Adding member benefits

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By Yvonne Orgill, Chief Executive, BMA:

When a company is considering joining a trade association, they may look at what they get in return for their membership fee and consider if it is a good return on investment.

It can be straightforward to look at any savings that can be made from the services that a trade association usually offers, such as insurance, legal helpline, mediation services, and other discounts that come from buying as part of a larger organisation.

For some joining a trade association is all about gaining an endorsement, a third party accreditation, a badge of quality that helps them stand out from the crowd. In this case it may be more difficult to estimate a direct return on investment, although members may be able to demonstrate that it helps them win more business.

Networking opportunities is one key way to deliver benefits to members. Bringing together organisations that operate within the same market place to share best practice and common issues is usually one of the main benefits of joining a trade body.

Providing access to knowledge and training is also another important way that an association can benefit its members. Meetings, workshops and conferences provide a cost effective and accessible route to training and CPD, as well as providing network opportunities.

For an association like the BMA, one of the key benefits is being part of a collective that works on behalf of all members. The BMA is a members association that speaks with a strong, representative and communal voice, to government and other relevant bodies, that not only keeps abreast of legislative changes but influences, and is a source of up to date and relevant marketing intelligence.

Every company would like to have its own research department to keep them abreast of everything they need to know but when this is not possible, the trade association can provide this resource, acting as an extension of the company. When this is the case the company will see membership as an investment and not a cost.

Building links and meaningful relationships with other bodies takes a lot of time and effort, something which individual business just don’t have the resources for. A trade body can do this on their behalf, ensuring that their interests on topics that matter to everyone, are always represented and providing opportunities for members to contribute to the future of the industry.

Many trade bodies deliver most benefit when there is a crisis. As an independent body, the trade association can work on behalf of members to put forward arguments that are not in the commercial interest of any one company but will benefit the whole industry. It is in these instances that it is most helpful to have ’a voice for the industry’, that speaks for the benefit of all.

In an industry that requires companies to comply with a mass of legislation, it is beneficial to have an association that can not only clarify what is required but can improve awareness and understanding. There will always be companies that try to avoid meeting their legislative requirements; an association can call those companies to account with market surveillance and help those that do operate within the rules to promote their compliance and gain market share.

As with any partnership, communication is vital and in my experience two way communication is most successful. A good trade body listens more than it talks. Even more importantly, a trade body that delivers benefit will act on the feedback from its members, changing and adapting to ensure that it remains relevant to ever changing market conditions.

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