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The print industry has seen a lot of associations form, evolve, merge, and close up shop over the decades. It sometimes seems cyclical. If you look at the trade press for the last 25 years you will see articles from some of my WhatTheyThink colleagues talking about the challenges faced by industry associations, and the need for them. But as the industry has become more contained, there has been a change in the association landscape but there are still many options to meet your needs.

At the most basic level, these associations provide access to valuable resources, networking opportunities, industry insights, and support tailored to the printing sector. By joining an association, printers can stay updated on industry trends, access educational materials, collaborate with other professionals, and potentially gain a competitive edge in the market.

Even though we have seen associations come and go, today there are associations for every print segment and type of printing operation. They are staffed by people who are enthusiastic about the industry in general, and their segments. Many have teams involved in lobbying local, state, and federal government entities on behalf of the industry. Education and knowledge sharing are in their DNA.

Picking the best group for your needs can take some digging. Start by looking at user groups and advisory committees hosted by your vendors, which can be great sources of help, information, and networking. They are more focused than a general user group, but they are valuable.

Beyond those organizations, look for your regional associations. They often cover a broad spectrum of printing segments and can be great resources for the impacts of local, state, and regional legislation. Many have lobbying committees and liaisons to other regional and national associations.

Also, consider the work you do and the markets you serve. Associations that focus on the market you serve can provide insights into changing buyer demands, new product ideas, and help develop staffing resources. Think about how to get the most from the relationship.

Don’t forget to look for associations in the markets you serve that are not specifically print-related! Insurance, health care, life-home-auto, retirement, charitable giving, manufacturing, education, and retail have a wide range of associations. There are also groups that specialize in security and cybersecurity. There are standards committees and associations who specialize in specific file formats and workflows, too.

As a bonus, some associations offer access to discounted business services, like bookkeeping, CPAs, tax accountants, and business consultants. Some have relationships that provide access to health insurance and retirement account pools. Some offer access to libraries of educational content. Many have regular newsletters and magazines full of educational content. Most hold meetings that help everyone network and learn from subject matter experts.

Sound exciting? Getting to know your peers and having a solid network of people to bounce ideas off of and trade ideas with can help you avoid the navel gazing that sometimes happens when you focus solely within your business. Not sure where to start? Drop a comment and I’ll help!