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.
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.
Check the type of business people in a group before you invest time in that group. First identify who your ideal customer is. Then look for those groups. In my example, I do audio and video forensics. My ideal customers are attorneys. So I target those groups with helpful lectures. Don't be a "Bird of Feather". I stay away from audio and video groups because most often they are in your meeting to get what you know. The costs and commitments of any organization may be worth it if you keep focused on your target customer. Also, without a business track record it will take a bit longer to get that break. Good Luck!
They are excellent if you enjoy selling, have an opportunity to address the members, and generally let them know you will be an active willing member...It's like anything else some Chambers are better fits for you than others, so you are the best judge of what will work bet for you...If you decide to join, I suggest you give it an effort, not just sit back and wait...
As you can tell from the responses, your answer is; it depends - on you. I was an individual and a corporate member of 2 CoCs here in San Antonio, TX (USA) for 15 years. I joined from a 'community' aspect. I also served on several committees (education, economic development and leadership) within both, while being an originating member for a committee in 1999, dedicated to the Aerospace Industry. From the beginning, we looked at the workforce in our regional industry, which was full of 'greybeards' and established a magnet high school as a tri-lateral industry, academia and government (local, state & federal) partnership. Our group assisted in developing the curricula for the juniors and seniors, to receive dual (high school/college) credits, summer internships, leading to FAA certification, jobs within the industry and connection to 2 and 4 year degrees. The Alamo Area Aerospace Academy is going strong in its 15th year and generated other industry magnet schools, for manufacturing, IT and cybersecurity and healthcare. Next we wanted to tell 'our' story from a San Antonio innovation perspective; I chaired a PBS documentary about the history of aviation in our 'burg'. I met living history in setting up the various interviews and learned a great deal about fundraising and treatments for this particular project. The ROI for me was tallied in the relationships I established, which were fruitful in my various business endeavors. The CoCs became a resource of information, education and wealth (not just financial). Granted, you have to expend energy to take advantage of what they offer; you give a little, you receive a little. I used to say, it's too bad they do not pay you for attending meetings.
There is positive information in some of the responses regarding where to begin. The B2B mixers and fairs are a good place to start, you do not have to be a member to attend, but there is a fee which will be advertised as member/non-member; even attending the various committee meetings do not require a fee or being a member, initially. This will give you an opportunity to 'feel' out your CoCs and determine for yourself, if this organization is right for you.
Yes, your competition will be present, but who knows, it may generate an opportunity to form an alliance to pursue an even bigger opportunity for both of you relative to the joining of your capabilities.
I resigned both CoCs five years ago to focus on my diaconate formation.
Chambers of Commerce can only be useful if the service/product you offer is or could be needed by many in the group and if there isn't a long term presence by your competition. Getting business usually takes time. You must be good at networking.
The Greater NY Chamber of Commerce provides all members a profile/ad in their monthly email for free. If your C Of C offers this and you get on new client over the course of the year it maybe worthwhile.
Many chambers will allow you attend even if you are not a member. I suggest you attend one or two events to evaluate the different C of Cs without joining.
I don't think their fees justify what you get in return if anything. I had opportunity of joining to different CoC's and decided they were not worth joining them.
SKIP the GAS CHAMBER. Networking has its place in every aspect of business however you need the right business relationships. If your target market is eveyday people a chamber meeting isn't going to help much. If you target is business owners then it might be of some use. Main thing is to do your research of the members which is usually listed on the chamber website and see if they are your target. If they are they its a wise decision to get involved. Chamber can open doors you might not be able to such as local funding, local government contracts etc.
You are much better off spending that money on advertising your business. Start a local mobile marketing ad and get into local, and mobile search engine apps. Boosting your online presence as well as on online will yeild more business. Getting your name out there to the masses. If you want to networking for fun there are several networking groups availbe for free. You can find some on MeetUp.com
Personal opinion is CHamber is outdates and unless they have value added services to bring you more business it is not worth the expense. Those same relationships can be build using LinkedIn.com for free. Same networking events are available for free Meetup.com. Save your money and invest in production, advertising, etc.
You can learn how to optimze linke in at http://smarturl.it/linkedinuniversity
Get a free online visbily report at dtamarketing.info
Unless you are part of the old boys club of your area, you are wasting your money. Our experience with these chambers was an expensive one without much return. Your fee does not buy you anything real, it is like buying a ticket to the amusement park. It gets you in but anything else is extra and these extras are expensive. Their networking events have been worthless for us, the old boys stayed within themselves and the rest was ignored. By the way, the old boys were a copy of the local country club old boys circle. Also, if your business is selling products and services beyond your local area then there are better ways to network then wasting your time and money with local chambers.
