Networking - thoughts on BNI?


#1

Hi

I recently did a FB post on Girlz in Businezz page about Networking Events, I have got a couple of independent ones which is great but I have received several invites to BNI. I am possibly going along as a guest but I know that they can be quite expensive and not sure how worthwhile they are for a VA. Does anyone else have any experience of BNI - open and honest feedback would be really welcomed.

Thank you

Sarah


#2

I’m probably not the best example of networking because most of our business comes from other avenues rather than Face2Face networking… In terms of marketing effectiveness for VAs* it goes:

  1. Referrals
  2. Face to face networking
  3. LinkedIn

But anecdotally BNI / other paid membership networking works well for certain kinds of VAs - bookkeeping and webdesign always do well at those groups. Pure admin? Not so much.

It’s also incredibly common for the VA to get dragged into being an organiser, and I know VAs who’ve spent more time marketing their BNI group than their own business! So make sure the group you join is of a reasonable size and don’t volunteer to be on committee unless you’ve got that sort of time to spend.

Lastly, it is a HELL of a lot of money and time. It’s what, about £678 for the first year + your time (2 hours a week = £2,600 of your time @ £25/hour) and then whatever you eat/drink on top… £10/week (£520/year) = TOTAL: £3,798/year - or £70+ per meeting which you have to make before it’s worth it.

Let’s say you enjoy getting up with the birds (not my bag, admittedly!!) and you are willing to write off the time - that’s still nearly £25/meeting before you break even… NB: I totally expect to get loads of BNIers telling me to “sell through to room”, it’s a fair point but realistically people don’t really like recommending their VA to someone else if they think it will conflict with their time - it’s more beneficial to VA teams IMO.

Loads of people like the structure it brings to their week though and good groups do pass lots of referrals.

* Source UK VA Survey v10


#3

Hi, my experience of BNI is avoid at all costs. I have heard so many bad things from other VA’s about this group. Most of my clients have come via referral or face to face networking.


#4

I’ve been to some BNI meetings just to see what they are like, I have to say it’s not for me, it’s very regimented and has strict rules that you must adhere to. You must attend every week and bring referrals for others. If you can’t go, you have to send someone to substitute for you and if you miss meetings, don’t bring referrals and don’t do your 1 to 1s, you are essentially, sent to the naughty step.
It is very expensive, however, there are VAs who are members of BNI and who are very successful from it. If you look at the cost of membership & meetings and say that’s your advertising budget for the year, you could recoup your ROI quite quickly. Some groups are more dynamic than others and much depends upon the group you are thinking about joining.
It all depends on whether the structure and regimented way of doing things suits you. By all means go along and find out what they are all about, then you can make an informed decision.


#5

I agreed with you here.

I went for one but not BNI, they give me 2 times free visitor type. I have noticed that not for my area. Unless you are coach, healthcare, webpage designer, social marketing or digital marketing manager, financial services and accountants, might help.

As new VAs, I think no harm to attend few and have a look, I certainly won’t pay for the membership fee until I know is it useful for my business or not. What’s type of members they have. I’m not earning 5-6 figures passive income business yet. :sweat_smile: Every penny count.


#6

I have substituted for clients at BNI on odd occasions. Lots of people swear by it but it is not my sort of thing - there are more suitable networking opportunities for me out there. They are too early in the morning (and also a fair drive away!!) and I don’t like the pressure to refer within the group - I’d rather recommend on best fit not my own rating in some league table.


#7

I [quote=“heather.baylis, post:4, topic:676411”]
decision.
[/quote]

I attended BNI when I started. It was a new chapter. Each week they tried to get me to sign up. I said as I am just starting the fee is very high. I was advised to get a 0% credit card and pop it on there.

I didn’t, and I no longer go. The fees are ridiculous!


#8

The BNI chat really interests me! I joined about 5 weeks ago now and have already had business from it.

The fees as Caroline mentioned are horrendously high shall we say! When you break down the monthly venue fee and the yearly membership fee I pay £112 p/m. In my head I know I need to get more than that, from BNI alone, for it to be worth my while.

I know VA’s in other chapters who don’t do so well and others VA’s that absolutely fly. The problem with BNI is this. The commitment. The time. The money. The effort. The training. The 121’s with people in the chapter. I would never refer someone I don’t know, but taking the time out to meet everyone (I am in a large chapter) takes time, necessary in my head. I was also told before I joined NOT to expect any business for the first 6-8mths, people need to know you to refer you.

I love an early morning! Some don’t.
I like the weekly structure. Some don’t.
I love training. Some don’t.
I love to help others without expecting anything in return (BNI is all about that!). Some don’t and get annoyed that they haven’t made any money out of it quickly.

I also visited another Chapter before joining this one and had decided ABSOLUTELY NOT!! It’s definitely a cult! People are right it’s well weird!

Don’t get me wrong there are bits that I really like about it and other bits that I really don’t!

My advice would be this. Use your two visits to try two different chapters near you, if you can. The structure is the same but the atmosphere will be very different.

What ultimately pushed me to join was this. Yes I know it’s expensive and yes I know it’s a lot of commitment. However, if I give it my absolute ALL for one year and it works and I get loads of business, excellent! If it doesn’t work, at least I can say there’s nothing I could have done to make it work, and I’ll have made some brilliant connections!

It’s a big decision! I wish you the best whatever you decide :slight_smile: Good luck!


#9

I went to a first free meeting and fingers crossed I have picked up a client just from that and also connected with another local VA. I have told them as a new VA I can’t commit to the costs at the moment but may be able to in the future. Definitely would attend the free first meeting :+1:


#10

Like I said, it really works for some VAs… Good to get some insider’s tips tho!

Spending that amount of time and money consistently on pretty much ANY marketing will really work though! It’s about whether or not it creates an ROI.


#11

I visited a couple of chapters. I just found they kept pushing the membership . It totally put me off!


#12

related but unrelated- i echo what @grantedbusinesssolut has said- it feels like a cult indeed. Other groups in my area have the same people attending, so not the best choice near me to be honest! And all the people going have some sort of ‘incentive’ to push the memberships on you- because they get free meetings, higher up on the leaderboard, etc…
Definitely not for me x


#13

Thank you everyone! I have spoken to the lady who runs a local Chapter and was very straight with her about not being able to afford the expense at the moment and didn’t want to be pushed with a hard sell and she was really fine about it. So will go along as a guest and see what I think. I definitely won’t be signing up by as she said I could find that one person in the room that could be a client and that she wants to help women succeed in business. Plus there are no other VA’s there so its worth a shot. Will report back to you with my thoughts. Wish me luck …….