Join the Chamber of Commerce?

Join the Chamber of CommerceJoin the Chamber of Commerce: are you considering this?

Yesterday on an expert platform I answered the question, "Is it necessary to join the Chamber of Commerce?" The person asking wanted to connect with established professionals.

Should You Join the Chamber of Commerce? My Answer:

No. Good question. The quality varies from town to town, but in my experience the larger the city the more valuable it is. Here's the issue: newbies to business don't know where to find good customers, and so they join networking organizations like this because they believe it will help them.

Fact is, it probably won't. Again in my experience over the past 20 years, organizations and events like this tend to be filled with newbie businesspeople trying to find customers. And if you're all trying to find customers, it's not going to be effective. Since most business owners don't have a good 30-second commercial or consistent qualifying process, these meetups are filled with bad attempts at conversation and pushing of self-centered agendas.

In the town I've been in for the past 5 years, my early experience of this sort jaded me so much I got the impression no competent businesspeople existed here and I developed my operation internationally instead. This, as I have found out over the past year helping local friends develop a television network, is untrue; however, my experience with the local Chamber, BNI, after hours meetups etc. demonstrated the competent business owners are NOT at these events. They're in their offices, getting good customers.

What you're likely to find is a bunch of insurance and mutual fund salespeople looking for people to push product at...and that gets old really fast.

If you want to network for business, I recommend identifying good prospects and pursuing them individually...doing information interviews to discover their true pain points...and qualifying with a consistent method. The idea that you're going to casually meet someone at an event, have a good conversation, and that will lead to an order is fantasy. Are there exceptions? I'm sure people will pipe in with them...but they are flukes and there are much more straightforward methods to get clients.

There is no legal or business requirement for you to be a member of the Chamber or any other networking organization, and I personally believe it's a waste of valuable time.

Why You Shouldn't Join the Chamber of Commerce

Or BNI, or networking groups, or meetups.

They're a colossal waste of time. And in the case of BNI, you have to get business for these people! Surely you have time left over to get sales for them when you're just starting up your own operation, and don't have orders for yourself yet, right?

Now you might be thinking that's not very altruistic. Look: I refer business around all the time. When I find someone who's actually competent at what they profess to do (a far rarer thing than you think), I am delighted to send them business. So when the opportunity arises, I will refer orders.

But to have to commit to getting business for other people--consistently, month in, month out--when you don't even know how to do it for yourself yet?

No thank you.

Growing your business will take 100% of your time if you're going to be a success.

The Chamber organizations tell you to join for vague reasons like unexplained "networking opportunities" or "standing up for business". What? I stand up for business by being an owner of a business. I place my fate on how that business runs. That's standing up for business. Not joining some poorly-defined group.

I want you to realize the difference between the apparency of action and real action. Real action gives you positive results. Anything else is a timewaster.

If I wrote this blog and nobody read it...if nobody made the decision to contact me to talk about their situation...it would be a timewaster. And I would stop writing it.

Especially in the startup phase of your business, if you're not getting actual qualifying conversations with prospects, you're wasting your time.

Marketing doesn't count.

Got it?

I'll say it again: Marketing doesn't count.

Real sales conversations count.

Going to a meetup and having a good time with follow business owners who are in the same boat as you does not count.

Joining the Chamber so you can put a sticker on your door does not count.

"Unfortunately, you aren't a member of the Chamber. So I can't give you the order." Said no one, ever.

And at the startup phase, you cannot afford to waste your precious resources like time and money on things that do not directly lead to revenue.

The Difference Between Attending Big Networking Events and Deciding to Join the Chamber of Commerce

Depending on what kind of business you're starting, attending a large networking event may make sense. Notice there are some critical differences between the Chamber or an ongoing meetup group and a big networking event that qualify the kind of person you're going to meet. A networking event:

  • is one time vs ongoing
  • attracts people who paid real money; they made an investment to be there
  • operates at a higher level
  • has a better focus then the catch-all Chamber's
  • is out of your local area, and gets you meeting people from outside your typical geographic zone.

But again, unless your business strategy relies on meeting such people (and I doubt it does), a networking event is a high-priced luxury and timewaster you cannot afford at startup.

Your resources are very limited when you begin a business. Make sure you're using them effectively: if an activity does not directly lead to sales conversations, don't do it.

>> Jason Kanigan is a business development expert. If you found this information helpful, and know someone who would benefit from it, please Like or Share. And if you have a question, please Comment below! <<

Jason Kanigan

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