Belonging to professional associations, networking groups and chambers of commerce can increase your visibility and help you find customers. Choose one or more organizations appropriate to your business, then make the most of membership.
Membership in professional and trade associations can bring prestige, especially if the organization is well respected or you must be nominated and accepted for membership. When you qualify for membership in an organization that has stringent membership requirements, your image is enhanced.
You build credibility and trustworthiness if the organization has a code of ethics and polices its membership. Put the organization logo on your letterhead and business cards and on your web site (if allowed) to let customers know about your commitment.
Your professional association may offer educational opportunities and certifications. These designations can make you stand out as an expert in your field.
Some industry organizations have award programs. Nominate your business, employees or products for these awards. When you are a finalist or winner, use that fact in your marketing.
Other members of the organization can become customers, suppliers, or partners. Choose your memberships based on your goals. Joining a group in your industry can give you credibility and introduce you to potential alliance partners; however, you probably won’t come into contact with many customers. To meet customers, join groups to which your customers belong.
If your customers are primarily located in your geographic area, membership in local chambers of commerce or the Better Business Bureau can be valuable. You will make lots of contacts with other local businesses, and those businesses and their employees may become your best customers. Local businesses usually prefer to buy from other local businesses.
You get visibility with customers, the media and others in your industry when you are listed in the membership directory or featured in the newsletter or on the web site. If there is a directory, make your listing as complete as possible. Ask if you can get a link from the association’s web site to yours. It might even be worthwhile to advertise on the association’s web site or in its newsletter.
Attend meetings and conferences. Become a familiar face to other members. Don’t join so many groups that you can’t become a presence in them. If you belong but never make yourself visible, you won’t get the full benefits of membership.
The organization may provide you with speaking opportunities. You may be able to speak to their meetings or conferences. Networking groups give you many opportunities to speak in front of the group. Take advantage of these chances to showcase yourself. Ask if your professional association has a speakers bureau, and how you can be included.
Professional, industry and trade associations may receive inquiries from the media. Let them know that you are willing to be interviewed and assist the media with stories about your industry.
When you join an organization, get involved. Run for office, volunteer for a committee, write an article (or a regular column) for the newsletter. Choose an activity that you will enjoy and that will provide benefits to you as well as the organization.