Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Business owners need to think of a professional association membership as an investment in their knowledge, businesses and personal growth. Many people think the cost of belonging to a trade group is too high, but for those who participate in a group, the payback far outweighs the cost.

Membership in a trade or professional association and attending the group’s conferences and trade shows offer many benefits. An association provides a place for education and networking, a chance to take advantage of industry research and what I like to call an opportunity to participate in advocacy.

I have been a member of the Water Quality Association (WQA) for almost 20 years. Being a member of WQA has educated me in the nuances and language of the water quality industry, given me an opportunity to make lifelong colleagues and friends, and offered me a place to learn about the challenges facing our industry nationally and globally in terms of clean water initiatives.

Many different associations exist in the water industry and one’s choice of association depends on the level of interest in the group and location. On a general level, four major benefits can be achieved from trade or professional association membership.

Education

Associations offer different educational opportunities for professional development ranging from webinars to national/international conferences. Educational topics include trends, best practices and new techniques. Some associations, such as WQA, offer certification programs and training materials for employees of water dealerships. According to the WQA Consumer Opinion Study, professional certification is valued by consumers. This alone can make membership worth the price.

Networking

This might seem obvious, but associations provide opportunities to connect with others in a given industry. An association is the place to meet and develop relationships with colleagues, form alliances, make partnerships and, from a career perspective, look for new jobs or new talent. In addition, many associations offer a job bank on their websites on which businesses can post job needs and individuals can find employment.

Research

Many associations conduct market/industry research and analyses that benefit everyone in the group. White papers and research reports offer insight and have helped me stay ahead of my peers. I call everyone’s attention to the WQA Consumer Opinion Study. This study provided water dealers with new perspectives into consumer buying habits that helped fine tune and target the most responsive marketing strategies.

The information I gleaned from the WQA Consumer Opinion Study really helped me work with my industry clients.

Advocacy

Perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of a trade association is advocacy. When you become a member of an association, you have an organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the needs of your industry. WQA offers committees for regional and state government affairs. The International Water Association (IWA) focuses on international issues. Think about the Pacific WQA and all it has done for the industry in terms of the regulations for point of use and point of entry water systems in California.

Final thoughts

In the water quality industry, state, regional, national and international associations are available. At Dataman Group, we are proud members of WQA and the Florida WQA. I am grateful for the opportunity to network, learn and take advantage of association research.

Today, the importance of water is paramount. Simply put, we cannot live without clean water. We see daily examples of our aging infrastructure. Our children are at risk from substandard water or lead in our pipes. Algae are on our beaches and bacteria are in our rivers. Some areas are experiencing extreme droughts, and many people have no access to clean water.

Our associations need to continue to advocate for research in desalination, creating water from the air, changing the water we use to flush our toilets from drinking-grade to recycled water using reclaimed water for irrigation. So many opportunities are available to improve water quality for everyone, and our associations are at the forefront of research and development and lobbying to ensure that these needs are met. In the world of associations, a place is available for everyone…and everyone can find a place. It is an investment that will pay dividends.

 

Dale “DataDale” Filhaber is president and listologist supreme of Dataman Group Direct, a Florida-based direct marketing company founded in 1981. She has trained water quality dealers in direct marketing and lead generation techniques. She is a Water Quality Association (WQA) member and a guest lecturer, and her new book is Lead Generation Made Easier. She may be reached at dale@datamangroup.com.