Better Partnerships With Association Planners
Suppliers as partners? How can this be? The new mantra in 2011 is to build valuable and sustainable relationships in the association community. In order to do this, suppliers in the event meeting services industry need to develop a keen understanding of how associations work and the type of association events they host.
An association is any group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose, ranging from social to business. It can be formal, with rules and/or by-laws, and membership requirements. An association is not a legally-established corporation or a partnership. Most associations have some paid staff and a large group of volunteers that help plan their various events. They are usually non-profit based and most of the budget for the event is based on registration fees.
How can suppliers establish contacts within various associations?
- Network, network, network –Association managers and volunteers are people and prefer doing business with people they know and like. These employees belong to trade associations and attend meetings, such as PCMA, ASAE, and MPI. Many times suppliers often do not join these associations or attend these type of events because they view it as sacrificing valuable sales time or they don’t want to travel great distances or pay attendance and membership fees. However, suppliers who regularly attend these types of meetings stand out and are remembered. Look at it as a room full of prospects just waiting to be befriended and educated.
- Be visible within the professional association — Attend all meetings. Join committees and consider being on the Board of Directors. Write an article for the newsletter. Sponsor the meeting or advertise in the directory. All of these behaviours will offer great visibility and often will give you a natural reason to speak to an event services company in order to build a relationship with them.
- Help education your prospects — Each supplier has a depth of knowledge event meeting services planners would love to learn about. Companies who specialize in interactive technology tool rentals are welcome at most events as long as they are not trying to sell their services. Providing knowledge and value will allow you to gain credibility with your prospects.
- Consider collaborative marketing strategies — Attend and participate in tradeshows, advertise in newsletters, do some co-marketing and cross-marketing.
- Be Accessible — When prospects call or email you, return the phone call or respond to the email promptly even if you let them know that you are out of the office and will call them back at a certain time.