Not to be confused with the Better Business Bureau, which represents the interests of both consumers and businesses alike, the Chamber of Commerce solely represents the interests of business owners. Today there are thousands of these organizations all across the U.S., all of them focused in one way or another on promoting any number of pro-business initiatives.
Today’s Chamber of Commerce organizations range from the all-encompassing and nationwide U.S. Chamber of Commerce all the way down to the state, regional and local levels. The exact nature and extent of the activity undertaken by the Chamber then varies in accordance with the level at which it operates.
For instance, local Chambers of Commerce are focused on bringing their own business community together in ways that will foster their members’ own growth and support for one another. In many cases, that means working with local government representatives, such as the mayor, the city council and other local representatives to ensure the voices of the Chamber’s actively engaged entrepreneurs and other business owners are heard and that their needs are being met.
Becoming a Local Chamber of Commerce Member
Okay, so it sounds like a no-brainer that any small business owner should get on board, join up and join in, at the very least where the local Chamber of Commerce is concerned, but not so fast!
Before you do, you need to understand going in that becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce will cost you some money. That’s right, paying dues of some kind is required. And while those dues will constitute a tax write off for you and your business, given that joining the Chamber isn’t free, it begs the question: “Is it worth it?”
We’ll get to that in a bit.
For now, just know that conducting a straightforward cost-benefit analysis is only part of the equation when it comes to making this decision. It’s also important to understand that getting the best return on your investment will require something you may already believe you don’t have enough of these days…time. Joining the local Chamber if you’re not going to take the time required to become an active member is probably not going to pay off much for you, certainly not in the long term.
Yes, joining your local Chamber of Commerce is essentially about your own business’ growth, that’s for certain, not just initially but well into the future. It’s also about building relationships over time that will take time, but that will also have a tremendous positive impact on your professional and personal growth, as well as that of your surrounding community.
Chamber of Commerce Membership: Benefits from the Consumer Perspective
When it comes to describing the benefits of doing anything, there’s a tendency to rely on what would be considered more anecdotal evidence, especially where there’s been little research conducted or a lack of more scientifically driven information is available.
Thankfully that’s not the case when it comes to understanding the value of joining a local Chamber of Commerce from a consumer and customer relations standpoint. On this subject, the findings are pretty clear.
In fact, a recent study designed to measure consumer perspectives on this topic yielded some pretty impressive numbers for building a persuasive argument as to why businesses and companies that don’t join their local Chamber may be doing themselves a tremendous disservice. It was conducted by The Schapiro Group and Market Street Services using a scientific web-based survey of 2,000 adults across the country.
First among the most telling results? When consumers know that a small business is a member of their local Chamber of Commerce, they are 44% more likely to think favorably of it, and they’re a full 63% more likely to purchase goods or services from that company in the future.
Talk about brand awareness and image enhancement!
Additionally, a high level of involvement in the local Chamber by a business grants it a certain level of trustworthiness and a competitive edge in the local marketplace. In fact, those businesses are automatically perceived by many to be industry leaders.
Furthermore, Chamber membership confers a higher level of distinction on certain types of businesses in particular, including restaurants and insurance companies. And it results in all companies being more highly perceived as users of good business practices, reputable, caring about their customers and being more involved in their communities overall.
Chamber of Commerce Membership: Benefits from the Business Owner Perspective
So we’ve pretty much established that joining the local Chamber of Commerce carries a certain level of cachet where consumers’ perceptions are concerned. And that alone is a great reason to get involved, no question.
But remember those more “anecdotal” benefits we referred to earlier? They’re every bit if not more important to you as a small business owner because they represent the nuts and bolts of how your joining the local Chamber can yield measurable and positive results for you and your specific business over time.
Here they are:
Promotions and publicity—Many local Chambers run programs that offer promotional materials, events and activities to welcome new residents and businesses to the area, ensuring that your business is front and center and ahead of the local competition with this very valuable target audience. Additionally, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) advertising and publicity opportunities are oftentimes available to members exclusively, and mailing list access alone could be worth its weight in gold.
Networking—While today’s technology and the ability to network online may have you wondering if the local Chamber of Commerce way of doing business in person is obsolete, think again. There’s still nothing as strong as face-to-face communication where building trust, respect and name recognition is concerned…nothing. And it’s only through building that level of relationship over time that you are likely to acquire customer referrals and find the most suitable vendors, consultants and distributors you need to help you grow your small business long-term.
Mentoring—We’ve talked a lot in these pages about the incredible benefit of having a mentor when you are starting or trying to grow your own small business, and the local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to find one. It’s also a great place for you as an established small business owner or entrepreneur to offer your services to an up and comer in this regard. Nothing pays you back like paying it forward, and mentoring is no exception to that rule.
Events and programs—The local Chamber of Commerce will likely facilitate a whole host of activities and events over the course of a given year, each designed to help you as a small business owner to either get to know your peers, your competition or your customers that much better. These kinds of programs provide tremendous business opportunities for people to get to know one another and expand their prospect base and generate great leads.
Members-only discounts and services—Oftentimes, local Chambers of Commerce will negotiate deals with companies and businesses that provide the products and services that businesses need most, such as phone and internet service, computer hardware and software or other vendor products and services. And don’t forget health care insurance access. These discounts alone can mean hundreds of dollars in savings to the small business owner in particular, making the cost of dues almost negligible by comparison.
Government access and impact—Because the local Chamber of Commerce speaks with a united voice, one very much in favor of business interests, members are more likely to have an impact on government decision-making as part of a larger body than they would on their own. Additionally, elected officials are much more likely to entertain an audience of concerned local Chamber of Commerce members than they are any one individual business owner, especially if he or she is not representing a very large concern or at the very least a large contributor.
An Office Away from the Office—Small business owners, especially those who work from a small home office, will have a place they can go to congregate with other professionals when and if the need for human interaction and exchange becomes preferable. Moreover, they can oftentimes use the Chamber’s facilities to host clients and hold meetings, ensuring they have a more professional office environment available to them that may even be available at a moment’s notice.
For More Information:
Looking for more insight on what belonging to your local Chamber of Commerce might mean for you and your business in terms of consumer appeal? We invite you to read more about the study findings referenced in this article at The Real Value of Joining a Local Chamber of Commerce: A Research Study.
If becoming an active member of your local Chamber of Commerce is something you’d like to learn more about, we recommend that you contact that organization directly, and if you’d like more information about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, you’ll find it here at http://www.uschamber.com/.