As we roll into the new year a lot of people are asking if they should join a gym to lose weight. But how about another resolution - should you join your the Chamber of Commerce?
How to make the Chamber make sense
One of the first things I’ll say is that a lot of people join their local Chamber of Commerce and then don’t renew because they claim they didn’t get anything out of being a Chamber member. However I have built entire business models out of a Chamber membership and have found it to be a very effective marketing tool even in these modern times. Why such different experiences?
The Chamber is kind of like the gym - it works best for you when you participate. I have joined gyms in the past and not lost one ounce nor gained any muscle. I didn’t go. It was a waste of money.
But a Chamber membership can be a very valuable resource if you treat it like a gym membership and participate. Here is a list of things you can do to make a Chamber membership a valuable resource for your business.
Go to the mixers and mix
I’ve been working Chamber mixers for three decades and I see a lot of the same behavior - people go to the mixers and spend time with the people they know. This can be partially effective as you’re reinforcing those relationships, but the biggest way to gain new business is to go to the mixers and meet people you don’t know.
So I work to interact with the people I haven’t seen before. This helps them feel comfortable and welcome and helps me get new contacts. Now those who know me might be surprised about this, but I’m actually fairly shy and socially inept. What I have now is mostly learned behavior. I have had to learn to be outgoing.
Chambers everywhere have a stereotype of being made of small “cliques” and the reason for this is that people tend to congregate with the people they already know, even though a mixer is all about meeting new people. This is true of most social situations - you’ll see this at the car shows - the Chevy people don’t go over and ogle the Fords as much as they do the Chevrolets. This is why I liked owning Corvairs - I was shunned by everybody.
People like to hang out with who they hang out with. So your job at a mixer is to balance spending time with the people you already know and those who you don’t yet. That’s the best way to maximize the effectiveness of Chamber mixers.
This willingness to gravitate toward people you know is also helpful - if people know who you are and what you do then they’ll naturally think of you first when they need the product or service you’re offering. If you’re a plumber and someone’s not feeling drained, your name will come up first in their minds because they’ve already gotten to know you at mixers.
This is why you go to mixers.
Join a committee
I know you’re really busy and have a lot to do, but you also have an area of expertise. Whether that’s basket weaving or quantum physics, you know what you’re talking about. Or at least you can bluff your way through a discussion.
So find a committee that is focused on your area of expertise and join it. Then go. And do that voodoo that you do so well.
This is another form of reinforcing what you do in the community. Being on a committee allows you to bounce ideas off other like-minded members of the community, gets you out of your normal workplace now and again and gives you the chance to show off what you do to the other business professionals who are in the Chamber. This is marketing gold.
Plus, there’s also the satisfaction of helping improve the business community in your area. There’s value there, too.
It's that simple
So many pathways to success have a lot of convoluted rules of engagement and are difficult to follow. But if you mix at mixers and join and participate in a committee you’ll be surprised at how effective a business tool this is. Whatever small cost the local Chamber of Commerce charges, you’ll reap that back many times over in marketing value.
There are tons of other benefits to being in a Chamber of Commerce and this could literally become a book, but those two items alone are worth your time and membership investment.
So the bottom line - yes, you should join the Chamber of Commerce. And please share your success stories on our Facebook Page or here in the comments. I’d love to hear how being in the Chamber has been part of your success.
As for the gym, I have no experience there. I supposed I should go and participate but sitting here at the keyboard is so much fun.
Written by Anthony B. Barthel