Does anyone have experience with local/regional Chambers of Commerce as a networking source?
I'm regularly approached to join either local or state CoC's and I'm wondering if their fees are justified for the volume of business they might produce. I'm particularly interested in Sydney and NSW, but a wider perspective would be useful. Thanks.
Hi Glen, curious to learn if you ended up joining your local Chamber of Commerce. Was it helpful? I have found that if you are a new business, the fees are easily justified. Joining your chamber is not just about volume of business, but networking and meeting your neighbors. In the long run, this will increase your referrals and the perception of your business to the community.
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You have been given great answers. You get out of it what you put into it. Join a chamber where it and it's members share common interest where you work or live, not someplace remote where you have little to no reason to support their efforts and then as has been suggested get involved. Be a team player, volunteer where you can make a meaningful contribution. As others get to know you and appreciate your contribution to your common interest, it will over time pay you dividends.
I have zero knowledge, experience or some or any sort of source of contacts. Localities are usually never paid the way I was paid. Locals wanted the share of my plate, hence some random emails come by, force register and synchronize all plates bits, so that the localities have a chance to intrude. Finally I was ditched out and I am having my own business looking like street ditch!
In my opinion any serious networking opportunity is a worthwhile investment. I have experience in working with CC and it's mostly positive.
I was a member of a CoC for several years and throughout that time only gained one client. I do not feel I benefitted from a networking standpoint however as a self employed person it did give me access to extended health care benefits packages that were more expensive and difficult to acquire on my own. You should weigh up all the pro's and con's to see what best fits for you and what other benefits are available should the networking itself not be beneficial.
What is your target market and does the membership correspond to that market? I live in northern NJ and have access to 4 regional chambers and 30-40 local chambers as well as several Business associations. Each has performed differently for me. Some have brought me a lot of work while others have gotten me nothing. but you have to remember that you need to be ACTIVE in the chamber to reap the benefits. Get on a board or assume a leadership role to make yourself stand out. It is the only real way to make your mark and make people remember you. Good luck with it and let us know the results!
This is definitely one of those "it depends" moments.
The type of chamber of commerce is influenced by country, region, city, type of local industry. I had an opportunity to be part of a 'young' chamber of commerce, where the cut-off age was 40. Once you hit 40, you were out. The people there were definitely more hungry than the old-boys network / "lawyers, accountants distributing business cards" that you get at some of the older chambers of commerce.
My recommended first step is to figure out what you need / want first. Then see if a suitable chamber of commerce can help you get there. Maybe chat with an existing member or two first.
Last two years I had in average one contact a month with several chambers in information, training or networking events.
Normally it's always possible to do some networking, know new companies and people and present my services.
I had the chance afterwords to do some presentation meetings to companies I met there and recruited some partner suppliers to my services.
It's important to say that we have in Portugal several events of that Chambers for free also without being associated, so I invested some time and business cards, and the balance it's positive.
I think networking is important to increase institutional image and if you go with some regularity you became known to that market and have also access to new trends, people and companies.
Other possibility to benefit from association is to present the products or services with some discount or other added value to the other associates.
I would echo what many others are saying. My experience over the last 20+ years is as with most of the rest; you have to work it, not just join it! Be visible and accessible and GET INVOLVED. I've been a member of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for 9 years, and for 7 of those years I've been part of the Ambassador Committee. This was an offshoot of me being in attendance at numerous events, asking where I could be of assistance, and showing the desire to both be an active networker and show others the best ways to do the same. I speak to new member groups all the time about the value of karma - being willing to connect other members with each other without anything coming to you. It comes back tenfold in my experience. So if you do join your local chamber, whether large or small, make sure you get active right away, look to connect people with others, and above all else, DON'T SELL! Nothing makes people run away from you quicker than for you to introduce yourself, talk about what you do and hand over your card saying, "I'd love to find out how I can work with you..." Be more strategic - leverage LinkedIn to help build that base of connectors!
They are good, but in the same way 5 iron is good. The chamber socials, like most other pieces to your overall marketing mix and strategy...are just that...a piece...a piece to a full mix.
Don't bank your pipeline on the meetings and events, but I highly recommend staying an active member and attending as much as possible. I would say in general you should have 1 or 2 face-to-face (indirect or social) marketing tactics in your overall entire strategy. And I would consider local chamber to be a top three social option, no matter where you live. It is probably THE best social piece available to your mix, BUT DON'T BANK ON IT ANSWERING ALL YOUR SALES PRAYERS. NEVER COUNT ON ONE, PIECE BUT BELIEVE IN SUM OF THE ALL THE PIECES OF YOUR MARKETING MIX COMING TOGETHER TO PRODUCE RESULTS.
The sum of the collective marketing efforts are much greater the total of the individual parts, when they stand alone.
I'm a former Business Development Manager with a large Regional CoC. Chambers do vary greatly in the types of opportunities they afford, but most offer considerable networking functions. As several people have already mentioned, any CoC is merely a vehicle. Think of it as a bus that can take you to your destination; but in order to get there, you must get on board.
My best advice regarding which Chamber with which to affiliate is to make it very personal. Ignore the hype given by the membership personnel, and find the person with whom you can connect - one who offers customized suggestions to achieve your personal goals. It's really more about people than organizations, so if you find a person who's sincerely interested in helping you advance, you will definitely reap the benefits.
