It takes time to build a local reputation, to grow your business, and to effect change in an industry. Becoming a member of a local chamber of commerce or trade association can allow you to network with the community more quickly and to make a difference.

Before joining any groups, think about what you want to get out of your membership, and how involved you plan to be. Joining a group that shares your values and priorities will allow you to spend your time in a way that most benefits you, and, by extension, your industry and those in your community.

Advantages of joining an association or chamber

  • Awareness — Learn about key issues, new ideas and best practices affecting your industry and its membership.
  • Credibility — It shows customers that you are engaged and taking initiative, staying current with changes in the environment.
  • Contacts — You have access to member databases and other resources that can be used for marketing and research.
  • Advertising — Your business can be featured in directories, and be part of group deals or discounts.
  • Savings — Take advantage of affinity programs for discounted resources, affordable benefits, and complimentary training sessions that even your employees can enjoy.
  • Networking — Find opportunities to attend events and to get referrals for your business, or to form potential partnerships.
  • Mentorship — Those with experience can offer you support and guidance, or even legal advice.
  • Lobbying — There is strength in numbers; take advantage of opportunities to lobby local government for change.
  • Visibility — In addition to referrals, you can benefit from off-site SEO if the association links to your website from theirs.

There is often a cost to join these groups, or membership fees to pay, but that can be offset by the connections and training you receive, which you might have eventually paid for in other ways. The benefits of membership can often be hard to quantify, because the value of what you get is not always tangible. However, the more you put into your membership, the more you will get out of it.

Be selective in your choices, and consider not only which groups you join, but when. It may be more beneficial to join at certain times of the year, or to limit your membership to periods when you have the time to spare.

Find out more about specific networking forums that can help you make the right connections.