Make the Most of Networking via Association Membership
Professionals often ask me what professional networks they should be part of. The answer is a little different for everyone, but the key is you want to fish where the fish are. Joining an association frequented by your target market accomplishes that.
That said, many, if not most, professionals make a number of association networking mistakes. These errors get in the way of maximizing the invaluable resource that is association membership. Here are the five biggest association networking mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Having a Sense of Entitlement
Too often, a business professional will join an association under the misguided assumption that association membership equals money. Becoming a member is the price of admission, not a free pass to earning revenues or receiving referrals. There is no quicker route to being ostracized than to presume others will do business with you based on membership alone.
Instead, consider your association membership a VIP ticket that serves as an introduction. A primary purpose of an association is to act as a peer-to-peer connection point, facilitating contact between professionals. Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment.
Think long term, not instant gratification.
2. Not Building New Contacts
One of the primary benefits of an association is its ability to grow a network exponentially. Members attend events with the expectation that they will meet quality professionals. Too many members fall prey to the comfort of conversations with existing contacts or colleagues. Then they complain they do not achieve the results they want or need.
Instead, make a point at every event of seeking out and initiating conversations with association members you do not know. Fight the urge to spend all your time with your existing network.
Set a new contact goal for every event if you wish to avoid this association networking mistake. You will be amazed at how quickly you can make new contacts and how many opportunities arise as a result.
3. Focusing on Revenues, Not Relationships
Association events represent incredible opportunities, regardless of whether your interest is professional or personal. Too often, members see these conversations as an opportunity to qualify and close a new client. When is the last time you bought anything of significant value after a 30-second to three-minute conversation?
Instead, counterintuitive as it seems, put your business agenda on hold. The reality is that we buy people first, ideas next and things last. Focus your interactions on connecting with your conversation partners on a personal level. You will be perceived as more personable and professional, and they will be happy to meet with you again. Isn’t that what it is about?
4. Failing to Follow Up
One of the biggest misconceptions about association membership is that simply attending events generates results. Networking at events holds incredible potential but requires additional effort and energy to build relationships that lead to results. Research consistently confirms that 90% of professionals fail to follow up.
Instead, accept that association networking is about creating and developing relationships. Presume you will want to follow up with every person you meet. That way, you will usually find a reason for the other person to want to re-connect with you. This is when the real selling can start. End every networking conversation with the question “Can I follow up?”
5. Seeing Association Networking as a One-Dimensional Activity
Associations, by their very nature, bring together like-minded individuals. Too often, members attend events with a preconceived notion of the value others can supply. They have a narrow view that is strictly client-centered. When they meet someone they do not perceive as a direct link to business, they quickly move on.
Is this you?
Instead, realize that you and your association counterparts are all connected by a common interest (whether personal or professional). Expand your thinking about how you can help one another. Invest in building collaborative relationships so that you become the person they will think of first when it comes to your product or service.
Learn More about Avoiding Association Networking Mistakes
Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. He has taken his experience working with networks, businesses, and associations and translated that expertise into a respected consulting practice.
Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download his e-book, Managing the Networking Experience.
Avoid Association Networking Mistakes at CSAE National Conference 2017
CSAE National Conference 2017 is one of Canada's key annual events for associations and not-for-profit organizations to network. Getting the most of this event means knowing how to avoid the association networking mistakes Michael mentions in this article.