Be Where Your Clients Are – Tips for Maximizing Trade Association Involvement

By focusing on the industry or industries in which you have unique knowledge or expertise, you will establish relationships with prospective clients and those who are in a position to refer business to you.  For every trade and professional association that exists, there are numerous ways to creatively leverage your membership and involvement to expand your professional network and build your practice.

If you’re not yet involved in a trade association, identify one which attracts a key group of your prospective clients.  Here are a few ideas to begin the process of building and growing relationships within the trade association you join:

Bond with the Executive Director – Extend your expertise to the executive director of the organization.  Every trade association has an executive director.  Make it a point to build your relationship with this person as he/she is the conduit through which you will be given other opportunities in the organization.

Don’t Miss a Meeting – Particularly for the first few months.  Associations are used to having professionals join, and then never attend the meetings.  Be active and engaged in the association.

Volunteer to Serve on a Committee – Take a look at the structure of the organization and select a committee that will help you increase your name recognition within the base of members.  Consider the Programming Committee (where you could potentially speak to the group) or the Publications Committee (where you could offer to write articles for the group).

Serve on the Board of Directors – If after spending at least a year within the organization you believe the organization is THE one to which your prospective clients belong, talk to the executive director about possibly serving on the board of directors.

Meet the Members – As a member you will have access to the association’s membership list.  Review the list and, using your A-Level Client Criteria, select the top ten or twenty companies with whom you would like to do business.  Seek these members out at each meeting.

Make a Long-Term Commitment – Most trade and professional associations are used to having lawyers join, express a high level of commitment up front, then never attend meetings or in other proactive ways engage with the organization.  Be a member who is in it for the long haul, and you will ultimately be rewarded by receiving the trust and confidence of members.

Sponsor their Events – Seek out opportunities to continue getting the name of your firm in front of members by sponsoring events like golf tournaments, seminars, trade shows, or other activities the association sponsors.

Share your Expertise - offer to write articles for publication and present to the group on a regular basis.  Meet more members by interviewing them prior to writing your article or developing your presentation to let the members help you focus your topic.

Other Association Resources

  • The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy
  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)codes have been used for years to classify industries in the United States.  While SIC Codes are still used today, NAICS codes were developed to provide even more detailed information on industries
  • The Association of Associations (ASAE)- easy to use directory updated daily to help you make networking more convenient. This service takes you directly to many of the associations currently operating on the World Wide Web. The search results provide a list of associations that meet your selection criteria.
  • The Warm Call Center Industry Research Resources – in past blog posts I have introduced you to www.WarmCallCenter.com.  This link takes you directly to the industry-based research resources available on the invisible web.

I believe every lawyer should be involved in his/her bar association(s).  However, as a marketing tool, the key is to be where your clients are.  There is no better way to do this than committing to and becoming a high profile member of a trade association attracting current and prospective clients.

Terrie S. Wheeler is the founder and president of www.MarketYourLawPractice.com, an online interactive tool designed to help lawyers market and grow their practices. Wheeler has 25 years of experience as a marketing consultant, coach, and in-house legal marketing director and holds a Master’s degree in business and marketing. She can be reached toll-free at 888-633-6944 or by email at twheeler@psm-marketing.com.

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