The past few years have been difficult for many businesses, with a protracted recession forcing consumers to change their buying habits and postpone nonessential expenditures. Business owners feel the pinch of these conservative spending habits and sometimes feel they have no place to turn for advice. That’s where chambers of commerce can help.
Especially during a recession, business leaders need to stick together, and the chamber of commerce is one way to do that. Larger chambers provide confidential counseling and business assistance at no charge to members.
The chamber is also a place where members can connect and network. Since businesses prefer to do business with other companies whose principals or workers they know, these social settings can generate sales and referrals and promote business development.
Chambers of commerce reflect their communities, and a good chamber provides multiple ways for businesses to advertise their services. In Santa Fe, local radio station KTRC-AM 1260 airs Business Matters each week, and the show is broadcast widely in Northern New Mexico. Guests on the program discuss the products and services they provide and other business topics.
To encourage and simplify communication among members, most chambers provide online and printed membership directories. Even if a business owner can’t attend all chamber-sponsored events, the directory can help him or her communicate with others through email or direct mail. Many chambers even provide preprinted mailing labels or email addresses to their members.
Some chambers provide members advertising opportunities in the form of ads on the chamber website, the membership directory or on email or postal event reminders. These ads typically support the cost of producing the publication in which the ad appears and let members know the sponsoring businesses support the local business economy.
Most chambers are charged with creating a business-friendly environment to help their member businesses grow. In larger communities, this means they work with government agencies and elected officials to develop cooperative programs that foster a positive economic-development climate. A good chamber leader learns what matters to members by encouraging discussion, listening to suggestions and acting on member recommendations — often by lobbying for business interests. If a chamber is large enough, it can organize committees to work on specific topics of interest to the membership.
According to a 2007 survey by the Schapiro Group, a market research firm based in Atlanta, consumers are 63 percent more likely to patronize a company that belongs to the local chamber. This feeling of trust extends within the chamber itself, as member businesses look favorably on businesses that identify themselves as chamber members in their marketing. The chamber’s reputation for accountability and its services to members makes it a worthwhile association for any business.
To find a chamber of commerce near you, go to www.edd.state.nm.us/linksLists and click on Chambers of Commerce.
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