BNI is a business and professional referral organization that allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter. While this is similar to many other networking groups, the cost of the BNI is much higher for membership. While BNI is the world’s leading referral organization, generating billions in revenue for member businesses annually, there is much to gain if you have the funds available to join.
This is an international organization with regional offices around the world and it has about 120,000 active members. Local chapters meet every week, where members discuss their business and work on generating referrals for other members. The organization claims to be able to dramatically improve any small businesses bottom line by providing it with a steady stream of new leads. It may sound completely positive but there are many reasons why to join or not.
Do Not Join if You Have a Low Expense Budget
Joining BNI can be expensive, with a membership fee of about $500 a year. Some hidden costs include paying for food during meetings or rental locations for meetings. You could minimize costs by ordering little, but there may be a flat admission fee anyway. With weekly incidental costs from $10 to $20, you may end up paying from $750 to $1200 a year. You should not join a BNI chapter if you are a struggling entrepreneur or if you believe that you will not be able to get a return on your investment.
Do Not Join if You Run an Internet-Based Business
BNI is good for those with traditional small businesses and those who provide their services within a specific geographical area. It, however, is not suitable for more cutting-edge, technologically savvy businesses, particularly those that leverage the enormous reach of the internet for leads. For instance, if you are an internet marketer, copywriter, or graphics designer, your time will be better spent generating your leads online.
Do Not Join if You Have an Unusual Niche
While the BNI works for local businesses, those outside the mainstream have little to gain. The BNI works for people who have more traditional local businesses like real estate, mortgage, insurance, or tax preparation. In other words, it is good for the services that most people use.
Do Not Join if You are Not Prepared to Spend a lot of Time and Effort with the Group
Those who get the most out of the BNI are those who put in the time and effort to help other members through referrals, then getting referrals by reciprocation. The BNI If you can’t make their weekly meeting a priority, make sure to attend every week and meet with other members outside the weekly meeting, and invite guests you won’t gain much.
Do Not Join if You Don’t Have a Referral System Strategy in Your Business
I placed this as the last reason, but I think it’s the most important reason. I’ve been to so many BNI meetings where all folks do is hand out business cards. This isn’t so bad until you realize that these aren’t real referrals, they are barely cold leads. What actually happens is that BNI highly encourages its members to be on the lookout for referrals and come to the meeting with referrals for the group. This is fantastic and a good practice except that a lot of folks get busy, they don’t really qualify these referrals and if you don’t have a system to process them, you will see these leads as a waste.
Bottom Line – Don’t Join BNI if You Aren’t Prepared
BNI is a wonderful organization and they will absolutely deliver on what they promise. The bigger question is – are YOU prepared to leverage your BNI membership to its fullest. This is not a magic bullet organization. There is a fee and there is work involved. You have to be ready and prepared for it. Once you have these six elements in place you’ll be ready to rock BNI.