Professional associations, or knowledge networks, have been around longer than almost any other kind of group, from the medieval guilds to crafts associations to today’s professional groups and industry associations. The primary purpose is for the exchange of information and ideas, whether intraindustry or interindustry.
Some of these groups limit membership to their own industry, but quite a few groups that represent industries other than your own will allow you to join as an associate member (as opposed to a full member). This can put you in contact with a concentrated target market, including many top-quality potential contacts. Many of your best current clients, looking for their own competitive edge, may be members of industry associations. Ask them which open-membership groups they belong to, and try to join a few of them. This can give you an opportunity to meet prospects of the same quality as your clients.
The other part of your knowledge network should be groups in your own industry. Yes, you’ll be rubbing elbows with competitors, but there are advantages. You’ll stay abreast of developments in your industry, find out what your competitors are up to, study the competition’s brochures and presentations, and discover opportunities to collaborate with competitors whose specialties are different from yours or who need help on a big project.
Knowledge networks present great networking opportunities. So if you’re looking to build more relationships and increase your word of mouth, start investigating local professional associations today, and find out which ones you might be able to join.