Bowling for Business: Chamber Made for Marketing

(This column first appeared on on May 8, 2011.)

The TLC show Extreme Couponing kind of freaks me out. I mean, who has 60 hours a week to clip and organize coupons, much less storage for 72 boxes of detergent and 433 tubes of toothpaste, even if the net cost for the items is 12 cents? Don’t get me wrong. I love a bargain as much as any other red-blooded American. But my own forays into the coupon game have proved far less successful.

On the few Sundays a year I actually remember to haphazardly tear coupons from the newspaper, I inevitably leave them at home only to realize the mistake while standing in line at the supermarket. But that doesn’t mean I am throwing in the towel. I’m determined to save money any way I can.

The economy has made it necessary for most of us to carefully measure every single purchase. If it doesn’t cut the mustard, it gets axed. And, in many ways, this is a good thing. After all, why pay for something unless it actively improves the bottom line?

When it comes to marketing, one expense that almost always makes sense is membership in a local chamber of commerce. Services included and fees charged vary from chamber to chamber. So check with your local organization for specifics. But some features are standard:

  • Listing in an online and/or printed directory
  • Hyperlink from the chamber website to your own
  • Networking opportunities at mixers, luncheons and special events
  • Advertising partnership opportunities. (The Lake Arrowhead Chamber, for example, allows members to pay a nominal fee for targeted email blasts.)
  • Access to accurate contact information for B2B marketing
  • Entry to educational classes such as business seminars and economic symposiums
  • The ability to contribute to your local business community. Run for an appointment to the board of directors or volunteer to help pull off a big event.

For some, chamber membership can mean the difference between the successful survival of your business and abject failure. Take Lake Arrowhead, for example. Marketing Director for the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce, Leslie McLellan, maintains that “social media saved Lake Arrowhead.”

In The Social Media Examiner, blogger Casey Hibbard recounts the way McLellan and the Lake Arrowhead Chamber has used social media since 2009 to bolster business activity at a time when advertising budgets were slashed. Since the chamber used social media to promote the Lake Arrowhead area on behalf of member businesses, the entire community benefited.

Whatever your marketing budget, don’t miss out on opportunities to leverage your chamber membership to even greater effect.

For Free—

Consider combining your own social media efforts with the activities of your local chamber by hosting a social media summit. If the movers and shakers in your community can agree to use common Twitter hashtags for promoting community events, cross-promoting via Facebook Fan Pages and dividing and conquering blog topics to market community events, everyone will benefit.


On a Limited Budget—

Instead of acting as if you live on an island, collaborate with leadership and members of your local chamber to save costs and multiply the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Sharing costs for production, printing and distribution of traditional marketing materials for community events will stretch your advertising budget. And, maybe even more importantly, the more creative business minds who gather to brainstorm, the better.


The Sky’s the Limit—

If your business is located in a metropolitan city, take a cue from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber, which recently developed a formal training program they call the Supplier Network, which has business members gushing:

Without this program, I never would have expected to get my foot in the door with a Citizens Bank or Comcast, let alone secure a contract with the Delaware River Port Authority.

I developed an invaluable mentor relationship with an SN instructor from Astra Zeneca.

The series has been indispensable in my company’s development.

If your firm has resources sufficient to sponsor such a program, give it a go. The possibilities are endless. For example, why not host an educational seminar, tweet about it along with your local chamber and share costs to produce discount coupons? I would follow the tweets and might even clip the coupon myself…not that I would remember to bring it with me to the event.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

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