14 compelling reasons to join a business or professional association
Firstly, what are business or professional associations?
Described as an organisation which represents the interests of a particular profession or industry and aims to further their interests. Often also overseeing industry and conduct standards, usually you can join as a member at various levels.
Professional associations tend to be for accountants, doctors, lawyers etc., and business associations tend to be for business owners, sales or marketing professionals or entrepreneurs. Technically they are all professional associations, but it is common to use separate terminology for each.
Why join an association? Here’s 14 reasons you should go for it:
1. Credibility & professionalism
One of the biggest reasons that entrepreneurs and business owners join is the visibility and networking boost. Whether local, regional or national an association is a key place to meet your peers and establish your brand. When you have joined an association, one of the biggest perks is being able to promote that to your colleagues, network and prospects.
Usually you can use the association’s logo by your name or company name which can instantly enhance the trust and credibility of your brand. Many members will add this ‘badge’ of honour to their LinkedIn profile, email signature, website and marketing emails.
You’re instantly associated with a reputable association which says to the world ‘I take my business seriously and care about maintaining high standards.’ It also suggests that you actively spend time and effort outside of working hours to learn about your industry, improve best practices and network which can be a real selling point for prospects.
Some associations even give you letters to use after your name – for example, The Association of Professional Sales give you the letters M.APS after your name to signify that you’re a member.
2. Community & support
By joining an association, you are giving yourself the keys to an exclusive community, all there to support each other and grow together. You’ll likely be invited to events and webinars, have rigorous discussions on forums and social platforms, get invaluable insights on the blog and research papers from your peers around the world.
All of this gives you a sense of belonging, and an unparalleled opportunity to pick up tips and advice from your industry leaders.
One of the best ways available to network with your peers, industry-leaders and mentors is through an association. Members are vetted so you know that you’re dealing with professionals, and networking is supported through dedicated events, awards dinners, seminars, conventions and networking sessions. These exclusive events are attended by the brightest minds and are a hotbed of ideas and collaborative efforts.
These can be unique opportunities to meet some of the best in your industry with a rare chance to pick their brain! You could meet a mentor who will change the course of your life, meet your next hire or find your next job, and simply just make friends!
Most associations hold an annual meetup, which usually is the biggest gathering of your peers available which you could be a part of if you join. Why network with your peers, even if they’re the competition? Well, networking outside your own business can broaden your perspective, inform you of the latest trends, and hear what the competition is doing. You may also that listening to others talk about problems or niggles that are unique to your role is refreshing and reminds you that you’re not alone!
And don’t forget about the referrals! One of the biggest reasons to network is the business that you can pick up. You may think that because they’re your peers you’re less likely to get referrals, but you’d be surprised. There’s plenty of occasions where companies have ‘overflow’ business that they can’t take on and having a reliable friend they can pass it to is perfect.
It’s important to stay up to date, whatever your industry or job role. An association makes it easy for you to access the latest breakthroughs, developments and discussions through seminars, research and mentors.
Certified courses are often run by associations, meaning you can stay up to date in a recognised, validated way. They’re usually convenient to you and offer many different levels.
If you’re further down the line in business, associations offer you the perfect way to become a mentor, passing on your valuable experience and knowledge to the future generations.
As an association is usually the best place to find people in a particular profession, many look to recruit directly from them. The association will usually have an online or physical job board for you to snatch the best opportunities before they’re advertised elsewhere.
The networking opportunities available to you also offer the chance to meet prospective employers and make a great impression before the interview. You may also find that having valid credentials by being a member gives you an edge when being considered for a position.
Another great tool is the ability to upload your CV to the job board if you want to, which means that potential employers can browse and approach you when something becomes available.
6. Advance your career
When you add together the education available and the networking possibilities, this often leads to a promotion or other upwards move. Many members find that demonstrating to their boss that they put time and effort into improving themselves can have a real impact on their promotion chances, and the courses available to them make them qualified for it!
You also might find that you meet a contact who offers you a higher position elsewhere or are approached by an outside company who have discovered you via the Association.
7. Employer benefits
If you’re an employer, joining an association can be the perfect way to hire great employees first time. Whether you’re filling a current role or expanding to add additional staff, there are particular criteria and standards you need reached. Individuals who are part of a association are often perfect candidates because they care about improving themselves and working at a high level.
8. Access to membership directories.
Virtually all associations have online directories which lists the members' and their businesses, which you can exclusively access once you become a member too. This can be instrumental in increasing your exposure to potential clients and generating new sales.
We’ve already touched upon the networking advantages to being part of association, but in the same way as the members directory, you can use the events to initiate new business deals.
9. Competitive advantage.
We’re all looking for an edge over our competitors, and if they’re not a member of the association you’re considering, this is yours.
When you take advantage of the resources and training available through the association you’ll develop and maintain a higher position than your competitors, giving you more business and prestige.
10. Certificates and accreditation
No matter your level of learning, there’s usually a set of courses suited to you delivered by an association.
If you’ve joined as an associate member and are new to the industry these courses are a brilliant way to learn verified information and proven advice, with a recognised certificate when you complete one. You may as well learn from the elite – those who set the industry standards – delivered and curated by some of the experts out there.
If you’ve joined as an experienced and seasoned professional, this could be the prime place to find courses suited to your level of experience. Challenge yourself and expand your proficiency by learning complementary skills that will enhance your existing knowledge.
11. Cost savings
Depending on your industry and the association in question, you might be offered discounts or special rates on certain products and services. Not only will these save you money, but you may also be able to price your goods more competitively, which will help you win more business.
12. Giving back
It’s common for associations to donate to charity events, provide volunteering options or run sponsored events which provide you with a simple way to give back to the community and do something you wouldn’t usually feel confident doing, surrounded by your peers.
If you’ve seen it all and want to start helping the next generation of business owners or professionals, then an association is the ideal place for you to do so. You’ll be in touch with worthwhile contacts who will appreciate your help, and you have the support to become a successful and respected mentor.
13. Advocate for your industry
It’s very common for professional or business associations to lobby the government to make changes their members think are important. If there are regulations, laws or policies you disagree with, that cause barriers for your business or profession then this could be the ideal way to change them.
Whether you want to get your voice heard directly, or just want to influence the direction of changes, joining an association is a great way to do it and be kept up to date with the changes being made.
A great example is The FSB (National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses Limited), who are known for lobbying the UK government on fundamental issues for business owners, such as poor payment practices, mental health and business rates amongst many other things.
14. Stay ahead of industry trends
When you’re involved in your day-to-day tasks it can be hard to remember to find time to see what’s new out there. Not only do you need to set time aside, but you also have to trawl the internet to find out.
When you’re part of an association however, its easy for you to be kept up to date with regular newsletters, emails, magazines and seminars. It’s one of the prime directives of an association, so don’t be left behind in this turbulent time for business in the UK.
We think it’s worth signing up to a relevant association as soon as possible – the benefits are bountiful. Whether you choose an industry specific one or a business one, always make sure you find out what you’re getting for your membership and make the most of it once you have it!
You can even meet some key associations face to face at the biggest business event in the North of England, to have a chat and decide if you want to get involved. The event is free to attend and is happening at Manchester Central on 17th & 18th March 2020.
Besides the associations you’ll also be able to attend inspirational keynotes, skills masterclasses, huge networking sessions and meet over 100 suppliers. All you need to do is get your free ticket online now!