Maximizing your chamber membership

Patti Noonan, executive director of the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce, urges members to get involved.

Joining your local chamber can provide your business with long-term opportunities, but how can you turn your chamber membership into a great marketing tool for your business?

The majority of towns and cities in the Okanagan Valley have a chamber of commerce. The chamber offers a variety of items to businesses, especially new ones. Chambers provide a voice for the business community – a bridge between government, small business corporations, organizations and residents.

It is not an easy job; it takes co-ordination and funding. It takes chamber members who will volunteer, who care and are dedicated. That is where you come in.

Those attending networking events will make contacts and develop new clients. Anyone can join a chamber, but a chamber is only as good as its members. In other words, you will get out of a chamber membership only what you put in to it.

Many small business owners see it as a waste of money when it is actually inexpensive, depending how you chose to use your membership. A chamber can offer long lasting advertising in the form of promotion, public relations, networking, free media coverage, and above all, fun.

If you truly want to become involved, join one of the committees. Is there an issue facing the community that is important to you? Most business owners in a community talk to between 50 and 100 people per week. That is 400 people each month.  They know you and most of all, will speak their mind to you.

You’ll never get a candy-coated answer regarding a small business concern from an actual owner. They’ll tell you how they feel, be it happy or mad. You are the most valuable tool a chamber committee could ever hope to have.

However, before you commit, you need to ask yourself: “Do I have the time?” If you don’t, don’t volunteer. There is nothing worse than a committee member who volunteers and then doesn’t pull through when needed.

If you do have the time, you will be paid in contacts, customers, and best of all, the feeling of knowing you made a difference.

How do you join a committee or task force? Talk to the president or executive director of the chamber. Tell them you want to volunteer and they can let you know what committees there are and who needs volunteers.

Join a committee that interests you. We commonly hear things like: “I don’t have time to attend meetings or be part of a committee.” If you can’t commit to the board or a committee, then volunteer to help spread the word about upcoming events and opportunities by leaving information on your counter, or by delivering this information to your customers and business contacts. Tell us how you can help – we will make it work.

Being on the board of directors is also great for business. You will receive notice when board seats come up for election. If you have questions, call one of the current board members you know or chamber staff. When you become a member of the board, make sure to attend as many meetings as possible – our chamber meets once a month, except in the summer.

Other ways to utilize your chamber membership to promote and market your business include: making sure you are listed on the chamber website, and are updating your listing regularly; posting the weekly newsletters and events for your customers and clients; and making a point of introducing yourself to the board and staff. Even just a quick hello will help them remember you and your business.

Network with service clubs and organizations like the Lions, Kinsmen, Rotary, Toastmasters and Scouts.

Help the chamber co-sponsor events. You can also volunteer to help with the Boys and Girls Club, Kindale, Bargain Bin, museum, theatre and other non-profit groups. By adding your chamber membership to a non-profit commitment, you will make a difference.

Attend events sponsored by your chamber of commerce. There are potential clients at most chamber of commerce events.

Trade shows are important and often relatively low in cost (the next Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce trade show is in April).

Your success in your business is up to you. We live in an area filled with opportunities. Your chamber membership can be one of your greatest assets, but you only get out what you put in.

Patti Noonan is the executive director of the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce.