Many small businesses fail to tap into a valuable resource that’s firmly established in their community and dedicated to promoting the entrepreneurial spirit. That resource is your local Chamber of Commerce.
According to ACCE (The American Chamber of Commerce Executives), Chamber missions generally focus on these primary goals:
- Build and promote communities to attract residents, visitors and investors
- Work to ensure prosperity in a pro-business climate
- Represent the employer community
- Enhance “well-functioning networks” of businesses
“[Chambers] share a common ambition for the sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers,” the ACCE notes. “Most are ardent proponents of the free market system, resisting attempts to overly burden private sector enterprise and investment.”
If you haven’t yet contemplated joining your local Chamber of Commerce, here are some compelling reasons to take action:
Referral opportunities. As a Chamber member, you have access to other members’ contact information. All Chamber members are listed in a comprehensive directory (updated annually), which means other businesses in need of your products or services can easily find and reach out to you. If they like the way you do business, they’re often happy to refer you to other customers. In the same respect, the directory is a rich source of sales leads. Your sales team even has a ready-made opener, by introducing themselves as “fellow members” of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Also, residents of the local community often consult the Chamber prior to choosing a vendor for their B2C or B2B needs.
Networking events. Most Chambers host business expos and other “meet-and-greet” events for members to connect with other businesses in their area. These events represent great opportunities to expand your existing network and to get to know people who may benefit your business in the future. Many Chambers also have committees, where you can serve and increase the range of your B2B network.
Enhanced credibility. Everyone knows about the Chamber of Commerce, either through its national presence or the work it does in the areas where people live. These Chambers have a reputation for working to improve the quality of life and business in these communities. By becoming a member, this positive branding works for your business as well. Consumers overwhelmingly believe that being a Chamber member means your business is stable and trustworthy, key elements that go into any purchasing decision.
Mentoring opportunities. Are you seeking a mentor to help you develop your business? Or are you interested in serving as a mentor to another up-and-coming entrepreneur? These types of connections are frequently available through Chamber of Commerce membership.
Great exposure. If you’re looking to build brand-awareness – and what small business isn’t? – various Chamber services can help make it happen. Most Chambers offer newsletters which spread the word about local businesses. The same holds true for Chambers’ websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the popular Chamber logos you can use in your marketing materials. You can also get involved as a sponsor of local civic events, further enhancing community goodwill.
Joining the local Chamber of Commerce may not be the right move for every small business, but the potential benefits make a strong case for looking into this opportunity.