Thursday, June 5, 2003

Chambers Don't Work

Chambers of commerce don’t help your business.

Have you ever joined a chamber of commerce with the hope and dream of business networking success? Sure you have. We all do it. We join networking groups and chambers in the hope of getting more business for our company. Most of the time it fails. But it isn't necessarily your fault.

The main reason chambers of commerce fail to produce new business for most of us is the philosophy of the chambers themselves – they're not interested in helping small business succeed. Here is a story that sums it all up:

I was contacted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to become a member. I asked the sales person, “How do I get more business from my membership?” He stated, “You go to networking events and make contacts.” I have been to at least 100 networking events and I know how they work. You get to stand up and introduce yourself to hundreds of other people all looking for business, not interested in help from you. How does this get you business? It doesn’t. The members of the chamber that spend five thousand dollars on an executive membership get to meet the real business people and network with companies that can actually buy your services, not the standard members with basic memberships just trying to survive.

I decided I would try to help other chamber members by creating an online tool that would allow the free exchange of business on the Atlanta chamber’s website. They agreed (with reluctance) to put it online and send out a letter. They sent out only one letter...with the wrong password! The letter never went into the details of what the system was supposed to do… get the members projects, make them money, and grow their businesses (the very raison d'être of the chamber in the first place). I offered to come in and give presentations and talk about how the exchange was supposed to be used and how it would benefit the members. They never let me. They weren't interested.

Consider your local metro chamber. They make their money by getting small business owners to join for a year. Once you leave, disgruntled and $500 poorer, there will be other small business owners to take your place – hopeful business men and women who have no idea there is no “real” exchange of business in the chamber that can grow their business.

- Matt Francis, Interscape Inc. fb

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