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, my European experinece is different with the AmCham. They asked me to be a volunteer with their foundation and was responsible for the communication projects. As my results were always very good, other members asked me to work for them - for money. Maybe this way would be good also for you.
Our local chamber (in the UK) runs occasional networking events, including golf days, cheese and wine evenings, social events more than anything, but they are infrequent and membership conditions do not impose a requirement to find leads for the other members (unlike networking clubs such as BRX, BNI etc). On the other hand the annual fee is very small, so you get what you pay for.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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...
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!
Here in Albuquerque, New Mexico we have several regional Chambers of Commerce serving the metro area. When I started my business four years ago, I regularly attended their B2B events. What I learned was that my target audience was not to be found at these events. As a result, I neither became a member nor attended other events.
My advice? As with any other networking venue, if you aren't rubbing shoulders with your potential clients, then this isn't the place to be spending your dollars or your time.
Depends entirely on the size of your turnover. New businesses or relatively small organisations need more formal, structured networks with commitment and loyalty like BNI to receive a fair share of referrals, attention and helpful support. My experience of CoC on start-up was total disinterest and elitism, a total waste of my time and money. If your bike is getting you there keep pedalling it.
Depends on your target partner and/or customer. The key is to know why you are there. In the US, local CoC events often have largely smaller businesses, just because most communities only have a few larger businesses. Most attendees are not buying and not even networking properly, just hoping to sell ("always be closing" - yecch). May be different in Oz.
I only joined our local one late last year. I can't attend all of the free networking sessions as I work part time and am a solo parent. The ones I've attended have been fun, but I haven't gotten any business from them yet. Still, networking is about building long term relationships rather than getting a referral from the first meeting you attend. The more you put in, the more you get out.
This depends on your revenue and profit models, your customer acquisition costs, and last but certainly not least your ability to deliver a focused script to achieve the outcomes of the meetings...but as you are probably assuming this applies to your busi ess in general!
In Pennsylvania, USA, the chambers offer networking sessions at noon with a luncheon and information about the sponsor then you socialize plus exchange business cards. An evening event is called Business After Hours, where a sponsor provides food and drinks while you socialize and exchange business cards and information about your business. Most networking events are free if there is a paying sponsor. The networking events are few between because there is a sponsor for the event.
Used both local and regional Chambers in the past and in the present and they are an excellent way - but an expensive way to network with other businesses. But you can get alot back in return over time and what efforts YOU push as your agenda. They have numerous resource hubs and can really be extremely helpful - locally, by state, and across the U.S. in boosting your business recognition.
I was a member of our local CoC here in the UK for 5 years, after which I left. The costs were always increasing, the networking events weren't really that good. It all depends on who runs it and how well the events are attended.
Any networking is good but will depend on others in the group. Takes time to build relationships so don't expect immediate return. I was involved with Southwark Chamber of Commerce in London. Met once a month. I produced their bimonthly magazine.
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.