Should You Be Joining Your Local Chamber of Commerce?
Small business owners wonder if joining their local chamber of commerce will pay off in the long run. Will it increase their customer base and sales? Does a membership provide marketing and network advantages and is it worth the cost?
Here we consider the pros and cons of joining your local chamber of commerce and whether membership is right for your business.
What Is a Chamber of Commerce?
A chamber of commerce is an organization focused on improving conditions for local businesses. This partnership can be a vital part of your city or town. They support industrial growth, education, and training opportunities.
What Is Its Purpose?
The purpose of a chamber of commerce is to improve business conditions in the area and increase job opportunities. They contribute to economic growth and stability.
Chambers of commerce also promote the free market system of an enterprise. Its members receive benefits that include marketing, networking, and increased visibility for their businesses.
What Are the Pros of Joining Your Local Chamber of Commerce?
Becoming a chamber member has plenty of benefits for small business owners as well as medium and large companies. Among them are these:
Chambers of commerce offer mixers, coffee hours, annual banquets, professional development sessions, and more. These are designed to provide its members with networking opportunities.
Often, chamber of commerce members try to do business with fellow members first so networking is crucial. Small businesses find that some of their best new customers are their fellow members of the chamber of commerce.
Increase Company's Exposure
When a company is a member of the local chamber of commerce, that company can receive exposure through chamber involvement, advertising and marketing within the chamber, and on the local chamber of commerce website.
The best form of advertising - word of mouth - can come through a chamber of commerce membership. As your fellow members learn more about you and your company, they spread the word and increase your company's exposure.
Increase Local Presence
When joining your local Chamber of Commerce, your business can be added to their online directory. You can include information such as a business address, phone number, a short description, and a link to your website.
Statistics show that 88% of people searching for local businesses will call or visit the business within 24 hours. When your business is listed in trusted local directories, Google takes this into account when calculating search rankings.
Being added to the Chamber directory may get your business higher on Google's search results. Many Chamber of Commerces allow you to optimize your listing by adding specific SEO information that can increase rankings.
Video links, business contact information, photos, and keywords all go towards creating a listing that will rank higher in search results.
Adds Credibility to Company
Chamber of Commerce membership adds prestige and credibility to companies of all sizes. For startups and small businesses, chamber of commerce membership can signal that they've arrived in the local business community.
As a business owner or a company's employees become involved in the chamber of commerce events and leadership, the business gains credibility in the community as a good corporate citizen and leader.
Professional Development Opportunities
Chambers of commerce offer professional development and leadership opportunities that can help members grow. Classes and seminars in networking, marketing, social media, time management, and more benefit members.
Helping organize chamber activities and efforts can build leadership skills for participants.
Sometimes these professional development opportunities, classes, and seminars are low-cost or free for members. Leadership growth through volunteering with the chamber of commerce is free but requires time and effort.
What Are the Cons of Joining Your Local Chamber of Commerce?
Chamber of commerce membership may sound great so far, but membership does have its downside.
A chamber of commerce that doesn't hold many networking events for members may not be worth it. If a chamber of commerce spends most of its dues money on an office and an executive director's salary might not be worth the price.
Here are some factors to consider when joining your local chamber of commerce. Some are disadvantages, and others are doses of reality when considering membership benefits for your company.
Membership isn't free. Some offer graduated membership fees based on the company's size. Smaller chambers of commerce have membership dues of $30 to $40 a month, but larger business organizations charge more.
While membership fees are higher for larger companies, those companies have the cash flow to pay them easily. Smaller businesses and one-man startups may find a chamber of commerce membership to be expensive.
Investing the Time and Energy to Attend Events
You could find yourself on a committee or even a chairman or an elected officer of the chamber of commerce. You could be planning networking and professional development events, monthly lunches, or annual awards banquets.
Even if you don't emerge as a chamber of commerce leader or active volunteer, you will still need to take time to attend chamber of commerce events to get the most out of your chamber of commerce membership.
No Immediate ROI
Business owners get what they put into their chamber of commerce membership. Reaping these benefits takes time and effort. There isn't an immediate return on investment when it comes to joining the local chamber of commerce.
Instead, chamber of commerce benefits come over time and with participation in events and efforts to improve the community.
Competing with Similar Businesses
Some chamber of commerce members are in direct competition with each other.
For example, if you're a new insurance agent in town, you might join the local chamber of commerce to discover that your insurance agency will be competing with chamber of commerce members who are insurance agents.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to Joining
Joining your local chamber of commerce that's active and offers membership benefits such as networking, a boost in marketing and professional development opportunities may be well worth the fees if you have the money and the time.
As you consider joining your local chamber of commerce, consider the chamber of commerce pros and cons of membership to see if this opportunity is right for your business.
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