Every industry has trade associations and the special events and meetings business is no different. There are many associations such as MPI, ISES, NACE, ASAE, and more. Generally, they are a great place to meet contacts, future clients, become better educated, and grow, but how do you know if you should join an industry association?
One of the things I look for is to see how many of my competitors are already members and how long they have been members. This information can often be obtained by simply calling the association and asking. If there are lots of your competitors as members, it could me a very hot market, but it could also mean that the market is totally saturated. You can also call an existing member that is not a direct competitor to you and ask them what their ROI is as a member of the association, if they get business and if they feel it is worth it. I have done this and as long as they are not competing with you, most people are happy to provide you with their insights.
I generally tend to look to join associations where there are not tons of competitors. Niche associations allow you to be a big fish in a small pond and make a bigger impact as a result. I would urge you not just to join the major trade industry associations but also look for ones that perhaps are smaller but where your presence can be felt much quicker and your competition has not thought about joining.
By the way, simply joining an association does not mean that you will get lots of business. You have to participate in their events, volunteer, get to know their boards, write informative articles for their trade magazine and keep yourself in front of the members and I know you will see positive results.
Joshua Gair – Impact Entertainment