Visitors, it is often said, are the lifeblood of a business networking group such as BNI, the world’s largest business networking organisation. The following are 12 points to consider about why this is so true and how you can get more visitors to your group.
1. Statistics have shown time and time again that visitors are often the highest source of referrals for members of a business networking group. This is true both in the number of referrals they give and also the amount of money people earn that those referrals lead to. People generally join a business networking group to make more contacts in the hope that these lead to us earning more money for their businesses and these statistics show visitors to the group, whether they join or not, are the best source for this.
2. Almost as importantly, visitors are hugely important in growing a networking group. Quite simply, you can’t grow your group without more visitors. The more visitors there are, the more will apply to join and the larger the group will grow. The larger the group, the greater the number of referrals and the greater number of referrals, the more money the members make.
3. When a networking group has visitors in the room, it’s clear that they will have better meetings. Everyone is just that bit better behaved – more professional and more business like. The members feel more motivated and the atmosphere is more positive. If there are no visitors, meetings seem to have less interest and less point to them. Fresh faces mean fresh interest and sometimes, fresh jokes!
4. In BNI, as a baseline, Charlie Lawson, a national BNI director, recommends that each week a BNI group should have at least two eligible visitors at a meeting.
5. It’s important to remember what a visitor is, in terms of BNI. They have to be someone where there is no conflict with an existing member. Also, they cannot be a member of a business networking group that competes with BNI. We are perfectly happy to have visitors from groups that don’t compete; in fact that is great as they are likely to have more contacts. If you have any concerns about these points, please check with your group’s leaders or your regional Director.
6. In short, they have to be eligible to apply to become members of BNI. But this doesn’t mean that you should only be thinking of inviting people to visit who are interested in becoming members of our group – far from it in fact. We want visitors to see us, regardless of whether they may or may not be interested in joining. As stated before, visitors are a great source of referrals for the Chapter and that is what we really want – lots of referrals. In terms of inviting people to apply to join, visiting us and enjoying our meetings is really the best way to do that. So, don’t even think about who may or may not want to join when seeking to invite people to visit us.
7. So, visitors are of the utmost importance to a chapter that wants to be successful – but how do we go about inviting them? Firstly you will need to find details of visitors. You can do so from google searching the type of business you are interested in inviting. The Checkatrade website is a good source of information about this as well. Also, have a look for vans or cars with details of businesses on and think about inviting them. Local magazines may have details of businesses that are advertising – they might be interested as well.
8. Now, how do you invite visitors? As a basic step, send out invitations. These can be letters in the post or by email. In BNI branded postcards are available which you can send as well – new members should have some in their new membership pack. I like to send a postcard with my invitation letter.
9. You can also invite people using social media. Over the years I’ve been with my BNI group, we’ve had people come along to visit through spreading the word on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. They do work, so keep going. As well as messages and posts, also think in terms of Liking other members posts – these do get spotted.
10. Attending other networking meetings is a great way to meet potential visitors. Please think of your group as your core network but for your business’ sake as well, as the group, we should all be out there doing more networking. There are lots of the other networks and groups to visit, some more formal than others. There are the curry nights that meet regularly and other groups that do not compete with our group.
11. Also, why not create your own event? Some businesses have open days or evenings to invite new clients, customers or contacts in. This could be a great way to meet potential visitors.
12. Finally, get out there and network generally. We are social creatures and all the people in a networking group should be interested in meeting new people – otherwise why would you be here? Get out there and meet new people, whether it be charity or cultural events, community groups, barbecues, dinner parties, sporting events – you name it, there’s always an opportunity to meet new people. So, go get lots of visitors in and take your business networking group to the next level of growth and success!