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How does your industry organization help you?

This past weekend, I spoke at a national organization’s regional trade show here in the Rocky Mountain West.

As you might expect, we talked about personalizing their businesses – in their very narrow market context.

What always makes me wonder about these events is why they aren’t standing room only.

Why aren’t people lined up at the door, so to speak, to join the trade organization that represents their industry?

I don’t mean this particular organization – I mean *yours*.

The benefits are there

Some trade orgs are better than others, but all of them offer one thing of significant importance: the ability to get with others who do what you do, live somewhere else, and are willing to discuss their business and yours.

Certainly social media has had an impact on the ability of folks all over the world to share information – but it still doesn’t rival sitting at a table with a group of folks who do what you do.

Why don’t more people take advantage of the benefits of their industry’s trade organization?

  • Is it the value proposition?
  • Is it the time?
  • Is it the money?

Maybe all three. Or maybe you aren’t aware of the association for your business. There might be more than one.

Not all trade organizations are the same. Some do little more than have what amounts to a party for their members. Some develop a solid educational program for their members. And some take these things well beyond that.

What the cream does

I’ve only seen one organization that was truly hitting on all cylinders to strengthen the performance of their members’ businesses. They did more than holding regional and national conferences/trade shows.

They set standards for members in their industry, but not just by putting them on paper after having a few meetings.

Instead, they established real-world “you can use this in your shop” standards relating to manufacturing processes, curing times, mix ratios and workplace safety (critical in their industry). From there, they fine tuned the processes and testing procedures with eight years of effort that resulted in the establishment of an ANSI standard for manufacturing their industry’s product.

But that wasn’t enough. They created a third party certification program for manufacturing quality testing that gave their members the ability to confidently stand up to the brutal testing process their ANSI standard requires.

Not just anyone gets to wear the lab coat. They require that independent labs perform the testing during the certification process. These labs must be certified by a short list of testing/product evaluation industry associations, and no business or partnership relationships are allowed between the labs and the organization that approved them to perform the tests. Beyond that, they must have five significant capabilities necessary to administer the visits, lab tests and field work. The science isn’t enough.

Achieving manufacturer certification also requires that manufacturing facilities have a written quality control program that includes, at minimum, a quality check of incoming raw materials and in-process manufacturing process control as well as finished product quality checks. Random in-plant inspections and testing by the third party certifying lab verifies each these requirements.

A few other industry trade organizations do that sort of thing as do a number of major industries. It’s unusual in this case because the organization’s members are family-owned, local custom manufacturers producing annual sales between $3MM and $25MM. They aren’t 3M or GM.

Do even more

They’ve created an industry-standard education program to advance and certify the skills of the people doing the product manufacturing and installation.

In the last few years, they put together a marketing task force in order to help their membership effectively market what they do, while also marketing their industry nationally. That’s fairly common among trade associations. What isn’t common is that they built a marketing tool kit for their members to use in their own communities – a kit that complements the national materials. The national campaign brands their product for all members and is in sync or products produced by these members.

Again…all this from a trade organization that represents family-owned local manufacturing businesses.

How does your trade organization help you and your fellow members? What *could* they do? Perhaps you should ask. They may do more than you’re aware of and if not, your question might start them down that path.