Web-based initiatives impact industries

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Web-savvy staff at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce have woven innovative initiatives into the chamber's overall program that are already having an impact on member businesses' bottom lines.

The chamber's Debit/Credit, ChamberBid and Member Press Release initiatives have proven to be especially popular with small businesses looking for ways to stretch their dollars.

"The last thing this Chamber wants is to be seen as an organization that doesn't get it," CEO/President Catherine Glover said. "The No. 1 question we always get from prospective members is 'What does the Chamber do for me?' Every businessperson should ask that question.

"We have ready answers. Our staff is always working diligently to provide programs that will indeed help our members acquire the means to thrive, which is our mission. We want to leverage every dollar that our members spend multifold. We're always looking for new opportunities to leverage our members' investments."

The ChamberBid initiative that is almost ready for widespread use by members will allow businesses to streamline the process of making needed purchases at competitive prices. The Web-based program connects members in need of products and services with other members whose businesses offer those products or services.

Through their ChamberBid profiles, participating members can find needed products or services at fair prices without time-consuming meetings.

"There's no cost for members to submit a request for proposal on the website," chamber Director of Membership Melissa Howard said of the program. "And once a request is sent out, registered members automatically receive emails outlining the request. They then have an opportunity to submit a bid at a cost of only $4."

The Albany Area Chamber has partnered with locally owned independent credit and debit card processing company Total Merchant Services of Georgia to offer savings on credit and debit card transactions and services.

"This is a program that allows our member businesses to potentially save hundreds of dollars a year, depending on how frequently their customers use debit and credit cards," Glover said.

The Debit/Credit program offers Chamber members an opportunity to sign up with Total Merchant for debit and credit card processing services with fees that are as much as 25 percent below standard rates.

"This program offers tangible benefits that affect members' bottom line," Howard said. "Businesses that utilize this service can actually see the savings.

"A lot of people say a program like this is too good to be true, or they're expecting some small print that tells them they have to pay some hidden fees. But members pay only a one-time $49 equipment installation fee, and they're provided new and warranted equipment, free supplies, and there are no cancellation or annual fees."

Chamber Director of Communications Rachelle Bitterman offers definitive evidence of the impact of the chamber's Member Press Release initiative, which allows member businesses to post promotional and informative press releases on the chamber's website, www.albanyga.com.

A recent sampling of hits from a two-week period shows 1,410 views of press releases on the chamber's site, including 100 for a Strive2Thrive release, 45 for employment opportunities and 41 for a school system luncheon announcement.

"This program provides a great opportunity for members to promote their business through our website," Bitterman said. "Plus, each release sent to the site is included on our e-newsletter."

Glover said these Web-based initiatives, as well as the Service Corps of Retired Executives and Encompass programs that aid small businesses in the region, show the chamber's engagement with its members and in the community.

"We try to meet and exceed the expectations of our members," the Chamber president said. "Everyone on our staff is always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas that will allow us to serve our members better."