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How To Grow Your Business With Associations: 5 Benefits You Need To Know

  • Bruce HarphamBruce Harpham

Are you a joiner?

Well if you’re not, maybe you should be because joining associations is one of the best ways to enrich your life and grow your business.

I’m sharing my experience with associations as a case study in today’s post, in addition to showing you five of the benefits joining an association can bring, professionally and personally.

The Project Management Hacks Origin Story

In reading about the creation of audience businesses, I always wanted to know about the early struggles and how they were overcome. In my case, there were two inflection points for growth.

First, I signed up for Firepole Marketing’s Audience Business Masterclass.

Second, I joined a leading professional association – the Project Management Institute. Here are the key points in the early evolution of my business.

  • June 18, 2014: Business is founded when I register the domain name. I’m inspired by reading “The 4-hour Workweek” for the second time. The name Project Management Hacks is inspired by the productivity websites, Lifehacker and
  • June 30, 2014: I start building an email list when I install Aweber*
  • October 2, 2014: I sign up as a student for Audience Business Masterclass after hearing about the program from Ben Settle
  • October 6, 2014: I join the Project Management Institute (and the Southern Ontario Chapter, a local group where I can attend events in person)
  • January 31, 2015: Reached 100 email subscribers. (It can take a few months to reach your stride.)
  • August 29, 2015: Made my first sale ($297) for my online course “Unlocking the Hidden Job Market”
  • August 31, 2015: Reached the 2,500 email subscriber milestone.

Why I Joined The Project Management Institute To Grow My Business

My long-term business objective is to build and sell online training courses to professionals. My target market is corporate project managers working in Fortune 500 companies and similar large organizations in the United States (and elsewhere).

Given that focus, I found the Project Management Institute an excellent fit for my goals. The organization is more than fifty years old (established in 1969), has an active membership over 400,000, and is prominent in the United States.

Let’s explore the benefits more deeply.

Business Growth Benefit 1: Outstanding Networking Opportunities

In my experience, the networking benefits of associations are difficult to match.

[tweet_box design=”default”]For all the power of the Internet, there is something special about in-person networking.[/tweet_box]

I have spent more than $300 to attend project management events in Toronto, and through that experience, I have learned a great deal about my audience.

I have learned more about the language they use and what kinds of educational opportunities they value. I started going to events with the beginner mindset and that approach has served me well.

Jamie Brougham is a member of the Canadian Association of Association Executives.

He joined with an interest in growing his business. As he explains in his article Thoughts From an Association Board Member networking is not limited to sales. Brougham’s example can help as you develop a relationship with an association.

Keith Ferrazzi, networking expert and co-author of “Never Eat Alone,” is also involved in associations.

In 2013, he gave a presentation to the Harvard Business School Association of Southern California. Ferrazzi’s example is interesting because he graduated in 1992 and continued to derive value from the relationship decades later.

Remember to consider your own history as you look for associations to grow your business.

Business Growth Benefit 2: Learning & Enhancing My Credibility

The Project Management Institute is best known for its certification programs, especially the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

To commit myself to the field, I set out to earn this certification. And in April 2015, I earned my PMP (I wrote about my approach and experience: 5 Lessons Learned From Becoming A PMP).

The certification requires a combination of professional experience, education, and the successful completion of a challenging exam.

Committing to this educational journey sets me apart from companies who are casually interested in serving this audience. Yes, there is a cost in time and money but it is worth it in my view.

Well known author and public speaker Jack Canfield grew his career decisively through the American Bookseller’s Association.

“Chicken Soup for the Soul” series authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen struggled to find a publisher for the popular series.

Eventually, they attended the American Bookseller’s Association’s convention where they found their publisher, and the series went on to more than 500 million copies sold.

Consider the example of best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss.

Today, he is best known for his series of books: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4 Hour Body and The 4 Hour Chef.

But did you know that Tim Ferriss got a book deal with one of the world’s major publishers by his involvement in the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs.

Business Growth Benefit 3: Write For Association Publications

Danny and Firepole Marketing have done great work in encouraging us to pursue guest blogging with programs such as Write Like Freddy.

However, some industries and niches lack major blogs like Copyblogger or Problogger.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get your writing in front of your audience – writing for association publications such as newsletters and magazines.

These contributions are an excellent supplement to getting published on Forbes.

For several months, I have contributed articles to a Project Management association newsletter.

Writing for this publication has yielded several benefits for me. I have gained more website visitors, and I have enhanced my credibility for my target audience.

Finally, I have also been asked to step up my volunteer contributions to the organization. Writing has opened new doors for me.

Business Growth Benefit 4: Present Webinars To An Engaged Audience

In my experience, webinars and email marketing are the most powerful audience building methods available. I have added more than 1,000 people to my audience business by delivering free training webinars.

As an engaged member of the Project Management Institute, I had the standing and credibility to deliver presentations. So far, I have delivered three webinars that have averaged more than 600 attendees per presentation.

By actively participating in the association, I learned how to present an effective webinar.

For example, I learned that leadership topics are an area of interest. In addition, I learned that certified project managers are required to earn continuing education credits.

These points and more made the difference in presenting an effective webinar. This approach is particularly good for someone just starting out because an association often handles the technical details required to administer and run the session.

