In today’s rapidly changing legislative and regulatory environment, marine trade associations have never been more important or of greater value to dealers and related businesses.
While there’s no known study that breaks down the number of members versus non-members in any given state, it’s safe to say there’s a large number of businesses failing to recognize the value and the ROI from membership in their local or state MTA. That needs to change.
An MTA exists to forward the interests of its business members. I remember being asked many times about the benefits of joining during my years with Cleveland-based Lake Erie Marine Trades Association.
“So glad you asked,” I would eagerly respond because it allowed me to highlight the many things that LEMTA did for its members. And I always used the punch line: “Your membership directly supports your industry.”
Sadly, the “support your industry” appeal may have worked well in the 1980s and ’90s, when baby boomers were heading up our retail businesses. Today, the next generation of business leaders might be more likely to wonder what the ROI is from being a member.
For sure, recruiting members is more complicated today. Two key things must now be presented. First, there is a direct positive value from an MTA’s legislative advocacy program. It can mean gaining positive legislation that increases access and boat sales. It can also prevent negative legislation or regulatory actions before they become official. That’s reason enough to join.
But, let’s be honest: When an MTA is successful legislatively, the others stakeholders in the industry will also get the value of those efforts without paying a dime in dues. So there needs to be more value for those supporting members, and there is.
To produce additional attractive membership ROI, today’s MTAs include services and benefits that only members can receive, including member show discounts, updating with newsletters, co-op advertising, educational seminars and meetings, group insurance, legal opinions and much more, all of which elevate the ROI. MTA membership can produce a generous return in products and services, and at a bargain price.
Here are 10 reasons to join a local or state MTA.
1. The MTA does things critical to the success of your dealership or business that you can’t accomplish by yourself. For example, information and actions by some MTAs during the Covid-19 pandemic prevented many businesses from being ordered close. Even trying to navigate the steady flow of state and local regulatory proposals would take many staff hours to research, monitor, compile and act upon. But your MTA screens and advises you, saving your time and money.
2. Many MTAs produce boat shows and offer space, tickets, decorating, utilities, service and other discounts for members, an instant ROI on membership dues.
3. MTAs offer educational seminars and speakers on valuable subjects ranging from employee recruitment to digital marketing programs.
4. MTAs organize and sponsor community events and media outreaches that promote boating.
5. MTAs keep members informed through newsletters, members-only websites, live and virtual meetings and email notices. And staffs are almost always available by phone.
6. MTAs fund scholarship programs for college and/or technical training, all available to member employees and children as a no-cost benefit.
7. MTAs advocate and negotiate directly with state agencies for the allocation of funds to build more access facilities for your customers.
8. MTAs produce intangibles that add up to real dollars saved. These are things most members never see: tax increases that didn’t happen, regulations that disappeared. Their efforts can keep thousands of dollars in your bank account.
9. MTAs consistently bring assets and people together to effect change that positively impacts dealerships, marinas, supply businesses, employees and customers.
10. MTAs are your advocate for things that you don’t have the time or expertise to undertake.
In my years at LEMTA, I would tell prospective members that if I couldn’t show them a positive ROI for their membership dues after one year, I would gladly refund every cent. I never refunded a penny in 34 years.
Join your MTA today. It’s a smart investment with a generous ROI.