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How to work with trade associations

Learn how to use trade associations to build relationships and generate business
Marc Duke

/ Last updated on 16th October 2017

I am a big fan of Google Plus – I will blog about it at some point, but this post started with a question in a startup group I saw a while ago. The entrepreneur in question asked, “does anyone have any experience working with a particular trade association, and if so would they recommended it to this start-up to join or not?”.

Related: Business networks in the United Kingdom

Being a caring and sharing social citizen, I replied to the post and called the poster with the following: “Good question and as per usual, it depends on your company, it depends on the price, it depends on what’s on offer, and it depends on what else you can spend your very limited budget on.”  The questioner thanked me for my help, and we are still in touch, so I must have done something right!

But I have had a couple of very interesting experiences I’d like to share, as I think the examples might help you the next time you face this dilemma.

IT trade association

Startup 1 (name changed to protect the innocent!) was a member of ‘Intellect’, as it was known in those days. My role as Head of Marketing was to get the max out of the membership fees and generate leads (yes folks, in startup land this is what we have to do). The objective was achieved by doing the following:

  • Finding out what events there were to attend.
  • Getting the sales force to attend them.
  • Ensure the sales team followed up on leads generated.

Customer service association

Startup 2 had a customer service related technology and had joined a number of trade associations with the same objectives, but was offered new insights:

  • The research and insight on offer will seriously help you validate your product/service.
  • Events give you a chance to learn about industry drivers, language used, key influencers.
  • Interacting with members in a non-sales centred way lets you test your value proposition before you ‘sell in anger.’
  • Doing events with an industry association is as good as with a brand if no one knows who you are.

But apart from the entry price, there is one other factor you must consider: time! If you and your team can’t commit the time to attend events, share knowledge and best practice, save your money and forget about the new members pack. Speaking of which, I must write that new joiners blog post for that startup I mentioned earlier.

Related: A quick guide to networking for entrepreneurs

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