A visit to the San Jose of the California Chamber of Commerce reveals a wonder that any kind of local business member. After all, San Jose is home to Silicon Valley Central and many well-known companies around the world.
One thing that comes to mind at a glance on the members list is the absence of heavy heaters. Of the thousands of businesses in San Jose, the one that catches the eye is the very small percentage that are annoyed by joining the San Jose Chamber of Commerce.
In the old days, Cs’s local C was the place to advertise and promote your local business. Somehow becoming a member and paying your 150 annual fee will keep you among the local elite and increase the credibility of your company.
But most local businesses, such as the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, are not members of “larger and more important” local businesses.
But it’s not just San Jose. Go to any local C of C and you will probably find the same thing. Why?
A larger image analysis shows that the “local” concept has changed. Technology and especially search technology has opened up more than just local options to local consumers worldwide.
In the old days someone did business with them that they knew or knew locally; Now local consumers can do business with any company they are looking for on the internet.
“Buy local” programs have simply become obsolete because the local concept has lost its meaning.
It was once assumed that local consumers were looking for businesses and a good way to find reliable businesses was to list the members of the local chamber of commerce. In fact the idea died out in the 1970s and 1980s and in reality there were no membership benefits between the 2000s.
In the past a new business would join in the hope of gaining local exposure and maybe get some extra business. Too bad the mixer will help serve this function.
New members were asked to bring their “pitch” and stack of business cards and hand them over to the mixer. So in reality the mixer becomes a big “let’s sell to ourselves” exercise, since very few chamberless members attend the mixer.
Another way for the local chamber to promote its members was through local collective advertising; Advertisements in brochures, local newspapers and magazines, sometimes on TV or radio spots. As the media has become more expensive, co-advertising has gone the other way.
And like many companies, C’s local C has been severely damaged financially in the recent economic downturn. As their cash flow has decreased, so has the ability of chambers to recruit and retain good staff.
Therefore, ubiquitous job postings for the chamber’s executive directors. Part of the “executive package” is that the executive director has to raise money for himself.
This means that the executive director’s primary job is not to promote local business but to raise enough money to keep the chamber afloat.
But to all fairness, it’s not just the executive director’s fault; What can a group do locally to promote themselves?
The biggest complaint today is that the chamber does little or nothing for its members so time and $ 150 fees have become harder and harder to justify. A new potential first asks the question ‘What’s in it for my business?’
If expectations are raised in the business, as many new members expect, expectations turn to despair over time. That’s too bad.
Community development requires a strong business community and a weak business community has problems.
The simple truth is that the local Cs of Cs are paying their members less and less. Unless local chambers find ways to redefine their mission and bring greater value, the chambers will simply move on to the unconventional path of newspaper advertising.