What You Need To Know About Corporate Partnerships With Trade Associations

Posted by Bruce Rosenthal

Sep 6, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Companies that sell products and services to businesses in a certain industry and that industry’s trade association sometimes have a “mutual love/hate” relationship. Or they view each other as “a necessary evil.”
The companies believe the trade associations are unfairly restricting access to their Bruce_association blog.pngmembers who are the company’s customers and prospective customers. Companies contend they are entitled to a certain level of access to an association’s members, especially if the companies are exhibitors or corporate sponsors or partners.


The associations believe the companies only want to do a “hard sell” on their members. Associations contend that since they are not-for-profit organizations, communications from companies is a commercial intrusion.

The result of this company-association butting of heads does little to help the company or the association. More importantly, it does little to help the association’s members.

A survey conducted in August 2017 by the DC-Area Partnership Professionals Network (PPN), an organization of corporate sponsorship and partnership executives with associations and not-for-profit organizations, revealed some findings that might provide companies with ideas on how to bridge the gap and have more successful relationships with associations.

  • Associations obviously need money to fulfill their missions to provide services to members. Two-thirds of the respondents to the PPN survey reported their revenue from corporate partners had increased in the past year (though the survey didn’t ask how much it increased). What is more revealing is that one-third reported their revenue from corporate partners had decreased or stayed the same.
  • It’s important for associations’ programs to meet the current needs of their stakeholders. Member needs change, business trends change, etc. When asked if they had undertaken a review of their corporate partner program in the past three years, half of the association executives responding to the survey said “no”.
  • Boards of directors play a critical role for associations. They set policy; they are a barometer of member needs; they are a gateway to members. While survey respondents report their boards were aware of revenue from corporate partners, only one-quarter of boards meet with corporate partners and one-quarter are not involved in any way with corporate partners.
  • Companies that partner with associations have specific business goals. These goals can be repositioning their company, launching a new product, meeting the challenges of competitor companies, etc. While almost 100% of the associations responding to the survey offer transactional benefits like logo visibility, the percentage of association offering more substantive benefits like speaking opportunities and content development drops to about 50%.
  • Lastly, most of the organizations surveyed acknowledged they are competing for their corporate partners’ attention with other associations and other marketing channels.

To recap: associations need the revenue from corporate partners; many associations haven’t revamped their corporate partnership programs recently; many boards are not involved in corporate partnership programs; associations are offering predominantly low-value transactional benefits; and associations realize they are competing for corporate partners.

What can you do with this knowledge from the Partnership Professionals Network survey? Have a conversation with each association that represents businesses who are your customers and prospective customers.

Explain that your company and their association each have a mission and goals. Ironically, there is a common thread in these missions and goals: to meet the needs of the businesses who are your customers and their members.

Identify ideas, solutions, and strategies that your company can offer to help the association’s members. Discuss ways the association can make changes to its current corporate partnership program to get their board members more engaged and offer benefits that will help your company help their members.

Strive for the triple-win: value for the association, its members, and your company.

If you would like more information on how your company can achieve its business goals by partnering with trade associations, contact Quantum Age today.

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Topics: marketing, , marketing strategy, , corporate partnerships

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