How to avoid diluting your membership benefits and leaving your logistics partners high and dry: Attend the meetings!
Every year when the Annual General Meeting (AGM) rolls around we at the network headquarters get in a grand mood, ready to meet all of our old friends again as well as meeting the new ones. We get to do business, socialize and learn more about one another in a new and interesting location. The majority of our members also look forward to seeing one another but we have a minority who always have to be convinced by us or have to convince themselves that they should come to the meetings. Though I have never understood this I have now come to expect it. However, I would like to address my answers to this annual dance we do to everyone and give you the reasons why you should never have to ask yourself this question again.
When I normally talk with these people about coming they generally are looking at the meeting in terms of:
- How many total people are coming to the meeting
- How many new companies will be there
First of all, for these people who ask for lists of the attendees, this will almost never give you the information that you want due to the fact that it will only show you how many people have registered up to that date and it never shows who or how many will actually be there at the meeting. The last three weeks before every meeting always gets a big surge in registrations as well that you will miss out on. And this swell can be from 20% to 30% of those who are coming to the meeting. So for people who are asking for incomplete lists to make a decision on, well, it’s kinda like asking for a menu with several pages missing.
The reasons you should sign up and come:
Your commitment to the group
You have joined a network so you will need to show your commitment to the group. It is a self defeating prospect that you would join a group and be willy-nilly about whether to go to the annual meeting. When most companies are looking at joining a network they want to see who is already in the network because they want to be part of this club to do business. Those club members will expect you to be there. It shows commitment to doing business with them and with the group as a whole. If you aren’t there because you have a family emergency your partners will tend to understand this but answers like we are just too busy or we don’t have the time make you sink in their esteem. If you can’t go send someone else but don’t let your company and network partners down by skipping the event.
It’s not all about new partners
People who think this have it all wrong. I have seen time and time again people looking at lists and saying “I know that company already, I don’t need to see them.” But these people are forgetting that it is easier to find new business in existing partners than to find new business in companies you just met. Much of this comes out face-to-face. When you are sitting at home in your office how much information are you sharing with your network partners? They have services that they can help you with and you have valuable services that they can benefit from. This isn’t all about the last time you met. It is about the next time you will meet.
Others will pick up business you could have gotten had you been there
And this will be down to you. Network partners will come with business to discuss and they will be looking for the companies who are in the best position to help them. In this case it will be the company they can see and talk to. Remember the old Woody Allen quote “80% of success is just showing up”? Well, if you don’t show up to the meeting and someone catches business that you would have had then this 80% goes to 100%.
Persistence pays off
There is a huge value to being known as being there at the meetings. When you become a mainstay you become trusted by others. You will be the first person they think of when they need to do business with someone or when they are asked to recommend someone in an area you cover. There is some powerful marketing value in being seen in the flesh and this shows up in intangible ways over time.
Then there are the new guys…
Always new business to be found with new partners. And very often it takes only one or two of these to make the whole trip worth your while. Virtually all of the new members in a network will go to their first meeting so all of the companies who joined since the last time. And you will want to get first shot at these guys turning them from prospects to agents to partners over time. And it starts at attending the AGM. Again, if these new companies are looking for someone like you and you are nowhere to be found then it is a loss for both. But if someone else is there to fill the gap then it is only your loss.
And you should also keep in mind that you will be meeting all of these people socially as well which is irreplaceable.
When you join a network you invest a good amount of money in your annual membership as do all of your network partners. By not going to meetings you will not only deplete the value for the whole group but you will be robbing your company of the full range of opportunities that this group offers. Don’t sell yourself and the network partners short. Remember the commitment and participate.
Gary Dale Cearley is the Managing Director of Advanced International Networks Ltd. (AIN), one of the fastest growing and most dynamic business-to-business networking organizations in the world. AIN’s networks include AerOceaNetwork (AON), XLProjects Network (XLP), and AiO Logistics Network. Gary Dale has been in many facets of international freight forwarding for more than two decades from operations to sales to the owner of the first 100% foreign owned freight forwarding company licensed in Vietnam. The companies that he has been involved with have been both generalists and specialists. He has also worked from large European and Asian multinationals (Danzas and Hankyu Express) as well has small start up forwarders. For the past ten years Gary Dale has owned and operated AIN. He has lived in several major cities in four different countries and he is multilingual. Currently Gary Dale runs the AIN operation from Bangkok, Thailand, but travels the world over.