13 min read

Maximizing Membership in an Industry Association

Learn about the types of benefits that industry associations provide to their members, and why marketers should think beyond the logo on the website and invest time to explore all the ways association membership can help meet corporate marketing goals.

 

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Stephanie Tierney, Director of Marketing Communications for the Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA), is keenly focused on engaging members and helping them find their passion within the organization. From serving on standards boards to supporting industry studies, there is a long list of ways companies can get involved and maximize the value of their membership in ECIA.

Stephanie utilizes many channels to stay top-of-mind with members, including enewsletters and LinkedIn. Part of her role includes leading a committee to plan the annual ECIA Executive conference, which is back in person this year (after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus) with the theme "Bucking Normal." ECIA also has a podcast, The Channel Channel, which focuses on industry trends and association news.

It was clear from our interview that there is no "one way" to maximize membership in an industry association, rather Stephanie encourages members to forge their own paths based on business needs and individual motivators. For some, this may come in the form of shaping industry guidelines and for another, it might be leveraging association analyst research for a thought leadership content campaign. Regardless, she reminds us that when it comes to membership, you get out what you put in....so get involved!

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Transcript:

 

On today's episode, you'll hear the types of benefits that industry associations provide to their members and why marketers should engage beyond just putting that logo on the website and explore all the ways that industry association membership can help meet their marketing goals. Let's do this. Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered, your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.

Hi and welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend, challenge or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories. And I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, TREW Marketing. TREW is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical company. For more information, visit trewmarketing.com. And now on with our podcast.

Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing, Engineered. Today I'm joined by Stephanie Tierney. She's the Director of Communications for the Electronics Components Industry Association, also known as ECIA. Welcome to the show, Stephanie.

Thank you, Wendy. I'm excited to be here.

I am too. I think this will be an interesting topic today because many of the marketers listening have companies that participate in industry associations, but they're not always directly involved with what membership looks like and not always aware of benefits that marketers can take advantage of. So I think this will be a very educational episode for us.

Great.

So before we get started, let's talk a little bit about your career path as a marketer and what led you to your role at ECIA.

Sure. So I have actually always been involved in some capacity with marketing and public relations ever since even back in my high school days. I remember volunteering to help with the yearbook and the newsletter for the school and so on. And so it's always been a little bit of a passion of mine. I really enjoy it, of course, and I always have enjoyed it. So once I got into the real world, so to speak, I was doing marketing type roles for people in the tech industry. I got into the media side a little bit for a while, but I also ended up joining the association industry about eight years ago within the electronic components industry, and I really enjoyed it. I left the industry for a very short time for another association. I ended up coming back, but it's always stay away. I know I couldn't. Debbie Conyers was retiring from ECIA and kind of brought me back in this way and the rest of this history. But it's a great association, great industry, and of course, I've been happy to be back ever since.

Yeah, well, it's not everyone that has quite the extensive background that you do in this industry, and it's not for everybody. It's not easy keeping up with engineering trends and having engineers as your focal audience. So we'll get into that. But before we do, just to give some context to our talk today, what is ECIA and what are some of the key benefits that it provides to its members?

Sure. So, a great question. ECIA stands for the Electronic Components Industry Association and our members share a common goal of promoting the authorized sale of electronic components. So our members are really down to three categories manufacturers, reps and authorized distributors. And again, they all work together. They all work together in their day jobs anyways. And so they all work together for that authorized sales, electronic components. But as far as the association side of it, there's really various benefits really depending on where you're involved. There's professional development. We've got our chief analyst who's working really hard every day doing his research for great stats, supply chain information, industry stats and training webinars, professional development within conferences and so on. So there's all sorts of benefits in our association and really in any industry association.

Yeah, sounds like that analyst is probably pretty busy right now with all of the supply chain woes that we've experienced over these past few years.

Sure, of course.

Yeah. So when you have a new member or just an existing member, who's typically the main point of contact, who owns that relationship with the association?

So that is another really good question because I was thinking about this and I think for many industry associations there isn't just one answer. Sure, we could have sales and marketing people that are our main contact, but we have CEOs, presidents, somebody that's involved in compliance. It quality, it really depends on who is involved and what they're looking for. What is their passion, what is their niche, are they involved in a specific committee, in a specific group? With our association we have councils for each one of the membership types. But we also have our board, we have a conference planning committee, global Industry Practices Committee. There's the EIA Standards Committee. So there is a little something for everybody within our members organization. So I think that to say that only one type of person might own that relationship. I don't know if that's TREW. I really think that it could be a variety of job titles, a variety of people, because the industry association has many roles. Right, so what's your passion, what is your niche, where do you fit type of thing.

