Neighborhood associations can be valuable resources for independent agents because all of the associations’ members are potential customers. There are homeowners, drivers, hobbyists, boat owners and families with kids approaching driving age, just to name a few.
A lot of communication and community building takes place within neighborhood associations, including picnics, holiday parties and other special events, according to the City of Vancouver, Washington website. And this makes it the perfect place for agents to make new connections.
Here we look at tips on how to get involved in your community and build relationships by joining neighborhood associations.
1. Find Relevant Associations in Your Area
First, you’ll need to find out what’s going on in your city. A quick search for “neighborhood associations [your city]” should give you some ideas. Or you can always use a platform like Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) and search their online database for more information. This doesn’t cover all areas throughout the U.S., but it does feature several larger markets.
For instance, the Neighborhood Association Pages on the City of Portland, Oregon’s website breaks down various associations throughout the city and provides separate links to each one. From there you can see what’s happening, find contact information and check out additional resources.
2. Determine How You Can Add Value
Once you’ve found an association that looks interesting, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you can bring to the table. The goal here is to apply your knowledge and expertise to have a positive impact in your community.
A good example is Ali McCrickard, a realtor in Richmond, Virginia, who is on the board of the Better Housing Coalition, a nonprofit community development corporation. “After a few years in the real estate business, I was looking for a way to involve myself in the community,” she explains. “I grew up in Richmond and just wanted a way to give back. So I started researching nonprofits in the area that could benefit from my background.”
She used her experience in real estate to educate young professionals in her community by serving on a local board, performing public speaking and engaging the next generation of leaders. McCrickard also helped raise money for nonprofits like the Children’s Home Society and Habitat for Humanity. This is a nice template to follow and demonstrates how you can put your skill set to use.
3. Reach Out to Leaders
The next step is to find a point of contact who oversees a particular neighborhood association. Better Housing Coalition’s director of community engagement Sarah Fernald says she looks for candidates who share the same goals and mission of the association, have enough expertise to add value, possess a unique voice to add perspective and have enough time to be an engaged member.
4. Actively Participate
The key to full involvement is participating as much as possible. Whether it’s attending meetings, offering insightful feedback or participating at events, it’s critical that you become someone your association can count on.
“When you join a neighborhood association, you may also have the opportunity to join the leaders’ group or better yet a place on the board,” says communications consultant, Jamee Villa. “By taking a leadership role, you have the power to discuss issues and create improvements.”
Being involved in this way ensures that your voice is heard and can make you a highly influential member of your association.
5. Offer Your Perspective
Most neighborhood associations welcome a diversity of ideas. After all, having a variety of opinions and perspectives is what usually makes a community strong in the first place. Small business owner Ryan Wareham writes that diversity leads to more creativity and better problem solving. It also helps build team synergy and boosts overall productivity.
So be sure to speak up and offer your own special insights whenever you can. For example, you may have learned a lot about insuring property from natural disasters during your time as an independent agent. You could use that knowledge to offer up ideas on how to make your community more disaster resistant.
6. Make a Legitimate Difference
In order to develop relationships and unlock networking opportunities, you need to genuinely help.
“If your goal is to simply get as many business cards as you can, you may be wasting your time,” says Cindy McSwain, senior vice president at AGH CPAs and Advisors. “Instead, focus on letting others know how you can help them. That way, people will actually remember you, and you will be building a business relationship.”
This works by figuring out exactly how you can leverage your existing skill set to help others. Kristen Charles at Adion Financial adds that a great way to do this is to offer individualized support to those within your association.
For instance, a common goal for improving neighborhoods is educating people on property maintenance techniques, writes neighborhood coordinator Lawrence Young, Jr. at the City of Clearwater, Florida. Your knowledge of homeowners insurance could come in handy here, and you could offer tips on how local residents can keep their property in pristine condition.
7. Strive to Build Strong Relationships
Relationships between members are vital to the longevity and wellbeing of neighborhood associations, explains the team at NeighborWorks Pocatello, a progressive alliance between residents, business and government in Pocatello, Idaho. This is what enables collective action and allows an association to be a force for good within the community. Therefore, it’s essential to form strong bonds with your fellow members and nurture these relationships at meetings and events.
“I have met some really awesome new friends, and I love the events we’ve been able to put on,” adds Ali McCrickard. “It’s so much fun seeing everything come to fruition.” When you’ve got an organization that people enjoy being part of, you’ll likely be more effective in realizing your goals.
Entrepreneur Marcel Rasche points out that eating together and spending time with other members in a neutral environment can also accelerate the relationship building process. Not only does this maximize the impact of your association, it can help you earn respect and become a highly valued member.
8. Effectively Manage Conflict
One issue independent agents should be aware of is the conflict that occasionally arises within neighborhood associations. Although everyone is usually committed to improving their community and creating positive change, people will inevitably have their own opinion as to what’s best.
This can result in factions developing within an association, which can lead to further conflict and lowered productivity, warns the team at Useful Community Development. This discord not only diminishes your ability to function as a cohesive team, it’s going to put a damper on your relationship building as well.
So it’s crucial that you know how to manage conflict and not allow it to sour potentially valuable relationships. Creating an atmosphere where members stick together no matter what can be a huge help, as can employing conflict resolution skills at the outset. It’s not difficult; Swetha Amaresan at HubSpot says, for example, that it’s important to fully hear others out and actively listen to what they’re saying.
9. Opportunities for Lead Generation
Members of neighborhood associations come from all walks of life and are all potential insurance customers. Through natural interaction and relationship-building over time, you’ll get to know people’s lives and can let that inform your lead generation.
Say for example, you find out a fellow board member has a child who will soon begin driving. They’ll obviously be requiring auto insurance in the near future and may be unsure of the best coverage. This would be a natural time to use your personal knowledge to fill them in on the process and make suggestions about insurance.
Freely offering your knowledge will encourage people to come to you for your expertise and can help you generate strong leads without coming across as a pushy salesman, explains business and marketing writer Greg Depersio.
The same goes for when someone is buying a new home, doing home renovations, buying a car or getting married, adds Katelyn Betts at InsuranceHub. Any of these situations may prompt a person to speak to with an independent agent. And since you’ve already established a meaningful relationship, you’ve got the inside track and a level of trust that should make most people comfortable turning to you for advice.
The key is to keep your relationships in a neighborhood association as personal as possible so that you know what’s happening beyond the surface.
Promote Growth By Leveraging Neighborhood Associations
Neighborhood associations offer many benefits. They help create cleaner, safer, healthier neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for local citizens, according to Rochester’s Neighborhood Resource Center. They also provide a framework for close communication for residents within a community.
And that’s something independent agents can capitalize on. By being active in neighborhood associations in your area, you can build strong relationships, establish credibility and generate a consistent stream of quality leads. That way you can help your community and grow your business at the same time.
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