Referrals are golden! The referrals that you get from friends, customers, and other business people are an important part of your business. However, you have decided that you want to increase the number of referrals that you receive. Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable or even backfire. Who wants to send their connections to an overly aggressive business person?
Business people looking to build business through referrals have a couple of good options which can lead to a consistent stream of referrals and new business:
- Joining A Local Chamber of Commerce
- Joining A Local Chapter of BNI
What is BNI Networking?
BNI markets itself as the “world’s largest networking, referrals, and word of mouth marketing organization”. The description is ironic because BNI is very locally focused. When joining a BNI, your are joining a specific local chapter. They will only allow one member from each profession into a chapter, so there is competition for referrals with members of other chapters.
BNI is highly structured. They hold weekly meetings with each lasting 90 minutes. If you cannot commit to regularly attending these meetings, BNI is not for you. Also, BNI is not cheap, the cost of joining BNI is around $500 per year.
(There are cheaper referral networking options than BNI. Many of them are free. However, the value of BNI is the quality of its members. An organization with high membership fees and meeting requirements is likely to have a much better quality of member, and should produce better referrals.)
If you want to learn more about how to network effectively, I also recommend reading 25 Tips from Business Netowrking Pros.
What is a Local Chamber of Commerce?
First, there is a big misconception about chambers of commerce, which is that they are all part of one organization. For example, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the US Chamber of Commerce are all independent organizations with separate leadership. As a rule of thumb, state, national, and international chambers of commerce tend to focus on political advocacy for their members. While local chambers of commerce, like the Austin Chamber of Commerce, do both political advocacy and provide practical help to their members.
Not all chambers are the same, but they almost all have networking events.“The Chamber has a number of activities designed to boost networking and offer local business people an opportunity to connect socially and professionally – from monthly “Business After Hours” events, to networking luncheons, breakfast meetings, annual gatherings, etc. They sponsor an annual “Business Expo” that is always a big draw.”
Many chambers have events focused on generating leads and referrals.
“I personally run a monthly event they throw called “Leads to Business” where about 70 people are in attendance. Everyone’s business card is photocopied and we go around the room in that order. Each participant gets 30 seconds to explain what their business does and what an idea, lead, or referral is for them. In the 7 years the event has been happening, there hasn’t been a single month where every single person in the room hasn’t left with a lead or referral.”
Each chamber of commerce is different, however, they generally have annual dues between $100 and $500 per year. Often there are discounts for new members.
Should you join a BNI chapter or the local chamber of commerce?
There is no reason not to do both! However, before joining one or both, you should attend a couple meetings. In both cases, the specific organization will have tremendous impact one’s experience.
That’s our article for today. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below.
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