If you have the time and energy to invest...it will pay off. If not, dont waste your money.
Pure and simple like most things!
I would have to say that it depends on your type of business. I didn't find many potential clients when I was a member of our local Chamber, but I did feel closer to the community and enjoyed the meetings. If you're not going to enjoy participating, it's probably not going to be an effective means of generating business.
I'm glad you posed this question, Glen. My short answer is, "yes, it is justified,". However, you'll need to be sure you back up your monetary investment with engagement. Most professionals assume that fees paid should equate to business leads by the organization. I encourage professionals I work with to view it this way instead...Consider your membership as you would a fancy dinner. You would be prepared to pay for a quality wine and a superior meal. But unless you drink the wine and eat the entree, you will receive no benefit. If you sit at the table and choose not to eat your food it will get cold. You'll leave disappointed. This is your attendance and engagement with the members of the group. If you don't actually partake, you cannot expect return. You must go to events, engage with members online, write thank you notes to people who you meet, and seek out referral partners.
After your meal, you tell someone about the restaurant and the excellent service you received. They, of course, would like to learn more. They eventually; not today, but at some point, visit the restaurant to try the wine and food. This is your networking; your follow up. The restaurant appreciates the kind words.
If you continue to frequent this restaurant, the staff will begin to recognize you on arrival. They will likely remember what type of wine suits your taste, and share specials that they think you will enjoy based on what you've ordered in the past. This is your relationship building. It is only at THIS POINT where the staff of the restaurant (people in your chamber) have random or intentional thoughts about what services or products relate to you and your enjoyment (business).
I encourage you to carefully select only a few groups to join and focus your efforts within those opportunities. The world continues to change, but there will always be a desire for real, honest relationships!
I hope this offers appropriate insight.
Forgive me if some of what I share has been covered. There are too many posts to review. I have been a member of my city's chamber for 6 years. I am now on the board. I have also been a member of a regional chamber and have attended dozens of events sponsored by nearby chambers. All that said, chamber of commerce networking has it's advantages and it's drawbacks.
The advantages go to those who network regularly and get to know the chamber personnel as well as the people running the city. If you are going to invest your time and money networking in these circles, do it full out or don't do it! Dependng on the city, you may or may not get exposure to the type of businesses you want to connect with. Depending on the type of business you have, having connections at city hall may prove useful as well.
The drawbacks are more results related. The majority of business professionals I have met at chamber functions were not committed to doing it regularly. Networking chamber events is not a quick revenue hit. Depending on the clients you are trying to connect with, your chamber may not have many of these types of business. This was my situation.
If networking is part of your marketing strategy, figure out where your prospects go and go there. The chamber may or maynot be one of the best places for you to network.
Glen i only have a perspective on US so may be different in Austrailia, but i would say yes but depends on the goal you are seeking to achieve in terms of business. I have had good success from retail focused community focused perspective, but as we all know we dictate and determine the success we derive, for purely driving business leads not sure although it's a good source for networking in my opinion
Yes Local Chember of Commerce is very much of use & help especially if you are looking fora new start ups.They have huge data base across the globe of every trade,which can form basis for forming initial business stratagies.Also the data base being reliable one can defiantely make use of the same.In some cases they provide free consultancy on the subjects & matters in line with the thurst area defined by national trade policies.
Equally they provide your organization a recognition at International level,as most of your buyers & sellers are also thinking about the reliability of your organization & in such cases Certificate of Origin issued by COC solves your Identity problems.
As regard Membership fees,though heavy at initail stage,do gets justified in long run in business,as once your become member COC keeps you updated about Govt Rules & Regulations about Taxation,Financial Policies,Govt Trade Thurst areas,Significant trade leads of your interests & many more.This is is because other COC are also interacting with them for information about Trade & services,of which your organization can be Vital sales/Purchase leads.
Wishing you best of Luck for your Trdae Venture.
Glen, lots of good input has been provided already. I am member of my chamber because I need to know people and what is happening in my geographic market and want that community to know me. I have the ability to concentrate my effort on small business market segment which is my target. I get more refers and strategic alliance opportunities than direct sales. Have you checked out your local Trade Associations or those of your target market? Could be less cost and more direct access to your ideal client. Best, RP
P.S. Love Sydney!
Glen, several things to think about. First, are you in Business2Business or Business2Consumer. Most networking groups, including Chamber ones, are predominantly B2C. If you are B2B you have the potential to sell TO but not so much THROUGH, which is where most long-term business development happens. If you are B2B you will have to work a little harder to identify the people who can help you build your business. Second, if you are going to join a Chamber, you get out what you put in. Become an Ambassador - a position that will give you direct communication with a large number of members. There is no better ice-breaker and it's a lot easier than just walking up to someone and saying Hi. Third, do you have a clear picture of your ideal client and the referral and strategic partners who can introduce you to a lot of them? Those are the people who can really help you grow. The better you understand the people who can connect you to your ideal prospects, the more value you will get out of a Chamber networking group. I would also suggest you look for ways that you can benefit the Chamber itself. This of course depends on your business but if you can provide services to the Chamber, they will be more disposed to help you get to the people you want to reach.