Why I joined BNI.
(and how it helps grow my business)
What is BNI?
BNI® (Business Network International) is a referral networking organization that has been around for more than 35 years, it's in over 70 countries, and it has over 275,000 members.
BNI gives businesses an opportunity to connect with other businesses to pass referrals. It's a great way to build relationships with businesses that share common types of clients. This is crucial because it allows us to strengthen our relationships with our current clients (by helping them find excellent resources they need) and more easily connect with new clients who may not be aware of our services.
My BNI Story
I had heard of BNI before starting my own business. When I launched Jane of All Trades Consulting, I didn't join BNI because I felt it was too expensive for my budget. So, I joined a different referral networking organization that was local to my area.
I was part of the other group for about ten months when I realized it hadn't helped my business at all (like, practically zero). I met some great people and made a few fabulous friends, but my business wasn't growing. I knew I wouldn't renew my membership, but I was at a loss at what to do next.
Around that time, a member of my BNI chapter reached out to me to ask if I was interested in referral marketing. I did a little digging and realized she was talking about BNI. I was hesitant because of the dues, but I took the meeting anyway.
The more I listened to Constance talk about BNI and what it has done for her business, the more I realized that was exactly what I was looking for. My friend, Cyndia, is also in BNI, so I chatted with her to hear her thoughts on BNI. Both Cyndia and Constance were confident that BNI would help grow my business.
I visited the chapter that week and had my application turned in a few days later. A few weeks after that, I was inducted as a new member of the BNI SMART chapter of Springfield, Missouri.
In my first six months with BNI, I was able to bring in over $3,000 worth of new business, so it more than paid for my membership. I'm making connections with other business owners in my area and other states. I'm also sending business their way (which is really one of my favorite things to do).
Why BNI works (for me).
1. The Givers Gain® principle.
BNI is built on the Givers Gain principle, which is basically the Golden Rule applied to business. In BNI, we believe that you get what you give. So, every week I'm listening for opportunities to connect my BNI team members with people I meet who need their services. Trust me. It works.
2. It's industry exclusive.
BNI is different from other networking opportunities because it is "industry exclusive" or non-competitive. All that means is that every member is in a unique category. No one competes! In my chapter, I hold the "marketing strategy" seat. Any other marketing agency that wanted to join for marketing strategy would have to find another chapter in our area.
Why is that important? My fellow chapter members will refer people to me when they know someone who needs marketing strategy help. (And it's quid pro quo—I do the same for them.)
3. You have a dedicated sales team.
One of the reasons I hear why people don't want to join BNI is because they don't see their customers sitting in the chapter. Let me dispel this myth right now. It is absolutely possible to do business with people in your chapter (and it's encouraged!).
The people in your chapter are your sales team. When you show up every week and talk about your business and share what you're looking for in referrals, you train your sales team to listen for you as they meet with clients and the community. And if they hear that someone needs my help, they ask permission to connect us. In effect, I'm represented at every meeting they have. Instead of being limited to the 20 or so people in my chapter, the number is multipled exponentially.
4. BNI offers continuing education opportunities.
One of the cool things BNI has is a continuing education program. Sure, they offer courses to help you get the most out of your membership. But they also offer courses, podcasts, seminars, and training to help you grow your business.
In addition to all the education, every week, you practice your public speaking skills and have the opportunity to refine your elevator pitch. So you're always ready when given a brief window to share your business.
5. It works.
It works. It really does. BNI's data shares that a business can expect to experience a 30- to 35-percent growth in their first year of membership and 60- to 65-percent subsequent years after that.
And it worked during 2020, the Year of COVID. BNI never missed a beat when the world shut down due to the coronavirus. It immediately moved all of its meetings online. (Literally...all of them...around the world!)
I know online meetings aren't everyone's favorite, but in a time when businesses were shutting down, many businesses in BNI stayed open. In fact, I've heard stories from several members who had their best year ever in 2020. (Who has their best year ever in 2020?!)
And my business exemplifies that as well. 2020 ended up being a great year for Jane of All Trades Consulting. Yes, it does take a bit of time and effort, but it has honestly been worth it.
If you've never thought about referral networking, I encourage you to visit a local BNI chapter. Meet with some of the members and ask them to share their stories. And if you do join, make sure you tell them I sent ya. 🙂