A national survey of 2,000 adults reveals that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy because two-thirds of consumers believe that such companies use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers, and are involved in the community.

The study, conducted by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, found consumer perceptions of chamber members to be positive in many ways:

  • When consumers know that a small business is a member of a local chamber of commerce, they are 49% more likely to think favorably of it and 80% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.
  • When consumers know that a restaurant franchise is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 68% more likely to eat at the franchise in the next few months.
  • When consumers know that an insurance company is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 36% more likely to think favorably of the company.

Major Impact on Small Businesses 

Small businesses represent the largest segment of most local chamber membership rolls, and the study indicates that chamber membership has consistent and powerful benefits for small business members—if consumers are aware that the small business is involved with its local chamber.

For example, if respondents know that a small business is a member of its local chamber, the business enjoys a 49% increase in its consumer favorability rating, a 73% increase in consumer awareness, a 68% increase in its local reputation, and an 80% increase in the likelihood that consumers will patronize the business in the future.

Most people know fairly well what their local chambers do; the study assessed the effect of this knowledge on perceptions of chamber members. The researchers said ”any belief about the chamber of commerce—whether that belief was true or not—could have a significant positive impact on how someone views a member… he or she is more likely to think that the member company’s products stack up well and have a favorable opinion toward the company.”

The key factor in developing and maintaining positive consumer perception of chamber members, the Schapiro Group said, was that “positive outcomes only occur when consumers know that a business is a chamber member (i.e., being involved in the chamber is a known facet of the company’s reputation).”

Accordingly, when consumers know that a large business is a member of the chamber, they are likely to patronize the company more often, to express favorable opinions about the company, to know more about the company, and to buy the company’s products.

The study, commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), in cooperation with the Western Association of Chamber Executives, was sponsored by Insperity, a Houston-based company that provides human resources and other business services to more than 100,000 businesses nationwide. J. Mac Holladay, founder and CEO of Market Street Services, an economic development firm in Atlanta, was a key contributor of concepts used to develop the study.

The new study tracks similar data reported by The Schapiro Group in 2007. “Despite changes in markets and demographics, a nagging recession and the growing influence of the internet, the chamber brand today is stronger and more dynamic than ever,” said ACCE President Mick Fleming. “We’re proud that the numbers prove, once again, that engagement in a chamber means a positive perception of the business in the eyes of the buying public.”

So what is a Chamber of Commerce?

At the foot of Warren Street in Hudson there is a beautifully restored firehouse that is home to an Information Center that is part of Columbia Chamber of Commerce.  Chamber states can be seen in many business windows but some people say, “It sounds interesting but what is a Chamber of Commerce?”

This local Chamber of Commerce was established in 1976 as a local entity created to foster local business growth.  Through the years, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce has become the leading local voice of business.  The Chamber employs a full-time staff of three people that carryout the mission of providing: advocacy, promotion and benefit solutions to over 850 members.  While that is the Chamber’s mission statement, many people still wonder what exactly a Chamber is.  Are they a County agency, funded by New York State, part of the U.S. Chamber? What type of work do they do?

“We are an independent organization that exists solely through the financial support of our business members.  We are in business to strengthen local business,” stated Chamber President and CEO David Colby. As for the U.S. Chamber?  “We have no affiliation with that national business group,” said Colby.  “We are not even a member…our focus is local,” he adds.

At the heart of each local economy and comprising the backbone of the nation’s economy, you’ll find local Chambers of Commerce. They celebrate and promote the diversity and uniqueness of their communities, and help businesses work to solve issues that are too big to tackle alone.

Chambers are independent business organizations, generally incorporated as a non-profit 501 c (6) business. Chambers are not part of the local, state, or federal government, though Chambers communicate with government to accomplish things that are in the best interest of their members.

Chambers are funded primarily by membership dues as well as non-dues items such as events and sponsorships. The vast majority of Chamber members are small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.  Chambers of Commerce are typically strong business advocates, that can only work with support of the local business community.

Today’s Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, focuses on a broad range of activities and support for both businesses and communities.  This particular chamber provides opportunities for members to make an impact on critical business and community issues.  Together with other community leaders and Chamber members a professional staff works to make the community a better place.

For decades, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce has charged full-time staff to work with volunteer board and committee members to fulfill member needs.  It is a structure that works as the organization gets direction from local business people but they are freed up to spend the majority of their time running their own business.

Every chamber of commerce is different and has a unique set of benefits and programs.  The Columbia County Chamber identifies three main areas of focus:  Advocacy, Promotion and Benefit Solutions.

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, with its 850 members, is the leading voice of business in Columbia County, providing advocacy, promotional and benefit solutions for its members.  Those seeking more information concerning the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and membership can contact the Chamber at (518) 828-4417 or visit the website at www.columbiachamber-ny.com