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17 Replies Latest reply: Mar 15, 2009 8:00 PM by geauxpromos RSS

Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter

AppleGraphics Novice
Currently Being Moderated
Hi everyone,

If you have read any of my previous posts you will know that I run a small printing business which has finally found itself competitive enough to start really marketing what it has to offer. The next question comes how to get the word out. Currently we belong to a local chamber of commerce (with decent results) and have been trying are hand at direct mail (too soon to tell if that is working). As the title suggests the BNI group has come to my attention as another possible avenue of networking and getting the word out about the company, and I would love to hear about any personal experiences anyone here has with them.
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    LUCKIEST Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    Kyle, I am a SCORE Counselor in New York.
    Have you contacted your local SCORE office?? SCORE as you know FREE.
    How close are you to Chicago. We love Chicago in the summer.
    I Googled B N I and got the following.
    Hope in helps. LUCKIEST

     


    Benefits of Membership
    \\


    Increased exposure to many other people and businesses.

    • Substantially increased referrals.
    • Tools to network more effectively, including an orientation \\ cassette tape giving the "Formula for Success" in BNI, a badge, a vinyl \\ card holder to carry members' business cards, referral slips, marketing \\ materials for your chapter and much, much more.
    • Participation in up to 52 networking meetings per year.
    • Quarterly newsletters with educational material on networking, public speaking, and business.
    • Participation in business tradeshows (where you'll have an opportunity to market your chapter and your business).
    • Free periodic workshops on networking.
    • And much, much more!!!
    |

    • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
      Iwrite Master
      Currently Being Moderated
      Kyle,

      I was just at a printer here in Dallas who is doing something I thought might be of interest to you. He developed and hosted a printing workshop and forum with some of the paper companies that talked to businesses about their printing needs. It was a huge success. They are going to do it annually now. Maybe, you could host an event that al types of organizations could attend to learn more about printing and how they can use it to grow their business.

      Networking is important but I think creating your own opportunities is even better. I know the paper companies will jump all over this. Clampitt Paper in Dallas even has a resource center for people to come in and get samples and information on paper and printing. You can also work from there, it is really an interesting idea. Any day of the week you can see art directors, designers, photographers and graphic designers sitting around getting ideas and paper samples. And who do you think they come to when they have a job?

      Just a thought...
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    amspcs Master
    Currently Being Moderated
    I participated in a BNI chapter for about two years some time back. I left that in order to particpate in leads groups with Chambers of Commerce which I am happier with. But's that's not necessarily an endorsement for or against BNI, that's just my opinion. Here are the pros and cons of BNI as I perceived them:

    PROS: Very very very very VERY businesslike and regimented. They DEMAND attendance, they DEMAND substitute attendee if you are unable to attend for any reason, they DEMAND that you give referrals, very demanding.. . After my BNI experience ended, I found some of these traits to be sorely missing from some of the initial C of C groups I participated in before I found a comfortable landing place. Under normal circumstances I would say these are very desirable traits. But in the case of BNI, I felt they were taken seriously almost to a fault.

    CONS--The DEMAND from BNI that you give referrals every week was very often counter-productive. Their procedure is to have each member stand up and either dole out referrals or explain their excuse/reason for not having referrals--almost a publc humiliation shameing ritual if you don't have a referral to give. So what happens is, if someone doesn't have a legitimate referral, they 'manufacture' one if you get my drift, which always turns out to be a waste of time. I'd rather have nothing to do than waste my time running after a contrived fake 'referral'...that's what I mean by counter-productive. I also found the demand that you get a substitute if you can't attend to be very intrusive...a lot of people don't care to be imposed on by someone asking them to get up and attend a 7:30 breakfast as a substitute which BNI insists that you do. I found that aspect to be very unprofessional and imposing.

    My vote: I prefer more informal Chamber groups. BNI too much like joining the marines. But that's just me....try it and you might like it. BNI does work well for some people, but certanly not all. One other thing: you need to be VERY committed. Getting up weekly for 7:30 AM breadfasts gets old really quickly if you're really not dedicated..

    Barry G
    amspcs@juno.com
    www.MerchantServices-help.com
    • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
      EL_DollarShop Novice
      Currently Being Moderated
      Ok you done scared the (BLEEP) out me dealing with BNI!

      I'll stay with the resources I've learned to trust!
      • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
        geauxpromos Newbie
        Currently Being Moderated
        My suggestion for anyone looking into an "On Purpose Word of Mouth Marketing Plan", which is what I consider BNI to be, is to visit chapters and see it in action.

        You can visit a chapter up to 2 times. Make your decision based on that.

        There are a few things mentioned in this thread that are inaccurate:

        1. BNI members do not get paid when someone else joins their chapter.
        2. You are not FORCED to bring referrals. If you don't have a referral you are invited to give a testimonial about the chapter or one of the other members in the chapter.
        3. The people complaining about BNI not working for them because their sales are generally smaller. They probably didn't build up their contact sphere within their chapter to get the folks that can easily refer to them.
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    Biz Online Novice
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi Apple!
    BNI is way different than any other networking group. The deal is that you must deliver leads for others, and you'll benefit from the leads you receive. There is a degree of pressure to get leads, and the group keeps track.

