Government contracting is an industry tethered by relationships. Whether you are looking for a teaming partner, connecting with a government customer, or simply expanding your network, it is all hinged upon knowing the right people and building meaningful relationships. Half the battle is knowing where to find those people, and often, joining the right industry association is a step in the right direction.
Industry associations open the door for individuals to grow their network, strengthen existing relationships, grow professionally, and learn new information. But with so many associations out there, knowing where to start can feel like an overwhelming process. In this blog post, we’ll cover how to identify the right associations based on your needs and vet them to ensure it’s the right fit.
6 Steps to Vetting an Association
Before you can confidently join an association, it’s critical to find out if it’s the right fit based on your objectives and budget. Our vetting steps will help you think about why you’re joining the association and if that goal aligns with the mission of the association.
1. Outline your objectives for joining.
It helps to be crystal clear on what you hope to gain and can contribute from joining an association. Here are a few sample questions to get the wheels turning.
- Does this association attract the type of audience you’re hoping to get in front of?
- Do they work with a particular agency that’s of interest to your business?
- Are they producing interesting content and hosting valuable events with noteworthy speakers?
- Do they offer their members opportunities to get engaged, whether it be speaking, sponsoring, volunteering, or writing guest content for their website?
- Does the leadership of the association consist of your competitors, teaming partners, peers, or other companies involved in the market that you’re interested in?
2. Do your due diligence.
For associations that you’re interested in joining (we provided a sample list below), research the association’s website and social media to understand how proactive they are about sharing upcoming events, association announcements, and news updates. An active online presence demonstrates they are engaged with their members. Keep your objectives top of mind as you research the association to see if the speakers, sponsors, and members align with the market that you are interested in growing in.
3. Check with your industry friends and colleagues.
A positive review from someone you know can go a long way. Ask other members what they think of the association – in our experience people will be honest with their likes and dislikes. Here are a few questions to get to the specifics.
- What are the hosted events like?
- Is the membership fee worth it to join?
- How do you get the most out of the membership?
- What types of relationships have they made from the association?
- Has the membership been beneficial for you?
- Have you received any business directly as a result from the relationships that you’ve built within the association?
4. Speak with the association.
Now that you’re prepared with information it’s time to speak to the association. This is where you’ll find out the fees to join (if it isn’t listed on their website) and what member perks they have. It’s important to state your objectives for joining and gauge their response.
5. Attend some events.
This might not be an option if events are limited to members only, but most associations allow non-members to attend events for a higher fee. Prior to investing in the membership, it might be good to attend a couple events to see if membership in this association would be worth it. If you become a member of an association, you’ll likely be investing quite a bit of time attending events and possibly volunteering so you want to make sure that your time and money is well spent. Here are a few things to look for when you’re attending these events:
- Was the session valuable?
- If there was a speaker, did you learn anything?
- If it was a networking event, did you make good connections?
- Did the group of people align with your objectives?
- Did you meet any of the leaders of the association? Are there clear pathways to get involved?
6. Justify the cost.
Remember those objectives you outlined? Those will come in handy at this point. Now that you’ve done all the research, it’s time to cross-check your objectives with the research you’ve done on the association. If they align, that’s great – this is likely an association worth joining! If they don’t, think of the time you’re saving yourself and the money you’re saving your company.
Which Industry Association is the Right Fit for Me?
There are a lot of associations in our industry and each has a unique purpose. The table below outlines the primary factors we consider when vetting an organization.
Identifying and vetting an association to join can be a lengthy process but is worth it. It’s important to continually re-evaluate the associations your organization participates in. Although an association could have once served a need, they do evolve overtime and they may not be the best fit any longer. Tracking and eliminating memberships will help you save money in the long run and maximize your time and energy.