Role of Chambers of Commerce & Trade Associations

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Businesses have a multitude of organizations and associations at their disposal to help with networking, awareness, and marketing. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the chamber of commerce and industry and trade association.

Know Your Role

If you own a business, you know there are many organizations that can help advance your ideas, extend your network, and help promote your products and services. Understanding the organizations will save you valuable time and energy.

Let's pretend you're own a small pet store in on Capitol Street in your hometown. You're looking to find other like-minded business owners and figure out the best ways to reach new audiences. Do you want to look at a chamber of commerce or a trade association? How about both?

In this lesson, you'll learn more about these two important business organizations and their role and function for business owners.

What is a Chamber of Commerce?

The first thing to remember about a chamber of commerce is that it's local: focused on a local community and focused on local businesses. Overall, a chamber is an association of business leaders that allows mutual promotion and protection of the interests of their businesses, whether that be a small restaurant or a used bookstore. These are frequently seen in individual towns and communities, but there are also state and national chapters that can be accessed.

A good chamber of commerce helps businesses band together and come up with ways to better market their products and services. They form a collective to address important concerns and issues for the business community.

As a business, joining a chamber of commerce can be a good choice for a number of reasons:

  • Increased exposure
  • Networking opportunities
  • Better understanding of business community concerns
  • More credibility
  • Increased marketing potential
  • Stronger voice in local decision-making

What is an Industry and Trade Association?

More specific than a chamber of commerce, industry and trade associations narrow the focus from all businesses to specific ones. For example, you may find yourself part of an industry association specifically geared toward owners of beauty supply stores or auto parts manufacturers.

A trade association, or trade group, is put together by businesses operating in specific industry areas. Like a chamber of commerce, these associations provide a place for business leaders to advertise, educate, market, and lobby the government; they provide a collaborative environment for like-minded professionals.

Some associations put a stronger focus on conferences, trade shows, networking events, and fundraisers, as well as continuing education opportunities for its membership. Other benefits of joining an industry or trade association include:

  • Access to specific knowledge about your industry
  • Building an industry-specific network
  • Increasing your reputation in your industry
  • Gaining access to trade group discounts in purchasing

Comparing and Contrasting

While both types of organizations are voluntary, require membership (frequently a paid membership), are non-profit in nature, and boast many similar functions, there are some differences in the types of things each group provides.

1. A chamber of commerce includes businesses from many industries, but a trade association is industry-specific.

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