As of 2012, there are more than 7,800 trade and professional organizations listed in the “National Trade and Professional Associations Directory,” published by Columbia Books. There are trade associations for every industry – from nutritional food to solar energy. If people feel that their industry isn’t represented or inadequately represented, they are encouraged to start a trade association. Here’s more information on trade associations, and why it makes immense sense to become a member of one or more trade associations.
What trade associations do
Most trade associations are nonprofit organizations, with a primary goal of educating the public about their industry and selling the collective product, not so much individual brands. Also, trade associati0ns set industry standards and help maintain them. Key membership benefits include:
- Education. Trade associations hold conferences and classes and help members stay abreast of trends, technology and proposed laws and bills that could affect the trade.
- Networking. This is essential to expanding your business. Meeting people in your industry will help you better prepare for unavoidable pitfalls and handle difficult situations. It also helps to stay up to speed with developments in your industry.
- Leadership opportunities. Being part of trade associations over a period of time will allow you to vie for positions of leadership and executive roles, giving you more opportunity to shape the industry you’re in.
- Lobbying. This is one of the biggest pluses. Tobacco is a proven carcinogen, and yet it is still available for public consumption. That is the power of lobbying. A significant advantage trade associations have, especially the larger ones, is political clout. They have the power to sway bills and votes in their favor because of member strength, profits made by that particular industry and the influence they have on legislators. For example, the U.K. Solar Energy Association fought for and convinced the government that it needed to continue to invest in solar energy. One company could not have influenced the government, but there is strength in numbers. Once the industry gets large enough and brings in sizable profits to the country’s economy, it gains clout.
Becoming a member
Find out what groups or associations best suit your business structure. You can be a part of associations specific to the city you are based in or the industry you’re in, or both. LinkedIn is an excellent place to start. See what groups your connections are a part of and join them if they fit your requirements. The site also makes recommendations based on your interests, education and work experience. There are also several directories that list associations by industry, city, size of membership, and more.
Use these resources to find more avenues to increase your company’s business value and also constantly update yourself about the goings-on of the industry and market. Trade associations are a great way to stay on top of your game.