Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Business Network International (BNI)

Went to a BNI meeting this morning which was a bit of a shock to the system. The group meet at 6.45 at Scandic Hotel in Bromma - 6.45 am that is, as in early morning!! That involved setting my alarm for before 6am and stumbling out the door at 6.15 AND I had to be dressed in business attire - had almost forgotten what that is - it required a lot of scrounging around in the cupboard. Not to mention I had to leave the car so Tyler could take the kids to daycare. On the train before 6.30AM - that could be a first!

I think my body is still recovering....

Anyway I came in contact with this network through my mentor who is also a member. I have also read a little about it on the net and met another BNI person at one of the American Club networking nights. It feels like it is a spin-off of one of those American pyramid sales organisations, of which I am usually very "anti".

But curious as I am, I went along to see if it is of any interest to me.

A breakfast meeting includes of course breakfast and after some introductions we filled our plates with eggs and bacon, bread and cheese, coffee and juice. The meeting follows a fairly formal agenda and the introductions around the table of both members and visitors made it immediately clear that there could be a lot of value in this network for me.

Not only does BNI follow a formal agenda but they also have very clear goals with the network, so clear that they almost sound crude in my ears. Each member spends a certain amount of energy not only recruiting new members but also inviting guests to the meetings to add to the network, even if only on an informal level.

The members are also focused on satisfying needs, if not their own then the needs of those in their network. A printed sheet is given to each participant with a list of members and what they are looking for. As we went round the group they put forth a contact that they themselves are looking for or on behalf of someone else. Agneta was looking for people interested in installing water filters or contacts in the kitchen renovation or sales business who might be interested in the filters. Roger was looking for companies interested in profiling themselves through golfing products. Ms Lindgren was looking for a sponge supplier, Lars promoted someone else's business and many promoted their own.

The other main part of the meeting included handing out Reference Cards. Again this is a fairly formal procedure with the cards being printed sheets of paper. One copy goes to the person being referred and another is to be filed. The Reference Cards state the name and number of someone who is interested either in your services or the services of someone you have promoted. It needs to be a solid reference and you need to have spoken to the other party so that they are aware that you are passing on their details and can thus anticipate a phone call.

As I said, it all feels very American, but the advantages are clear. I am going to sell advertising, advertising on a website that is new and so far has no visitors. And it is the number of visitors to a site that help sell advertising, the more visitors, the more expensive the advertising. I don't expect it to be easy and I have had any number of experienced people tell me that it is indeed a difficult task, a time consuming task. I was recently given estimates of about 10 phone calls to a company before you get to speak to the right person, then another 6-10 phone calls and meetings before you get close to signing a contract with them. And that information came from an experienced banner salesman...

Any roads in are going to make it easier, quicken the process, improve my success rate. These people are interesting because even if they are not decision-makers likely to buy advertising on my site, they probably know others who are.

The reaction to my business concept was again, very positive. One of the members, a partner in a law firm, expressed immediate interest in advertising on the site.

Why do I hesitate? 600kr or 110 dollars a month makes me hesitate. A high price to pay, or is it?


  1. Hello Nic. Thanks for mentioning BNI in your blog.

    Different countries and cultures, we all speak the language of referrals. BNI operates in 37 countries so we are definitely an international organization.

    I hope to see you join the local group. We generated over 5 million referrals for our members around the world last year.

    If you join, take some time to review my blog at www.NetworkingEntrepreneur.com and my podcast at www.BNIPodcast.com. These will help you a great deal in your participation.

    Best of luck.

    Dr. Ivan Misner

    ps. Say hi to the local group for me.