am a member of the Dutch chambers of commerce (I live in Holland), but that’s only really because I’m required to be by law. All being a member has done for me is cost me €44 a year in fees and burdened me with all kinds of unwanted mail from office supply companies and others to whom my address has been passed on without my consent. I’ve finally got myself put on a ‘please no mail’ list, and the Dutch government has finally realised the iniquity of requiring you to pay for something that you can’t avoid and that brings you no conceivable benefit (even before the digital age). So at least I no longer have to pay the fees, and the unwanted mail has stopped coming.

  2. Stoney L. Wilson

    I work for the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber but I was a member before they recruited me. We are admittedly a little different though. We are all over social media, hold festivals attracting thousands of buyers to the area 3 times/year with hundreds of vendors. We also have a manufacturer association to keep/attract jobs to the area. And, we’re creating a business education series open to the whole community. We’re also always forming new strategic partnerships. You definitely have to adapt and realize that chambers are simply service businesses and those services must be relevant to YOUR local communities needs.

  3. Bruce

    I’m pretty active in a few local Chambers and many people as me if it’s worth it in the end. My answer is just like a companies Social Media profiles, if you don’t work it, it will not amount to much in the end.

  4. bella

    Hi
    I am thinking about joining y local Chambers of Commerce. The fee is just below $300.

    I own a website that is all about families in my local area, I list events, have Local mom interviews and am expanding the site to be more of use to local moms, i.e. Local hairdresser tips etc etc.

    As I don’t sell anything and the only money I would make is from advertising on my website, is it worthwhile me joining?

    Thank you

  5. Terri

    Hi,

    I have a silly question that I can’t find the answer to anywhere. I have a home-based travel agency and my target audience in my own town is limited. I was wondering if I can get membership in another town (and state) that has the clientele that I desire to reach?

    Thanks.

    • Caren

      Hi Terri, I work for our Chamber of Commerce and we have a number of members not located in our city. I would say that any Chamber would allow you to sign up as a member, even if you are located in another town or state. It’s about networking and providing support to businesses.

  6. David

    I joined a chamber recently, and at first I was very excited. However ( a big however) it has fell quite short of my expectations and very lackluster. The Chamber is run rather haphazardly, with back peddling of their offerings, and “special previous arrangements” with other committee members that seem to get the ear up. In all honesty seems to be more bureaucratic than anything. In fact, the chamber I am a part of is in like this personal war with another local “chamber type” organization. I could have spent my money better on a hosting a open house party for professionals as opposed to what I am getting.

  7. joseph

    Can one join non-local COC? I would think the answer is yes but want a confirmation. The reason being is that other COC seem to have larger business members in which I would like to network with.

    • Donna Roland

      Anyone can join…as a single member/partner or with your company. Your COC is a great resource for individuals especially Realtors, Hair Stylists, etc. It’s all about the networking and involvement.

  8. Donna Roland

    Hi Aman,

    We have several Home Health partners. The Representatives are Amabssadors, involved in our networking groups, events, etc and the benefit of being an involved Chamber Partner has been a great success for them. Before I was a Chamber employee, I was a Partner and met a Representative from a Home Health company that is now providing care for my elderly mother. I wouldn’t have met this person or known about the company if it had not been for the Chamber.

  9. avinay singh

    so I own a trucking company operating out of Oregon. we go to wa, or ,ca, id ,ut, mt ,az ,nv. we offer refridgerted freight and dry. please Im really considering in joining my local c.o.c here in Gresham, or. ONLY because im so sick of this google adword and bidding garbage. kinda wanna go old school, what can a c.o.c do for a trucking company that does regional and local deliveries. we also offer equipment financing.
    thx waiting on reply..

  10. Ms. Vee

    I’m very interested in my city’s COC. However, there are at least 7 COC in the city. My question is, which one should I/we join? Of course, the larger chamber has more members, but does the count for anything? We are a new training facility, certifying forklift operators and work zone flagging, looking to expanding in the future, Wanting to know if COC would be beneficial for our company?? And, what does networking involve???? Very small company, awaiting reply!!!!!!! Earnestly awaiting a reply!!!!!!

  11. Linda

    I have a question…I recently joined a real estate company and I want to join the local chamber. One of the agents in the same office is a member and is listed, with her photo, on the directory. She actually told me that I don’t need to join because she is entitled to 10 guests and that I can just go to events/meetings as her guest, however, I’m not an official member. Not only do I want to support the chamber I also want to have my name and photo and company, etc. listed in the membership directory. What are your thoughts on this? I feel like her, and my office manager, swayed me not to join. Not for malicious reasons, just simply to save me money. Thank you for all comments.

