Chambers of Commerce exist across North America and the world (since 1599!) and serve many functions: local advocacy (strength in numbers), local programs (like Visitor Services, cost-savings for VISA/MasterCard processing, Chamber Group Benefits/Insurance, etc.), learning and workshops (like these), and more.
One of these essential functions is helping local companies find customers. To clarify, it’s important to note that your Chamber of Commerce is definitely not in the business of advertising–although we do publish a member directory each year (with over 25,000 copies circulated) for free and offer an online member directory–also free with membership. Your Chamber is also not designed to compete with local companies that do inform the community and run off of advertising revenues–like our friends at Seaside Times, Peninsula News Review, or local Coffee News publications and the like.
So let’s spell this out, then get to the 5 tips below.
A membership in the Chamber costs $27 per month (for small firms). No advertisement in any publication can be this cheap. And if they were, chances are that they wouldn’t deliver high return on investment either (and if they can deliver, is their business model sustainable?). So how can your Chamber find you customers then?
Your Chamber is just the medium. It is a network of local business people many of whom attend our Monthly Mixers (at which there is free wine and appy’s). So for $27, you get access to a crowd of people, at least once per month. A captive audience so-to-speak. These people might not need your product or service, but I bet they know someone who does..or will eventually.
But what about free networking associations? Why join a Chamber when other associations offer networking for free? To that we say: Sure, join those too. The more networking you can do, the better! We think free wine and appy’s once per month is worth a least $20, so even if you get zero leads at our events, you are still breaking even–and at least building your brand. (What of the $7 left over?) I’ll tell you what: our members, just like any human beings, value relationships. These human relationships are established through conversation and getting to know each other. In many cases, these human relationships translate into referrals because people like to do business with people they know. It’s human nature. So please put in the time if you can to get more connected and help others make connections too–we’re all in this together!
There are other ways to find customers through your Chamber medium as well.
Henry DeVries of the New Client Marketing Institute investigated methods of generating leads. Here are his top five methods (also check out his article on maximizing your memberships in various org’s and associations here).
1. Conducting small-scale seminars.
2. Giving speeches.
3. Getting published (includes blogs).
4. Networking in a proactive way.
5. Participating in industry associations.
These vary according to industry of course, but which of these are included in your marketing or sales strategy? If you are interested in any of the above activities, talk to us. We can help with all five!