Yesterday, as we walked to our cars following a post-event lunch, concluding two days of Construction Specifications Canada Ottawa chapter programming on The Economics of Sustainability, I observed to some of our fellow guests the wonderful paradox of community and association service. “You know, this stuff is about the most rewarding and best activity for building business around — but you can’t succeed at it by expecting self-interested results; you really need to do it without the expectation of any reward.”
My colleagues agreed. Undoubtedly, we’re getting business from the deal. We didn’t have to strain too hard find some profitable business through the various relationships, connections and activities. It is early to tell, but I’m confident that collectively the project participants will maintain and build hundreds of thousands of dollars — maybe even millions — from business relationships nurtured and enhanced through the voluntary work on the project.
There are some practical reasons why community and association service are so effective in marketing and business development:
You build trust (and your brand)
Clearly, when you actively engage in community/association activities with competence and energy, you will generally be seen as a good person — worthy of trust — and this trust translates to much lower sales resistance.
You achieve thought-leadership status
Again, through your participation and co-ordination roles, you show you really know your stuff. You also learn about the relevant topic and activities and because of your hours of energy and commitment, enhance your expert status and recognition
You know what is happening
When you work intensively over time on a community project, obviously you’ll have the opportunity to spend lots of time with people doing business and developing initiatives, and you’ll be on the ground floor as you hear about new projects and ideas — and you can obviously participate in their development
These business-building concepts don’t work if you take a mercenary attitude; a quid-pro-quo expectation. That would be seen as cynical and could backfire. But if you do it right, you can find the sweet spot that combines real business development opportunities and effective community/association service.
A final example may prove the point. A young insurance broker approached a local construction association asking how he could help. The association leaders suggested he could reconstitute the association’s membership committee to attract and retain new members. He’s thrown himself into the task (sincerely) and has already brought in 10 new members.
Now he has proposed a membership benefit — a group insurance discount program — and the association has accepted the proposal. And undoubtedly, some of the new members (and existing ones he meets through his association work) will require insurance as well. Is this good business for him? I think so (and well-deserved.)
I encourage you to think about client-focused associations, causes and community activities you can support and embrace with wholehearted energy and selfless commitment. You may find, as most who do, that the rewards far exceed the investment.