I’ve recently talked to the leaders of a couple professional organizations. One goal the organizations share is bringing like-minded professionals together to share knowledge – call it networking. Of course, growth is the goal. However, there are a couple challenges that exist when it comes to these types of organizations.
- How to attract the “doers” and the “knowledge workers” from industry, not just those who sell and service them. Much like trade shows, events can quickly deteriorate away from knowledge transfer and selling exercises. Thus, the industry workers of the ecosystem become underrepresented.
- Build an events calendar and annual strategy that member will attend. What do the members care about? Or more importantly, what events would members attend?
I admit the first challenge is a very difficult one. I’m getting introduced into these organizations from my role as a solutions provider. Though, my purpose is to network and learn more about my industry and my customers, not to directly sell at any event. But I remember, too, when running spaces at trade shows for Body Boss, it was clear that we were vendors. However, events in the professional strength and conditioning industry were filled 75%+ of industry doers – the coaches and trainers. There was a small portion of solution and services providers, but there was a clear value for coaches to keep attending events without being inundated by sales people. In the business world, the ratio can be flipped.
The second challenge is a great opportunity. It requires knowing the members. In many ways, this also represents a wonderful time to rebuild a foundation. This may require culling a membership list. However, it provides for a more targeted, engaged member base.
How the organizations get to know the members can be done in many ways. One simple way is simply running surveys. Flesh out what questions need to be answered to build a strategy and calendar where there will be more certainty of audience. As the members become more engaged, growth of the base will also occur. But it all comes from knowing the audience.
And by knowing the audience, events can become more focused on in-the-industry knowledge with clear agendas to share knowledge. With a focus on content and context, more time will be spent on knowledge sharing and transfer – less time on sales-y networking. That’s possible, too.