Right, it makes sense because you can maybe over here have we need to create a standards panel for some sort of standards and of course you'd have engineers involved with that. And then other times, like you said, conference planning, that's a very different muscle.

Exactly. Different skill set.

Well, do you find that some portion of your membership just doesn't take advantage of a lot of the benefits and why?

Yeah, so I do think that that could happen. We have so many great members. They're so highly involved and I think that's pretty standard in many industry associations. But you do get some members that they might download your logo, put it on their website and call it a day.

Yeah, kind of that credibility thing, slap.

It on there, which is great. But I think that when you do that, whether it's our association or whether it's any association or any membership for that matter, you're really going to put into your membership or you're going to get out of it what you put into it. Right? Yeah, I had mentioned it with the previous question. There's so many ways to get involved, there's so many committees. What is your passion, what is it that you're trying to do? Do you want to influence policies? Do you want to get involved, meet more people? How is it that you want to gain? What is it that you want to gain from that membership? And really, it's up to the member to kind of take that membership, make it their own, put in what they want and that's what they'll get out of it. So we highly encourage our members to get involved with the various committees. Council, you know, I mentioned it earlier, there's literally something for everyone. There's so many, so many ways to get involved, so many ways to make a difference. Even taking industry surveys, I mentioned our chief analyst deal for, he's always looking for somebody to take a survey and be a part of this great data that we're putting out or get involved in conference planning or be a part of the Global Industry Practices Committee.

There's really so many ways to maximize the benefit of your membership, for sure.

So I hear a lot of passion in you explaining that. And I'm guessing part of that is because it's your job, right, to make sure that people understand what all these opportunities are and stay top of mind. So on that note, give me a sneak peek into just a day in the life of an association marketer.

Sure. So I think with many industry associations, the marketing people tend to wear many hats. Marketing and communications is one part of the role. Our newsletter, social media, website content, those types of things, of course that's going to be a part of my role. But member engagement is a very big part of my job too, making sure I'm keeping out there, having an active communication with our members. And again, what is their passion, where can we find something for them and where do they fit type of thing. But also the conference is coming up in October for our association and I've got a big role in that as well and helping run the committee and organizing all of their ideas and such a great committee. We have so many wonderful ideas and I think we wear many hats, I think. So not just one. Every day is a little bit different depending on what the task at hand.

Is for the clients, I'm sure. And the time of year.

Exactly.

So what is the balance when you think about what success looks like for you? How much of it has to do with new member recruitment versus existing member engagement?

So I think that's another really good question. I think it's really important. We don't want to just concentrate on recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. That current membership engagement is huge, making sure that they're feeling fulfilled in their membership, and again, I've mentioned it before, finding their passion, what is their niche, where do they belong with that association? And one organization could have various people involved in the association. So even if we have one person involved from an organization, I bet there could be two or three other people that may find what they're looking for within the association too. So I think working with our current members is just as important as recruiting new members as well. You got to have that balance because if we recruit and they're not seeing the value, that's the point.

Yeah, exactly. It's just that logo on the website and that's right. No substance. Well, I know that ECIA has a podcast and it has a pretty fun name. Tell me a little bit about that and maybe how the podcast came to be.

Well, the podcast came to be before I started, but it does have a fun name. It's the Channel Channel. And we feature all sorts of great hot topics in the industry, industry experts. And the nice thing about this too is the ECIA staff has all been able to kind of jump in on there, depending on who we're interviewing, what the topic is and so on. So it's been a little bit of a joint effort, which is a lot of fun.

I've noticed that the community around electronic components and ECIA specifically really also the community at large, it's really tight knit. You see a lot of long term relationships that are developed. There was recently Eds conference where the whole thing was about networking and meetings and that seems to be pretty unique. Why do you think that is? What is the catalyst for this group being just so close?

