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!
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.
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?