In a previous article, I wrote about five different ways to build perceived value as a professional. I call them the “5 Cs.” Quickly, they are: content, credentials, case studies, community, and care.
“Community” is where you create a rassemblement of clients and peers who can share success stories and best practices, and support each other.
One subscriber asked, “How can a lawyer create a community of clients without breaking privilege?”
Having a community of existing clients in certain professions, such as lawyers and doctors, is obviously challenging if not prohibitive. But one way is to create a public community where people can follow you.
For example, create a page on social media that people can like, follow, comment on, engage with, and interact with you and your content. This gives your audience a place for knowledge and information exchange.
Social media offers the ability for people to follow you and share of their own volition. I've also seen professionals do this with private Facebook groups, Slack channels, discussion forums, blogs with comment sections, etc.
One professional (a computer engineer) has a voluntary Slack channel for clients to join, but has moderators, a set of rules to follow, and openly warns his members to refrain from posting any sensitive information.
There's also another extremely powerful way.
Over the course of my career, I've advised many professionals to start their own associations — and several have.
Sure, most professionals have memberships in associations that certify, license, set codes of conduct, and oversee their profession. But I'm referring to business associations or industry associations that can meet an unfilled need in your community.
One client of mine, a cosmetic surgeon, created his own association for the advancement of specific surgical procedures in his field. At last count, his association has 1,000 members throughout 70 countries.
He offered professional development opportunities, invited the sharing and collaboration of ideas and new techniques, gave out awards at conferences and events, and more.
But the best part is, his bio included that he was the founder and past president of the association, which he proudly displayed alongside his credentials, on his website, in his marketing materials, and in his byline when publishing articles.
Creating an association also uses the other “Cs” I mentioned earlier: not only does it create a community, showcase your content, and add to your credentials, but it also allows you to build case studies and shows you care about your industry, your profession, and your clients.
Launching your own association has three major benefits:
1. Being the leader in the first year, you have more leverage.
Leaders (i.e., director, president, chair, etc) are typically elected in subsequent years. But being the leader at the beginning, it gives you more leverage over the structure of the association and, above all, its marketing, too.
2. Being the founder will provide a great deal of implied authority.
No matter who gets into the leadership position later on (however, the chances are you will be nominated in the first few years, anyway), being the founder adds to your reputation and will stick with you pretty much for the rest of your career.
This is, by far, the greatest reason why a professional would start an association.
3. It gives you access to networking and research opportunities.
You can network with likeminded people, including competitors. The hidden benefit is that it gives you a leg up on what the industry is up to, what are your members' interests and concerns are, and if there are any unmet gaps that exist.
There are many other reasons for associations. But there are three common types I've found:
- Educational associations provide members with advanced training, specialized information on their industry, access to literature and special conferences, and more.
- Collaborative associations share news, recommendations, best practices, and a wealth of other knowledge and opportunities such as group purchasing.
- Advocational associations create lobbying opportunities, address issues, take a stand on law and policy that might impact their members' profession or their clients, etc.
Bottom line, being the founder of an association not only creates a community but is also one of the most powerful ways to communicate implied value, authority, and superiority. Without having to outright claim it.