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.
I am a member of my local Chamber of Commerce. It is invaluable for networking. Our Chamber puts on over 85 free networking events per year. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. You are investing in relationships with like minded business professionals. My recommendation is join a committee. That way you will have a higher profile and get to know fellow Chamber members at a deeper level and that's where business starts. Don't join your local Chamber just to get access to their members list.
If you have a deep specialty that would be valuable to business owners, you should consider putting on a free, one-hour PPTX seminar. Monitor who's registering to attend and learn a little about their companies beforehand. That way you can call on someone by name and mention her/his company as you do so.
Make copies of your slides for attendees. In addition to having your contact info on the title page and last page, staple your business card to the first page. Be sure to make judicious use of muted font colors (dark blue, dark green, maroon). Also, choose a PPTX 'design' that is sensible and middle-of-the-road. Nothing jazzy.
Encourage questions at any time during your presentation. If you're not accustomed to doing these, be sure to practice to practice your presentation. Don't READ it, or you'll do more harm than good.
The rule of thumb on PPTXs is 1 slide per 2 minutes. The slide after the title slide should have a few bullets about you to establish your credibility as an SME. Be sure to put the CofC's name on that title slide and in also in the footer w/date of presentation. If you can have a catchy title so that the CofC can publicize it, you'll increase turnout.
DON'T load up each slide with a bunch of verbiage. A main thought with three or four (max) bullets beneath it is plenty. Use PPTX's 'Animation' feature so that they won't be reading ahead of you; you can also use a 'Fade-out' feature in animation to 'dim' the bullet you just finished talking about as the next bullet arrives on your screen.
Before you start talking, wander through the attendees introducing yourself and getting a business card from each person. Any attendees who 'linger' after you're done are prime consulting targets. Be sure to offer some FREE front-end time with each one at her/his business so you can learn more about them and their business.
Finally, no more than two days after your presentation, e-mail a thank-you to each one. Just before your sign-off, gently ask each to keep you in mind any time something in their business comes up that involves your specialty. Make sure you enter their b-card information into your Contacts, along w/the date of the presentation and anything significant about them. That way you can look back six months or several years later and refresh your memory.
Glen ...Using local & regional Chambers of Commerce, or trade associations, is what you make of the networking opportunities. The fees don't stop at the initial sign up. Each event you attend is going to have a fee with it.
Also, networking doesn't generate new business in one event. It takes repeated events and getting to know the members before there is a connection. If you can help generate leads (referrals) for other businesses in the group, you might want to invest in their lead group.
I have tried this for a few years with no return. I joined two local chambers, frequented networking events, breakfasts, and womens meetings and found most members to be retired and looking for social interaction, not business networking. I am sure there are opportunities to be had but I have not found them.
You'll get as much out of it as you put in. The key is to be a relational networker. That means your intent must be to assist anyone you meet in finding the specialist they need to build their business.
In that way you will become known as a great resource and when you help someone they will inevitably be inclined to help you. Do not expect immediate results or ROI if you join a Chamber or similar organization that is geographic rather than industry specific
Networking can be done in any group. You need to select the group that will get you close to prospects or people that have networks of your prospects. Your networking behavior is what will differentiate you.
Usually, Chambers are the most visible organizations geographically and will help you become known in that community but the local chapter of businesses that need your special expertise will have a much better ROI
Good Luck to you
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.
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.
If you join and become "active", you will find great networking opportunities.
If you just "pay your membership fee" and do nothing..It wont be worth it.
Just my personal 40 years experience..
I am active with two area chambers of commerce as well as a splinter group. While I've met a lot of people through them, I've never gotten much business from the connections.
I compare this to my experience with a membership in Rotary International which, in addition to allowing me to give back to the community, has put me in the company of the movers and shakers in the region. And while I didn't originally join it because I was looking for business, business has naturally followed and been much more prolific than chamber participation.
It depends on how good you are at marketing and how much time and effort you are willing to put into networking.
I have found that the services provided by CoCs in the US aren't worth the $400-500/yr fee. Generally, your induction will include being listed in the local CoC's directory and you might get a PR blast. They will have meeting (depending on the area) and you might get access/inclusion in close LinkedIn groups etc., if they have any. They may also give you a mechanism to promote your services with the CoC itself - but that can be problematic i.e. you might not be the only one in that niche.
But so what?
Considering the nature of your business (Third Eye Consulting), I think you should already have a feel for the value of CoC and BNI type relationships. With a little research and some internet/social media presence work, you can get a lot more permanent relational assets in place than paying for a CoC membership. Also, much of the information in the CoC directories is publicly accessible, meaning you can make your own contacts.
In my opinion, I think giving a few free or low cost seminars locally on the benefits of a good marketing program (to small businesses or otherwise) would get you a lot more bang for your buck...authority, contacts, and leads.
BTW, nice website but I'd focus a bit more on your target market's benefits...
Personally, I feel there are two major factors in whether CoC would work for you.
1) It depends on your industry and your audience. For us personally, it didn't make sense as we provide graphic design and development services to corporations that don't strictly serve the local area. Being in NYC, the decision makers are not going to be at the CoC. It works better if you provide services and products where the audience is very much local to the particular CoC.
2) What are the competitions like that are in your industry. For instance, if I'm a plumber and I'm competing against five other plumbers in the local area that are already in the CoC, then it's a bit of a waste as the concept of supply and demand will play a factor in this. Sure, if you are known to be a charismatic salesman, then one could say it's worth it. However, if you are a charismatic salesman, then I could say you don't necessarily need the CoC either to create opportunities. In NYC, there's numerous chapters of BNIs (Business Networking International), that makes it a better forum to do your presentations and they limit one per profession in each chapter.
I have friends who joined the CoC in other areas who are in my profession, and they didn't have any results from being a member. So it validated my suspicions that it's really not for our industry.
Ka Pang | Creative Director & Founder | VolumeSquared
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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!
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'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.
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.