To Renew Or Not To Renew? Pros And Cons Of A Chamber of Commerce Membership

Not all solopreneurs I know enjoy networking. I do. But that doesn’t mean I—and folks with that same love of mixing and mingling—shouldn’t be selective Boy thinkingabout which networking groups we join and maintain membership in.

 

I’m a member of several networking groups, including the larger regional chamber of commerce in our county. I’ve been a part of that one for the past five years, ever since I started my freelance writing business.

 

With my membership due to expire November 30, I have a decision to make: Do I renew?

 

I’ve only attended approximately 4 events (business mixers) throughout my past year of membership.

A few years ago, when I had fewer clients and had more time, I was able to attend nearly every monthly business mixer and several education sessions. These days, time is limited and I can’t as easily work it into my schedule.

 

I know other solopreneurs and small business owners face the same dilemma as their chamber memberships near their annual expiration.

 

So, I’m going to think out loud here to weigh the pros and cons. You might be pondering some of the same as your networking memberships near their expiration dates.

 

Cons Of Renewing My Chamber Membership

 

Cost of A Chamber Membership

Membership has price tag of over $400. That’s not an insignificant investment for most solopreneurs, and it’s what kept many of my peers from joining in the past. The mixers I attended were “free” (a.k.a. included in the cost of membership). Do that math and it equates to $100+ per event. Most other events have an additional fee—and that can add up. If I don’t renew, I’ll reduce my networking membership costs to about $150 per year.

 

Schedule Conflicts

Beyond the mixers, most other events are typically scheduled during times of the day when I need to be working on projects for my clients. Yes, I could do my client work in the evening, but I have a family who I’d prefer not to ignore.

 

Getting Lost In The Shuffle

The regional chamber is big. So big that many mixers draw hundreds of attendees. That’s overwhelming—and distracting—when you want to get to really know people rather than just superficially make their acquaintance.

 

My Target Market Isn’t Specifically Local

My target audience is one that extends nationally. That said, I do collaborate with a good number of local clients who I love working with. But I’ve become connected with most of them through LinkedIn and referrals rather than through my direct affiliation with the chamber.

 

Pros Of Renewing My Chamber Membership

 

A Listing in the Chamber Directory

If I were to not renew my membership, I would lose that point of presence.

 

Credibility

Particularly when talking with prospects in the local area, mentioning you belong to the chamber holds some professional clout. It demonstrates involvement in the community and projects a degree of trustworthiness.

 

Show of Support to the Local Business Community

Even though my target audience extends beyond local prospects, I feel strongly about helping local businesses succeed. The chamber provides advocacy, educational programs, networking opportunities and other programs to help entrepreneurs in my area.

 

Chamber’s LinkedIn Group

While most known for face-to-face networking opportunities, the chamber also has a relatively active LinkedIn group where, as a member, I’m at liberty to post updates and interact with other chamber members. I’ve found it effective for increasing the visibility of my business and personal brand. If I don’t renew, that platform of awareness will go away.

 

To Renew Or Not To Renew? My Decision.

After thinking it through, I’ve decided to renew. Why? I realize the effort I put into it directly correlates to what I get out of it. That’s true of many networking group opportunities, but especially with chambers of commerce. The more present you are, the more trust you build in the local community. And even if, like me, you work with a lot of clients outside of the area, you can generate referrals. Many local professionals have connections not only in their immediate geographic region but also in other counties, states, and internationally. Exposure and awareness matter as a solopreneur. Four hundred dollars may seem like a lot of cash for a solopreneur to dish out for a membership, but one decent project accomplishes a full ROI. All things considered, the investment seems a reasonable price to pay for expanding my reach. It will be up to me to make the best use of my dollars.

 

Your turn! What factors influence your decision to join—or not join—chambers of commerce and other networking groups?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do Unto Vendors – Being a Good Customer

It’s Not Right to Not Treat Vendors RightShaking hands

Treating customers right is a no-brainer, but being a good customer doesn’t always come as naturally.

As solopreneurs and small business owners, we want things done. We want things done now. We want things done right. We want things done at the right price.

Yes, we can be a demanding lot!

While we tend to at times bend over backwards to please our clients, we can be tough in equal proportion on those who provide us with services and products. It’s not wrong to expect quality, punctuality, and value, but it is wrong to treat vendors with a lack of respect and unreasonable demands.

How to Be a Good Customer

Are you the kind of customer you would welcome with open arms?

  • Are you courteous…freely using “please” and “thank you”?
  • Do you provide enough detailed information so vendors can do what they need to do effectively?
  • Do you pay attention to the work vendors have completed and let them know early on in a project if you’ll need any adjustments?
  • Do you have reasonable expectations for when a project should be completed?
  • Do you respond promptly to vendors’ questions?
  • Do you have a clear vision about what you want before you ask vendors to do work for you?
  • Are you willing to pay a fair price for expertise and quality work?
  • Are you understanding of delays due to unforeseen circumstances that are out of your vendors’ control?
  • Do you show interest in and work toward forging ongoing professional relationships with vendors?
  • Do you freely show appreciation of the work your vendors do for you?
  • Do you write recommendations on Linkedin?
  • Do you refer colleagues to your vendors?

Why Do Unto Vendors?

Besides the simple fact that treating others well is the right thing to do, treating vendors well has its business perks as well . By being a great customer, you build goodwill, trust and loyalty. Just as those things are important with your customers, they can lead to unexpected benefits when developed with vendors. You might find that your vendors will give you extras at either discounted rates or for free. You might gain new business through referrals from your vendors. You might find that vendors are more willing and able to accommodate the occasional rush order when you’re faced with an emergency need.

And on top of it all, word gets around. Vendors are part of the business community as a whole, which means they talk with other business owners and professionals about their experiences with other business owners and professionals. What would you want those conversations to sound like when your name enters the discussion?

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net