How BNI Referral Exchange Will Work Wonders For Your Business
I recently had a conversation with a new business owner who just couldn’t figure out how to get new people through the door, how to build her clientele, and start getting more referrals for her business.
It’s a tough go out there for any new business. You can build the shop and products, websites, and Social Media pages, blogs, local promotions, engage clients online – but it comes down to this. How do you get them through the door and buying?
Being a new arrival in Australia and not knowing anyone upon arrival here was a tough go. Not only was I just starting out – building my portfolio, trying to figure out what my demographic is, what my business looked like (that will be a moving target forever), I had to find people who were in need of my services! So I took the plunge and joined a newly minted BNI Group in my regional area.
What is BNI?
BNI is a business networking organisation with 6,600 active chapters and 160,000 members in 50 countries, it is the most successful business referral organisation of its kind.
Now before you think Im getting all sales pitchy on you, I want to tell you where I was before BNI, and where I am after.
What is Referral Networking?
Let’s start off with what Referral Networking is and how I think it is ABSOLUTELY essential for any and all businesses. Even the old guys have to admit that thier business comes from referral network. People who know you, and refer you to others. It’s based on a relationship of trust and knowledge of your business…they are advocates for you. You are top of mind when they hear someone needs new Headshots, Family portraits etc.In laymans terms its word of mouth.
When I joined BNI last year, I had VERY few clients, and those that I did have were mostly my friends, but what I did have was a solid idea of who my target audience was, a strong brand, and a desire to help people. In BNI the buzz phrase is ‘Givers Gain‘ and that in essence is how it works. If I give you business, you will return that to me. Now this is not 100% of course. Some people you have synergy with and some you don’t. Such is life. But when we spend time together, getting to know about each others businesses, forging bonds, then there is definitely a top of mind attitude that brings business to you.
The Way It Works
BNI have chapters all over the world. In fact I guarantee there is one in your area. The difference with other networking groups is that each chapter only has 1 person per profession available in each chapter: 1 photographer, 1 mortgage specialist, one coach, 1 plumber, 1 real estate agent etc. By joining you get to lock out your category, and you now have a group of 20-50 members referring their business over to you along with the extended networks they bring to the table. Voila. Pretty much instant business. Your mission if you choose to accept it is to do your weekly 1-2-1 meetings getting to intimately know the other members businesses so that next time you are chatting away at the office, dinner party ect, you have a GREAT accountant that you can recommend and pass potential business to. Thats the Give. Other members are obviously in the same space so you are getting passed business as well from the other members. Do your 1-2-1’s. You are receiving business from other members at the table. You will also have 10-15 visitors at your chapters meeting every week that you have the opportunity to talk to. Every week! It’s your responsibility to see where the opportunities lie. The more effort you put in, the more you can get out of it. There’s the Gain
Why It works
Taking the time to understand your other members businesses is a lot of time and effort. You meet once a week for BNI, for 1.5 hrs, but then there is the time outside that meeting where you are meeting and keeping in contact with all the other members. Its time consuming – yes- but you are carefully building a network that is passing you business all the time. Nurture, is the key here. You are creating relationships that will feed and grow your business. And believe me, it’s worth it. You could expect that 50-75% of your business come from BNI when you are fully engaged in the process. You will find power teams like Finance & Real Estate, Creative Networks of Web Devs and graphics, Tradies, beauty, coaches and fitness and on. You may find that most of your referrals come from 2-3 members, and that the ones that pass you referrals aren’t necessarily the ones that you pass to, but there will be flow and you will recognise who your greatest proponents are.
Networking & Skills Development
I can’t speak highly enough about how much I have learned and grown as a person and a business through BNI referral exchange over this last year. I have perfected my elevator pitch (aka Sales Moment), public speaking ability, Networking skills, business acumen thanks to all the great advice, financial flexibility, creative teams I work with…the list goes on. The members are inspirational, I have a fabulous group of new friends and colleagues, and I am weekly pushed out of my comfort zone to grow myself and business. There is also an immense amount of training that goes into its members weekly, monthly, yearly and via the BNI website, Chapter Building Sessions, and the organisation itself that refers members all over the world.
BNI referral exchange is the best networking group that I have ever participated in. And I’ve done many. In fact, I am involved in another 5-10 groups at any given time. But they have difference focuses, more women based, more association based, locally, internationally, speaker and education based, and they all have their merits. But for putting dollars into my pocket, there is no comparison. It’s BNI all the way.
And hey, if there isn’t a chapter near you, START one yourself. There will be regional BNI referral exchange facilitators that can help you forge the waters, start a new group if your category is locked down in the closest group, or travel to find business outside of your area locally…its a great way to do business and it WILL make a big difference in your bottom line.
Good luck and go and Pay it Forward!
Photographer, SEO lover and lover of headshots, portraits and creating good looking DUDES!