And you're so right about that. I think it is such a tight knit group in this industry as a whole. So I think it boils down to a few different factors just alone, the reps manufacturers and distributors, every day they've got their relationship building, they're already coming into it with having a tight relationship, just doing their everyday job. But I will say there are so many passionate people in the industry that are willing to give back to the industry. So you'll see them all, whether it's Eds or another industry conference, you see them all working so hard, volunteering and gathering all of their relationships to do the same thing. I'm going to grab this committee, I'm going to get a few more people to join and we're going to have this big group, we're going to have this big meeting at Eds. And I think that's just the beauty of the industry. So many long relationships that have been built over time. So many people willing to give back to the industry, whether it's through the associations or something else. Just a lot of high passion people willing to give back to the industry. All these networking events, it's really created some really long lasting relationships and it's evident in every event we've ever been to.

Cool. So if there's a marketer listening and maybe they know their company's members of the industry association, whether it's yours or not, but marketing is not engaged, what advice do you have for them and what opportunities might they uncover by engaging?

Yeah, that's a great question. I would suggest reaching out to somebody within the association. Let them know what it is that you're looking for. Whether it's something that's, whether a personal goal, a professional goal, maybe something that the company is trying to do, maybe it's an industry goal. There are ways to get involved and influence policies within the industry in various committees and groups, help work on best practices within the industry. Or maybe just meet people. Maybe it's that somebody really wants to meet others in the industry. Maybe they're fairly new company or whatever it might be. Really just reach out and see whoever it is, whether it's a marketing person, somebody that's involved with member engagement, reach out to that person, let them know what you're looking for and I guarantee that they'll be able to come up with something that says, yes, we got this and this. It's perfect for what your passion is. And really take advantage of just knowing that there's probably a lot more to your industry association than you are even thinking about. There's all sorts of information on the website, but we all know that we get on the website, we kind of scam and you get off the website, ask questions, find out what your passion is and ask questions for sure.

Yeah, I think too many marketers stop at the logo on the website, maybe trying to speak at a conference or webinar be on a podcast, but they're not thinking deeper into Gosh. I go back to the analysts that we talked about at the beginning of this conversation. If someone is trying to position their company as a thought leader or they're trying to write more industry related content, look at all the great resources you have that you could connect so that they have a more robust content editorial calendar. So that's one that sticks out to me is like wow, low hanging fruit. And it's a win win because you have the association in front of that, you have that credibility, but also you're putting your brand out there. And I know that's one of many things that you probably have in your arsenal for marketers.

Yes, for sure. And I think that's a great point. Checking out the calendar of events, there's always something, whether it's a webinar or an inperson conference and where in person events are starting to come back. And that's a great way to be putting yourself back in the forefront of everybody. And even sponsorships, it's a great way for a marketer to get your name out there, be a part of whatever event or industry association event, whatever it might be, sponsorships, like you said, speaking opportunities. Those are all really great ideas.

Well, tell us a little bit more about you have a conference coming up in October, so you are in the thick of it right now. What's the focus of the conference? Where is it? Who are you hoping will attend?

Yes, so that's a really good question as well. It is October 23 through the 25th in Rosemont, Illinois at the Lowe's Chicago Hare Hotel. And it has been so much fun working with the conference committee because here we are, we had to cancel events as a result of the pandemic. And so there's been so much change, so much disruption, and not just pandemic related. I mean, it's been all over the board in the past few years. And so working with the committee has been great. They came up with a really clever theme, bucking normal. And basically the whole point is that they're going to say normal as a state doesn't exist anymore and the resilient are going to thrive through the disruption. And so that's been really fun working with them. They've got some great speakers lined up and really, anybody within the industry is welcome to attend to the event. Tends to be sealed level people, but we get all sorts of attendees as well. It's not just the CEOs and the presidents, we get all sorts of attendees. So definitely looking forward to it.

Great. Well, good luck with all your planning leading up to that. I used to be a conference planner myself, so I know all the details that go into it, but it's so fun too.

Well, thank you so much. We're definitely looking forward to it.

Good. Well, Stephanie, where can our listeners go to connect with you and learn more about ECIA?

Yes, well, absolutely find me on LinkedIn. I'm always on there, part of my job. So find me on LinkedIn ecianow.org. You can always find me somewhere on there as well. But yeah, I would welcome the opportunity to speak to anybody, of course. Great.

Well, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Thank you, Wendy. It's been fun.

Thanks for joining me today on Content Marketing Engineers. For show notes, including links to resources, visit trewmarketing.com podcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog and our newsletter and order a copy of my book, Content Marketing Engineers. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast. So please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks and have a great day.