How can SMEs benefit from membership of a local business groups?

Online business forums regularly feature debate on the costs versus the benefits of membership of local business groups, such as the Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors or the Federation of Small Businesses, all of which have local branches linked to their national bodies.
In some, members can access cheaper, or free, business banking as well as legal advice and better insurance deals.
Others offer a wider range of benefits that include the ability to network and make connections with other local businesses that may be potential clients or customers, and access to support services, trade missions and information on trading overseas.
Access to local information and marketing intelligence can make all the difference between growth and stagnation.
Many SMEs use local business groups to enhance their own sales team. They collaborate to share contacts and this approach works particularly well when members promote each others’ business and solicit leads on behalf of each other.
Owning a small business can be a very lonely experience so the opportunity to link with others cannot be over-estimated. To some extent what you get from membership will depend on how active you are within the organisation.
Do you belong to a local business organisation? Have you found it valuable to your business and do you have any tips for others considering joining one?

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