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What’s a neighborhood Chamber of Commerce and do you have to be a part of one?

There are thousands of chambers of commerce in communities in the United States. There is a good chance that your local community has one. And your state and / or your industry almost certainly have one.

If you have not yet joined a Chamber of Commerce, you may not understand all the benefits that these groups offer. Here is an overview of exactly what chambers offer and what you should consider when joining.

What is a local Chamber of Commerce?

A Chamber of Commerce is a network of local businesses or companies in a particular niche or industry. The organization is committed to promoting the interests of companies in the region or industry through advocacy, networking opportunities and various other benefits for members.

Every single chamber of commerce is completely different. There is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a nationwide group that provides resources and advocacy for companies in a variety of industries across the country. Then there are nationwide organizations, very small groups in local communities, and groups that are specific to industries in a particular area.

Tom Sullivan, Vice President of Small Business Policy and Head of the Small Business Council of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends: “All of our local Chamber of Commerce organizations are so different. But they all offer tremendous value to their members and communities. "

How do chambers of commerce help?

For example, the US Chamber of Commerce wants to help its members in several ways. First, they provide online resources that aim to inform members about various aspects of corporate governance, from finding office space to reaching out to customers online. Then they host personal events in cities across the country. The summit is scheduled for October 16 and 17 in Washington, DC. The event offers more than 25 expert speakers and educational programs designed specifically for small and growing businesses.

Finally, the group represents the interests of its members before the Congress and the White House. They fight for businesses in terms of trade and access to affordable health care.

These functions often look a little different at the local level. Your hyperlocal group is probably not in front of Congress every day. But the general idea is the same. Many local chambers represent the interests of their members before city councils or other local authorities. Many also host local networking events or promotions to drive business growth in the region. Members can also often access helpful resources, other members' expertise, and even discounts and exclusive offers from local providers.

Should Your Small Business Join a Local Chamber of Commerce?

There are many advantages to joining a Chamber of Commerce. But perhaps the biggest is how it changes your business in the eyes of consumers.

A study by the Schapiro Group found that consumers are 49 percent more likely to be positive about a company if they know that the company is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Membership also impacted consumer awareness by 73 percent and increased the likelihood that consumers would choose these companies for business by 80 percent.

According to Sullivan, trust is essential.

He says, "When you work in your local chamber of commerce, you get the impression that you are trustworthy, a leader in the community, and someone that consumers want to do business with."

The idea is that your local chamber of commerce is a trusted authority in your community. When you become a member, you can enjoy a little of this trust among your target customers.

What resources do Chambers members have?

In addition, many chambers of commerce host events and provide resources to help their members grow. For example, you can network with other members to make valuable contacts or take part in special promotions such as local restaurant weeks.

Members often also have access to exclusive discounts, for example from shipping companies, printing centers or tour operators. Some chambers have even joined forces to increase the purchasing power for health insurance for the self-employed and small business owners. This concept is currently entering the judicial system. But the US Chamber and other interest groups are struggling to get chamber members cheaper health care prices.

And what about the negatives?

Sullivan quips: "If you run a criminal company, you shouldn't join your local Chamber of Commerce. Because everyone will find out very quickly."

Realistically, most chamber of commerce organizations charge a membership fee, although rates vary from group to group. But they often drop by a few hundred dollars a year.

It is also important to find the right organizations to join. An online-only company that does not target local customers may benefit less by joining its local chamber, which hosts many local shopping events. However, it might make more sense to join an organization based on a common quality or common interest, such as the United States Chamber of Commerce or the E-Commerce Chamber.

Chamber of Commerce organizations can, in a way, help almost any company to grow and thrive. If you decide to join or not, the main thing is to find the groups in your state and region, learn the specific benefits of membership, and then weigh them up against the cost. When you find the right organizations, you can access resources and build this very important factor of trust between your company and the target customers.

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