I believe we’ve hit a point of overload for business and community organizations. There are so many to choose from, and so many events to possibly go to that it’s very difficult for companies and the professionals that work for them to decide which ones are worth their time and effort.
I also believe that at some point in the near future, there’s going to be a bout of business organization Darwinism, and many aren’t going to survive. There’s just not enough money to go around to keep all of these organizations and their events sustainable. I know of several already that are looking for solutions in the forms of collaboration, sharing of resources, etc. These organizations are forward-thinking, and have a head start on those that are simply fighting to protect whatever niche they’ve created for themselves.
What does all of this mean to the companies who belong to these organizations? It means that you need to have a strategy for how to invest your people’s time and your company’s money in being “out there in your community.” That strategy needs to reflect everything from your marketing to your sales process to your customer service. Because with how busy everyone is right now, we know that you can ill-afford to have your people wasting their time. It’s not even really about the couple hundred bucks for the membership. It’s about your people’s time.
So, how do you begin to decipher what’s worth it and what’s not? It’s not that easy, for a number of reasons:
- One thing that business organizations are good at is public relations – Did you ever go to an event that was a dud, and then saw the social media posts that made it look like the Super Bowl pre-game party? Yep, strategic camera angles can make an empty room look full, lighting can make a drab event look vibrant and a few well-placed testimonials from loyal members go a very long way.
- Expectations can be skewed – One thing that a lot of organizations do is put their registrants (or at least their registration numbers) online before the event, so you can see who will be attending. Many people look at the number, but not who’s on the list. You see an event with 200 people registered, and get excited that there’s business opportunity there, then show up to find out that the majority of those 200 people are salespeople who are there to sell. No buyers. You’ve sent your own salespeople to the event looking for prospects, and found nothing but others like them in the room. They come back with a stack of business cards and no leads.
- Most business organizations also do some really great work, when it comes to things like advocacy, or industry growth, or economic development. They tell an important and compelling story. These efforts are vitally important to the region/state/nation, and they do require the financial support of the private sector to get done. Every company has a different story and set of goals, and you’ll have to decide if the “big picture” stuff that these organizations do is ROI enough for you – even if spending your time and money in these areas doesn’t necessarily put you in the right rooms for business development.
Now, #1 and #2 above are not to say that business organizations are inherently dishonest – they have a job to do, as well, and that’s to inspire companies that they are an attractive place to belong. But how do you weed through, to make sure you’re not wasting time and money?
It starts with creating a strategy, marrying it to your other outreach programs (marketing, direct sales, etc.), and communicating it with your team. If referral business is a part of your sales process, for example, then that room full of 200 sales people might be a great place for your people to spend their time, building relationships. We tend to favor steering our clients into a “blue ocean” strategy, and getting them into rooms their competitors don’t know exist.
Once you have the strategy, and an understanding of the type of people and companies your team needs to be in front of, you can find the rooms that have those people and companies in them.
And not have your people wasting their time looking for business from people who have no business to give you.