Membership can be a good way to build your drain cleaning business.
For cleaning contractors interested in increasing their commercial client base, joining a local chamber of commerce is still a reliable source for relationship building. After all, chambers exist to help local businesses grow and thrive. Used strategically, their resources can get your business in front of community leaders, fellow business owners and important influencers.
Here are just a few ways your local chamber of commerce can help your business grow:
Build authority and trust
By joining a chamber of commerce, you are sending a powerful sign that your company is putting down roots in the local community. There is an implication that you want to build relationships and aren’t some “here today, gone tomorrow” company.
This is especially important to consider if you are starting a company from scratch, with no brand recognition. People do business with people, and are a lot more likely to take a chance on an unknown drain cleaner if they can look you in the eye. Putting a face to your business goes a long way toward building trust.
Most likely, your chamber of commerce has a much wider social media and community footprint than your individual business. Engaging in your chamber, rather than just joining it, can afford some great opportunities to promote your business for little to no additional cost. Even the little things add up over time, like the link to your website from theirs, which helps your search engine optimization.
Chambers want to celebrate their member businesses, so be sure to share good news with them. Often, they are willing to share this on their social media or in newsletters, spreading your message to fellow member businesses and community members. If you don’t have the time, resources, or connections for formal PR, this simple spreading of the word within your local business community can be a great alternative.
If you can commit to attending one networking event per month, a chamber of commerce event is an excellent choice. Used strategically, networking events can be powerful opportunities to connect with decision-makers at other local businesses. This is also a great way to reconnect with businesses that you have done work for in the past, but have gone dormant or have started working with your competitors. It’s neutral territory, and a great place to start a casual conversation about how you can serve them better.
Networking events also tend to attract Realtors, mortgage brokers, lawyers, and other home service-related individuals who can be great allies for drain cleaners. Don’t overlook opportunities to become friendly with these effective networkers. Strategic alliances can be powerful (and free) referral engines for your business.
If you have had your eye on a particular prospect who happens to be a fellow member, the chamber can be a great place to find a warm introduction. Sometimes, the chamber staff themselves will be comfortable setting up a meeting or writing an email. In general though, the ideal solution would be for a fellow member who already has a good working relationship with the individual to do the introduction. Be smart about whom you ask and never approach someone you wouldn’t be willing to do an introduction for in return. Remember, that individual’s reputation in the eyes of your prospect will be their first impression of your business. Be careful who you keep company with.
Finally, be wary of using the strategic introduction too often and without returning the favor. You don’t want to seem like a leech. Leave this tactic for the hard-to-reach big fish clients.
Community involvement opportunities
It is not unusual for the chamber of commerce to work closely with the city and other civic-minded organizations. With these partnerships sometimes come unique opportunities to be active and present in your community. These opportunities are often sponsorships, but might also look like volunteering, hosting a booth at a local fair, or a participating in a parade float. These are all great ways to get your brand in front of business owners and community residents alike.
It would be a mistake to overlook the business education opportunities that chambers around the country provide to their members. Lunch and Learns are a favorite format for chambers and provide great content on a wide variety of topics that affect every business.
These topics might range from generational conflict in the workplace to social media marketing and will likely feature local subject matter experts. Often these experts come from within the chamber membership itself. Drain cleaning has its own set of unique opportunities and challenges, but it is good to be reminded that many of our basic operational concerns are the same as every other small-business owner in town.
What to expect from a chamber membership
Chamber membership for a business is typically pretty easy. The cost of your memberships may be dependent on the size of the chamber, the size of your business or how involved you want to be. Additional brand promotion opportunities are often available for those willing to join at a higher level or pay additional fees throughout the year. Consider how active you plan to be and what your goals are before choosing a membership level, if they are available.
Veteran networkers will tell you that a chamber membership is as valuable as the time and effort you put into it. Whether that means attending networking events, volunteering for committees or attending seminars, the point of a membership is to be seen and heard in the business community. That role doesn’t always have to be filled by the business owner though. In fact, going to networking events is a great exercise for employees who you might be grooming for leadership, both in the office and in the field. Just be sure that the individual has an interest and understands the importance and goals of the membership. An employee who attends but is not engaged may do more harm than good.
If you serve multiple municipalities, you might be faced with the opportunity to join multiple chambers of commerce. Deciding which one and how many chambers to join may be a difficult decision. It may behoove you to join every chamber in your area, but unless you have the capacity to be present at an event at least once per month, the money may be better used elsewhere. Depending on your unique business needs, it may make more sense to concentrate on the areas where you are trying to increase your business presence or the areas where you are already most successful.
Before you join, ask if you can visit a chamber event as a guest, so you can get a feel for the culture. Some chambers are more social in nature, focusing primarily on networking while others are more scholarly, focused on creating education opportunities for their members.
While at your guest event, consider how many people, and who, is in attendance. Far more important than the gross number of members is how active that membership is in their chamber.
Having a strategy and understanding the culture of your chamber of commerce are key elements to ensuring the value of your chamber of commerce membership. Usually, joining a chamber is a worthwhile investment for businesses who are interested in becoming active members. There is no better way to engage your local business community and shake hands with the leaders in your area.
About the author: Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.