If you’re in BNI (Business Network International) – the world’s leading business networking organisation, you must have heard the phrase “visitors are the lifeblood of a BNI chapter”.
As you might know, I’ve been a member of BNI for about four years, and have found it invaluable for my business, not only for generating referrals, but also for finding quality service providers to work with.
I love to bring visitors to my chapter meetings because it makes them so much more fun, and productive. I’ve been involved in launching a new BNI chapter, and relaunching another – both of which involve inviting a lot of visitors. I’ve even received certificates and awards from BNI for inviting so many visitors.
In this blog post, I’d like to share with you my strategy for continuous visitor inviting. This will lead to more visitors coming along to your chapter, which will result in more referrals being passed, more interesting meetings, new suppliers for products and services, new friendships, and will contribute towards growing your chapter if it’s any good!
On week one you are going to identify which categories to invite. Listen in the 60 seconds round for business types that are mentioned and write them all down, you can cross out any that are already present in the chapter later when you are back at your office.
Also write down the categories wanted from the membership committee report. Add to that any categories that are missing from your chapter from the list of top BNI categories.
When you’re back at the office, start searching your contacts, LinkedIn connections, and Google for businesses matching those categories, that are close to your chapter meeting – ie. within a half hour drive of the venue.
You can use the Advanced Search on LinkedIn to find connections who are within a radius of your venue postcode or zip code. Searching Google is easy, just search for “Mobile App Developer New York City” for example, and you will be presented with plenty of businesses to choose from.
You will be inviting people to come to your Week 3 meeting. Don’t invite for Week 2 because successful people will already be booked up for next week, and leaving it three weeks is too long because people will forget. I’ve tested this a lot and inviting two weeks ahead is the best time frame to work with.
Copy my email template which you will find here, just change the details to match the time of your own BNI meeting.
Respond back to the people who said they want to come, and copy in your Secretary Treasurer so they know how many to expect for catering purposes, and one or two members who might be good contacts. Remind them to bring their meeting fee (if applicable), and PLENTY of business cards. You don’t need to say anything else.
Personally I do not phone the day before the meeting and ask, “are you coming by yourself, or bringing anyone with you”. I get 95% of people turn up who said they are coming. Why give them the opportunity to back out? Asking if they are bringing anyone else with them will not result in any more people coming, so don’t disturb the seed once planted – simply let them turn up.
On week 2, send out invites for week 4. So again, listen in your meeting to see which categories are most needed, and add some categories of your own that you would like to see in the room.
When people respond saying they can’t make the meeting, simply reply and say, “Would you like me to let you know when we meet again?”, and if they reply back saying yes, put them in a folder to invite in the future. Leave it at least a couple of weeks though before you invite them again.
This week you will have people turning up for the meeting who you invited in week 1, so be sure to arrange to meet up with them afterwards for a personal meeting, outside of BNI, either at a public place, their office, or your office to get to know them better. Always try to add value and never expect anything in return. Don’t skip this step otherwise you will be missing out big time!
Again, check your emails, reply to anyone who has confirmed for next weeks meeting, as above.
Start inviting for week 5.
This week people will turn up who you invited in week 2. Start inviting for week 6.
You can also check your folder of people who couldn’t make it and see if they can come along to the week 6 meeting.
By this time the members in your group will be thanking you for bringing all the extra visitors, and you might even be nominated for the Notable Networker award!
Reply to people who say they can make it, and invite new people to come to the meeting of week 7.
I’ve designed a handy tool to make the BNI invite even easier!
I got great results simply by searching for local businesses on Google that members were looking for, and inviting them along to my BNI meeting. However, it is time consuming, and so repetitive that I thought it would be an ideal task to automate.
My Email Marketing Robot software has been four years in the making, and is the most accurate business to business lead generation software on the market today. Not only useful for BNI inviting but also a multitude of other uses.
Imagine for example that you have a weight loss consultant in your chapter, and they want introductions to hairdressers, beauty salons, personal trainers, gyms, etc. You can send out an email saying “We are meeting up again on Friday 25th July. Would you like to come along and I can make the introduction, or alternatively I can get Shirley to give you a call?” – that’s a guaranteed visitor or referral!
The software has sold really well and word is now starting to get out to the wider BNI community. Already in the UK many BNI regions are using the software, and several enterprising Area Directors have purchased several licenses for their Director Consultant team.
For more details see the demo video at www.emailmarketingrobot.com, and let me know if you have any questions.
Here’s to changing the way the world does business, one visitor at a time!