When I speak to small businesses about their local chamber, the businesses that have let their memberships lapse often make it sound like a gym membership. “I didn’t really use it.” What they’re missing when they make comments like that is the behind-the-scenes benefits of chamber membership. Just as your investment grows in a savings account in a bank, your business investment in chamber membership is growing even when you aren’t actively participating. Here’s what you’re getting that you may not even realize:
7 Ways a Chamber Membership Is Always Working for You
Even if you never attend a single event, the chamber is advocating for the needs of business. They work with local, state, and federal governments to influence policies and regulations that impact businesses. This advocacy often leads to favorable business conditions, tax incentives, and regulatory changes that benefit businesses without the members having to actively lobby for them. Chambers are also instrumental in protecting businesses from harmful legislation and “job killers.” During COVID local leaders turned to the chamber to learn more about business needs. Many chambers were essential to helping businesses remain or reopen by advocating for more outdoor dining areas and other protocols.
This advocacy is occurring behind the scenes, but you will get more out of it if you work with the chamber in promoting your own voice and industry/business needs.
Chambers are typically involved in initiatives to promote economic growth within their communities. They may work on attracting new businesses, fostering innovation, and improving infrastructure. Some chambers are working toward creating an economic development brand, like establishing their area as a “tech corridor.” As a result, businesses within the chamber's area experience increased economic opportunities and growth even if they’re not directly involved.
Chambers often offer valuable educational resources and workshops on topics like business management, marketing, and regulatory compliance. Members can benefit from these resources to improve their skills and knowledge, ultimately enhancing their business operations. Even if you never attend a single session, chamber membership (and thus, the learning opportunities associated with such) extends to all your employees. The chamber is also a great host for speakers and may bring in people to share their knowledge and skills for a very affordable price, an additional asset to the community.
Marketing and Promotion
Chambers frequently promote their members through directories, websites, social media, and community events. This exposure can boost a business's visibility and reputation, attracting potential customers or clients who might not have discovered the business otherwise.
Chambers of commerce play a vital role in fostering a sense of community and social responsibility among businesses. They often support local charitable causes, events, and community development projects. When a business is part of a chamber, it indirectly contributes to these efforts, enhancing the overall quality of life in the area and potentially improving its reputation.
Many chambers operate visitor information centers or booths that offer tourists helpful guides, brochures, and maps about the local attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and activities. These centers serve as valuable resources for tourists and encourage them to explore the area, thus boosting local businesses.
Additionally, some chambers actively engage in destination marketing by promoting the unique attractions, events, and experiences available in their community. They create tourism websites, brochures, and marketing campaigns to attract tourists. This marketing effort results in increased visitor numbers, leading to more revenue for businesses.
Infrastructure and Grants
Chambers often advocate for improved infrastructure, such as better transportation options, the development of tourist-friendly amenities, and the preservation of natural or historical landmarks. These efforts can enhance the overall visitor and resident experience, making the area more attractive to tourists, relocating businesses, and resident retention, while boosting local commerce.
Chambers may also get involved with bringing money into the area for quality-of-life projects through grants and other forms of funding. Their ability to work with the public and private sectors is unparalleled. They can easily act as a bridge between groups and bring leaders of all areas together for the betterment (and funding) of the community.
Chambers of commerce provide a range of benefits to businesses beyond what may be immediately apparent. Even if you don’t have the time to give to chamber membership activities, the chamber is working on things like advocacy, economic development, marketing, community engagement, and tourism initiatives to improve your quality of life and add to your business’s potential for growth. Chambers work tirelessly to create a more favorable business environment, helping their members thrive without requiring them to take individual action on these fronts.
Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and wonders how she will ever sleep again when her kids get their drivers’ licenses next month.