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In early 2021, the AIM/R board of directors, a group of volunteers with the common goal of improving the manufacturers’ rep channel by sharing best practices and education, met to develop a strategic plan for the next 18 months. They identified three key areas to move the association forward:
The first area for improvement was advocacy — reaching out to the industry to improve membership and the awareness of AIM/R to the industry.
The second strategy was access — improving membership resources to make the association more valuable to our members. Meeting once a year at the annual conference is a good start, but we needed to look for ways to provide 24/7/365 access to resources and regular interaction with members.
The third identified area of concentration was events. This area includes the annual conference, webinars, roundtables — even offering a Rep Training School in the future.
AIM/R leadership created an extensive list of initiatives and tackled many of our objectives in 2022 to increase the value-added proposition of AIM/R. We now have an enewsletter with weekly updates on what is happening with the association and interesting articles relative to our business.
We partnered with other associations to offer either bundled memberships or discounts. If you are a rep agency member of AIM/R, you are automatically a member of the Manufacturers Agents National Association, which offers great resources and regular webinars specific to the rep channel. For our Canadian rep agencies, we offer Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating members 50 percent off AIM/R membership dues for the first year.
In conjunction with the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association, we are offering a joint membership to rep agencies; that bundle is US $1,000 in 2023. Finally, Heating & Refrigeration Distributors International will offer a 50-percent discount for joining in 2023 to any AIM/R rep agency members who are not yet a member of HARDI.
We started working with The Wholesaler magazine to spotlight AIM/R members and published six Member Spotlights in 2022. We have secured several spots for 2023 to highlight additional members. We are also working with other media partners to highlight our association and our members. We have reached out to the Canadian media to publish our press releases and hope to have them participate in promoting AIMR in the future.
Outreach, Education and Networking
Social media has become a part of our lives and now most people get their daily information from social media vs. websites. AIM/R was not present on social media to a great extent; as part of our outreach strategy, we researched and contracted with the Hearth Agency, a social media and digital marketing agency based in California.
They are a creative team and will help us communicate to our members and industry on a real-time basis. We are now on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, updating regularly what AIMR and our members are doing and injecting some fun to reflect our outgoing culture as reps.
AIM/R on Tap continued in 2022 and has become a regular, online live venue to offer education and updates on the third Thursday of each month. We have taken some of the lessons learned from COVID-19 lockdowns and tested an online rep roundtable app twice in 2022. During these sessions, reps can spend an hour of their day talking with other reps and manufacturers to learn best practices. Previous attendees have found the experience to be valuable, and AIM/R will continue this in 2023.
The AIM/R 50th Annual Conference (Oct. 12–14, 2022) in Denver was a resounding success. Part of this success came from lessons learned during the pandemic. Past conferences were the responsibility of one board member, which put immense pressure on one person as the conferences grew to the size they have become today. When COVID-19 hit, a committee was formed to hold our first-ever live virtual conference.
We learned that combining resources from many enhanced the conference experience for our members, and this committee concept has been kept for future conferences. We now plan up to three years ahead for conferences, so we can select better properties and allow more time for planning and speaker selection. We have 2023 and 2024 locations secured and are currently working on a location for 2025. Registration for the AIM/R 51st Annual Conference (Sept. 12–15, 2023) in Miramar Beach, Fla., will open in early March 2023.
AIM/R benchmarking was once again offered in this past year. The AIM/R RepProfile is a confidential survey sent to members and consolidated by an independent firm to allow participating members to benchmark their companies on a wide range of topics, from sales by size of your company, benefits for members, profit/expenses, and more.
This survey allows rep agency members to measure their current standing and future potential within the industry. Participation increased for the 2022 survey, but in the future, we highly encourage all members to participate. The AIM/R Benchmarking Survey is another way to gauge your progress to REP 2.0.
The AIM/R Principals’ Reception took place Nov. 9, 2022, at The Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. It was sponsored by 33 AIMR rep agencies. Manufacturers from across the industry made the event a roaring success with a packed house for most of the evening.
To manage additional new initiatives, it was determined that the AIM/R board of directors would be expanded. The board now can include 20 rep agency members from the previous 16. When the new AIM/R board gathered in fall of 2022, each executive board member was given a team to assist them to spread the workload.
We still have many more ideas to make AIM/R more valuable to our members and will continue to improve the organization in 2023. Make sure to visit www.aimr.net in the new year.
Jeff Blair is the president of Barclay Sales Ltd. and Barclay Sales Alberta. He has been with the company since 1985 and has been president since 2008. Blair is on AIM/R’s Executive Committee and serves as senior vice president of industry and PR, as well as Conference 2025.