"To be a success in business, be daring, be first, be different." ~Marchant
Relationships are key to success in business. Having the right connections can be the difference between a flowing pipeline and a dried-up drain. But, we need to be mindful of our time and focus our energy. Membership in a local chamber of commerce can be a great outlet for building meaningful business relationships.
Beyond bonding, chambers of commerce can provide plenty of opportunities that are great for local businesses. According to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, there are 4,000 chambers of commerce in the U.S. with full-time staff. There are thousands more chambers that operate on a volunteer basis. These organizations vary in size and scope but they have one common purpose. Chambers of commerce unite business interests in the community to promote growth and prosperity.
I have the honor of serving as a board member for the Greater Harrison Chamber of Commerce and providing event planning and marketing services to grow this young organization. My business has benefitted in more ways than one, but I'm frequently talking to members and prospects about how they can benefit, too.
How can you maximize your investment in a chamber of commerce? Here are three key ways to get the most from your membership.
Take advantage of exposure opportunities.
Many chambers of commerce have multiple ways for their members to gain more exposure. This can be particularly useful for small businesses that may not otherwise be known in the community.
Here are a few opportunities that may be available.
· List your business in the chamber’s business directory
· Submit newsletter articles or news about your business
· Offer your personnel as subject matter experts for workshops and panels
· Host an event, such as a networking night or other gathering
If your Chamber is not offering enough exposure opportunities, perhaps they need help coordinating these efforts. Speak up and offer to pull together more opportunities. Our Chamber partners with a local radio station to produce a segment called "Highlight Harrison." Members are interviewed on-air, and the content is also shared through the Chamber's Facebook page and email newsletter.
Save money on business services.
In our Chamber, members are saving thousands of dollars on healthcare costs by enrolling in our group healthcare plan. By participating in an alliance of chambers, we are able to expand our cost-savings benefits to include programs like these:
· Workers compensation programs
· Document destruction
· Dental and healthcare benefits
· Prescription savings card
· Employment background screening
· Identity protection
Many programs like these are likely available through your local chamber of commerce.
Expand your network.
Chambers of commerce are great for growing your personal network. I’m not talking about collecting email addresses for your marketing blasts. I mean getting to know the people who live and work in your community. They are likely interested in hiring local businesses like yours.
Here are some ways to grow your network through a chamber of commerce.
1. Attend networking events and make a point to get acquainted with people you don’t know.
2. Invite new contacts to coffee or lunch and find out how you can help them.
3. Be an advocate for other members by buying locally and sharing your experience via word of mouth and social media.