Marketing to Associations Doesn’t Have to Be Frustrating

Are you ready? It’s time to play the association game! There are a lot of rules, so pay close attention. Some may be frustrating rules, but you’ll be better off if you always abide by these rules. (Trust me, I know from experience!)

Why would I say frustrating? Truth is, marketing to associations can be very frustrating. I have sometimes referred to it as “kite in the wind marketing”. Why? Because rarely will you get any chance to speak to anyone who has anything to do with decision making. In the speaking business, that’s frustration!

Let’s start off by talking about marketing to state-level associations. This may be a little easier. Most state-level associations have meetings every month. Many take off summer and holiday months. This means, however, that there are several opportunities for speakers.

When approaching state-level associations you want to ask for the “Executive Director”. Is he/she the decision maker? Sometimes. If not, he or she will know who you should talk too. This is a big advantage over national level associations. When you speak to the decision maker, you need to make your case. (See my earlier post on the “10 Questions to Book More Business”). Be aware that state-level associations pay less than the national level. Many who wouldn’t fit at the local level need to move directly to the national level. The only way to find out if state-level associations can pay your fee is to do some “testing” of organizations at this level. See what you hear about a fee. If you are constantly hearing you are too high, jump directly to the national level.

When seeking out opportunities on the national level, you will rarely get a chance to speak to a decision maker. When contacting, ask for the “Meeting Planner”. Note: the meeting planner will not be the decision maker. He or she will be a person of influence. The meeting planner is the person who will ensure that your materials get on the table – considered for the meeting.

Typically on the national level, the decision is made by a volunteer committee of association members. Members who you will never be able to contact. Hence the challenge! Your materials must carry the day!

The meeting planner will probably say “Just send us your stuff and I’ll put it in the files”. Many just punt at this point thinking they just got the run-around. Not so. That is the process. What you want to ask at this point is “How would you like my material to be submitted? By email, snail mail?

After you send in your material it’s a waiting game. You’ll hear if you get the job, you won’t if you don’t, and if you want to be considered to speak at next year’s association meeting you have to start the process all over.

See what I mean by frustrating? Then why do it? The pay-off is huge! Everyone in the audience may be a good prospect to bring you in to speak. If you get the job ask for an attendee list. Most will be happy to supply it.

When you return to your office, work the list! Call the members and say “Did you get a chance to see my program at your association meeting? Do you think it would make sense for me to come into your company and do a program like this?”

If they say they missed your meeting say “Sorry you weren’t able to make it. The feedback was positive! I’m calling to see if a program like this may make sense for your company?”

So that’s why we play the association game, no matter how frustrating it is! Good luck!

Lois Creamer works with professional speakers who want to book more business, make more money and avoid costly mistakes! She can be reached in the following ways:
Twitter: @loiscreamer
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