Don’t Be Lazy – The Role of a Chamber of Commerce in Your Small Business Marketing Efforts

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A Chamber of Commerce plays a very important role in your marketing efforts. Just not the way you probably think it should. I have served in almost every capacity you can think of for the local Chambers, and can say without a doubt if you think the Chamber’s job is to market your business for you and to drive customers your way – you are going to be disappointed.

Before you come at me with pitchforks, hear me out …

In mid-late 2011 I (RyCOM) joined the Rockford Chamber (paying more than I could afford at the time), and was accepted into their Leadership Rockford curriculum, which cost three times as much as my membership. Needless to say, I was “invested”.

Through the 8 month curriculum, I had built some great friendships, learned a ton about the Rockford region, and established some connections that would be the foundation of success over the next few years. After I graduated from Leadership Rockford in 2012, I stopped participating in Rockford Chamber events, and never saw a return on my membership investment again. Weird how that works – stop putting in time – stop getting a return. HMM?? Nobody ever told me they were referred to me by the Chamber. Nobody ever came to my website from the chamber’s directory.

Actually, all I ever got from the Chamber’s directory listing was telemarketing calls.

Soon thereafter, I had joined both the Rockton & Roscoe Chambers. Subsequently, my little freelancing business has exploded into a turn-key marketing firm. There are many reasons why we’ve seen success, but the Chamber has been one of the greatest investments I’ve ever made. A small yearly fee, some event sponsorship, and a ridiculous amount of time & volunteerism all turned into some amazing business opportunities for me.

I believe that anyone can see the same kind of results from their local Chamber. Its important to remember that just joining isn’t enough. You see, many small businesses think that a Chamber is suppose to drive new customers to their door. In my experience, this is a fundamentally flawed view of the Chamber’s purpose – and a lazy one at that.

If you want more customers, you should be investing in a marketing firm to help you (I know a great one). Fact is that an investment of just a couple hundred dollars isn’t going to revolutionize your marketing. It takes a lot more than a trade association membership to do that. It takes an understanding of brand positioning, marketing options, knowing your target audience, managing your digital assets, brand loyalty, and shaping the customer experience. You know – all the things you could learn about by networking with other successful business leaders – or hiring RyCOM to worry about it for you 🙂

Your local Chamber is a system available to you for networking, relationship building, educational resources, community stewardship and professional advocacy. Operating under the view that “we can do more together than we can apart”, the Chamber gives everyone an equal opportunity to contribute to our collective success. The Chamber is not a marketing company, the Chamber is not a news medium, the Chamber is not a social media manager, and the Chamber is most definitely not an account sales rep for your business.

Think about it this way – Your internet provider doesn’t write your emails for you, shop for you, or download music for you. You have to log on, participate, find what you want, and use the systems available to you if you want to get the benefits of it.

The Chamber is like an internet connection to some great knowledge and relationships. You should be asking yourself “when was the last time I logged in?”. If you are not seeing the ROI you expect from your Chamber, I would venture to say you are not investing the right things. Consider networking more, sending in more articles, hosting an educational seminar, sponsoring more events, and just generally being a more attentive and contributing member to the Chamber’s mission.

If you don’t want to do any of those things – by all means, keep paying your membership dues. Then call us for a consultation – cause you probably need some honest marketing advice.

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As President of RyCOM Creative Corp, Ryan has worked with hundreds of clients on projects of all sizes. His expertise in Marketing has led to countless gains in lead generation, incremental sales, and brand development.