A Guide for AEC Technical Professionals Getting Involved in Client Associations

 

Participation in industry-related organizations is paramount to your profession and the success of your firm. As a technical professional, not only does it help you stay on top of the latest information affecting the AEC community, but it also helps you build lasting connections with other industry professionals. 

 

Many people join client associations they have no interest in getting involved with other than perhaps to attend a luncheon, meeting, or conference here or there. But as a technical leader, your primary role in joining client associations is to be actively involved by serving on a committee or joining the board of directors. 

 

To maximize your investment in joining and really getting noticed by potential clients, it’s most beneficial to get actively involved. This engagement gives you multiple opportunities to work side-by-side with your clients and potential clients and build and strengthen those relationships. While seeing them at a meeting or luncheon along the way provides you another touch point, it doesn’t do as much for your working relationship as working together in the professional association.

 

Before you fill out an application, there are some important factors to consider in becoming involved in a client association. Do your due diligence by attending a meeting or two and visiting the organization’s website to cross-reference the board and committee members with your firm’s current and prospective clients. Taking a look at the sponsors can also be revealing, especially when the list includes your competitors.

 

Ask yourself:

 

  • Which client association has the mission and membership I am most interested in?

  • Does the association have a local chapter?

  • What is the ratio between client members and affiliate or vendor members? If the ratio is high (say three vendors to one client), it may be challenging to meet the people you want to meet at meetings. 

  • What is my primary goal for joining? Is it to be seen amongst my competitors or to meet potential clients? Strengthen current client relationships? Just network in general?

  • Do I have the time to attend their meetings (at minimum) or ideally serve on a committee or board?

  • Does my firm have the budget to attend meetings and the regional or national conference every year?

  • Will my company support me being away from the office to attend those meetings and conferences?

 

Once you’ve thoughtfully answered these questions and paid your dues, what’s the best way for you to feel comfortable and understand your role with client association involvement? Here are five tips:

 

  1. Talk to someone who has already joined the association, even if it’s a teaming partner, to learn more about the organization and where to focus time so you’re most effective. 

  2. Recognize this membership as an opportunity to become the expert in your firm about this association and use it to elevate your career. The technical staff who get ahead are those who know the right people and can “make rain.” If you become the go-to person for your firm in this association, you will become key in increasing not only your firm’s exposure to potential clients but increase your opportunity to bring in work.

  3. Consider getting training in networking or public speaking to help you get the most from your membership. Training helps you to know everything from which side of your shirt your nametag goes on to how to hold your food/drink and shake hands or exchange cards and have a conversation all at the same time. It takes practice to know how to work the room and remember who you met. Entering a room full of people can be especially intimidating when you don’t see someone you know, so always have a game plan before you walk in the door.

  4. Not every association is always the right fit. Almost everyone involved is a volunteer who has a full-time job, and some are more organized than others. Find where you’re needed and where your talents and skills will help the organization grow and succeed in your local area.

  5. If you join a committee or board, understand the level of commitment needed and then stick to your commitments. Give thought to your work and family obligations. If you say you will contribute, do your best to make it happen. 

 

Take advantage of all the learning, networking, and business development that come your way through active and committed involvement. The network and skills you will build through your involvement will not only increase your technical credibility, but your marketing and business development cachet as well.

 

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About The Author

Stephanie Craft, MBA

Stephanie Craft, MBA, has worked in the A/E/C industry for more than 30 years. Her marketing strengths lie in researching and opening new doors for technical firms by getting directly to decision-makers and influencers, and obtaining and using client feedback to help firms differentiate themselves and strengthen client loyalty through targeted strategic efforts. She also works with firm leadership to evaluate in-house marketing and business development efforts to optimize staff processes and procedures. Stephanie has been a featured speaker at many AEC professional society meetings and has been selected “Chapter President of the Year” twice by the national Society for Marketing Professional Services for her management expertise serving as President of the Utah and Sacramento Chapters.

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