Question stems from the need to clarify appropriate avenues to network with professionals locally. Particularly, well established professionals.
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.
I agree with Jason on this.
This is a relic of the past where many of the local chambers are insular and imploding in membership.
I have found locally that in order to *speak* at a local chamber event, they have a requirement that you first pay to become a member.
There are many ways of networking with local entrepreneurs (and customers / prospects) and I'd recommend if that is what you want to do -- get involved with a local meetup.com group (or two+). They seem pretty targeted.
I use meetup.com for our little local non-profit (www.meetup.com/GangplankRVA) and it seems to be a fairly good way of meeting new people.
Hope this helps and let me know if you'd like to discuss more about the "necessity" of joining a local chamber...
- michael vizdos
It depends on what you're looking to do and what your niche is. There is no "one size fits all" answer for marketing. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Just remember, Chambers of Commerce are normally full of people who are trying to hock their own "wares" and don't care at all about purchasing more services.
Will you get an concessional client? Maybe. Will it be worth the fees and dues and wasting hours of your night listening to a banker try to convince you he has cheaper rates than the 4 other bankers within ten feet of you? Probably not.
There are MUCH more effective ways to do marketing. If you want to discuss, shoot me a call request.
Necessary? No. Beneficial? Probably. I just joined our local chamber again after a hiatus for several years. Within the 1st week I had a breakfast meeting with the executive director who wanted to potentially partner up on some projects because he liked my background and how I presented myself at the 2 events I had attended that prior week. Great way to kick off 2015. But as with any networking - whether online or off it will only benefit you if you work at it. On a personal note - I prefer to do business whether for my business or personally with people I know, and I think many are the same. So this type of networking will definitely benefit you in many ways. While you may not get immediate work or referrals - over time people will know you and recommend you when someone needs your service!
Also it will depend on the management of the chamber as well if it is a valuable asset for you. I happened to get referred to this one by someone who really admires the people in it. So if you do decide to join on, definitely get feedback. Every chamber is different and I do know there are some out there that offer no value.
I have had some good experience with Chamber events, social hours, lunches etc, but I have never got any business from them.