As a former director general of the British Promotional Merchandise Association and the founder of Membership World I am well placed to answer this question. There are literally thousands of associations around the world from tiny specialist niche communities to large multi-million pound companies. Members join because there Is an implied value in the services the association offers and this might vary from specialist education, industry topic conferences, social events and networking opportunities.
For the supplier the association offers an opportunity to align themselves with the organisation either as a specialist supplier member or allowing themselves to have a tailored approach in their message that is likely to be similar. For example selling an insurance service to lawyers, needs to be focused in the specific needs they may have. Also a consideration is are you aiming to provide a service for the association, or their members or both?
Here are a few ways in which you can work with associations
- Consider joining a community that already has access to the sector for example Membership World has a vetted partner program that links suppliers with membership organisations. There are others as well. You can attend conferences and events where they will be present. Some of these you will be able to feature in newsletter, webinars and roundtable advertising promotions
- Make sure that the offer is tailored to the industry body in any meeting and presentation. If you are offering a service for the association members too, consider a rebate or commission structure for the association as well as a benefit for members.
- Do your research to make sure you know the key influencers in the association, they may not just be executive team members but Board members too who in many cases sign off on new projects
- Connect with entrenched suppliers to the community and see if you can find affinities where you may support each other in a symbiotic relationship
- Run a webinar or event yourself and promote through Google/ Facebook/ Linkedin ads with a clear focus on your audience being associations
- Sign up to newsletters like Associations Now, Associations Management International and pitch an idea for an article
- Create a piece of industry leading research and use this as a sign up. I have done a number of industry leading reports. This has been a great way to facilitate leads
Look at prospecting on certain industry types of association – finance. For example if the United States there are over 400 national associations for banking and finance, 700 for business, 500 for education, 800 for manufacturing, and 1,100 for science.
First of all, associations, may also be called Institutes or Royal Colleges if in the medical sector and governing bodies so ensure you understand all the different types of terminology. When it comes to your product or service it might be an idea to do some buyer profile mapping. Small organisations often have skills spread across a few staff members, eg they may not have a dedicated marketing or IT project manager, it falls under the membership or the CEO.
When you make your first association pitch use this as a test run to refine to others so you really understand how they tick. Remember in most cases membership bodies primary aim is to grow and retain its members as well as offering supporting services to drive revenue streams. On top of that they will have a wider focus on growing the recognition of the industry and educating those within it
Your final proposal should include
- An executive summary of how you would meet the association goals
- A company profile on your service offering and your ability to sustain a long-term relationship
- Your experience in working with trade and membership associations - a testimonial from an existing customer might be a good idea
- Your offering, services offered, length of period, any rebates available
- A marketing or content calendar
- Final summary of next steps and what actions both parties need to take to ensure success
About the Author:
Gordon Glenister is an international expert on influencer marketing and membership. As 11 years at the helm of leading trade association, he has been instrumental in the setting up of the influencer channel of the Branded Content Marketing Association and also the Meetings and Events Support Association.