Trade Associations Can Help Boost Your Small Business
Small business owners are always looking for a competitive edge in the marketplace. For many, trade associations may be just the ticket because they offer many benefits to their members that are not available elsewhere — and they are often free or low cost!
Trade associations (sometimes called industry trade groups, business associations or sector associations) offer businesses involved in a given industry the opportunity to interact on a various levels and to the mutual benefit of all involved parties. The organization strives to enhance the public image of a particular industry and gives its members more political clout than they could muster individually.
A trade association typically offers a variety of services, including networking and charitable events, industry conferences and educational opportunities. Often set up as a non-profit organization and funded by contributions from its members, a trade association generally takes on public relations duties and the task of informing the general public about the industry and the products and services it represents.
Is joining a trade association a good idea for your small business? Consider some of the perks:
- Opportunities to network and build personal and professional contacts. Local and regional chapter meetings, conferences and trade shows are great opportunities to get in touch with other small business owners in your industry in your immediate area and beyond. While you’re there, you can also identify decision makers, emerging trends and potential new clients or customers among the attendees.
- Benefit from the knowledge and experience of your peers. A trade association offers you access to members with a wide range of expertise and experience who can help you with ideas or problems you may be having. Organization newsletters, forums, workshops and blogs can also be worth the dues you pay to join. Networking events usually feature key industry speakers who offer their insights and advice.
- Boost your purchasing power by taking advantage of association-sponsored discounts on products and services, including group purchasing cooperatives that can cut your costs for essentials like life, health and disability insurance. Some professional associations even offer special deals on credit card processing which may be worth checking out.
- Gain a voice in political initiatives, legislation and industry regulations that will affect you and your business. Trade associations can take many individual voices and bring them together into a force to be reckoned with.
- Improve your business reputation. Trade associations help protect the integrity of their industry by setting standards that all members must abide by to be considered in good standing; failure to do so can lead to exclusion from the organization. Additionally, they offer professional development programs that award certifications or credentials that can help improve your brand and build consumer confidence in your business.
Finding the right trade association for your small business can be done in a variety of ways. Inquire among your connections within your industry for suggestions. You can also do a research online by entering your industry and “trade associations” in a search engine.
Two other options are the National Business Association (NBA), which partners with small business owners to provide resources and benefits as well as leadership, direction and support for business needs, and U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) district offices that provide a network of programs and resource partners to small businesses across the country, including information on trade associations.