I have had the privilege of belonging to the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) for more than a decade. I originally “targeted” this association because I was marketing/selling marketing database software to Architecture/Engineering firms. I thought I would go to a few luncheons and get leads and sell software. This organization was a prime target for my sales efforts. I had high hopes of bringing home a stack of business cards from each meeting. I would drive the hour to Denver once a month, shake some hands, close some deals. Boy was I wrong!
Instead, this group shaped my career and took it places that I wouldn’t have imagined. I can honestly say that I’ve learned almost everything I know about marketing to this industry from SMPS. I ended up realizing that I would need to get to know the members on a more personal level before I would be able to earn their business. So I joined a committee. Again, my main goal at the time was to generate leads. I soon found out that what I would learn and the relationships I would form would be much more important than just bringing home a business card.
Sure, I’ve sold a lot of software to the members of this organization over the past decade but the leads didn’t fall into my lap and it didn’t even end up being the most important factor in my renewal of my membership year after year or the time I ended up volunteering. Instead, it was the lessons learned and the education gained.
At a recent SMPS event I heard discussions about trying to get your technical team to go to industry association meetings. People were saying that they get the same feedback from their staff as I had felt when my supervisor asked me to get involved — “Show me the Money! Why offer up my time when I don’t get a solid lead or a quick turnaround on a project award or a sale?”
Well, in 11 years, these are the four main things I would say I have gained from my involvement (which ended up including sitting on several committees both in Colorado and at a National level, going through their certification program, and even being the Colorado Chapter President back in 2006-2007).
- It gives you credibility. If you are involved in an association and you have given back through committee or board involvement you will have the respect of your peers.
- You can practice speaking in front of groups. Your technical team needs to sharpen their interview skills and they have the opportunity when they are speaking to these groups.
- It puts you in front of existing clients. You might not always get a new lead on a new project but you will see and converse with existing and past clients on a regular basis. They will often give you invaluable feedback in a more informal setting.
- Education. Most of these associations offer education events and what you can learn about the industry is priceless.
- Goodwill. Do something good for your industry.
Most likely you will have to be upfront with your team and let them know that the leads won’t come pouring in just from showing up at the association meetings but hopefully you can convince them that the good that will come from their true involvement will be invaluable.