Attending A BNI Networking Event

Although I’m primarily a digital marketer, I still value the importance of a strong network and refferal business. Sure, people look for services online, but it’s also really important to have a good network offline that can recommend you and refer business.

We’ll find out how joining a networking group like BNI Sunrise can really help your business to grow quickly and sustainably.

I was invited to attend a meeting at BNI Sunrise through a friend to substitute for them at a morning meeting. BNI proudly declare on their website that they are ‘The World’s Leading Business Networking and Referral Organisation’.

BNI and similar networking groups are a must for a growing SME. BNI may not be the best fit for you and that’s why they allow you to visit a chapter or two to get a better idea before you make a big commitment.

BNI emphasise morning networking, usually from around 6-9am once a week. This is designed to fit in with the traditional working day, so business owners can get some networking done before their busy schedule kicks in.

What Is the Aim of BNI?

Designed for everyone to help each other grow their business in a collaborative manner. Generally with networking, you will meet the same people on a regular basis. Seeing the same people at every networking meeting can mean opportunities to grow your business quickly become limited.

BNI turns the common theme of meeting the same people every meeting into a positive through the way its chapters work. The idea is for each member to recommend the services of other members to contacts they make outside of the BNI networking group.

The more members bond, the more and better referrals they will give.

Networking chapters run by BNI will only accept one member from each industry, then encourages members to recommend each other to contacts they make outside the group.

What to Expect

As a visitor, I paid a £10 meeting fee and was treated to a nice breakfast in addition to a great networking opportunity.

You’ll need to prepare a 60 second elevator pitch, or perhaps more accurately an infomercial about yourself/your company and the type of referrals that would be perfect for you. This is something you should have on your website already, often in the form of an about page.

Even before the introductions, you’ll be speaking to the chapter’s current members and perhaps even a few other visitors to the group. During my visit, everyone was super friendly and eager to learn about why I was there and what I had to offer; I’m sure it will be the same for you.

Be sure to bring plenty of business cards as this is your opportunity to share them with BNI members and visitors.

Finally, don’t forget to relax, enjoy the meeting and the networking opportunities. I can’t say enough how welcome BNI members will make you feel.

Is BNI Sunrise Suitable for You?

Each BNI chapter will accept only one member offering a particular service. This is a great idea, but the landscape is harder if you specialise in digital marketing.

For example, Email marketing is considered to be different from marketing consultancy which is different from web development and so on. But if a marketing agency is a member of a chapter, then if you’re a marketing consultant, there’s already someone there that offers what you offer.

If there isn’t anyone from your industry or niché already in a chapter, BNI is almost certainly going to be great for your business.

How to Get the Best of Membership

Getting the best out of your membership of BNI is quite straightforward and involves building mutually beneficial relationships. With these relationships in place, it’s up to you to recommend your fellow BNI members to your contacts and they’ll do the same for you.

Speaking specifically about what you can do as a member, you firstly need to know who you are and what you have to offer. Know why other members should recommend you to their contacts. Fellow BNI members need to fully understand your offering and that you won’t let their close contacts down.

Especially when visiting a BNI chapter, when engaging with current members, be specific and know what you want from the interaction. Don’t bring generic questions. Being to the point benefits both you and them.

For me, I’d tell everyone I met: “I’m looking for companies that want to grow by starting and developing their own marketing team. Do you know anyone that wants to do that?” This will also form part of your 60 second informercial, but during 1-1 interactions, you can expand a little more.

Research can form an important part of networking at events that offer an attendees list. With BNI networking groups, it won’t be possible to research attendees until after you have actually gone to a networking session.

The most important thing is to know your own target audience and unique selling proposition (USP) and practice communicating that before you go. you will be able to tell them exactly the type of customer you’re looking for which will help them to think of people they could introduce you to.

After I attended and started to look the current members up on LinkedIn, I realised that most of them were secondary connections already. A solid strategy for prospecting on LinkedIn would have brought them onto my radar, but it would not have brought the benefits of face-to-face networking.

How Can You Become a BNI Member?

The first step is always going to be a visit to a chapter to see how it all works and decide if it would indeed be a god fit for your business. This map is a useful resource to see where your local chapters are.

You’ll need to pay a £10 meeting fee, but this will cover the cost of the meeting and breakfast, which I thought was a bargain, even if it were for the networking alone.

The price is very reasonable to join BNI if you’re a growing business and will be discussed with the executive director as your enquiry to join progresses.

Further Resources

Check out the BNI Podcast to learn more about how they can help you grow your business.