    • April

      As a chamber president, I highly recommend you join and become the member face for your business. Many do not realize that chambers are privately funded through member investments. If you are receiving the benefits, you are right to want to invest.

  12. John

    My wife and I joined the local COC when we bought a business in town but did not renew after the first year. The local COC is disorganized. They do not send out welcome packets. They specifically do not rent or sell their email list. They do not organize any B2B networking events. They do not even promote Small Business Saturday. Rather, we spent the money on a regional trade association as a better investment; which has really paid off.

  13. Brian

    Is it normal practice for the chamber to have to see your place of business and what your selling as part of becoming a member? I ask because I left a previous job (with an influential member of the chamber) to start my own business along the same lines of what I was doing for said member. I feel as if this meeting would be a fishing expedition for my former employer!

  14. April Wehrs

    I run a local chamber of commerce Chambers of yesterday are NOT the chambers of today. First you should know that chambers are privately funded through their members or inventors. Building your business is an important part of chamber membership, but you don’t want to leave out other important features of chambers. Many chambers are have young professional programs, leadership programs, leads programs and a vast array of other opportunities that are in response to their members. It is one of the only organizations where you have input on advocacy positions on items which may it harder or easier to do business. The community connection is second to none and chambers are a great fit for those who also view their business as an opportunity to provide stewardship to their communities. Collaborating for the good of many is an appealing part to some businesses. Leadership development is the trademark of chambers. While we understand that many have a need to build their business – chambers have untold stories on connections and leads that have netted hundreds of thousands in sales – there is an unmentioned aspect that comes with being a chamber member in the right chamber. We have witnessed collaboration on important business and community issues that are at the heart of chambers. Chambers have the flexibility to be what their businesses and community needs. Take the time to find out more about your local chamber. You’ll be impressed and anxious to be a part of the vibrant chamber industry!

  15. Robyn

    I have been a member of our local chamber for many years. I’m very involved (which is what they tell you to do to ‘get business’). I’m on councils and the ambassador committee, I go to the ribbon cuttings and after hours. I’ve only received 1 bit of business in the last year, yet I’ve given my business and referrals to others. How is this good? It seems our chamber has turned very ‘clickish’.

  16. Rhonda

    I looking to open a Maternity Home for pregnant teens is it a good idea to join the COC while still down research or should i wait. I’m need guidence. This is very much needed in my community

  17. ruben

    would you recommend a bathroom and kitchen remodeling company to join the chamber of commerce?

  18. Paula Heaney

    I am president of our chamber of commerce in a small town. I am not a business owner.None of my staff are business owners. We have tried to get businesses to join or take a position but they have said been there tired of doing that. So we have tried to increase the people coming to our town thru things as town wide yard sale, Christmas tractor parade and waterfowl festival. The problem is we have only 4 workers for our chamber. How do I get the businesses to attend and eventually take over the chamber?

  19. Steven

    We joined our local COC our first year and haven’t renewed for our 2nd year as of yet. Sure there are a lot of events and after-hour gatherings, but these are useless when you run a business with unusual hours. These after-hour events are always during the weekday before 6pm. When your business is open until 8pm, it makes it impossible to attend any of these events or gatherings. Remove that aspect and you remove the entire possibility of networking. A side note, not one customer in 2016 said they found us on the COC, it was always word of mouth, Facebook, Driving by, or Google.

  20. Barry Cohen

    I’m not sure when this article was first posted, so I may be late to the game. I am getting ready to create a new CoC, so some of the comments here are very helpful. I’ve been a member of various Chambers in the past, and my wife (who is starting this with me) has been president of one in the past.

    One thing to keep in mind for those that have not had any success with their chamber, is that you need to understand how to network. Most people think Chamber events is a place to hand out your business card to everyone you see. Think about it – what did you do with all of the cards that people handed you (unsolicited) at the last event you attended? Exactly. You threw them out, or tossed them in a pile on your desk.

    The Chamber is a place to build relationships, not collect business cards.

    • Patrick

      Great advice, I’m considering two COCs. One in the city and one in the burbs where I live.

  21. Elizabeth

    You may want to consider the BBB (Better Business Bureau) too. The BBB works to ensure trust in the marketplace.
    COC is a business to business organization where the BBB works with both business and consumer.

  22. Liz

    On the Board of local COC. How do you handle removing a member from your ecommendation list when you have a complaint of shoddy workmanship with actual photos and the member sees nothing wrong with the work and refuses to remediate?

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  24. Laurie

    I have a job interview tomorrow for the CEO/President position of our local COC. This information has been very helpful. Thank you for sharing. Is there an organization/website specifically for COC directors and/or members to share ideas?

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