Just when you thought you’ve heard of every property association out there, you quickly realize ten more were seemingly started up over night. Literally, there are associations for associations. Are they valuable resources? They can be. Do you have to work for it? Most definitely. I find that few people can join a property management association and get work without having to ever lift a finger. So if you’re paying thousands of dollars in association dues every year, how can you get that money to work for you? You have to work for it… well, volunteer for it. Let me explain.

Property Management Associations are typically structured with a small central chapter office where a few association employees work their nine to five jobs. They run the books, collect the dues, send out monthly newsletters, and report back to the associations corporate location. Any board members, committee chairs, etc are pure volunteer jobs typically run by vendor volunteers (who want to get their face in with property management contacts) and property manager volunteers (who have to reach some sort of quota to get certifications, etc). It’s a vicious cycle that typically draws in tons of restoration companies, landscaping companies, remodeling companies, and few property managers.

So in an ocean full of many sharks and only a select amount of fish, making your association dues work for you is of vital importance.

Tip 1 – Selecting the Right Association

Associations that have been around for years are great – they probably pull from a large list of contacts, have a large presence, and are more than likely good at putting on good events. However, be leery when throwing money at these guys – if you’ve heard of them, then so have your competitors. I have sat in association meetings (you know, the ones where everyone has to stand up, introduce themselves and their companies, and say why they’re there) and by the time it got to me, I even had to laugh – in a room of 15 people, the overwhelming majority were restoration marketing reps all there for the same purpose – to wine and dine property managers. We literally outnumbered the managers 3 to 1 (there were only 3 property managers in attendance).

In my professional opinion – run. Run, as fast as you can. These types of associations will take your time and money and give you little if anything back. You’ll sponsor their yearly picnic, their table flower bouquets, hell… you’ll even be asked to sponsor their napkins… and you won’t see much of a return because there are just. too. many. competitors. Well, how are you supposed to find associations that aren’t 90% sponsored by your competitors? The best way is to ask your customers – they’re the people you’re trying to meet afterall. Do you work with insurance agents? I’ll bet you they know of a few great associations. Trying to get work from general contractors? Ask them where they’ve sent their last association dues payment. They’ll tell you where to go!

In fact, I was chatting with a contact and casually mentioned what a nightmare associations were. She told me, “Well, at the association my [multi-billion dollar] general contracting company belongs to only has one property restoration vendor.” WHAT?! Only one? Yep – and that happened to be the same company that she was sending all her restoration work to. Without a doubt, I was at their next happy hour begging for a registration form.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Tip 2 – Volunteer

Yes, I know – you didn’t want to hear it, but volunteering on an association’s subcommittees is one of the best ways to meet your desired contacts face to face. By joining subcommittees (example – outreach, new member, special events, etc), you gain two invaluable resources. First, you get an insider scoop on meetings and events. Guess who sets up the vendors at the association expo? You guessed it – the special events subcommittee. Guess who sets up the list of speakers for the next lunch and learn? Yep, the education committee. Second, you stop being the “vendor” and you become the “coworker.” Instead of selling to your contacts, you instead are working with them to accomplish a mutual goal whether it be gaining new members, setting up the next happy hour, etc. These desirable contacts begin to see you as a friend, they see your work ethic first hand, and you’ve built a relationship that will outlast your seat on that committee.

Tip 3 – Attend a Networking Event

Yes, you’ve made plans to set up your booth at the association’s next expo, but what will really get your dollars working is attending an associations monthly networking event whether it be at a bar or at a property. Why are these events so vital? Because everyone there is there to let down their hair, loosen the tie and have a few drinks. They know it’s a networking event, so flashing out a few business cards isn’t only expected, it’s a must.

When you’re networking you’re selling without having to sell. What’s the first question you’ve been asked at a networking event? 9 time out of 10 it’s probably been “So, what do you do?” Ah sweet victory! They’re asking you what you do!

To get your money’s worth out of an association, you cannot just sign up, attend and expo and hope someone calls you with a million dollar fire loss. Sorry, that only happens in a magical land where property restoration is easy and everyone forgets to turn their water off. What I mean is this – associations function off of involvement – be involved and you’ll reap the rewards a million times (and by times I mean dollars) over.

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