Some years ago while living in Southern California I was asked to be the guest speaker at an upcoming Chamber of Commerce meeting. Turns out it was the month of January that I was scheduled for.
I remember the President of the Chamber telling me to be sure I had 100 copies of my handouts because January was their most attended meeting of the year. Sure enough, over 100 people showed up that morning to listen to my talk about Small Business Direct Marketing.
Then, a couple of years ago, I was again a guest speaker at a monthly dinner meeting for an association that was my client. Once again, it turns out that it was their January meeting and this time, more than 125 members showed up!
So, given my experiences, it seemed timely to begin 2016 with a post about how to make the most of your memberships.
Many of us belong to great organizations & associations only to find we don’t get the business opportunities we thought we would when we joined. Guess what? With just a little bit of effort, you’ll find that these opportunities are plentiful & yours for the taking.
1. Be selective about the organizations you join. In order to make the most of anything you must be an active participant & fully engaged. A mistake people make is to join too many groups & spread themselves too thin. It’s better to go deep than to skim the surface.
2. Attend regularly. Every association publishes their list of meeting dates/times for the year, usually by January. Be sure to get these in your calendar NOW & schedule them in to your time so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of your everyday hectic busyness. Seek out a committee member at your first meeting so they can show you the ropes, make introductions & orient you to the group so you feel comfortable right away.
3. Offer your services. This can be in the form of joining a committee, or offering your product or service as a ‘give away’ for the organization. You’ll get a mention in the marketing collateral materials “….donated by ABC Company” & can use this as opportunity to showcase your goods to your audience.
4. Speak up. Offer to be a speaker. This is an amazingly effective way to share your knowledge, establish your credibility & gain exposure with those who are interested in your company.
5. Link up. All associations have an online membership directory. Be sure your company’s listing is correct (check all spelling, email, phone #’s, etc.) & for the online portion, be sure there is a link to your website. This can be immensely helpful to add to your back-linking SEO. For those types of organizations that are consumer-oriented, this link will also serve as advertising for you.
6. Learn, grow, explore. Associations offer many opportunities to stay up to date on new techniques & industry research. Some of these can include webinars, in-person speakers, discounts to industry meetings/trade shows, CEU’s, industry magazines/newsletters & even white papers. Don’t forget to check out the Membership Benefits section of any association you join so you can begin to make the most of these opportunities from the start.
7. Discounts on items you need to run your business. Some of the larger organizations offer their members access to health insurance, as well the more traditional discounts to office supply stores, car rentals, even equipment & cell phone service.
8. Marketing/Advertising Opportunities. This can work 2 ways: Within the organization such as sponsoring meetings, advertising on their web pages, marketing to their member list & in the annual directory. Outside of the organization there can be opportunities such as discounts on local newspaper or radio advertising, bundled pricing on trade show participation, public relations efforts & more. Ask the membership representative when you join what may be available to you.
9. People sourcing. Being active in an organization is a great way to network your way into a new client’s office, hire a new employee, or find about about a new bidding opportunity. Be friendly & bring opportunities to the table to share & they’ll come back to you many times over.
10. Ready, set, go! Have your elevator pitch polished along with plenty of business cards each time you attend a meeting. Go prepared to relax & enjoy the company of other professionals. Don’t forget to have fun & watch your investment pay off.
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