Many business owners join their local chamber of commerce because they recognize that their customers associate chamber affiliation with ethics, professionalism, and commitment to the community.

One study on consumer preferences found that 63% of consumers prefer to shop and do business with chamber members. So it is no surprise that business owners gladly pay membership dues and place the chamber logo on their websites and front doors.

But many of those businesses are not taking advantage of opportunities to increase sales and brand awareness. Yes, their chamber membership boosts their credibility in consumers' eyes, but a chamber membership potentially offers a lot more.

Here are five ways business owners can derive value from their chamber membership.

1. Get on the chamber's site

One of the very first challenges new business owners face is quickly spreading the word about their venture. Did you know that many chambers offer their members space on the chamber's website for a nominal fee or even free? Aligning your company with the chamber website is a strategic move that allows you to share in the large number of community visits it generates.

At the Monroeville Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania, membership includes your own profile page on the organization's website. Debbie Iszauk, membership services director, says, "Our members frequently use their online profile page on the chamber's website to give their customers a convenient point of reference to learn more about the services they offer. Members can post coupons, share company news, and communicate with our community at large through their profile page."

2. Let the chamber promote your news

Most "how to" articles regarding free publicity tell you to ingratiate yourself with local reporters so that they will publish news about your company. At the chamber, no such effort is needed. One of its services is publishing news about its members’ companies and promoting their events—on its website, in a weekly email, or in a newsletter. Inform your local chamber of what's new at your company.

3. Demonstrate your industry expertise via writing

As already mentioned, most chambers are eager to publish their members' news and events. However, an even better way of using print to get in front of potential sales leads is to write an article that other business owners will find useful and relevant. Chambers are very willing to post well-written articles submitted by members in their newsletter, on their website, or in their LinkedIn group.

"We've found that members who provide educational content are able to promote themselves as experts instead of salespersons," says Matthew DiLallo, director of operations at The Chamber of Commerce. "Readers can contact them for their expert advice, which then becomes a very easy sales lead to convert."

Ask your local chamber for guidance on what is an appropriate format and then take the time to write a professional article that adds value to other members' businesses.

4. Talk about your business

Many local chambers of commerce offer ample opportunities for members to give presentations that introduce themselves and their businesses to fellow members and the community.

Speaking formats vary from one-minute "commercials" you give about yourself to 30-minute presentations that allow you to provide in-depth information about your company. Other opportunities can include serving on expert panels at seminars or serving as an emcee for a chamber conference.

One of the benefits of these speaking opportunities is that they are in front of "safe" audiences. That means the room is full of people just like you, and they will be supportive. As businesspeople, they appreciate the pressure of giving a presentation, and they understand that everyone is there to network and pitch their services.

5. Host an after-hours event

You spend a large part of your day chasing down sales leads. Why not entice them to come right to your front door? Hosting an after-hours chamber networking event is an excellent way to attract throngs of potential sales leads right to your own office. After-hours functions are typically more social than strictly sales-oriented daytime events, but the acquaintances you make can be invaluable.

Don't have adequate space for guests or you work out of a home office? Not a problem. Many small businesses partner with another chamber member to host after-hours gatherings. That still gives you the desirable host privileges. Hosts of after-hours networking typically get advertising signage, recognition by the chamber, and an opportunity to address attendees directly and share some information about their company.

(Business team clapping image courtesy of Bigstock)

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Mike Bowman is the publisher of The Quarter Roll Financial Entertainment magazine. His goal is to take the confusion and fear out of managing money, and then make it fun and even entertaining. Reach him via