Even better, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to deliver a successful webinar.

Ling Wong recently explained How To Set Up a Webinar For $0 Using Google Hangouts, an excellent getting started guide to running your own webinars.

Clearly, there is a lot to gain for your business through associations. I bet you have just one question now – how do I find an association relevant to my business?

How to Find an Association: Business & Career Focus

From my experience, Canada and the United States are filled with many business associations that serve nearly every city and industry.

Here are a few ways that you can find an association:


  • Directory of Business and Trade Associations
  • U.S. Societies & Associations
  • Weddle’s Directory
  • American Society of Association Executives

Occupation/Professional Associations

In general, you can find professional associations by doing a Google search.

Use search terms such as “[occupation] association” (e.g. accountant association) or “[occupation] society.”

Here are some examples to get you started in this category:

  • American Bar Association. A national association for American lawyers
  • National Education Association. An organization that represents American teachers.
  • American Institute of CPAs. A national organization dedicated to the accounting profession.
  • CFA Institute. This international organization serves investment professionals in more than 100 countries.
  • National Electrical Contractors Association. A Washington DC based organization that serves the $130 billion dollar electrical construction industry.

How To Find An Association: Leisure and Recreation Focus

Building a business in the recreation and leisure niche is challenging in many cases because finding a need or pain can be difficult. Despite that fact, let’s recognize that people spend substantial money on leisure.

For example, Americans spent over $60 billion on golf in 2011 according to Bloomberg.

There is also significant spending on consumables: over 360 million cases of wine were sold in the US in 2012 according to the Wine Institute.

If you’re serving a leisure and recreation niche, make sure you are serving a group of people who are already spending money.

Here are some examples to open your mind to the possibilities.

  • United States Golf Association. Spectators, amateurs and professionals interested in golf can be found through this association.
  • American Wine Society. An organization dedicated to wine appreciation (you can also find organizations that represent wine producers and sommeliers).
  • National Model Railroad Association. Established in 1935, this organization is the place to be for people interested in trains and model railroads. Of note for marketers – the association has regional conventions and publications.
  • USA Dance. This organization organizes dance competitions and brings people interested in dance competitions. Like many organizations, USA Dance has local chapters and publications where you can further your knowledge of the organization.

It`s no coincidence that several of the examples above relate to physical fitness and activity. Anil Rathi, CEO of Skild, found that playing golf improves his entrepreneurship. For example, the sheer amount of walking in golf helped Anil to achieve greater mental clarity.

Identifying Relevant Associations For Your Audience Business

Once you start to research the world of associations, societies, and membership organizations, you may become overwhelmed.

To identify associations relevant to your business, use the following checklist:

  1. Association Age. Look for an association that is established. One with 5 years of operation is a good rule of thumb.
  2. Membership Fee. Do members have to pay fees to participate in the organization? From a marketing perspective, look for annual fees of $100 US or higher.
  3. Membership Size. Start with the big associations – look for groups that have at least 1,000 members. If the organization does not state how many members they have in an annual report, pick up the phone and call!
  4. Publications and Communication Channels. Do you have a way to contact and market to the association members, aside from purchasing advertising? Best case scenario, the association will have an email newsletter, webinar series, and a robust social media presence.

It’s your turn. Have you considered joining associations to grow your audience? What association could you join to grow your audience business? Let us know in the comment section below!

5 thoughts on How To Grow Your Business With Associations: 5 Benefits You Need To Know

Jeannette Koczela

Thanks for extolling the benefits of associations, Bruce. They are not only great networking sources, but also a good resource for continuing education in your industry. One up and coming association is the International Association of Professional Life Coaches, which I founded 4 years ago, and has over 2200 members. If you have the inclination, starting an association for your industry is a viable business option. If you don’t have the inclination, join one in your industry and take advantage of all the benefits.


I’ve used this exact method to build a software development firm a few years ago.

It helps to have a blog in your industry as well, and then when you join these organizations you can ask if you can give a presentation. The point is to be active… your customers will automatically find you.

Theodore Nwangene

Hello Bruce,
This is really a very interesting case study and i cannot doubt the ultimate benefits of joining such groups.

Apart from getting to know a lot of people in your industry and networking with them, it will also enable you to get some awesome deals which is a no brainer.

It will also open your eyes and mind to a bunch of opportunities that you wouldn’t have been able to spot on your own.

Thanks for sharing.


Bruce, don’t forget one of the other benefits of playing golf: you have four hours to market your services to someone. That’s not four hours of straight marketing, but, you have plenty of time to make your pitch, if the opportunity arises.


Interesting article Bruce. It definitely brings to light a great opportunity for networking and building an audience that a lot of online entrepreneurs don’t think about. In my experience though, association membership benefits kind of have an expiry date – after a while, you’re mostly just hanging out with your competitors. You’ve got the credibility you needed, but not the clients.

What do you think?

I certainly agree that active involvement with associations helps you build a reputation that ultimately COULD lead to great PR opportunities which COULD lead to more clients. I’d love to read a follow-up post on how to maximize the potential for converting these opportunities into paid work. When I was first starting out as a business plan writer, this is where I had the most trouble.

Thank you for your insight!

Comments are closed.