Chamber Offers "Traffic Catcher"

Small-biz members can build free Web pages

by David Flaum

Published in the Commercial Appeal, January 11, 2008

The Small Business Chamber has rolled out a new online initiative that gives members their own Web sites and direct links to members' Web addresses.

And members won't have to pay extra for the "traffic catcher Web site" service, said Robert Staub, founder and executive director of the chamber.

"Our organization focuses on the success of our small business members through information, education and business networking," he said.

To that, the Web site adds marketing, Staub said.

"It gives us the opportunity to be a business community within a business community," said Dennis Beatty, chairman of the chamber. "If somebody comes to us looking for goods or services, they're going to be able to find it that much easier."

Each member will be able to set up his or her own Web site. The general format and types of information on it will be the same for each business. If the member has his or her own Web site, the traffic catcher page will provide a link to it.

The Memphis Regional Chamber provides links to members' Web sites, if they have them, but does not have a section on its site for members to set up sites like the Small Business Chamber has.

Regional chamber officials haven't seen the Small Business Chamber pages, so they can't assess the possible value, said Amy Daniels, director of communications.

More than 80 percent of chamber members are small businesses -- ventures with 50 or fewer employees -- she said.

"Anything that helps small business grow is a good thing," Daniels said.

The traffic catcher setup is the creation of Richard Scully, managing partner and founder of EcTownUSA LLC. The Quincy, Calif.-based firm handles 40 systems in 10 states, about 75 percent of them for small business chambers, Scully said.

"About four years ago, we realized there were no programs designed to help chambers grow and retain members," he said. "Members didn't see tangible benefits from their membership."

So he created the Web site plan, which includes ways of tracking visitors down to "actual views" -- what information they look for, such as maps to businesses -- so business owners can judge how effective the Web sites are, Scully said.

The system will also simplify what Beatty called the "maze" facing visitors to the chamber's old Web site.

"We're giving them steps to follow to find what they want," he said.

"It's smart for the small business council to offer a way for members to have an online presence," said Trace Hallowell, managing partner of Tactical Magic, a Memphis brand consulting agency.

He uses his own business as an example. When Tactical Magic went on line, the perceptions of the firm, especially in terms of legitimacy, increased greatly.

"The caveats would be how man people would be going to the Small Business Chamber Web site to search for services and the impact it will have on national search engine traffic," Hallowell said.

Among the services in the new setup, said Staub, will be one to help members get better positions on Internet search engines.

Access to the site is available at smallbusinesschamber.com.

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