When starting your own small business, you have a lot on your plate. Picking a great location, securing funding, driving early marketing, insuring your business, and much, much more. The last thing you want to think about is trying to network with other local companies.
However, joining your local chamber of commerce is a crucial step of business ownership if you want to see lasting entrepreneurial success. Don’t believe us? No worries! Our guide will explain what, exactly, the Chamber of Commerce does, and why it’s so beneficial to any business to join their local chapter.
What Does the Local Chamber of Commerce Do, Exactly?
If you’re a new small business owner, you may not know exactly what a local chamber of commerce is, much less what it does. A chamber of commerce is an organization that advocates for local businesses. It’s membership-based and offers local businesses the chance to connect with each other, share resources, and help their community grow.
The board of the local chamber of commerce is comprised of local small business owners, which makes it uniquely capable of handling their political or financial concerns. On a grander, national scale, the Chamber of Commerce can handle things like infrastructure, as seen in this clip with Suzanne Clark.
How Much Will a Small Business Owner Pay to Join?
Membership fees for a chamber of commerce will depend on the size and location of the chamber in question. However, a new business can expect to pay between three hundred and four hundred dollars as a yearly fee. This comes in addition to the monthly fee of around thirty dollars.
If you’re running on incredibly slim margins, this might seem a bit steep, especially as a new small business owner. However, the benefits can vastly outweigh the costs.
What Are the Benefits of Joining Your Local Chamber of Commerce?
Now that you understand the basic functions that the local chamber of commerce handles and what membership might cost, you may be wondering how this benefits you. The ways that your business can benefit from joining this type of group include, but are not limited to:
Your Business Looks More Trustworthy to Customers
People like to check, double-check, and cross-reference any business they choose to interact with. Especially in the local small business scene. Consumers are a solid sixty-three percent more likely to buy from you if they see that your business partners with the local chamber of commerce.
Plus, in addition to looking more trustworthy from the membership, your fellow chamber members will be able to vouch for the quality of your services or products, increasing customer trust.
Become More Visible to the Local Community
People want to be more involved in their communities, building up small businesses, and giving back to their neighbors. By joining the chamber of commerce, you become a political force in the community, increasing your visibility. This can, in turn, help you raise the worries of your customers to the local government where they otherwise might go unheard.
Massive Business Networking Opportunities
Naturally, any collective of businesses presents a wealth of business networking opportunities. As a member of your local chamber of commerce, you interact often with other local business owners, allowing you to form working relationships or even business partnerships in times of need. Plus, as long as you remain on good terms, you can recommend and forward customers and clients to each other.
Easy Access to Mailing Lists
Do you work in the business-to-business (or B2B) sales field? If so, joining the chamber of commerce is an opportunity that you can’t pass up. Membership grants you the contact information of basically every business in the area, giving you a direct line to the people with actual buying power and decision-making abilities.
Fun fact: This directory also includes businesses that are not members, but work within the same community, further increasing your reach.
You May Get Free Stuff
When you join your local chamber of commerce, you might get a package including some free swag or merch to celebrate your membership. However, that’s not where the freebies end. Many businesses that have this membership offer discounts or little extras to their fellow Chamber members. It might be worth joining the local chamber if it gives you a free coffee before you open up shop!
You Can Advocate for Your Business’s Rights
During times when business is in a state of flux, having the ability to advocate for your concerns is crucial. The Chamber of Commerce does this whether you are a member or not. However, if you’re a member of a marginalized community or otherwise struggle to get your voice and your concerns heard, joining the chamber of commerce can give you a platform.
Chambers May Have Small Business Resources
Another side benefit to joining the chamber of commerce? Many of the larger chambers have access to business resources like coaching, SEO work, mentorship programs, or even health insurance coverage. They could even offer your business discounts on energy costs or professional headshots.
As a new business owner, you may be able to avail yourself of these resources without any extra cost after membership fees. That’s a learning opportunity that no one can miss.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Of course, as many benefits as there are to joining the local chamber of commerce, it’s not without its drawbacks. Some of the potential issues you might encounter if you join include:
Continual Membership Fees
Just like that Costco membership that you forgot to renew after the start of the year, you lose all of your Chamber of Commerce membership benefits if you miss your fee payments. If you decide to join, you need to factor in your monthly and yearly membership costs to your regular business expenses.
Failure to do so could result in loss of the membership, which may take some time and finagling to get back on track.
It May Take Longer to See the Results
Joining the local chamber of commerce isn’t like buying a social media advertisement or purchasing an ad slot on television. The latter two offer some sort of immediate feedback metrics so that you can see the benefits and the return on your investment. The membership offers benefits that are less tangible, thus harder to track.
You may feel like your membership isn’t accomplishing anything for several months. Plus, you need to ensure that you’re putting in the effort to build your brand in two places: the chamber and the local scene.
You Need to Work With Your Competitors
If you work in a popular industry in your area, it’s all but inevitable that chamber membership will force you to behave amicably with your direct competitors. If they’re doing better than you are, it might stir the urge to snipe at them the next time you see them with some snide comment. Or, if you’re doing better than them, you might want to brag about your successes to make your competitor feel bad.
Such behaviors might seem immature (and they are), but they’re a natural result of competition. Chamber membership will force you to at least pretend to play nice with businesses that might want you to fail.
You Have to Manage Your Schedule Properly
Let’s face it: any governmental or pseudo-governmental agency will have a full itinerary of events. As a member of the local chamber of commerce, you will be expected to attend most, if not all of these events. This is in addition to running your business as usual and any special events that you’d already committed your time to attend.
So, if you join, you need to manage your schedule to a degree that you otherwise might not need.
Their Politics Might Not Agree With Yours
Being a small business owner who’s a member of a marginalized community brings a special suite of challenges. Not least of which being that the local chamber of commerce might oppose your very open existence within their community. Make sure you conduct your research before you try to join, as the last thing you want is to force yourself into contentious political grounds.
Let’s Review What Your Local Chamber of Commerce Can Do for You
Joining your local chamber of commerce can offer you the chance to network with local businesses and government officials in ways that simple online networking cannot. You can receive freebies, have an advocate on your side, and even get mentoring and other important resources.
As long as you research the local chamber before you join, you can be sure that you’ll bolster your entrepreneurial success with your membership.
If you need more tips to help get your small business up and running, why not check out our blog? We update each day with more helpful and informative business articles like this one!