‘Word of mouth’ marketing with BNI

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    It’s 7am. The sky is streaked with pink as the sun rises over the glittering, frost covered grass surrounding the golf club. Inside, a group of twenty local business owners are talking animatedly to each other and shuffling business cards. I sit and observe, sip my coffee and watch their enthusiasm and buoyancy with curiosity.

    This is BNI, the most successful business referral organisation in the world. This particular group of local business people meet once a week for breakfast at a golf club on the outskirts of Sheffield, to network, learn new marketing skills and develop personal relationships.

    For them, BNI meetings provide a structured business environment, traditionally allowing one person from each trade or profession to join each group, or ‘chapter’. As individual members of the group begin to speak, I am introduced to a mortgage adviser, a personal and educational coach, and a plumber.

    Here’s how it works. There is a membership fee, but when you belong, all the other members of the group carry copies of your card around with them. When they meet someone new that could use your products or services, they hand out your card and personally recommend your services. Consequently, this generates business for all members of the group.The BNI organisation themself describe belonging as ‘like having dozens of sales people working for you’.

    I know what you’re thinking. Surely there must be a catch? What’s the hidden agenda?

    I can honestly say that there isn’t one. Here are a group of people whose common interest is the success of their business. Not only are the members willing to pay the fees, they see them as an integral part of the organisation, as the payment provides an incentive to attend the meetings, and get the most out of their membership.

    BNI member and director of Seven Creative Clair Day said, “I think of the fee as an investment. For the contacts and referrals I have generated, and the amount of money I have made for my business, I could pay the fee tenfold. It’s completely worth it.’

    BNI and its members believe that successful businesses depend on ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, and that positive testimonials and genuine recommendations are the best form of promotion. John Underwood, who runs a thriving computer repairs and maintenance company Cleansheet Computing says, “I would say I generate 70% of my business through BNI. If you’re passionate about making a success of your business, it’s well worth making the effort.”

    After witnessing a number of referrals, the majority of which are as simple as paid work falling into people’s laps, I come away wondering why more local businesses aren’t involved. I’m impressed. I am impressed with the simplicity of the concept, the structure of the meeting, and yet fully aware that it’s all based on common sense.

    If you are interested in, or think that your local business could benefit from BNI membership, come along as a visitor to meet the group and introduce yourself. Meetings are held at Beauchief Golf Course on Abbey Lane, Sheffield at 7am on a Tuesday morning.  Attending the meeting is by invitation only, so if you would like your name putting on the guest list, please call Seven Creative on 0114 383 0711

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      Written by Chris

      March 6th, 2012 at 12:47 pm