I have been a member of our local Chamber for the past four years and am heavily involved in it. Almost immediately after I joined, I became part of the Diplomat committee which is the customer service arm - we deliver new member packets, speak at ribbon cuttings and introduce those members to others at mixers. I am often asked why I spend so much time doing this - its networking plain and simple - people see my name/face at all the events, know my business and call on me for their work.
As others have said, it is really what you put into it. As with other things, the business is not going to come rolling in just because you signed up but its a trickle down effect over time. When I first joined, I probably knew 5% of the business community, now its more towards 90% and the people that come to the mixers, etc are usually the decision makers.
Chambers of commerce do offer the opportunity to meet local business owners and sometimes dignitaries, however, this should never be the only marketing effort you use. I started with a local CoC in a mid-sized city and made many good contacts a few friends and a small amount of business. Diversify your marketing to pull in clients who do not attend chamber events but are members. Your local CoC will provide you with info on local business, including owner's name, phone, email, etc.
Kenneth Lash, MBA
Gday Glen, I find in the CoC's I have been involved with in regional Canada and Australia that they are much the same. It is a great networking source, once you already know lots of people. Most of the events, "Business After Hours" are cliquey social gatherings, which is great for maintaining existing networks. You still can build new networks at them, just need to be pro-active about it. The big question is...are the target clients or centres of influence at those events? Wishy washy answer perhaps but you get out of these events whatever you put into them.
I have done a lot of networking at both local and regional chambers of commerce. Although I have meet some nice folks. Over overwhelmingly I find the people there very unsophisticated networkers very transactional with no interest in knowing you as an individual. I find it stressful and without much business value. I do a lot of networking in other venues and groups which I find more productive, Chambers are generally too rooted in the old economy for me.
I've had good success with my local chambers and neighborhood business district associations. You'll need to get really involved as an officer or committee member and to be patient. It will take time for everyone to know, like and trust you. And you'll need to provide referrals and leads to others if you want to create a steady flow for yourself.
As a former General Manager of a Chamber of Commerce in Canada, I can easily say that membership is valuable especially if either you or a colleague makes a point of attending events. Even investing the time to become involved as a committee members will strengthen your visibility in the community. Simply signing up without involvement of some capacity will not reap the rewards of membership. You need to show a presence even if it's simply attending Business After 5 events. Also, never leave home without your business cards. Additionally, create professional name tags for all employees who attend functions. Customized name tags will automatically draw people to you and to the fact that you are interested in meeting others.
All the best,
I just joined the local chamber of commerce here in central NJ (USA) and the networking opportunities are endless. You meet people from all areas of business.
Hello Glen, if you want to generate quality leads every month, contact me. I do not provide a service that will generate leads, but I will share with you what works for my IT firm and it generates qualified leads every month. My ROI is over 2,000% and it increases each month. You have two ways of thinking, "Old School Strategy" and "New School Strategy". Joining CoC's is old school. Implement a strategy that is scalable and you can measure the success. Can you measure success with the CoC? Can you truly state, if I dedicate 10 hours a month to meeting people in the CoC, it will generate X amount of money each year? If you want my path to successfully generating leads, contact me.
I don't know about Sydney, but my experience is that Chambers are good networking sources, but I have never generated any business from them.
I highly recommend that you join your local chamber and volunteer as well. I have been networking with my local chamber for over 10 yrs. and it has definitely been worth the investment. It is important that once you make the commitment that you stick with it.
One year ago I paid, what I thought was a lot of money to join my local COC here in the US. It cost a whole lot more than the member fee to join. I am a start up coaching business and was promised a great return on my investment. Sadly that did not happen. When I reached out to get help and guidance from their resources the COC was not the wealth of information they promised they would be. You give them money to join and they add you to their directory list. What you make of your membership from then on is up to you.
However, I did what I could to make the most of the resources I found. I found support groups to network with and classes to take at reduced prices and I did meet some nice people.
I did not rejoin this year but I do still receive their emails and newsletters and can take advantage of their networking events for very little money once I factor out the membership fee.
Networking is a great way to improve your business, and your position within your local or regional area. Yes, there are costs involved, not just financial but also time. what you need to do is way up your time and financial costs against the benefit that you will receive within your business.
One of the big dangers to be aware of, is you do not become part of a small group of people that never mix with anybody else, and only discuss the football results, ignoring all the other people networking and building relationships.
I say this because I've witnessed it in many networking organisations where three of four people will form such a great relationship and friendship that they ignore everybody else around them and treat the meeting as their own Private social event.
Nothing wrong with that in small doses, but always remember you are there to network and see how you can help others, as well as others, helping you.