The Ups and Downs of Joining Your Chamber Of Commerce
The Chamber of commerce provides a multitude of tools and platforms to benefit business members. Rates often vary by the level of membership and benefits offered, and the weight of a “Chamber Member” designation varies widely by community.
The responsibility of effectively using and taking advantage of those tools and platforms falls to the owner. Business owners get out of an association membership what they put in. Read up on the benefits offered—these may include networking opportunities, directory listings, or expo events—and think about how they could work for your business.
Look into the reach of the association — is it focused on business-to-business interaction, is it directed more toward consumers, or is there an equal balance?
Consider the ups and downs of a membership before joining:
Up: Directory listings – Take advantage of the association’s connections with business directories. A chamber of commerce might maintain its own online directory, submit business information to outside directories, or both. Submitting detailed service descriptions for the chamber to use in those listings will increase exposure.
Down: Outdated directory listings – A listing with an outdated phone number, email address or ratings listing won’t do much good. Be sure to know who is responsible for keeping listing information current.
Up: Connections to local businesses – Through networking events, member spotlights, and full association meetings, a chamber offers in-person connections to other local business owners. Among the potential related benefits for the photo booth business is an amped-up referral network.
Down: Connections take time – To take full advantage of the connections offered, it’s crucial for the business owner to attend networking events and annual meetings. Volunteering for ad-hoc committees and special events offers additional opportunities to build up your Rolodex. If you’re a sole proprietor or small business owner, those commitments can be difficult to work into your schedule.
Up: Advocacy and support – Depending on the size of the community and nature of the association, your local chamber might be involved in numerous business advocacy and economic development efforts.
Down: Potential conflict related to advocacy – Business advocacy and economic development fit the chamber’s goals and purpose, but the positions the association takes might not always agree with your customers. Understand your local chamber’s leanings and how your main customer base might view them.