Offline Networking – it still exists!

March 7, 2008

After my recent evangelisation about LinkedIn and its business benefit, yesterday’s invitation to join a Business Network International group in Notting Hill was timely. BNI is an interesting idea; it connects local businesses to one another through a weekly breakfast networking session and charges nearly £1000 a year! A sceptic and lacking sleep (the breakfast started at 6.45!) I made my way over to Kensington Church Street.

BNI exists across the world and in a number of different countries. Each local network is called a chapter and there can only be one industry represented per chapter, e.g. only one Lawyer, Vet, Stripper etc per group.

On arrival at ‘The Place’ in Notting Hill, The first thing I noticed about BNI is that its members seem more interested in referring you business that talking about their own. Even before I could take my jacket off, I was being pursued by an eager Interior Designer who wanted to know what Online Lead Generation and Affiliate Marketing could do for him!?

When the breakfast got underway, everyone was given 60 seconds to convey their key messages about who they are and what they do, before circulating around the room with croissants and coffee.

With about 45 minutes left we then got to the ‘referrals’ section. Dotted around the room were little sheets of paper with empty spaces in which to fill in referrals for other businesses. To give you an example, the accountant in the chapter referred one of his clients to the hypnotherapist. The photographer referred a potential client to the IFA. The web designer gave a glowing reference for the property finder… and this went on, and on, and on…. Through this small local network, this ‘chapter’ were effectively working as their own local lead generation network.

BNI won’t be for everyone and its cost makes it an expensive marketing cost. However if you run your own PR agency or are in charge of bringing in new business, it’s definitely something you should consider.

The Notting Hill BNI had an effective motto – it’s not the people in this room you are aiming to gain as clients, it’s all the people they know! A very interesting idea.

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5 Responses to “Offline Networking – it still exists!”


  1. Another great networking organization that we have in Indiana is called Rainmakers. Unlike BNI, where you have a meeting every week that it is a rule that you either go to the meeting or find a sub to attend for you… Rainmakers has an event nearly every day of the week! If you miss one event, you can be sure that there is another event taking place tomorrow in a city near you!

    Currently it is only in Indiana, but an organization this awesome certainly will reach others nationally in the future!

    http://www.gorainmakers.com

  2. Richard P. Says:

    Greetings from Sydney, Australia!

    I read your article with interest.

    My only comment is on that BNI is a ‘lead generation’ network in your fifth paragraph. It would be helpful for you to know that BNI prides itself in generating ‘qualified referrals’ and not leads. This is covered in your MSP training which you must complete within 60 days of your membership. This is in fact a selling point to your visitors because BNI isdifferentiaited from other networking groups which are unstructured and produce only leads.

    Cheers,

    Richard P.

  3. alaindesmier Says:

    Richard, you make a very fair point and I agree. I have vested interest in online lead generation so I was trying to make a comparison that made sense to me. In particular I liked the 1-5 rating that qualified how ‘hot’ a referral was.

  4. Dan Dimmock Says:

    Great piece Al — glad you enjoyed your visit.

    See you soon.

    All the best,

    Dan


  5. Hi Alain,

    As the photographer you mentioned, I can confirm all you wrote so cogently. In BNI Giver’s Gain. It seems to come from the commitment everyone makes to turn up every week, an excellent 20 point agenda for each meeting and the incentive to help others first and wait to be rewarded as a result.

    We hope that you make that commitment too and join our merry throng.

    Regards, Stefan


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