Hi Susu, BNI can work very well for you if you are willing to do two things: 1) Take your time and visit several groups to find the one with the best dynamic for your business, and 2) Accept the concept of the "Givers gain" philosophy, which really is the cornerstone of effective networking, i.e., helping others succeed will help you succeed.
BNI does have rules, but learning to abide by these rules helps develop a mindset that allows you to more effectively create relationships with your contacts, prospects and clients. You are not required to provide referrals weekly, although over time, if you've not been able to bring any referrals then your membership renewal could be affected.
BNI works for both B2C and B2B, which is why I suggest you find a group with the dynamic best suited to your business. As for restrictions on joining other groups, this only applies if the other group runs exactly like BNI does - which doesn't happen.
My web services business is B2B, and I get about 40% of my business out of BNI, more than enough to pay for my membership. BNI may have its faults, but overall it's still an effective way to network and grow your business.
I disagree with Tom that BNI does not work for b2b. My particular chapter in downtown Boston has a strong b2b core. I see more of the suburban chapters with a stronger b2c core or a mix of both. My chapter (and all of BNI) requires you to get to know the other members well enough in order to achieve the venerable know, like & trust status. That's what you're trying to achieve through any networking venture. If you are unable to get to that place with a particular member for whatever reason, you are not required or expected to refer to them. You are also welcome to refer to others in your network outside of BNI.
BNI recognizes that a referral speaks both to the receiver and the giver. If someone fails to follow up on and excel with a referral, it negatively impacts the giver's reputation. The procedures in BNI are designed to deal with that (i.e. mentoring or possible non-renewal of failing member).
I've seen non-BNI groups also charge a fairly steep annual fee. Meeting with business colleagues with sufficient frequency for me to witness their commitment and dedication and get to know them well enough to trust them with my business and that of my clients and colleagues is preferable to me than bi-monthly or monthly events where I see people more interested in line at the bar than actually expanding their network.
Just like any referral - if the referrals are specific and vetted to your specific business by people who know your business (and you) - and not just referrals to meet numbers, then yes they can be helpful. As others have already said in this forum, it's up to you RE: your followup process as to the true value of referrals.
I agree with Joanne and John Susu. I've met Ivan Miszner and spoke to many BNI people. The people I know who are in BNI love it and sharing the leads is a big part. I don't see the professionals you found. As John said you need to go to many BNI groups to find the one you like. Personnally I can't manage the early mornings that most of them are scheduled and the idea i need to be pigeon holed to be there every week or I lose my privilege drives me crazy. I'm too much a free spirit I guess
I have visited a couple of meetings and have closed several referrals . Please share your results with me.
My problem with BNI is that you are required to provide leads. You may not like the printer in your group or your brother may be a printer, etc. I like more informal groups.
If your b2c it works, b2b it doesn't. Plus they restrict the groups you can join outside BNI.
In my experiance, only if you are looking for lead into small business.
BNI can work very well if you are prepared to work with it and the people as suggested below. I don't like the focus on "must deliver leads" at each meeting as I believe this is more about feeding the financial status of the chapter than about promoting each other in business.
The true spirit of networking is to share, compare and support each other so ensure you are joining networking groups that fit your values and benefits you in developing great business relationships.
There are several things to consider when looking at networking of any form. The first is to decide your objective in attending any networking forum. Too many people go to events in the belief that simply being seen there will enhance their status as a 'real' business person. Secondly, it is important to decide how you will measure the effectiveness of the networking. Like any form of marketing it is the results that matter. Next, don't expect to get instant results. It takes time and effort to build relationships.
As far as BNI or any other networking style is concerned, it is a case of horses for courses. Remember that all people are different and that the activist approach of some networking events may well put the reflective person off of networking. Good mentors will help new businesses to identify a networking style that fits the person rather than adopting a 'one size fits all' approach.
In summary, having a clear plan for including networking in your marketing mix is more important than attending one particular style of event.
It depends on what you are hoping to accomplish. My experience is that they are usually several local service providers who compose the groups core team and repeat visitors. The group then looks for new blood. If you have something that is unique maybe however if you are a insurance broker, mortgage broker, Amway it may not be a good fit.
Lots of great discussion here. I think that saying of what you put in you will get out applies here. If you find a group you align and connect with, then it can be a worthwhile investment and pay for itself through referrals. However, if you join and do not work to make it happen, then it can be a waste of time and resources.
I do agree the price seems steep, but look at it as access to valuable contacts who could leads to more referrals. That might help justify the price.
I've been in BNI for nearly 10 years. I do it because I believe in the concept. It's a tool that needs to be worked at diligently and the policies are well thought out though they do at times seem draconian. For someone in my business it has been a challenge to get referrals to my ideal type of client because in general BNI tends to draw a lot of home base B2C type businesses but that just makes me make more effort at educating the members about what makes a good referral for me.
Admittedly I am still looking for that big referral but in the mean time the committment makes me set aside at least one day to marketing my business per week.