What is a Trade Association?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Trade associations are organizations that create a means for businesses involved in a given industry to interact to the mutual benefit of all concerned. Funded by contributions made by the member companies, the association often functions as a means of enhancing the public image of the industry in general, or providing a unified voice to lobby on matters of legislation that are anticipated to have an impact on the industry. Along with these two important functions, this type of association may also provide a forum to educate the general public about a given industry and its chief products.

A trade association may have a lobbyist who works to influence policy makers.
A trade association may have a lobbyist who works to influence policy makers.

In many instances, a trade organization is set up as a non-profit organization. This type of business organization makes it possible for companies involved in the same industry to work together on issues of common concern. To a degree, a trade organization helps to protect the integrity of an industry, in that it normally sets standards that all members must abide by in order to be considered in good standing. Failure to comply on the standards set and maintained by the peer group who operate the trade association can lead to exclusion from the association and lose a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the buying public.

The trade organization often provides the mechanism necessary to make the voice of the industry known in the law making process. Often member companies will work through a trade association as a means of promoting legislation that is anticipated to be in the best interests of the industry. At the same time, the association may lobby against legislation that is perceived as being detrimental to the industry in some manner.

While many companies mount public relations and marketing plans to raise the visibility of the company and its products with consumers, a trade association will also attempt to educate the public and generate interest. Rather than focusing on the wares of a particular company, business associations will engage in marketing and publicity campaigns that entice consumers to purchase and enjoy the goods produced by a particular industry. Part of the marketing approach is accomplished by providing facts and figures that consumers can readily grasp. The education effort of a trade association often paves the way for the marketing efforts made by individual members of the industry.

Along with lobbying, marketing, and educational efforts, a trade association often sponsors conferences for member companies. The focus of the conferences are usually to improve the general function of the industry by providing information that each participant in the conference can absorb and take back to the company level. Just about every trade or business association sponsors at least one conference or gathering on an annual basis.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@SauteePan- I just wanted to say that my husband has been offered many jobs this way. I also wanted to add that trade associations can offer a level of legitimacy in a field.

Sometimes I will go to trade association websites in order to find accredited educational programs associated within the field.

In some cases like in the mystery shopping field, companies affiliated with a trade organization are considered good prospects for finding mystery shopping work. This is important because when many people hear about mystery shopping they think that it is a scam, but it is not.

It is a legitimate industry and those that are professionally affiliated are the best companies to work with.


@Crispety - You are right. I have to say that networking is probably the biggest perk of joining a trade association.

When I was a technical recruiter I had to join many trade organizations related to information technology in order to find great prospects for my open positions.

Some of these positions were very specialized and highly technical and if I could not immediately find someone at a meeting, I could always ask for a referral and that is how I found people for very difficult to fill jobs.

Also from the other prospective you are more likely to find a mentor in your field through these trade show association meetings that can help you plan your career.

They can also give you information on potential job leads that you are not aware about because the best jobs always go unadvertised.


I think that trade association groups allow its members to network with other industry professionals. I also gives more credibility if you are looking to move up within the industry.

A lot of these trade associations offer seminars that allow you to learn more about the industry and in these seminars you can meet people that you can later recruit for your own company or they may have something for you when you are looking to change companies.

Joining a trade association also gives you a certain amount of authority because people know that are serious about your industry.

Post your comments
Forgot password?