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How to Leverage Industry Associations for Referrals

Let’s get real. Marketing can be a pain. In our evolving digital landscape, it’s getting more and more difficult to message compelling offers and capture audience attention than ever before. We used to worry about having the best ads in newspapers and the most up-to-date product sheets at tradeshows. Now we’re wondering if we need to start a corporate TikTok, get a celebrity Cameo promo, or follow in the footprints of politicians who’ve successfully placed ads in popular video games. It’s an exciting time but also one of confusion as our marketing matrix is the most complex matrix it’s ever been.

Throw in a global pandemic that’s literally changing the way every consumer makes decisions and impacts the way every company conducts business, and you’ve got even more to navigate. Times are tough and the long road to economic recovery will surface many more challenges for small businesses and startups. But there are just as many, if not more, opportunities at play. It just requires a bit of creativity to find them.

Image of two people shaking hands

So, how do you find these opportunities?

The answer is: shoulder up to the best of the best.

What I mean by this is tap into industry trade associations and membership groups that make up an ecosystem that your company belongs in. Associations, a.k.a., a group of cool people that bring together lots of other cool people, have untapped potential and long-term value add. These groups can be one of the best mediums to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and cultivate mutually beneficial value for both parties. Think of associations as a place to invest in annually with countless opportunities to better your business plan.

A few examples of how associations work to your benefit.

  1. Brand awareness – they put your logo on their website

  2. Email – they regularly share information on partners via email to members

  3. Member engagement – you have direct access to their membership base

  4. Speaking opportunities – they host tons of in-person and virtual events and need to fill their agendas with rich content

  5. Content syndication – they’re always looking for written stories to share with members

  6. Peer-to-peer exchange – members want to hear from other members, this is a great way to get a client to share how they’re working with you

  7. Social media – they activate their social channels to promote partners

  8. Federal advocacy – they have a pulse on policy and legislation that could impact your business

Building strategic partnerships with associations requires time, passion, and a little bit of grit. But it can be done, and more importantly, it can be done from home. Since the start of COVID-19, associations have been testing new ways to improve engagement strategies and reach people while they’re social distancing from home. They’re literally innovating on the fly to meet the most pressing needs of their communities and bridging divides remotely.

No matter what field you’re in, there’s bound to be a trade association to support your growth and improve your brand awareness. These partnerships are built on relationships – not transactions. If you put in the time to get to know the wants and needs of these partners, finding the synergies with your business priorities, and develop exciting ways to blend the two, you’ll be on your way to generating a high-value partnership that not only generates leads but also offers countless marketing opportunities.

Associations may not be the right fit for your business. And that’s ok! Let us know how we can help evaluate trade associations as part of your long-term marketing strategy.


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