GAWDA is looking for 25 new distributor members and 15 new supplier members.
Those are the goals set for the Member-Get-a-Member campaign this year. The program, being led by the Member Services Committee, assisted by headquarters staff and involving the entire membership, is an important program for 2018 for GAWDA.
The program is designed to strengthen, grow and diversify the distributor and supplier business organization. Membership growth is a goal that will help to sustain the Gases and Welding Distributors Association even in an environment of continuing acquisitions and consolidations across the industry, according to 2017–2018 Committee Co-Chair Linda Smith of supplier member Chemweld, and Co-Chair Evan Bennear of distributor firm Dale Oxygen.
The program was spearheaded in 2016 by then-President Bill Visintainer to increase the number of distributor and supplier members in the association, according to John Ospina, GAWDA executive director. The Membership Services Committee decided that the breadth, depth and expansive geography represented by the existing membership base was an effective way to reach many more potential members than possible by headquarters staff alone. It also was a technique that had proven successful for other associations, and was inspired by longtime GAWDA and Member Services Committee member Ken Tidwell, of Horton Insurance, Ospina says.
The program utilizes a personal, member-talking-to-member approach, versus a blast email or mail recruitment techniques. That’s because making a face-to-face connection is a tactic with proven success, Smith says. “It’s very compelling when another distributor tells you the benefits of GAWDA. You’re getting firsthand knowledge and experience of how they use GAWDA and how it benefits them. That’s a very powerful statement when it comes from another distributor.”
Bennear agrees. “There’s nothing better for a prospective member than getting a referral from an existing member, especially when it’s distributor-to-distributor,” he adds. “There’s no formal kit, no formal presentation. For people in your region that you know personally, set up a phone call or meet in person. Every distributor has a network of fellow distributors they can call to pitch GAWDA.”
Each Recruit Rewarded
As an incentive and recognition, GAWDA awards a $100 Visa gift card to members for each new distributor member he or she recruits. The reward that can result from increasing GAWDA membership comes more from the value of strengthening and diversifying the association’s membership overall, however, according to Bennear.
“Sure, there’s potential monetary awards and recognition, but more importantly, for the long-term sustainability of the association, every member should try to gain new members, so the organization continues on for many years,” he believes. “I view GAWDA as an organization that you get out of it what you put in. This is a very easy way to give back to the organization while helping to grow our membership, without taking up a lot of a member’s personal resources and time.”
No Fancy Techniques
Just over a third of the 12 members added over the past year were recruited via the member-to-member program, according to Smith.
Visintainer, who recruited three new distributor members last year, used GAWDA’s regional meetings as a tool to introduce potential new members to the people, programs and benefits of the association. He targeted companies in his geographic area who would find it easy to travel to one in their area, and used his network of vendors for tips.
“If we can get them to a regional meeting, we’re pretty confident we can get them to join,” says Visintainer. “That’s not nearly as much of an investment in time or money [as going to a national meeting]. They don’t have to be out of their office more than one full day. Beyond our geographic area, I’ll talk to our suppliers who visit us, ask them if there are any new players out there, any startups, anyone you’re calling on who isn’t a member of GAWDA, and see if they can give me a warm handoff to see if we can invite them, or have that vendor invite them, to a regional meeting.”
The effort “helps me help myself,” Visintainer believes, because “the stronger we are as an organization, the better my membership is. This is an area where we can have a positive impact on our association.”
For Kelly Bladow, of Oxarc, a current GAWDA vice president, recruiting members comes pretty naturally in his everyday conversations. When he was visiting a small non-member independent, their discussion turned to resouces. “He was expecting an upcoming state DOT audit. I started explaining the value of the GAWDA consultants to him and said how all the resources he needed were available through the GAWDA consultants. He was spending money with various other outside resources, but it was more than what the cost of a GAWDA membership was for him.” As a small filling operation, that company required all the CGA pamphlets that are free to GAWDA members, says Bladow. “I emailed him some information and the application form and it kind of sold itself. Now he’s a member.”
Ronnie Bray, territory salesperson for Gas Innovations, says when you’re on the road, it’s easy to promote GAWDA membership to those you meet.
“It’s just getting out and talking to people and trying to share information,” Bray confides. “As an outside salesperson I get around quite a bit. I’ve been in the industry for 28 years. I’ve been in relationships with these folks for a long time, and we’re getting younger people in the industry all the time. If I’m out calling on customers or going to functions, if the opportunity presents itself, I just tell them this is something you need to look at and consider.”
The GAWDA website also features a series of promotional videos where current members talk about what they value and enjoy as members of the association. The videos can be found at: www.gawda.org/join-us/testimonials.
How it Works
- All GAWDA members are welcome to seek new members.
- Members can initially discuss the benefits of membership with a potential new member.
- They should refer potential new members to GAWDA staff (Member Services Manager Stephen Hill) for more specific information and later follow-up.
- Each new distributor member who joins via a Member-Get-A-Member efforts earns the referring member a $100 gift card as an incentive.
After a potential member is referred, GAWDA staff continues the recruitment process by routing membership information and providing formal explanations of the range of benefits, services and programs that are available.
Other program requirements to note:
- The annual program period for the “Recognition Program” is between Annual Conventions.
- Only new “Distributor” and “Supplier” member categories will be counted. A new member is any company that has either never been a GAWDA member or has not been an active member for two or more years.
- Individuals and manufacturers representatives, while welcome to join GAWDA, are not included for this program.