The next time you write that yearly check to renew those memberships within your industry’s organizations, think about their value in two parts: What are you willing to put into the membership, and what do you want in return?
Mark Green is the president of Top of Mind Networks, a customer relationship management company based in Atlanta, Georgia that specializes in mortgage lending. He belongs to the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and the Mortgage Bankers Association. Hailey Lamoreaux is the owner of Bliss hair salon in Hendersonville, North Carolina and finds being a member of the Professional Beauty Association sufficient for the success of her business. While their industries and organizations are totally different, they both mapped out similar goals for what they want out of their organizations to get their money’s worth year after year.
Take advantage of the exclusive access to industry leaders and partnerships. Membership organizations are another tool for giving back and connecting with other people in your industry you wouldn’t otherwise have entry to. “There’s real value in the access you get when involved with people in your same industry,” says Green. But it’s not just about joining an organization to get business and be on their roster. You’ve actually got to participate and grow relationships to make it a worthwhile investment.
Lamoreaux joined her association three years ago to gain access to the various marketing tools and support provided to salon owners. She got her employee manual, guidelines and non-compete agreement from the Professional Beauty Association. “They have a basic blueprint for how to spend on things from hair dye to cutting scissors.”
Be prepared to put some real time into building partnerships and friendships. “Having your name on the roster doesn’t bring immediate gratification,” says Green who estimates that it took about two years to see the fruits of his labor. “I needed to prove that I was in these organizations for the right reasons. Green says being a member of two industry associations costs less than an ad in the Yellow Pages and considers it “the cheapest form of advertising.”
Remember you have to give to get. Results depend on how active you are with your membership. It’s not just what you can get out of it, but also what you bring to the organization. “Being a member doesn’t mean business is thrown your way, and it shouldn’t work that way,” says Green. “It’s like anything else, it takes time to build trust and rapport.”
Don’t waste time or money joining every organization out there and ultimately spreading yourself thin. Use a bit of discerning taste here. There are plenty of organizations that will welcome you, but do you need them? Lamoreaux was focused more generally on getting business help vs. the aesthetics and accoutrement for aestheticians. She wanted help with the financial side of things -- not hair trends and classes like the other beauty organizations only seemed to offer. “My interest was more for the business owner than for the stylist,” says Lamoreaux. “Our company is supported by Aveda so we also have their team of people to help with business strategies so the one is enough for us.”
Beware of organizations that enjoy their reputation a bit more than their actual achievements. Some organizations are more respected than others, so look at that roster and see if the other members are people you want to work with and be associated with. “I look at the online roster and take advantage of the luncheons for prospective members,” says Green.
Remember your target audience
Both Green and Lamoreaux realize there are perfectly great organizations out there that they aren’t members of, but that they just don’t apply specifically to what they do. “At the end of the day, I want people who not only can potentially purchase my product, but are also people I want to stand beside ethically,” says Green.
Membership organizations can help build credibility. With every year you’re a member, other industry members take note that your company exists and continues to grow. “It’s an alternative to the cold call,” says Green who makes a point of attending annual meetings to keep up to date on what others in his industry are doing and thinking. “If I’m at a philanthropic event, maybe I’m also sitting near a like-minded person and a potential client.”