As business owners, we must constantly be marketing and promoting ourselves and the products or services we offer. Yes, we obviously want to have an online marketing strategy in place; and depending on our business, we may do video, print, direct mail, email marketing, social media, you name it. But, there is one powerful PR strategy that tends to get overlooked in lieu of the other, more fancy and technical things … the good old-fashioned method of joining or becoming involved in professional organizations!
This seems like an antiquated idea, and tends to bring forth visions of salesmen in business suits. But, let’s rethink this strategy because, guess what? It works.
Now, when I talk about becoming involved in professional organizations. This can be as basic as joining your local chamber of commerce or other local business organizations. However, depending on your business, you might want to think a little more about where you can get the most bang for your professional organization (and PR) buck.
Me, for instance. One of the first organizations I became involved with after moving my business from local to online, was the International Association of Virtual Assistants (IVAA). At the time, it was my industry’s trade association. I can’t tell you how beneficial IVAA was to the growth of my business. I moved through the ranks as member, to Director of Member Benefits, to Vice President, to President of the organization. I was very active in their programs, and made sure I attended the IVAA Summit – IVAA’s annual conference. I gained many of my best team members while attending those Summits. Many of them are still on the team!
As my business has grown and morphed from virtual assistance to professional online marketing support, my focus has changed and I had to make the hard choice of dropping my membership. However, while these annual conferences were more for learning and getting together with my peers, I gained two of the conference speakers as clients after attending last year’s event. A great example of how you never know where your next client might come from ?
One thing to note is you don’t necessarily have to become a member of these organizations to benefit from them. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to become involved in a professional organization.You don’t have to become a member of professional organizations to benefit from them.Click To Tweet
Two of my favorite organizations are the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) and the International Coach Federation (ICF). Because my target audience happens to be speakers and coaches, I’ve chosen to become involved in both CAPS and ICF.
My introduction to both organizations came about as a conference sponsor.
Last summer I was a sponsor for the ICF-Midwest conference. What a great way to get in front of your target market! I gained a lot of valuable information from the conference itself, and had the opportunity to meet and network with a group of fabulous coaches. I enjoyed it so much I contacted our local chapter to see how I could become more involved, and now do their chapter newsletter. AND, I am now the chapter Secretary. Talk about great networking opportunities! Right now, my plans are to sponsor the next ICF-Midwest Conference in 2018.
Becoming a sponsor for the CAPS convention in Edmonton last year was another wonderful opportunity to learn more about my target market. It was also an opportunity to not only meet and network with some fabulous speakers, but talk one-on-one with attendees about my company and how we help others just like them get out and stay out of marketing overwhelm. It was so much fun and such a success I’m doing it again this year in Ottawa!
There are a few odd local organizations I’ve tried, but just haven’t found a good fit yet. I’ll keep trying though. I won’t know what else is out there unless I do.
I’ve made it a point to carefully choose which professional organization is worth investing my time and money. And then, I put as much time as I can into each one. Yes, that’s the kicker…Carefully choose which professional organization is worth your investment of time and money!Click To Tweet
If you want to gain anything from these professional organization memberships, you must put in the time!
Repeat after me: I will get out of a professional organization exactly what I put into it.
So, in the types of memberships I mention above, you may need to attend the odd networking event in person, or regularly post on their Facebook or LinkedIn group. But you will get much more out of the membership if you choose to sponsor (and attend) their live events, as I do for CAPS and ICF, or attend the odd conference. This gives you visibility, which can’t always be measured by $$$. It all starts with visibility, so you’ve got to get out in front of your target market one way or another.
You may even choose to take this to the next level and invest your time and talents in volunteering to sit on a committee or Board of Directors like I have. Yes, this will cost you a good bit more in time; but if you have time to give, want to gain visibility and grow your contact list, joining a professional organization can make a big difference. If you do it strategically.
Things change in business. Trends come and go. But as sure as I’m sitting here, networking will never ever go out of style.
Do you have any tips or strategies to share about choosing professional memberships? What are your favorite organizations, and how have they helped you grow your business?
Also published on Medium.