How chambers of commerce can transform your business
Growing a business is a goal that may be achieved through many different channels. Some businesses start by looking for extra funding, while others focus on developing new products or improving their existing services, training their staff or increasing sales to existing clients. Attracting new customers tends to be one of the main points in any growth plan.
Chambers of commerce can be an excellent platform on which to base some of your efforts to reach potential clients and to find new business leads. Companies offering all sorts of products and services can benefit greatly from membership of one or more chambers of commerce. Take the example of Vanner Perez Notaries, a London-based law firm that has joined four different chambers of commerce in less than a year.
A chamber of commerce is an organisation set up to further the interests of its members, and of businesses in general. There exist chambers of commerce at local, regional and national levels, as well as chambers set up to promote businesses abroad or attract foreign investment.
Typically, members of a chamber of commerce will pay a membership fee that gives them access to a number of services and benefits. Some chambers of commerce offer different membership types (e.g. full member or associate) and some chambers also offer certain services to businesses that are not members, usually for a fee.
Among the services some chambers of commerce offer at the initial or expansion stages of a business are things like general advice, mentoring, market research projects, trips to business exhibitions and fairs, trade missions, etc. The website of the British Chambers of Commerce, which brings together 53 accredited chambers of commerce from all over the UK, contains detailed information about services for businesses and trade events.
Apart from the core business services that members may get directly from the chamber’s personnel, one of the huge advantages of belonging to a chamber of commerce is that these organisations act as business networks, introducing and keeping members in touch with each other and facilitating the building of lasting business relationships.
Chambers of commerce organise regular events – some for members only and some open to non-members – to encourage contact between businesses and to promote the finding of business leads and opportunities. Most chambers tend to mix up business-focused events with more social occasions. In fact, membership of many chambers of commerce comes with the perk of enjoying events such as wine-tasting sessions, embassy receptions or private viewings of art exhibitions. All of these are perfect opportunities to establish closer links with fellow members, which often leads to referrals.
Some chambers of commerce organise their own award ceremonies to celebrate the achievements of their members. These awards are often publicly advertised and are an excellent opportunity for businesses to establish their reputation and gain visibility. For example, the London Chamber of Commerce organises every year the Business Achievement Awards, where various categories of businesses see their efforts recognised in different areas.
Chambers of commerce do not only help members to promote their services among fellow members. Often, they also offer certain advertising services, such as the possibility to place banners in the chamber’s website or ads in their periodic magazine or gazette.
Finally, for those wishing to become fully involved with their chosen chamber, a chamber of commerce is usually run by an elected council or board, chosen among the chamber’s members. Becoming a candidate and eventually an elected member of a chamber’s council is an excellent way to have an active and influential role in your business community, which can in turn have a very positive impact on the visibility and credibility of your own business.