A few years ago, I went through a civic engagement program in my city called Tempe Leadership that was sponsored by the local chamber of commerce.
I’d obviously heard of the chamber of commerce before joining Tempe Leadership, but I didn’t know why the organization existed or how it benefited small businesses in Tempe.
In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about the chamber of commerce. I think every small business owner should at least consider joining their chamber by weighing the cost (probably a few hundred dollars a year) against the benefits.
With that in mind, here’s an overview of benefits you might receive from your local chamber of commerce.
Benefit No. 1: So Much Networking
The first benefit of a chamber of commerce membership most people think of is networking. There are morning mixers, seated luncheons, evening happy hours, and more.
This benefit is for you if you enjoy meeting other business owners and would like to cultivate them as potential customers, mentors, peers, or friends.
The Tempe Chamber of Commerce has a fun format for its monthly morning mixers. Before open networking, attendees stand in a circle and introduce themselves by way of their 30-second commercial or elevator pitch.
That way, you know who you want to approach once the open networking portion begins.
Not sure if you’re ready for networking? Check out these guides:
- The Socially Awkward Person’s Guide to Networking and Business Meetings
- Awkward! 6 Huge Fails Entrepreneurs Make in Networking
Benefit No. 2: Marketing and Promotion
Chambers of commerce offer a variety of marketing perks for individual businesses – from your listing in an online membership directory to your logo on the chamber’s website, brochures, and mailers.
They may even host a ribbon cutting ceremony at your business if you just opened.
But don’t let your point of contact at the chamber oversell you on this particular benefit. The marketing perks are quite soft, especially in the age of online reviews.
Benefit No. 3: Government Representation
A lot of folks don’t realize that a primary role of most chambers of commerce is to represent the business community in the halls of power. That means building relationships with government employees and weighing in on legislation at the city, county, and state level.
One Tempe Chamber of Commerce member has told the story of how his large catering business was nearly shut down leading into a huge holiday weekend due to a broken grease trap. He fixed the trap but the city would be unable to inspect it until Monday.
He called the chamber, the chamber called the city inspector, and the inspector made an off-hours visit to ensure the business, well, stayed in business.
Benefit No. 4: Discounts and Freebies
There’s a whole bucket of discounts and freebies offered by some (but not all) chambers of commerce that have actual financial benefits that could help offset the cost of membership.
Ask your chamber about things like:
- Workers compensation insurance, group health insurance, and vision plans
- Shared offices or coworking spaces
- Credit union membership
- Posting to the local job board
- Educational programs and seminars
If you’re able to take advantage of enough of these offers, it may offset the cost of your membership so much that joining is a no-brainer!