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Design Business + Chamber of Commerce = SuccessOne of the best marketing tools available to your design business is your local Chamber of Commerce. If you are not taking advantage of how this organisation can help you grow, you are missing out. Big time.
What is a Chamber of Commerce?
A Chamber of Commerce sometimes called a “board of trade”, is an association or a network of businesses and business people formed with the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of its members.
The Chamber of Commerce is not a new idea. The very first one was founded in France in 1599. The first one in the USA was started in New York in 1768. Nowadays, you can find them in almost every country and most cities around the world.
One of the primary roles of the Chamber of Commerce is to debate, promote and lobby for or against municipal, state/provincial and even federal policies and laws that affect businesses in your area. They have no direct role in creating laws or regulations, but they are very effective in influencing people who do create them.
At the municipal level, your Chamber of Commerce is there to advocate and promote its members. That’s why you should join your local Chamber of Commerce.
What benefits do Chamber members receive?
There are many benefits to joining your Chamber of Commerce. Although some benefits will differ from Chamber to Chamber some common ones are:
- Your business listed in its member directory.
- Receiving deals and discounts from other chamber members.
- Your business gets promoted in your region.
- Having a voice in shaping local business policies in your area.
- Free or discounted admission to exclusive events such as networking and social events, guest presentations, trade shows, etc.
- Being a member adds credibility to your business.
Why you should join your Chamber of Commerce.
The main reason you should join your local Chamber of Commerce is for the support of like-minded business people that can help you succeed.
You know that networking is a critical element of growing your design business. If nobody knows who you are, how are people going to know to hire you? Joining your Chamber of Commerce gives you an opportunity to meet and network with other local business owners, the company decision-makers, the people who hire designers like you.
Imagine the Chamber of Commerce as an exclusive club. Many members take this club very seriously and will often look to fellow Chamber members whenever they need help with something. Including looking for design services like yours.
I have several good clients that initially contacted me because I'm a fellow member of the Chamber of Commerce. Some met me at a networking event; some saw my business in the member directory, and the Chamber referred me to others.
The Chamber of Commerce itself also requires design services for the many events and promotions it puts on throughout the year. Who do you think they will turn to for these designs? Chamber members who are designers of course.
Free Marketing for your design business
As a member of your Chamber of Commerce, you also get free marketing for your business. Let me repeat that; FREE MARKETING. This free marketing may come in the form of exposure through physical or electronic newsletters, the Chamber's social media posts and other forms of publications. The Chamber loves spreading the word about its members because it helps them attract more members who want the same attention.
Have you designed a new logo or website for a fellow Chamber Member? Let the Chamber know, and they’ll tell everyone about the great work you've done in their next newsletter.
On a side note; once you are a Chamber member, please make sure you read your Chamber’s newsletters. The Chamber of Commerce is often the first one to break the news of new business starting in or coming to your area. Often, at the very earliest stages of those businesses. Talk about an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to people who need your services.
How people view the Chamber
Many people, whether they are a chamber member or not, see their local Chamber of Commerce as an authority when they are searching for products and services. New businesses starting or relocating to your area will turn to the Chamber of Commerce for help and guidance in finding the local talent they can hire.
That authority means people TRUST their opinion when the Chamber recommends a business to them. And if there is a Chamber member that offers the sought after product or service, that’s who the Chamber of Commerce will recommend before anyone else.
Look at these numbers compiled by American Business Magazine.
- 44% of consumers are more likely to think favourably of businesses who are members of their local chamber.
- 51% of companies are more aware of businesses who are Chamber members than businesses who are not.
- 63% of consumers are more likely to buy products or services from businesses who are members of their local chamber.
- 57% of consumers view Chamber of Commerce members as trustworthy and are more likely to believe their products or services are better than competitors.
- There's a 63% increase in the likelihood that someone who doesn’t require your services now, will use you in the future knowing you are a member of your Chamber of Commerce.
Those numbers alone should be enough to convince you that joining your Chamber of Commerce is a good move.
A wealth of contacts
I mentioned above that one of the perks of joining the Chamber of Commerce is to be listed in their member directory. That directory is available to the public. Since the Chamber of Commerce has a reputation for promoting good business, by association, having your name or company listed in their directory gives the perception that you too are a good business to deal with. As a result, clients will have a more favourable impression of your business and trust you more.
The Chamber's member directory is also an excellent tool for you. Use it as a contact list and promote your services to fellow Chamber members on your own or through one of your Chamber’s promotional avenues.
What a fantastic icebreaker for cold calling.
“Hi John, I was looking through the Chamber dirctory and noticed that you’re a fellow Chamber member. I was wondering if you had time available for us to meet and discuss your overall brand strategy to see what we can do to grow your businesss?”
Merely mentioning that you are a fellow Chamber member may be all you need for the client to say yes to meeting you. You could even offer them a deal, discount or bonus exclusive to Chamber members as an incentive.
You should view your Chamber of Commerce as your business partner. It’s a valuable tool for any business owner and if fully utilised, can help you grow your design business.
Every Chamber is different
Every Chamber of Commerce is unique in its way. They offer various benefits, resources and opportunities to their members. However, their end goal is the same. They serve as an influential voice for the well-being of the local business environment. Including helping to promote and improve the growth of local businesses.
Joining your Chamber of Commerce will grant you access to opportunities that will allow you to make connections, meet potential new clients and gain exposure for your design business.
I’ve been talking about your local Chamber of Commerce. But most Chambers allow members from outside their immediate area, providing you do business in their community. Meaning, you can join a Chamber of Commerce outside of your community.
If you live in an area that is not served by a Chamber of Commerce, or if you live in a smaller community with a less active Chamber of Commerce. Look into joining adjacent or nearby Chambers where you would like to do business.
Do your part
I probably don’t have to say this but, merely joining your Chamber of Commerce is not enough. You can’t just pay the membership fee then sit back and wait for new clients to come calling. You need to take advantage of what the Chamber offers and partake in the events they organise if you want this partnership to help you.
People still need to know who you are and what you do before they will hire you and the Chamber needs to know who you are before they recommend you. By involving yourself in your Chamber of Commerce, your chances of success are much higher than if you tried doing all of this on your own.
And just in case you need any more incentive to join your Chamber of Commerce, your Chamber membership fee is tax deductible.
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce?
Let me know how being a Chamber member is working for you by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Penn
Hi Mark, I have a question for you regarding web/graphic design. I graduated with a degree in graphic design 10 years ago, but during all that time, I never really pushed myself to get involved in web design and learn to do it well. Now I've come to the point in my career where I need to start doing extra work on my own time, but I realize that clients need web and mobile design more than ever before, and perhaps more than most other types of design. As a result, I'm using online learning to try to get familiar with html, css, and other web design essentials in order to be able to serve new clients with these skills. Could you explain on a podcast episode the steps you take in actually designing and building a website? I'm sure I'm not the only graphic designer who listens to your podcast facing this problem, but if I am, then any helpful insights or resources that unveil some of the mystery surrounding this process would mean a whole lot!
To find out what I told Penn you’ll have to listen to the podcast. Here's a link to the WordPress Plug-in checklist I mentioned in my answer.
Resource of the week Onepixel
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org