Discovering the Best Local Small Business Association For You
If you’re ready to make new connections, learn new skills and grow your small business, one of the smartest moves you can make is joining a local small business association. But with so many options to choose from and so little time in your day, it’s important to select the small business association (or associations—no one says you can’t join more than one!) that will be most beneficial for you.
Here’s a closer look at various small business associations you might be considering.
- Your chamber of commerce: If your business targets local customers, joining the local chamber of commerce is a good starting point for getting to know other business owners in your area. It’s especially useful if you sell B2B, because you’ll meet people who could become customers (or can introduce you to potential customers). Membership often gives you first crack at booths at local trade shows and conventions, too.
- BNI: BNI provides a supportive environment to help members grow their businesses through word-of-mouth marketing. BNI members are serious about networking. You must apply and be approved, and only one member from an industry is allowed in each group, so you won’t find your competitor sitting across from you at a meeting. Members must own full-time businesses, attend meetings regularly and participate, or they’ll lose their membership. Members receive benefits including newsletters, workshops, participation in trade shows and more.
- Your professional, trade or industry association: Joining industry and trade associations are a great way to stay current about what’s going on in your field. Industry association dues will vary, but in return you’ll typically get access to online and offline resources such as directories, events, conferences and continuing education. Trade associations often help members with statistics and research, and some provide discounts on business purchases, insurance or other benefits. Check out these lists of trade associations if you aren’t already familiar with yours.
- Toastmasters International: Although not a business organization per se, Toastmasters attracts many businesspeople. Members support each other in improving their public speaking and leadership skills. Even if speaking in public isn’t part of your business, joining Toastmasters can help you gain poise, adapt to new situations and learn to think on your feet—all valuable skills for any small business owner.
- Specialty niche associations: Are you a woman or minority? If so, be sure to check out small business associations for your particular niche. This can include local chapters of national organizations, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), or local organizations, such as those for young entrepreneurs or minority entrepreneurs. Benefits of membership will vary depending on the organization, but in addition to networking, they may include discounts on products and services; access to databases, directories or listings; online resources and offline events such as trade shows, conferences and educational seminars.
Other than cost, there’s really no downside to joining any small business association—and landing one customer as a result of the group can easily outweigh any costs. To choose the best group for you, consider what your goals are, where your customers are and which of the many organizations available to you will best help you find customers and achieve your goals.
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