The only way you're really going to grow your business, get your next big promotion or land that perfect marketing job is by taking an active role in growing your marketing community.
Six Ways To Get More Involved In Your Marketing Community:
1. Volunteer your time. There is no time like the present to call either your local or national marketing association and ask them how you can get involved or volunteer your time. Beyond that, you can call any association or charitable group that you are passionate about and ask them if you can get involved in helping them to get smarter about Marketing. If they don't have a marketing committee, offer to start one (see point #6).
2. Become a paid member. Don't be skeptical about paying industry association dues. Many marketing professionals look at the sliding scale and think it would be better to lie about how many employees they have or how much income they make to get a better rate, but that's not the point. As you grow (or as you're just getting started), it's important to support your local, national and international marketing industry associations by paying your dues and becoming a full-fledged member (and then following point #1). It's a honour to be able to pay dues (they sometimes have not-for-profit and/or student reduced dues too), and the only way you're going to grow your business is if you have a strong, unified marketing industry behind it.
3. Go to events. What better way is there to learn and meet similar people? One of the coolest things I've discovered is that I tend to meet the most interesting people at events that I would never have looked at in the first place. The good news is that there are also tons of free Marketing-related events you can attend (look no further than PodCamp, BarCamp, CaseCamp, etc...). Don't forget your business cards and don't be shy - you need to go up to people and introduce yourself. Remember, you're both there for the exacts same reasons.
4. Plug into the community. Use your Google News Alerts to see what's going on in your neck of the woods. Invite a business colleague, a client, or someone who you know is looking for a job in Marketing. Connect them to others. Follow the Blogs, Podcasts and industry trade publications (not sure where to start? look on the left-hand side at the Marketing Blogs and Podcasts I check out). In a couple of weeks you'll become a serious "person in the know." Plugging yourself into the marketing community tends to open up many new business opportunities. Ones you would have never seen otherwise. While your competitors have their noses down in their day-to-day operations, be out in the community building the present and future of your business.
5. Create content for a group. Remember content isn't just writing. It could be images, audio, video and, yes, words. Some of the most well-known and respected marketing business leaders built their reputations by writing columns for local newspapers or guest editorials for the industry trade publications. Now, with the availability of publishing platforms like Blogs, Podcasts (audio and video), photo sharing sites, etc... there's simply no excuse. It's easy for me to Blog here, but there is a strategic and community-driven reason why I also contribute to places like the Canadian Marketing Blog, One Degree, Marketing Magazine, Strategy Magazine, the Montreal Gazette, the Vancouver Sun and more. Yes, you'll drop off of some (I know I have), but you'll add some others as you build, share and grow. Creating content not only builds your visibility but brings what you do to a whole new audience. All media (including mass and even Blogs/Podcasts) are looking for fresh content. No reason why you should not be their salvation.
6. Become a leader. It sounds like a tall order, but it's not. All communities are looking for the "next generation" of industry leaders. If you're going to attend an event, why not call up the organizers and see if you can volunteer/lead a certain sub-committee or important function? If that fails, why not start your own? A bunch of cool Montreal Social Media types decided they wanted to bring a PodCamp to Montreal. They did not wait around for permission. They self-organized and are now leading an event that will have several hundred people attending. All eyes will be on this small group of people who took the time and effort to make this event happen (full disclosure: I am helping to organize PodCamp Montreal). What do you think it says about them to a potential employer, potential/existing clients or their boss? Leadership is one of the hardest skills to foster in marketing. Demonstrating it not only adds value to your resume, but it takes you several notches above your peers.
Social Media and Web 2.0 have made getting involved in your marketing community one of the easiest things you can do. There really is no excuse.
If your excuse if "I just don't have the time." Think about it: you always have time for the things that are important to you.
How has your involvement in the marketing community changed your career? What can you add to this list?