Did you know there is an association for virtually every business out there? There’s even an association for association staff (American Society of Association Executives or ASAE). Trade associations offer some great opportunities for members to make important connections with potential clients and meet people who are in the same line of business. Many associations have both members directly related to their mission and associate members. The associate members generally offer goods and services to the core membership. For example, the National Association of Convenience Stores general membership includes convenience store owners and managers. Coca-Cola and Frito Lay executives would be considered Associate Members. Associate Members are often provided ample opportunities to meet with company decision makers throughout any given year.
Associations generate annual membership directories that can be accessed in booklet form and/or on-line. All pertinent individual membership information is provided, including company and executive names, addresses, phone numbers and email/site addresses. Additionally, there is often a short description of the member business included. Directories are an important resource for all members who might need services or products from the businesses listed. A lot of website hits come from people who accessed their membership directories.
Many associations offer educational classes throughout the year. Classes, seminars or business forums may be for members, associate members and nonmembers alike, in areas related to their business operations. These programs are also great networking opportunities. Business cards are a necessity at events such as these.
Annual meetings and trade shows are often held in beautiful, interesting settings around the world. Both information gathering and fun events are part of the overall experience. Business owners and executives might attend workshops to learn what’s new in their industry and to see what the vendors (who are often associate members) have to offer them at the annual trade show, usually held in conjunction with the annual conference. Later, there are receptions and dinners to attend. Making good personal connections with potential and existing clients will often generate good will and important business relationships. These relationships often translate into business both immediately and down the road.
It’s worth noting that conference schedules and trade show handouts can be good opportunities for companies to place ads. These ads often get great visibility, as there are usually only a few of them inside these marketing materials that are handed out to everyone who attends the conference.
Members may want to consider serving on the association’s board of directors. The board members work with an association’s executives to do business planning and monitor the association’s finances. Board members may also have input on future legislation on Capitol Hill (or at the state level) that could directly impact their specific business. Contributions made here can also be valuable in many positive ways for an entire industry.
As you can see, professional memberships to trade associations can be an important resource for business owners and their employees in a myriad of ways. There are many other benefits to memberships not discussed here. Taking advantage of their resources can improve people’s business acumen as well as their bottom line.