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The Power of Networking: How BNI Can Transform Your Business

Contacts+ Team | December 6, 2023

In the business networking world, one organization stands tall above the rest: BNI. Established in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner, BNI has cemented its position as the leading referral networking institution across the globe. The core of BNI’s philosophy is the concept of “Givers Gain,” the belief that when you generously offer business opportunities to others, you will receive business opportunities in return.

Like many networking organizations, BNI hosts chapter meetings based on geography, creating a rich environment for sharing creative business ideas and referrals.

However, one area where BNI differs from others is that it employs an exclusive structure within each chapter, ensuring only one representative per professional specialty is present — effectively eliminating intra-chapter rivalry. The BNI approach prioritizes truly organic relationship-building, and the proof is in the numbers: BNI members generated $20.4B in referral business revenue in 2022 alone.

If you’re interested in getting involved with BNI, here’s what you need to know.

Business Networking: An Evergreen Strategy

Networking plays a crucial role in the modern business landscape, acting as a catalyst for opportunities, collaborations, and professional growth. As long as humans have exchanged goods and services, referral advertising has been a leading strategy — and that’s very unlikely to change. People do business with people they “know, like, and trust,” and what better way to build all three than through one-to-one relationships?

Today, there are a plethora of channels, both online and offline, where business people can conduct networking activities. Face-to-face networking fosters a more instantaneous degree of trust, allowing individuals to form authentic personal connections that can lead to long-lasting business relationships. But digital networking has its strengths, too: it overcomes geographical barriers and provides access to a global network, enabling immediate and asynchronous communication and collaboration.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve likely already experienced the pros and cons of all forms of modern networking. It can be overwhelming trying to sift through all of your options for networking. That’s just one of many reasons why some professionals find so much value in BNI: it lends a more focused approach that gives you access to both local and global opportunities.

How BNI Works

BNI instantly connects you with a vast network of professionals who are dedicated to mutual growth and support. 

Here’s a rough overview of how it works:

  1. Join a chapter: Once you’ve registered online, you’ll start receiving emails from your local chapter leadership with information about upcoming meetings and a link to participate. BNI features over 10,900 global chapters, meaning you shouldn’t have to travel far to meet your local group. 
  2. Attend a meeting: At your first BNI chapter meeting, tenured members will be there to make your first experience both fun and productive. Meetings follow a tailored agenda to maximize the value of your time, so you won’t have to worry about cold-pitching a room of strangers or engaging in forced small talk.
  3. Share your story: During the meeting, you’ll have a few moments to introduce yourself and your business. Take a moment to explain who you serve and how you help them. While it’s nice to have a few ideas prepared, BNI values authenticity, so be yourself!
  4. Network and refer: Watch networking in action. You’ll witness members building relationships and sharing referrals to support each other’s business growth, allowing you to build your own networking skills and help others in the meantime.
  5. Practice the BNI mindset: You’ve probably heard “you get what you give” in other contexts, and BNI members believe this applies deeply to business. The most fruitful BNI chapters consist of individuals genuinely committed to assisting one another. If you approach your BNI interactions with the intention to give before you receive, you’re likely to build genuine, long-lasting connections.
  6. Fill out the paper application: If members agree you’re a good fit for BNI, they’ll invite you to apply for membership.

Using BNI to Its Fullest

If you’re already convinced BNI is for you, here are some of our tips on using it to its fullest to advance your career or business.

Use common social sense with new connections. Business networking isn’t much different from making friends (or dating, for that matter). However, it’s common for those new to networking to get caught up in selling before taking the time to get to know someone else. You wouldn’t ask a brand new friend for a favor like housesitting or driving you to the airport, so why would you expect a new business connection to help you out right away? The more you can approach your networking strategy with the same patience and reciprocity you’d approach a new friendship, the better it’ll work out for everyone.

Extend your conversations beyond chapter meetings. Digital networking can be a great supplement to in-person interactions. After your chapter meetings, try connecting with new colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to learn more about them and share more about yourself.

Connect with members on BNI Connect. BNI offers various resources to its current members, and one of these is an exclusive social media platform called BNI Connect. BNI Connect is a great way to reach out directly to certified BNI members and deepen your chapter relationships.

Use BNI’s digital resources like Business Builder and Brandshare. Business Builder is an online training portal that shares essential learning on a range of topics in different formats, from webinars to podcasts. It’s accessible both on your desktop computer and mobile devices, so you can keep up with training anywhere. BNI Brandshare gives you access to different branding assets so you can include the BNI logo on your website or create your own marketing materials to spread the word about the community.

Use third-party tools to maximize your BNI membership. Simply managing all your new contacts can feel overwhelming when you join a new networking group, so consider a tool like Contacts+ to help you keep key data and conversations synced and updated in one place.