Local Chambers: A best resource to tap to gain competitive edge

(Editor’s note: The Blount County Chamber of Commerce serves 1,350 businesses and organizations from Blount and surrounding counties. During the month of August, the Chamber is conducting a membership drive with incentives to join and become involved in the Blount County Chamber. Information on contacting staff, including Julia Kyle, Executive Vice President of Membership, (865-273-1213, jkyle@blountchamber.com) and specific board members who can provide information are available on the chamber website (www.blountchamber.com) or by calling the chamber.

In these tough economic times, small businesses need to tap the resources that are available in their communities to weather the storm. They need to look no further than their local chambers for help.

Local chambers advocate for small businesses at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Every day, they work to keep government at bay so that you can focus on running your business. They also introduce you to potential customers through business referral programs, market your business online and in their directories, and offer special discounts through various affinity programs such as insurance, shipping, and office supplies.

Local chambers are a one-stop shop for business information, including market access information for small businesses thinking about expanding, economic profiles of the community, workforce statistics, contact information for government officials, and regional trend studies.

Small business tool kits, which are found on your local chamber’s Web site, can help with developing business, marketing, and communications plans as well as finding capital. If you’re thinking about expanding your business, the local chamber should be your first call.

Local chambers are one of the best places to make business connections. After-hour networking programs and networking luncheons on topics relevant to business help you stay in the game and gain a competitive edge.

In addition, membership in your local chamber can greatly enhance your company’s brand. A national study titled The Real Value of Joining a Local Chamber of Commerce, conducted by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based marketing research firm, suggests the following:

n When consumers know that a business is a member of the local chamber, they are 44 percent more likely to think favorably of it.

n Consumers who are told that a business is a chamber member are 51 percent more likely to be highly aware of it and 57 percent more likely to think positively of its local reputation.

n Consumers are 63 percent more likely to buy goods and services in the future from a company that they believe is a member of the local chamber of commerce.

In addition, when business decision makers believe that a business is a chamber member, they are 37 percent more likely to think favorably of the business, 51 percent more likely to be highly aware of it, 58 percent more likely to think positively of its local reputation, and 59 percent more likely to buy goods and services from it.

With numbers like this, run--don’t walk--to your local chamber and get engaged with its program of work. A strong chamber symbolizes a strong community -- both benefit from each other.

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