One of the things that is not covered in Marketing 101 is how beneficial it is for most businesses to be active in their local Chamber of Commerce. Okay..I already hear the moans and groans from some readers whose experience with the Chamber is much like the local country club, but hear me out before you let a 20-year old experience seal the deal.
A Chamber of Commerce is an organization of business people designed to advance the interests of its members. There are national, state,and local chambers. Most counties in North Georgia offer a Chamber. Larger, more populated areas offer them on a city level. Which one is right for you is dependent upon the type of business you own and your overall reach, but generally, you should “go local.” The sad truth is that, with so many organizations, there are bound to be good ones and not so good ones. A strong Chamber requires a strong leader, a strong board or advisory committee, and, most importantly, participating members—that’s you! Whenever I hear someone say that their Chamber is not effective for them, I usually ask, “And how effective are you for the Chamber?” In reality, if your Chamber is not being effective for you, it’s probably because you’re not really participating. In order to make your local Chamber work for you, try the following:
Attend functions. The Chamber really does offer more than Business After-Hours, but even that is a start. Try to attend ribbon cuttings or open meetings of different committees or the Board of Directors (management team, advisory board…whateverthey’re called). Many Chambers offer instructional classes and holdmeetings about community issues. If you think nothing is going onat your Chamber, call them or look on their web site. If your suspicions were correct and thereis nothing going on, fi nd out why.
Meet people. When you attend functions, introduce yourself to people you don’t know rather than hanging out by the coffee chatting with the folks you already know. It’s helpful to have a name tag if you plan on really participating. When you meet people, don’t chit-chat. Don’t get me wrong—it’s good to be friendly—but have a purpose for your conversation. Find out who they are and what they do, and be sure to swap business cards. Consider if they may be a future client or partner. Don’t be surprised if you make some new friends.
Join the network. After meeting fellow chamber members and finding out what they do, look for openings to promote them to others and tell them about opportunities that apply to their specialty. Word-of-mouth promotion (or hooking other people up) is the best possible way to help fellow members and create personal fans. If your Chamber offers a web-based directory, make sure your business listing is correct and current. Be sure to research tools that are available through your Chamber of which you may not be aware.Get involved. Based upon your level of availability, find a Chamber committee or project in which you can become active. Let your Chamber president or director know that you are looking for away to become more involved. When you do get involved, take the responsibility seriously and fully participate. So, in this case, it is all about you…you really can make a difference to your local Chamber and it can make a difference to your business. The new year is a great time to take steps toward making your Chamber work for you.