Business Networking International or BNI is an American franchised networking organization that has significantly helped many small business owners. However, like any other organization, it's not for everyone. This article will help you understand whether BNI is the right platform for your business and how you can make the most out of it.
What is BNI?
BNI is a platform designed specifically to help businesses increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional referral marketing program. It provides an opportunity to create long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals. In essence, BNI develops a local network of franchises in different territories that are designed to facilitate business growth.
The BNI Model
BNI operates on a unique model that allows only one service professional per chapter in each specialty. This eliminates competition for referrals within the group. The meetings follow a structured agenda and are typically high energy with time allocated for additional networking before and after each meeting.
BNI Membership: Cost and Benefits
Joining BNI comes with a price. The membership fee varies from region to region. On top of the fee, there are other costs such as weekly or monthly breakfast meetings, excursions, or other group activities that members might plan. However, many members argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. They believe that the ability to network with other professionals, gain referrals, and learn about other businesses far exceeds the monetary investment.
Who Should Join BNI?
BNI can be beneficial for traditional businesses such as tax services, local furniture manufacturers, or any professional services with geographical limitations. It provides a great platform to network and understand other businesses, their products and services, and business models. If you run a business with a wide customer base, BNI could prove to be an effective lead generation tool.
Who Should Not Join BNI?
While BNI can be a great tool for many businesses, it's not for everyone. If you run an internet-based business, BNI might not be the best fit for you. The same applies if you have a very specific or elite market niche. Also, if you are not prepared to invest a significant amount of time and effort in engaging with the group, BNI might not be the right choice. Lastly, if you don't have a referral system strategy in your business, harnessing the potential of BNI could be challenging.
Personal Experiences with BNI
Some business owners have had positive experiences with BNI. They've been able to make valuable connections and establish strong relationships with other local business owners, thereby helping them grow their businesses. They've also learned about the latest trends and best practices in their industry, which have contributed to their business operations.
On the flip side, some business owners have had negative experiences with BNI. They've found the meetings to be time-consuming and the fees to be expensive. Some have also felt pressured to generate referrals for other members.
Speaking from personal experience, I have been in BNI for 6 months now. However, I don't have many solid referrals given to my co-referral partner. One of the reasons is that I moved to Melbourne due to family commitments. For me, family is my priority and BNI is not on my top list. Despite this, I have been helping my referral partners build the chapter, especially since it was just launched last May.
While my experience with BNI has been a mixed bag, it's crucial for potential members to understand the time and financial commitment involved, as well as the potential benefits. If these align with your business needs and goals, BNI could be a worthwhile investment. Otherwise, it may be beneficial to explore other networking opportunities.
Making the Most Out of BNI
To maximize the benefits of BNI, it's important to become an effective networker. This involves consistently attending meetings, building relationships, and contributing to the group by generating referrals. Having a clear understanding of your business needs and goals can also help you leverage BNI to your advantage.
BNI can be a powerful tool for businesses, but it's not for everyone. It's important to consider your business needs, resources, and goals before deciding to join. If used effectively, BNI can provide an excellent platform for networking and business growth.