Joining a chamber of commerce can be overwhelming at first. There are so many member benefits and while most are the same across many chambers, others are used differently in different Chambers. Here are a few chamber hacks that can take your membership to levels that will better meet your needs. After all, the chamber wants you to get the most out of your membership!

Start "plugging in." Start with a chamber committee that you think will help you and your business the most. Attend a meeting. Engage. Ask questions. Get to know the members of the committee. If you discover that the committee isn't a good fit for you, don't worry. You can request to be taken off the committee and join another at any time.

How else can you plug in? Attend networking events that the chamber coordinates, such as ribbon-cutting ceremonies, business before/after hours events, and groundbreaking ceremonies, most of which are usually free to attend. Take your business cards and even some brochures and wear a name badge if possible. Network, mingle and put a face to your business. You will be surrounded by people who are there to do the same.

Once you see how these events work, maybe you can schedule your own networking event. Host a seminar, hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony, schedule a business after hours event, etc. Want to know the best days and times to host one of these events? Call the chamber or stop by and ask. Most chambers keep track of attendance and dates/times of events so you can discover which dates and times have the best turnouts. Don't know what to offer at your event? Ask the chamber that question, too. The chamber staff have been to countless events and can tell you what was a big hit and what didn't work out so well.

The chamber's membership list is another great way to plug in. You can access the Chamber's membership list on their website in their membership profile directory or ask your chamber for a printed list or digital copy. New members come on board each month so there is no problem in asking for the list several times throughout the year. Chambers want their members to connect and the membership directory is a great way to make connections. When you get the membership directory, go through the list and circle a few members you want to meet. Take that list to the chamber and ask them if they can help you facilitate a meeting. The chamber staff communicates with their members in numerous ways and can help connect you to the right contact at an organization. They know who attends the meetings, who serves on their board, who regularly attends functions and can help point you in the right direction for a warm call.

Make a plan for how to best use the member benefits. This plan can include:

• Submitting calendar items often. Some chambers have a way you can directly access their member management system to input your own calendar items. Others you can email or call with your calendar item submission.

• Putting the chamber on your email list and ask that the information is used when possible for calendar items and newsletters.

• Asking when you can pass out fliers for your business at chamber functions. Many chambers allow members to do this at monthly luncheons and other events as a free service to members.

• Asking when the next membership directory and map will be printed so you can advertise in it. These documents aren't usually printed every year and they give members great exposure.

• Thinking of a great discount to offer to other members and contact the chamber to be added to their member discount program.

• Seeing if your chamber has a member e-blast service where your business' information is sent to everyone in their contact list for a small fee. Each chamber has to monitor the email addresses they have and ensure that the emails are accurate, so it is a great way to ensure that people are getting the information you want to be sent. Chambers are not allowed to give their members' email addresses out, so an e-blast service is a great alternative.

• Displaying your business' information on its display racks in its office. Residents and business people often stop by the chamber to pick up business cards, brochures and other information and your business should be displayed there.

• Attending monthly luncheons. You are going to eat anyway, why not pay the same price and hear from a great presenter, meet other business leaders and network at the same time.

• Following the chamber's activities. Download their mobile app. Review their Website. Follow them on social media and engage with their posts.

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