    The very first BNI meeting I went to, I got a lead that turned into good business. However, I did not join that group, becuase one of the rules is that only one person from a particular field can join. But what I found were a lot of real estate, mortgage, and related people.

    The second time I was brought into a new group trying to form, and I didn't see much value.

    So to date, I haven't joined, mainly due to time. My business expanded by 150% since last fall, so my focus is not joining groups, it's taking care of my current client base, who also give me great referral business...

    A business associate of mine actually started here own network, and since it doesn't have the "lead pressure" that BNI has, and there are no dues, she has build an incredible network of related companies, and it works very well. Perhaps you should consider this first, before shelling out the BNI dues.
    Cliff Koraska
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    FruitionDZ9 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    I'm a brand strategist/designer and have been networking to grow my business for the past 4 years. I've belonged to LeTip, the Chamber, women's groups and most recently, BNI. In my experience, it really comes down to each individual group and not the overall organization as a whole (although I did not like the way LeTip fined you all the time...).

    The groups that have been the most successful for me are the ones where I can develop deeper relationships with people who are, or who know, my target audience.

    I will say that from my observation, printers tend to stay fairly busy in BNI because every small business needs printing. Be prepared for alot of business card and flyer orders.

    If you want to go after bigger fish and larger organizations, check out Chambers and professional business groups where executives frequent.

    Your time is money. I don't know where you are geographically, but take into account how much time you need to spend on BNI vs. other organizations that meet once a month or that you don't have to attend every week to get the same or better "bang for your buck."

    And if you do choose to join BNI, visit several chapters to see where you feel is the best "fit" - where you're comfortable and where you can see yourself giving leads as well as developing great relationships. Their education programs are also GREAT to get you out there and acclimated to networking.

    Remember that you can always put yourself on a sub list and substitute for BNI members in other chapters WITHOUT having to join BNI. You'll also get a free lunch or breakfast out of the deal too.

    Hope this helps and please post what you decide to do.

    Tammi - Fruition

     


  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    lillywhite00 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    Hi there,

    I'm a little late to this post, but I was just faced with the same decision. I am a freelance artist who is looking for some extra clients to supplement my income. I also work a full time job as well. I was coerced by a friend of mine that is a member of a BNI group to visit during a visitors meeting. I admit that I did very little research to what BNI is really all about, and how meetings are structured. I have to say that I was impressed and overwhelmed on the first visit. There were over 100 in attendance for the visitors meeting. During that time we each stood up and spoke for a few seconds about who we were and what services we offer The people are really nice, and very professional as someone had said.

    Then I went a second time, where I joined, and the meeting was structured much the same way. The president speaks, you go around the room giving your 30 second "infomercial" about yourself, then depending on the size of the group, a couple members give 10 minute presentations on their services. Then the basket is passed around the room, and you drop in your referrals, "meetings outside meetings" forms, and any closed sales forms.

    I then joined and went to my 3rd and 4th meetings, and unfortunately discovered at that time that it is not the place for me. It is the same repetition week after week. Maybe its the group I joined, but I got the feeling that these people were not interested in helping others gain business, that they were just in it for themselves and themselves only. I agree that the referrals seemed to be very "fabricated" as I had already received a few as per word of mouth at the meeting, that never amounted to even a phone call. Again, I will also have to agree that when you sit there and do not have a referral for someone, it is almost like public humiliation. I had only been a member for a week and experienced that, and I can tell you it was not a very welcoming nor pleasant thing for a brand new member.

    Also, it is a lot of work on your part to find referrals for other members. Chances are if you've made it in the business this long, you have established relationships with various small businesses around you. I don't necessarily like the idea that you're "supposed" to refer the BNI members first and foremost above people you have long established relationships for. that is one thing that they seriously frown upon as well, other than mandatory attendance.

    Cost is another issue. It was a good amount to join, which wouldnt be so bad for the year, but you have to pay mandatory breakfast (or lunch) dues per month which averages around $50, depending on where you're at. For some professions, this cost is easily made up, but for others not so much. I was also left with the thought that with my kind of profession, it would take a few jobs to cover the amount and come out ahead, but I wasnt so sure that it was worth it in the long road, as there are other outlets that are of no cost to get your services out there.

    Again, BNI certainly works for some people, but if you're not willing to be or even willing to pretend to be the kind of person this group desires, it can be a huge expense and an experience that will leave you uncomfortable.

    So, here's my overall opinion of BNI in a nutshell: BNI doesnt seem to be much of anything but a group of people who pay to give sales pitches to eachother. Why pay for membership when you can go door to door to business, and introduce yourself for free. Maybe do a small comp job to gain some trust, offer a service for half-off...something that's not going to cost you much of anything at all, and I think you would have the same benefit, without being forced.
    • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
      FruitionDZ9 Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      I'm sorry that you had that experience, lillywhite. I can assure you that isn't the feeling or experience everyone has when visiting a chapter. Sounds like it was pretty negative for you. Where are you located?

