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.
You have to define the purpose beforehand and should be aware of, that it is not the membership itself that benefits but the participation at events on a regular basis.
Building up a Network takes time.
A good idea is to check beforehand who the members of the chamber of commerce are and if there are persons of interest for you.
I personally join events of the Danish - German Chamber of Commerce.
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.
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.
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.
Personally speaking, there can be great value in being apart of a Proactively nourishing Chamber of Commerce and yes, there is a difference. I had great success at a Local Chamber of Commerce and should the opportunity arise again for me to me involved with one would definitely make certain it was a fruitful one, as paying the huge fee can be a downturn to an investment into a Chamber of Commerce that doesn't provide a booming network and advertising environment.
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.
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've been a Chamber member for years (Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Diego) and now am not. I didn't get a single client from the most recent, but did utilize a special SD Chamber tie-in with Blue Shield and wrote quite a bit of group health business on Chamber coattails years ago.
My experience is that most chamber members are professionals and single employee/owner businesses. There are oodles of lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, life coaches, fitness instructors and others similar making me not want to spend money and time there looking for group health when I could be out beating the bushes for my own group health emphasis.
Now I might have had a different experience if I was looking more for insurance products for the mom and pop shop. Just my opinion. Try out your local Chamber...can't hurt...attend a "mixer" or two and see if the people in that chamber are likely suspects either as clients or referral sources. Everybody has a different emphasis.
Glen- I'd recommend studying the membership list and then attending a network event as a guest before taking the plunge. How many of the members are in your target market? Are there competitors who may have already embedded themselves in the organization to such an extent where they have pretty well worked the membership? By visiting an event prior to joining, you should be able to get a feel for the current members who attend to see how receptive they may be to your services.
Bottom line is determining how much business membership in the CoC would need to generate for your business either directly or indirectly (through referrals) for it to be worth the expense and time of becoming involved.
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.
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 the short term their fees probably would not be justified by the additional business.
I have been a member of our local Chamber of Commerce. I was involved and joined one of their committees as well as I went to morning and evening networking events.
Many of the people at the networking events were there to get more business!
That is the expectation. I have used some of those businesses in my business and we have raised the exposure of our business; however, I could not directly track revenue from the networking events. Over time you will see the same people at the same events. Many of them did not fit our profile of an ideal client. It may fit yours. On occasion I still attend some networking events for our local and other CoCs. In many cases you do not have to be a member to attend - you just pay a non-member rate.
Find out if you can attend an event or two before joining. Then see if the folks that attend fit your profile. Also, networking is more than getting a sale - it is building relationships. In the future one of those relationships may turn into a referral.
Now, when I attend one of these events, I don't go with the expectation of an immediate sale, but meeting a few more interesting people to build my network who I may refer someone to or they may, sometime in the future, refer a potential client to us.
I trust this helps.
I live in the US and local chambers are usually good ways to get into the business communities, even more than specific groups like BNI - and less expensive. I have been in my local chamber for the last 4 years and I know that it has helped me to grow my business and reputation, and see the local govt and business community close up. Like anything else though, you can't put an ROI on it, but use it as a means to an end. Some chambers are better at helping you achieve this than others, because of their size or their scope of networking activities. The more active you are, the more your meaningful interactions will grow. Good luck with your decision!
As a business owner who recently joined the Chamber of Commerce, I highly recommend it. The networking and business development opportunities have been worth the membership fee. B2B companies should enjoy especially strong benefits.
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.
I joined a local chamber about 7 years ago. It has generated business for me (mainly through CPA referrals)but it took a while. You have to realize that it's going to take time to get business from the Chamber (or other networking opportunities). It takes time to build relationships to build trust and confidence that you'll handle the referral professionally. You need to think long term ROI not short term. If you aren't willing to do that, you'll think it's a waste of time and money. But go into it with the plan to build relationships and let the business happen as it will and you'll probably find it to be a benefit to you.
Chamber events are great for building your customer base. I am sure there are other events in your area that you can get an impact from. As for the cost for joining, You have to understand what the cost v/s the value of one or two new customers. Look at potential repeat business in determining the investment of membership.
Best of luck, Gil
Chambers can be useful for generating business. As others have said what you put into it is what you get from it. In my experience you need to get involved with committees to really leverage the chamber. The more people see how you work and contribute the more likely you'll get business.
Given your business of being an ad agency, the direct ROI of joining a Chamber may be minimal unless it is a large city Chamber. Most Chambers are populated with small business people and marketing reps from larger companies. In other words, you'll either have decision makers who are too small or you won't be talking to decision-makers who can engage your services.
In spite of this observation, join a Chamber strategically to build relationships. Everyone you meet knows people who do need your services. So if you go in with an attitude of relationship building and giving to others, then you'll sow good seed and you'll eventually reap a harvest. That's the indirect ROI most people miss when joining a Chamber.
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.