Business Network International breakfast – A good way for new businesses to start networking by Guest Blogger, Talia Erickson
My partner and I went to our first BNI (Business Network International) chapter meeting on Wednesday morning, after a colleague recommended the group as a possible avenue for getting the word out about our new flexible daycare centre, Budding's Children Garden & Daycare.
There are 26 chapters listed for the BC Lower Mainland region, with business buzz word names, like Amplify, AllStars, Accelerators, and Driven Dragons, to name a few. Each group meets regularly, before or after work, and consists of a spread of professionals to cover almost any need. The members refer to themselves with pride as “the resident realtor,” and “the group’s general contractor,” and they recruit members to fill noticeable gaps in the skill set. Daycare wasn't on the list – which means a great opportunity for us.
There’s clearly a guiding philosophy for the organization, and as first time attendees, we heard a little about the MST (Member Success Training) that everyone receives upon joining, and got some information about the mentoring, business book library, and other membership benefits. The idea is to support the members and help them expand their business and improve their networking skills.
The structure of the meeting made us really comfortable. This wasn’t a networking event disguised as a fundraiser for a charity. It was straight up networking in order to promote businesses. It starts with a few minutes of mix n’ mingle time, and then each member has one minute to update the group on their business, the type of referrals they’re looking for, and some talking points to help other group members know what they’re about. The longtime members seemed to know each other well, and the update at the end of the meeting informed us that over the year, over $425,000 in business had been generated by the group, with the average group member doing $22,000 in referrals from other members.
Non-members can attend up to two meetings to check it out.
Word of mouth being the ultimate advertising, BNI seems to do a lot of things right. Group members are sincerely interested in promoting each other and seeing everyone succeed.
BNI is a professional marketing organization specializing in word-of-mouth referrals. The BNI strategy relies on a business networking strategy that generates business referrals within many diverse networks. BNI relies on structured business groups wherein each member carries the other’s business cards. When a “prospect” is met, the business card and testimonial information is shared and a referral is most often created.
Talia Erickson is the owner and administrator at Budding Children's Garden & Daycare. The centre provides flexible educational childcare for 3 – 5 year olds, on an occasional basis – to support home-based, and self-employed families. After 4 years marketing in the non-profit sector, she is learning that networking and making connections in the field is a winning strategy in any industry.