Trade association: Membership gains
23 July 2013
In the last decade, BCAS (British Compressed Air Society) membership has reached record levels, with more than half of members receiving awards for a 10, 15, 25 or even 50-year association with the society. Here, Chris Dee, executive director, outlines some of the key benefits members derive from belonging to a trade association.
Membership now includes the majority of major UK manufacturers, while more than 60% of members are distributors or suppliers. The society has also seen a recent growth in end-user members and in companies based outside the UK. Part of this success is a result of the growth of strategic partnerships with other organisations and associations, as well as an ongoing use of social media.
Networking is one of the raisons d’être of a trade association such as BCAS. Traditionally, this was achieved through regular monthly newsletters, national conferences and special interest working groups, while more recently these traditional forms have been augmented by email bulletins as well as podcasts or webcasts.
BCAS is now using Twitter and LinkedIn to communicate with both UK-based and global networks. As an example, the society’s open networking group – 'We Know Compressed Air' on LinkedIn has almost 3000 members engaged in a range of compressed air related topics. BCAS does not see social networks as a threat to trade associations, rather as another tool that any good trade association should embrace to promote itself and its members for the benefit of end-users.
In today’s online world, websites such as Amazon and eBay provide consumers with in-depth reviews, from their peers, on seller performance. This information can then be used by consumers to make an informed decision on whether or not to do business with a particular company or seller.
Working with its partner Referenceline, BCAS developed an innovative online customer satisfaction programme that became the AirSAFE register. The programme asks all customers the same set of questions, meaning results can be benchmarked. This gives customers the confidence that they are dealing with capable and competent companies and, more importantly, with companies that have been recommended by other customers.
By typing their postcode into the search box on the AirSAFE website, customers can check the ratings and reviews of all active BCAS members in their area.
In addition to helping consumers make an informed decision on which compressed air supplier to use, feedback also allows BCAS to view the performance of its members and will help to further improve the types and levels of service that the society offers.
Promoting best practice
BCAS has a crucial role to play in promoting best practice, helping member companies become more competitive and formulating effective policy and delivery to the benefit of their clients. Productive engagement between trade associations such as BCAS and government is very important for the policy making process.
The society acts as a co-ordinated voice of business when talking to government, and offers great value in terms of quickly communicating updates on government policy to its members.
BCAS’s representations to the government on policy matters are backed up with the best available evidence gathered from members. This helps with assessments of the costs and benefits of policy proposals – as our membership numbers increase, so does our authority.
The society represents private businesses. It is those businesses that are going to create the profits and employment that will restore the UK economy to growth and assist in the reduction of the public sector deficit.
Sitting at the heart of the compressed air industry, BCAS can offer a wide range of information and services via a number of communication methods. This can include collation of sensitive information to provide an industry-wide statistical report service, or the management of a consumer code of conduct.
The society provides many products and services, including conferences, networking, training and educational materials, technical advice, and publications to name but a few. It also facilitates the opportunity for members to network with their peers at the spring and autumn conferences and at exhibitions such as Maintec and AirTech.
BCAS is in a position to offer specialist advice, particularly of a technical nature, which is not readily available to small and medium sized organisations.
Specific projects, which benefit members or the industry as a whole, are often undertaken by the society. The current review of the food grade compressed air code of practice is a good example of this. BCAS members have an excellent opportunity to become involved first hand and influence the outcome of these projects should they choose to.
The society is a leader in sector thinking, standard setting, building proactive policies and developing a long term strategic plan which incorporates practical solutions and greater transparency. It is willing to work with others with an interest to minimise areas of difference and maximise areas of common ground. This also helps to provide a consolidated industry view and develop skills.