Why I would never turn a BNI invite down

Like every business owner I’ve been given the opportunity to meet with my fair share of other business owners.  In many instances, those meetings have been the start of a lifelong friendship and on many occasions, they have been an apparent waste of my time.

So why would I never turn down a BNI invite down?

Because, if you are ever invited to attend a BNI meeting there are specific but hidden reasons why you’ve been invited and you need to know what they are.

Even if you only attend once to meet the individuals in the group and to let them know you exist.  Let me explain the other reasons. 

A BNI meeting is different from an ordinary networking meeting, very different. On the surface, they may look the same because so many networking groups have copied and adopt the basic meeting format. Everyone speaking in turn, giving a one or two-minute presentation and then perhaps a guest speaker.

However, BNI is far more strategic than that. For a start, they are a referral based group bringing people together in a non-competitive environment. It is this non-competitive environment that makes the difference.

BNI strategy focuses on working together with closely related business categories who share the same target market but who don’t directly compete.

For instance, it’s easy for me, as a lead generation and marketing specialist to recommend a website developer or graphic designer. Maybe even a social media specialist, a sign maker or photographer. You see, I am working with clients who need these services brought together. I speak ‘marketing’ and I can pick up on nuances in a conversation. Much the same as an accountant will automatically consider financial, tax and legal issues when dealing with his or her clients.

If you are an HR Consultant and a BNI group invites you to a meeting, it’s possible because they have a Recruitment Specialist, Health and Safety Consultant and maybe a Business advisor in the group who all want to build meaningful relationships with you. A relationship that leads to additional business.

Surround yourself with talented people who know what they’re doing, willing to help you

Surrounding yourself with people who will inspire, challenge and support you is part of the secret of all good business and a well run BNI group provides this in a very specific way.

OK. So you have been to a BNI meeting before. Each group has the same focus but they are all made up of different individuals with different personalities and connections.  If you don’t know what doors the new group can open you can’t know if the group is able to play a useful role in your referral marketing strategy.

OK. You think your business is so specialised that you think the approach can never work for you. Nonsense. You haven’t a clue who I or the group know, just as I can’t possibly guess who you know. Too many people think it’s about the people in the meeting when it’s about the connections they have and their willingness to connect you.

You won’t be invited if they’re already working with your competitor.  Many people who are invited to a BNI meeting, miss the point entirely and it is this. You are never likely to be invited to a meeting if there isn’t an opening in the referral group for your business category. Remember, the non-competitive environment element means that each group has only one Accountant, one Photographer, One Web Designer. If you are invited it means they take their referral strategy seriously and want to work with someone from your business category. Period. If it’s not you, it will be your competitor.

The invite is never an invite to join. It is simply to meet with you and the group to see if there is potential to work together. In many cases, there isn’t a ‘good fit’ on either side and that’s OK. Until you meet, you will never know.

How open-minded are you to opportunity? In business, we need to remain open to opportunity, unless of course, we have so much business guaranteed into the future that we have no need for any marketing initiatives, online, offline or referral marketing.

Some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

The opportunity cost has enormous implications. It’s not just the cost of the breakfast or the lunch. It’s not even the cost of exclusive membership to the group if someone wants to take their involvement further.

The opportunity cost is the future business that is handed to a competitor who takes the time to meet the group and starts working on a business referral strategy with the rest of the group. Seven people working closely together in a referral partnership team can see more business opportunities than one person working on their own.

An invite to a networking group is just that. If your diary permits, decide to attend or not. You are more than likely going to be invited again next month.

An invite from a BNI group means that a group of people has identified they have the potential to refer qualified introductions to someone with your skills and services.  They are looking to work with someone why can trust.

BNI is different. My advice is that before you decide you are too busy or it’s not right for you, check it out.

The invite may not be extended next week. You may not get the opportunity again and are unlikely to know how much business you’ve just handed to your competitor.


About Paul Clegg

Paul Clegg has been involved in referral marketing for almost 20 years. He is currently working closely with BNI in Wincanton, Somerset and providing marketing support for BNI groups across a wider geography. His consultancy, Se7en, provides intelligent, joined-up lead generation and marketing strategies for small business. He is based in Wells, Somerset.

The original article can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-you-should-never-turn-bni-invite-down-paul-clegg?trk=hp-feed-article-title-share