BRADENTON -- Hoping to encourage more residents to “buy local,” the Manatee Chamber of Commerce next week will launch a major marketing plan for its “Local Quotes 4 U” online program.
“Local Quotes” offers people looking for services and products a chance to reach out directly to the chamber’s 2,250 members. In place since September 2009, the program has up until now been used mostly by chamber members. The chamber decided to market “Local Quotes” to the public in response to requests from its members.
“It’s a win-win,” said Carey Miller, the chamber’s office administrator. “Not only does it drive more business to our area members who support the community, but the individual pricing request gets the best price possible.”
Most chambers of commerce offer referrals and information about local business, but the Manatee Chamber is the only one in the region to provide an actual online “request for proposals” system, Miller said.
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Here’s how it works:
n Chamber members are divided into about 450 categories based on the type of products or services they offer.
n Residents and business owners fill out an online form explaining the product or service they are looking for, and specifying a category.
n That information is passed along to all chamber members that fall into the relevant categories.
n The chamber members then contact the inquiring resident or business owner directly, which means they end up competing with each other for the best price and the best service.
Another benefit of the service, Miller said, is convenience. “Not everybody wants to be searching for services ‘on the clock,’” Miller said. “This enables them to do it whenever they need to.”
The service is open to anyone, regardless of whether they are a Manatee County resident or not. More than 1,200 inquiries have been submitted since its debut in 2009, Miller said. One regular user is the Manatee County purchasing department, which has used the service to publicize its pursuit of bids and county jobs to local businesses.
“Someone might join the chamber but be unaware of what the county is doing, as far as buying goods or providing services,” Cuthbert said.
“This is an opportunity for businesses to see what’s going on. And it’s a benefit to us because it’s a direct communication to our local community.”
Christine Hawes, Bradenton Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7081.