BNI, short for Business Networking International, is the worlds leading business referral organization founded by Ivan Misner.
With BNI being in 74 countries (as of when this is written) it would be unlikely as a business owner or business leader for you to never be approached for a chance to grow your network and receive referrals. BNI teaches Givers Gain® to its members which encourages them to want to bring in new members because if they bring in a new member that is a referral partner for their current referral partners/sales team that way they will bring in a new referral partner for them..
Return on investment
BNI sounds like any eager business owner/leaders dream come true & sometimes it can be! To some it’s easy to get an ROI after investing the $749 for the year or $1064 for the two year membership, the room rental fee, time and gas. We are in no way saying that you can’t be successful as a member. For many though it’s an organization based on take and not giving like it claims.
BNI requires so much time it feels as if its an additional job just to supplement your business/job. Beyond the weekly meetings, that there is almost no flexibility on attending, members must also attend at least one one-to-one a week with another BNI member, plus Chapter Educational Units (CEUs.)
Although it seems they have caught up a bit with making the meetings online it still seems as though they’re behind the times. In a time where everyone interacts on multiple digital platforms it doesn’t make sense to require a phone number on referral slips. Marketing information is ever changing and yet everyone is expected to listen to podcasts to maintain their status on the palms chart (similar to a constant report card.) In person meetings are expected to have your referral slips printed on their official form every meeting and not on scrap paper.
Knowing where your clients come from
An important thing to think over before becoming a member is whether your clientele is something this “sales team” can consistently bring to you. For some background information most of BNI is B2C and it’s mostly home services. If you service local people most often then this may be a great way to get referrals. If you are someone who services people outside of your area than this may not be the best way to invest in your business. If you service B2B this may be a great way to find your clients as you can meet members of other groups at other BNI events.
Members focus more on their chapter growth than on their own business growth
By official definition of a pyramid scheme BNI doesn’t qualify. We believe that it is still in the same family as a pyramid scheme or multilevel marketing. The reason BNI can’t be classified as a pyramid scheme is because the members in charge of recruiting people don’t make money from the people they recruit as a direct kickback. However, we would argue that BNI is still in the family because they push for the members to be in charge of recruiting new members with the expectation of gaining referrals from the new members which would lead directly to them making money off of the new members.