Joining and becoming active in your local chamber of commerce is an excellent way to increase your store’s visibility within your local business area. In addition to meeting a number of key local business contacts who can turn into group sales and individual patrons of your store, your chamber of commerce offers inexpensive advertising programsthat place your store front and center with the chamber’s membership.
Attending as many chamber events in your community as possible enables you to get to know the other businesses in the area and stay top-of-mind with key networkers. The time commitment is negligible throughout the year, but the payback can be quick since most chamber members share the same trade area as you and are very well-connected throughout it.
Searching the Internet, find the closest chamber of commerce that serves your trade area. In some instances, you may want to join multiple chambers that share your trade area.
Manage A Schedule: Select and participate in chamber events that are best suited for your store, using your chamber’s year-long calendar as a guide. These events can range from after-hours networking events to chamber sub-committee meetings to chamber sidewalk sales and business expos. Most local chambers offer hosting opportunities where you can host a chamber event right in your store.
Local Contacts: The benefit of joining the local chamber is that most members are in fact, local. Contact relationships that are fostered at chamber meetings and events can translate into meaningful opportunities all within your trade area. Rarely are you going to meet people that will not have some sort of impact on your retail location.
Good Corporate Citizen: Knowing local key business leaders will open up a number of sales opportunities for your store which, in turn, will help drive sales and profits for the store. In addition, participating in a variety of events throughout the year will enable your store to be a good corporate citizen and give back to the communities in which you serve.
One Stop Shop: Many chambers offer monthly networking events that members can host at their business location. These are often attended by upwards of 100 members and provide you an excellent opportunity to have 100 business leaders visit your store and sample your products firsthand. Many of these events are monthly and simply attending with a goal of meeting up to ten members at each event can expand your network by 100+ over the course of a year.
Reasonable Costs: This depends on the sponsorship level by the company, but with most chambers, you can participate at the lowest level and receive the basic membership. In my experience, annual member fees are typically in the $100 to $300 range, so the cost is reasonable, provided that you take advantage of the networking events.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.