Every city or town has a chamber of commerce with varying levels of activity. If you pay membership dues to your local chamber, you might sometimes feel like you aren’t getting much return on that investment. However, the benefits you reap depend on the effort you put in—it takes time to cultivate relationships and form bonds with other working professionals to grow your brand.
There are multiple benefits of working with your local chamber of commerce—you just need to take a few steps in the right direction. Follow these tips to get engaged and grow your business.
The first way to increase the value of working with your local chamber is to attend one of their events, meetings, or networking luncheons. Many area chambers host semi-frequent events to engage and educate members. These activities can include a monthly luncheon or a weekly coffee meetup. Look at the upcoming events and pick out a few that interest you and fit into your schedule.
Start by attending events just to get a feel for what they’re like. Who else attends? How big are the gatherings? What industries are featured—or missing? You may be surprised by who you meet and what attendees get out of these events.
You don’t have to be ready for a hard sell at these events—you’re not looking to close deals at your first networking mixer. However, you should come prepared with business cards and an elevator pitch explaining your business so that you can speak professionally with those you meet.
While the pandemic has affected the frequency and structure of these events, many chambers are still coordinating some type of meetup, whether in-person or virtual.
You can certainly jump right in and attend events or meetings, but you may also benefit from getting to know the chamber first. Some cities host new member orientations either monthly or quarterly.
This orientation is usually a meeting to explain what the chamber does and how business owners can get involved. If there are certain committees associated with the chamber, they might send representatives to these orientations to recruit new members.
Attending a new member orientation can also introduce you to other business owners trying to gain their foothold with the chamber. This option can feel less intimidating if you aren’t sure about getting involved—a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with your local chamber.
Once you get an idea of how your local chamber runs, you can take steps to get more involved. Consider the committees that interest you and match your skill sets. You can join these to support the chamber and advance your local business community.
For example, local chambers of commerce will likely have a finance committee to balance the chamber’s books. They’ll have ambassadors that are involved in other organizations. They may also have a young professionals group with the goal of engaging people in their twenties.
Each of these committees has different needs and goals, so look for one that would be a good fit for you and your expertise.
Ask not what your chamber of commerce can do for you, but what you can do for your chamber of commerce!
A great way to get engaged is to give back to your local chamber and provide value to the organization. For example, if you own a local coffee shop or restaurant, you can cater a meetup or host the meeting at your location.
If you offer B2B services, consider leading a seminar that teaches the basics about your field. These options allow you to step into a leadership and expert role, attracting other members to talk with you.
Networking is a process. If you want to grow your leads, you need to reconnect with the people you meet and remind them how awesome you are. When you collect business cards or contact information at events, take time to follow up with your newfound connections. You can thank them for the engaging conversation or offer to help them with a problem they have.
Too often, business professionals attend networking events and conferences only to ignore the people they meet. The business cards they collect rot in a drawer while names and faces are forgotten.
Your local chamber can put together fun events and valuable networking opportunities. However, it’s up to you to make the most of them.
As you get more involved with your local chamber of commerce, you may realize that you can spend hours each week working to advance the business environment of your city. However, it’s important to set boundaries. Engaging with the chamber is one way to network and grow your business, but you may need to allocate your time to other projects.
Set boundaries for how much time you can commit each month. This might mean attending only 2 events monthly or only joining 1 committee. This can help you to avoid burnout from stretching yourself too thin.