      BNI is like ANY networking group in that it really depends on the people who belong as to whether it's successful or not. I'm not completely "sold" one way or the other, but I see the value to some professions - especially printers IF they are willing to do some pretty small stuff initially. It can be a great way to start and become educated (through their education programs) on how to network effectively.
      • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
        jwilson721 Newbie
        Currently Being Moderated

        I know I am coming in late on this but I have to agree with FruitionDZ9 on the BNI thing. I have been a member of BNI personally for 6 years and each chapter has it's own personality due to the people in that particular chapter. The whole idea is not to force anyone to do anything, it is to learn how to network your business and expand your reach. I have taken what I have learned from BNI and applied it so I get more business out of the poeple I know in my local chamber, my church, my neighborhood, but mostly my BNI chapter.

         


        I will agree that it is not for everyone. If you don't see the value in networking your business and putting in the effort to do this, then BNI will not be for you. If you do see the value in putting in the work, and you see that by helping others in the group you will help your own business then by all means visit a few chapters and find you one to call your own. I personally get over 50% of my business from BNI but I have worked at getting it there.
        • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
          LisaKatz Newbie
          Currently Being Moderated
          One of the inherent problems with asking a BNI member if you should join is that you can't get a straight answer because they make commision off of getting others to join.(At least they did when I was a member)

          Like I said in my post "Gnerating Leads from People You Already Know" I use an online service called http://www.referralkey.com/

          I don't think meet up groups are that effective for the following reasons

           

          1. Due's are expensive
          2. It is very time consuming
          3. They tend to attract many professionals who are unable to contribute in the first place.
          4. And you constantly pressured to get new people to sign up
          5. It is uncomfortable to address imbalances in the relationship
          • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
            jwilson721 Newbie
            Currently Being Moderated
            LisaKatz, BNI has been around for 25 years now and members don't make any commission off of members joining, never have and never will. You may have been in some other type of BNI cloned group.

            Dues being expensive is relative to what you do. 1 good referal (or new customer) for me will pay my dues for a few years and I get a number of referrals every month.

            I put less time in now than I did 6 years ago because I have a good relationship with the other members and we know each others business pretty well.

            Professionals that are unable (or unwilling) to contribute is a problem with any group. The BNI chapter membership committee should do their job and screen applicants well before allowing them to join, this helps with this problem.

            We are always looking to find new members. The bigger the chapter the larger your circle of influence becomes and the more referrals you can give and recieve.

            Member issues should always be handled by the chapter membership committee. If you find a BNI chapter that runs like it should, you will find a great place to add both new clients and new business friends.

            It sounds like you had a bad experience with BNI and I am sorry about that but the majority of them are great places to find sources or referrals since that is the only thing they are designed to do.
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    Sweetsation Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    I've been in local BNI chapter for about 7-8 months before I realized that it is a waste of time. It is worth it if you're in business that brings you a substantial amount of money from each client even if it's not often. Like in Real Estate or Mortgage or financial services business. Being in retail or custom design business would not work out. It is true that they are very demanding for attendance and weekly referrals which is hard to do. Fees are high too. At the time I was in custom jewelry designing business, so my referrals were worth only few cents here and there, so to speak. But I had to run around like crazy to get referrals for others that would bring them $1000s. Doesn't sound fair somehow.
    I am all for more relaxed way of making business, whatever the way it is.
    • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
      jwilson721 Newbie
      Currently Being Moderated
      I do agree, Sweetsation, that some businesses are tougher to get enough referrals to make it seem worth while. In a retail business selling product, you make a lot less profit per item than a service bases business, so it takes a lot more sales to make something worth while. Normally the most productive way for a business like yours is to advertise on radio, newspaper, or TV, although word-of-mouth helps too.

      The BNI attendance policy is there to help both the member and the chapter. If you don't make the meetings people will not think about you to get you referrals and you will not be able to give referrals. The average for referrals of the average member is 3 per month. That means most people don't give a referral every week. But I would imagine if you talk to your customers when they come in your store you may pickup on something they say that would offer an opportunity to recommend someone in your group. I have a hair stylist in my group and she puts small flyers on the wall so her customers can see them while she is doing their hair. She gives referrals from that. Most of our businesses that have a store front put out everyone's business cards for their customers to see.

      BNI is not for everyone, but for the 18 chapters that are here locally, they seem to work for many. To find out more about my chapter go to our website at http://www.bnitrussville.com
  • Re: Should I JOIN a BNI Chapter
    iLearning4U Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    As a business owner in Phoenix Arizona, I have belonged to many BNI chapters in the valley. We look for those with the greatest number of members as some new chapters will have the same monetary and attendance requirements as those just starting out or with fewer participating members.
    The exclusivity of one member business category per group is an advantage. This is a serious leads group and what you put in will determine what you get out.

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