I want to share this article concerning the value of belonging to your local chamber. Written by Steve Boehle, owner of Mammoth Marketing, not a chamber employee, but a member of a chamber in Arizona.
When I first started my business I was very skeptical about joining the local Chamber of Commerce. I was reading all the blog posts about how “traditional” marketing is dying and everything was moving to the mobile space. I was very skeptical about the return on value for joining the Chamber of Commerce, but they have been around since 1768, so I decided to give it a shot. Since joining, I have received more than my yearly membership price in value. The funny part is that the Chamber of Commerce is not directly associated with any revenue, but I have met the right people to succeed and grow my business.
WHAT IS THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
If you are new to running a business, you might have no idea what the Chamber of Commerce is. So let’s make sure we are all on the same page. The concept of the Chamber of Commerce is simple. It is a place where local businesses get together and help each other grow, network, and get advice. All the Chamber members have a similar goal, to grow their business. There is typically a Chamber of Commerce in all cities and states. Odds are there is a Chamber in your neighborhood and the great part is you can join more than one. But what are the actual benefits of joining a Chamber of Commerce? Good questions, let’s explore that in more detail.
5 BENEFITS OF JOINING THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Since joining my local Chamber of Commerce, I have found 5 main benefits to my business.
1. High Quality Link – A Boost To SEO?
I live and breathe digital marketing. I can not get enough of it. Link building is still part of search engine optimization, even though it is starting to become less relevant. Every Chamber of Commerce has a highly visible directory that drives web traffic. By joining the Chamber of Commerce, you are able to be part of the directory and get a high-quality link from a great source to your website. The small Chamber of Commerce I belong to drives nearly 500k web hits per month. This is a highly visited site full of relevant content to my business (things Google likes). In my opinion, this link is worth the price of admission. The Chamber of Commerce can give your website a quick boost in rankings. You’d be surprised how many people check the Chamber of Commerce website first, when they are seeking information on your town and businesses.
Networking is not for everyone. I will admit that even to this day, I hate networking events. I make myself get out there and meet people because it is vital to my business.
I believe that the networking events through the Chamber of Commerce are a great way to source new customers.
The great part of the Chamber of Commerce is that everyone has the same goal, to make connections. I will warn you about being the guy with the half unbuttoned shirt passing out 500 business cards every event, I call him the card flipper.
Your goal must be to build relationships with people, not burn through an order from VistaPrint every meeting. Nobody really likes that guy, do things the right way, get to know people. People want to do business with people.
3. Make Business Partnerships
The reason you do not want to be the card flipper is that you are looking to build relationships. Got it! One of the best things that I have found from networking is building business partnerships and sharing leads. For example, we do marketing training and marketing plans for clients. I have met a web developer, promotional vendor (think pens, business cards, tee shirts, etc), my CPA, and even my commercial real estate agents. Did they become paying clients? No, they got advice for free. However, they send me leads all the time and vice versa, we try to promote each other whenever possible. It has turned into a great partnership and I think of them as extensions of my company. A great benefit to have.
4. Part Of Your Holistic Marketing Plan
I believe in order to be successful in marketing you must develop a holistic marketing plan. It is the only way to truly be successful. Combine the best of traditional marketing with the new inbound marketing approaches. Through the networking events (traditional) I have been able to create an automated marketing (inbound) message that closes about 5% of participants to training clients. They see the way that I do my marketing and want a piece of it for their company.
Your holistic marketing plan is important to grow your business. The Chamber of Commerce gives you tons of opportunity to create a well-oiled holistic marketing plan.
5. Advertise With An Engaged Audience
Have you ever bought an email list to get zero coupon redemptions? I thought so. Your Chamber of Commerce will give you the opportunity to use their email list or eBlast/magazine/newsletter to advertise your business. Normally this is going to be cheaper and produce better results. Because you are sending promotions to “members”, you are not going to get bad email addresses, incorrect names, or bad segmentation. These are people looking for the communications from the Chamber already and many times very engaged. I had one client, an auto repair facility, that did mailers to his direct zip code with a free oil change. He received 2 redemptions. It cost him more for the mailer than to give away the oil changes. He did the same mailer with the Chamber of Commerce and received 50 new customers. The mailer cost him half the amount and produced much better results. Remember the goal of the Chamber of Commerce is to help and most Chamber members want to help other members. So they will respond to your ads.
Bonus: Get To Know Your Community
Do you live in a community that has monthly movies in the park or sports leagues on the weekend? You don’t know? Well, let the Chamber of Commerce help. I have talked to many people at the Chamber of Commerce that are citizens, not businesses. Just like your local church, it is a great way to get to know the people in your community and get involved.
This might not directly benefit your business, but it could make your community more bearable to live in. Who knows, you might even make a friend.
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MEMBERSHIP
The Chamber of Commerce is great for your business and great to help you get involved. It is a great way to meet other like-minded business owners. So you are ready to make the investment and get going.
I believe there are 3 things that you should start to do once you join the Chamber of Commerce.
You are only going to get what you put into the Chamber. Just because you pay your dues does not mean the phone is going to magically start ringing. You have to get involved in order to meet new people. Go to the networking events, attend the yearly awards dinner, and volunteer for the events that the Chamber is holding. The more you participate the higher the chances are that you will meet someone that needs your products or services.
2. Make Strategic Partnerships
This is the single most beneficial thing you can do. Find the people that you can share leads with and learn from.
Partnerships will help you business grow, there is no doubt about it.
3. Use The Resources Available
When I first joined the Chamber of Commerce, I spoke to a wise old man that grew his financial services business through the Chamber of Commerce. One thing that he told me stuck out. “Use the resources available to you.”
As his business started to grow and he was looking for a new employee, he decided it was a better idea to invite candidates to the Chamber of Commerce versus his home office, for obvious reasons. He was able to use the conference room of the Chamber of Commerce to conduct interviews and use the receptionist as his own. This wise old man used the resources in order to grow his business in a way that is not so obvious to everyone. There are tons of resources that the Chamber of Commerce provides, make sure to use them in a way that benefits you and your company.
The Chamber of Commerce is a great way to complete your holistic marketing plan. It is also a great way to grow your business. So if you are on the fence about the Chamber of Commerce, check it out. The membership fee is rather cheap. If you participate you will be able to watch your business grow and meet some really interesting people along the way.