The Chamber of Commerce has been in existence for over 100 years. And in that time it has used its power and resources to support, enable and elevate businesses around the globe. But today, the Chamber of Commerce conjures up very different meanings for different people.
While many long-term Chamber members of the businesses know exactly how and where to enjoy the full value and benefits of their membership, others might associate the Chamber with particular industries, reluctant to join due to a lack of understanding or knowledge about what that community represents.
Interestingly, The Schapiro Group has conducted research into the effectiveness of Chamber membership and whether consumers support businesses because they are chamber members. The research aimed to quantify the value of chamber membership to an individual business.
The data elicited from the study is quite interesting. Whether knowingly or not, consumers are more inclined to support a business which is an active chamber member. For example, if a company shows that is it highly involved in its local chamber, consumers are 12% more likely to think that its products and/or service stack up better against its competitors.
Equally, when consumers know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 44% more likely to think favourably of it and 63% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.
Based on the findings from the research, we can identify where and how the value of a Chamber membership might lie. It brings about the topic of ‘hidden benefits’ too. Those that might be immediately apparent. In this post, we aim to explain these in more detail, for both our members and non-members. The Chamber of Commerce objective is to be the ultimate business enabler, so here are some benefits you might be unaware of that could seriously enhance your business.
Trust and credibility
As shown in the Shapiro research, Chamber membership equals credibility.
Consumers today are incredibly savvy; they research intensely, searching for trust indicators such as reviews of satisfied customers, press stories, and memberships of trade bodies and professional organisations when assessing potential suppliers and partners. This is what is also known as social proof.
Social proof can be a huge influence in how your customers perceive you, and a Chamber membership is a valid indicator of trust. Your Chamber membership demonstrates that you are an active member of the business community, and, as illustrated by the findings from The Schapiro Group, enhances your reputation.
Trust and credibility are also contributing factors to ‘word of mouth’ promotion. Jonah Berger has written extensively about this subject and whether this can be more effective than traditional types of marketing. While traditional promotional methods are extremely effective, word of mouth has and that we trust our friends more than adverts, so recommendations can be invaluable in growing your business.
Expert advice from fellow members
Running a business, especially for the first time, is unfathomably daunting. Without a good support network and some level of guidance, there’s only so much that can be put down to guesswork and intuition.
Having on-call expert advice in times of uncertainty can be the difference between flying or failing. Chamber staff are on hand to offer expert advice, but also, so are your fellow members.
Members are not sector - or even size specific. They vary across a range of industries and sectors, facilitation opportunities are tenfold. If you are in need of a service or product with local backing, your Chamber of Commerce can help you.
Advice and information is always available from legal and accountancy to HR advice from other local firms.
Having a voice
It’s often forgotten that one of the key roles of your Chamber of Commerce is to lobby for you locally and nationally on issues affecting your business and your clients. Often behind the scenes, Chamber board members are meeting with local councils, MPs and key decision-makers regarding issues such as infrastructure plans, new regulations, and even hot topics such as pollution and Brexit. We know that the slightest wobble in the political climate can directly impact the future of your business, so this is one of the ways a Chamber membership can deliver remarkable value.
The purpose of lobbying is intended to aid in removing common obstacles and challenges that prevent or make it harder for you to do business. This could range from issues such as telecoms and WIFI, or regulatory challenges such as the GDPR.
Facilitating business opportunities
One of the key responsibilities of your local Chamber of Commerce staff is to facilitate relationships between members. Mutually beneficial relationships serve both parties, so when and where Chamber teams identify business opportunities, they will seek to facilitate a relationship accordingly. This is inherently different from hard-selling. Rather, if for example, your service or product could be of use to another party, the Chamber of Commerce will facilitate that relationship. There will be valuable relationships can go on to provide a return on investment for time to come, when valuable contacts realise that you can help support them to prosper.
Export can be a tricky venture, especially if you’ve no previous experience. It’s for this reason that many business owners forgo the opportunity to trade internationally, preferring to stick with the familiarity of the UK market.
At the Chamber of Commerce, dedicated teams are focused on helping you to export, with workshops and education available throughout the year.
The return on investment from a Chamber membership is dependent on your proactivity. If you’re willing to learn, network, and participate in order to extract the greatest value, the possibilities are multiplied. It’s equally essential to communicate these possibilities to your staff since all of the benefits that come with a Chamber membership can be shared amongst the team as all employees are entitled to enjoy the many opportunities and benefits. Are you currently making the most of your Chamber membership?