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Is it Worth It to Join The Local Chamber of Commerce?

Let’s say you’re looking at your annual budget for your small business, and you’ve got a little bit of money left over.

Before you run to the candy store to buy eight pounds of fudge, consider using that money for a group membership.

The question is, where should you spend it?

This membership should accomplish several things: Get your name out there, create networking opportunities, establish a sense of authority, and be affordable.

You’ve thought about the local Chamber of Commerce, but are still on the fence about whether or not it’s really better than the fudge. Is it worth it to join a brick-and-mortar group in an age where everything is online?

It’s important to consider your business and target clientele. Are you looking to build local B2B relationships or grow a local business? If these are your primary goals, the local Chamber of Commerce is a good place for you.

What IS The Chamber of Commerce?What IS The Chamber of Commerce?

It’s actually quite simple– a chamber of commerce is a group that’s dedicated to protecting and promoting the local business community. The primary goal? To help business owners network and grow.

You can join a local group, like the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce, or a national group like the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

These organizations host networking events, fundraisers, workshops, and other activities, all with the aim of connecting local business owners.

The Chamber of Commerce has a good reputation, and many consumers have positive perceptions of members and their businesses.

In fact, you may be interested to know that according to a 2012 study conducted by the Schapiro Group, 49% of consumers were more likely to think favorably of a local business if it was a member of the local Chamber— and 80% were more likely to purchase a product or service from a Chamber member.What a Local Chamber Membership Shows Consumers

Source: The Schapiro Group

Added Bonus

Many Chambers of Commerce offer discounts to members on everything from office supplies to continuing education. You may get access to email lists, as well as first dibs on booths at trade shows and other events.

How Much Does it Cost?

The average cost of membership depends on the size and number of employees your business has. Many small business memberships fall into the $30-40 per month range.  Most chambers charge a $300 – $400 yearly fee.

What  Do Business Owners Think About Membership?

We asked around to see if business owners think their membership is worth it. Most interviewees said yes, however they reminded us that you get what you put in– that means attending events, volunteering, and getting involved.

Here’s what they said:

What About National Chambers of Commerce?

One interviewee pointed out that sometimes, being a member of a national Chamber of Commerce could be an important option to consider in addition to local membership.stankimerStan Kimer, President at Total Engagement Consulting, is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and has been an active participant—which is now paying off through big opportunities.

Stan’s reasons for being a national member:

The Chamber is Usually Worth it

Overall, most business owners feel a Chamber of Commerce membership is a must-have. There aren’t many cons– it’s an affordable group that will foster immediate connections and promote your business.

However, the Chamber of Commerce isn’t a magical business solution where you’ll see immediate ROI. No matter what, you’ll have to work hard to get what you want out of it. And, you might run into your competitors. You’ll have to put on your game face when you do.

Businesses that operate solely on the Internet or don’t plan on staying in the area for an extended period of time might find that there are other associations that better meet their needs. Local Chamber of Commerce members are typically area businesses who want to invest in the local demographic.

It’s your stories that really matter—would you agree that a Chamber of Commerce membership is a necessity? Or do you dedicate your time and financial resources to other associations?

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  • Shawn

    Great post. It’s really important to think about the benefits of the Chamber and other business organizations before you sign up. Those membership fees can add up in a hurry and, depending on your budget, that could put a strain on your budget.

    The benefits of joining a local Chamber can vary by location. For example, you might find some Chambers are much more active–hosting multiple networking and educational events throughout the week. On the flip side, you might also find the membership is more heavily weighted towards franchise owners–which might not be the best fit if that’s not your target audience.

    In most cases, you can attend an event as a guest or non-member for free or a nominal fee. Always a good idea to do that first to get a sense of whether it’s the right membership for your business.

    • Emma Siemasko

      Shawn, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      It seems that all Chambers allow you to attend at least some of their events as a guest. You can get a good feeling for the group of people just by going to a few…or even by picking up the phone and picking the brains of whoever answers (I did that recently for the Chamber in newton/needham where Grasshopper is located. I was really impressed by all the things the person had to say about the particular Chamber’s philosophy).

      Even if your local Chamber isn’t a great option, you may find other groups that offer similar advantages. I know some people that gush about the value of their BNI memberships. My dad, who’s owned an architecture firm for 20+ years, goes to Rotary every week– he even served as president a couple of years ago. That membership has contributed to his identity as “the city architect.”

      • Shawn

        All great points. It really comes down to your target audience–who are they and what groups are they actively involved with?–and your time and budget. Some BNI chapters can require a lot of time and that’s time that you could be taking away from running your business. If the benefit is there, fantastic.

        Overall, it’s always a good idea to look for opportunities to get involved with your local community. You can’t just sit back and rely on your website or Facebook page to generate business–you need to be out there building relationships and brand awareness.

  • Debi Davis

    I have been scrutinizing the local chambers in Colorado and am finding that their benefit models are antiquated. Ribbon cuttings, decals, e-mail blasts, and “opportunities” to sponsor events are nice offerings, but I’d like to see chambers flex their digital muscles a bit. My research has revealed that chambers aren’t investing in digital strategies . . . either for themselves or for their members.

    Every chamber has a website, of course, and many have social media accounts – mostly Facebook and Twitter. But the use of these tools doesn’t seem strategic. They’re mostly used like electronic bulletin boards for promoting and broadcasting; as if they’re ignoring the fact that promotional posts are perceived as spam on social media. They’re not making any effort to engage with an online audience and they’re not using social media to attract an audience.

    Businesses are relying more and more on digital means for enhancing and extending their relationships with customers as well as with professional colleagues. I’d like to see chambers recognize this and update their membership models to reflect a modern approach.

    • Kiera Abbamonte

      Hi, Debi. That’s interesting! Chambers of Commerce will definitely have to step it up to survive in the digital world.

      • Debi Davis

        Hi Kiera – The more research I do on chambers and how their adapting to and leveraging digital communications, the more need I see. In the past month I’ve devoted most of my productive time to this issue. I’m writing an e-book on it and have developed a series of workshops. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest is generated.

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