Some business acronyms such as B2C, R&D and HR have near-universal recognition. ‘BNI’ is not one that makes the list of the most well-known acronyms for doing business in Australia – yet. However, that lack of knowledge could be holding many businesses back from finding great customers and building strong relationships.
So what is it?
BNI stands for Business Network International. The primary function of this network is to create business referrals for their members, by finding and exchanging information about customers and jobs that would benefit members of the network. The organisation provides a professional structure within which members can meet other employees and managers from like-minded businesses. The focus is networking with the sole purpose of generating more business.
While this may seems like an idealistic goal, the fact is that the process works. The figures that back up the effectiveness of BNI member meetings are staggering. In 2013 alone over $230 million of new contracts were written in Australia to cover business services in a wide range of industries from construction to telecommunications from BNI referrals. The global figures are even more impressive, with over 6 million referrals created resulting in over $3 billion of new work to date.
The unique aspect of the system is that it provides for a win-win model, where businesses do not compete with one another for work like they do in the open marketplace, but rather point each other in the direction of customers who would benefit from services that they cannot themselves provide. The personal relationships that are built between members of organisations provides for a ‘collaborative’ rather than ‘adversarial’ environment, with the added bonus of face-to-face contact.
The BNI community has been active in Australia since the late 1990s, but as with any organisation, once the success of the model became apparent, membership numbers and work generated grew quickly. Currently there are over 200 chapters or geographical subgroups comprising approximately 5000 members.
Subgroups can be found easily through the BNI website, whether a business is a sole trader with a single office on the Sunshine Coast or a franchise based in Perth with offices throughout Australia.
The subgroups, in addition to their primary meeting functions, also endeavour to produce education materials and ongoing support. These can take the form of regionally specific newsletters, visits from BNI professionals to optimise networking events and provision of consulting services to businesses in the chapter to better utilise the network.
As any business owner knows, word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools that can generate new leads and customer relationships. By facilitating gatherings where creating these leads and relationships is the sole goal, BNI networks are able to hone in on growing members businesses. By establishing credentials, building personal
friendships and understanding each others services, businesses are able to refer potential clients to one another with greater rates of success than more broad based strategies such as traditional marketing campaigns including cold calls and customer word of mouth referrals.
BNI involvement operates alongside these methods to increase their effectiveness while
also generating leads and business in it’s own right.
The other great feature is that involvement is voluntary, and businesses can participate in
as many or as few meetings as suits their needs. There is also the chance to participate in
cross-chapter events and broaden knowledge bases through wider interaction with
business people who may never meet each other in the ordinary course of their work.
Tele2 is a proud member of the BNI Momentum (Buderim) branch where local Sunshine
Coast businesses meet, catch up and refer business. We take great pleasure in the fact
that we are one of the highest sources of business referrals for our community, creating
over $300,000 worth of completed business as a result of referrals we have made to our
partners and affiliates.
A win-win approach is the best way to do business, and our experience with the BNI
Momentum (Buderim) branch shows that that goal is well within the reach of businesses on
the Sunshine Coast, and Australia.