Using a Business Networking Group?

Little Conestoga

Grumbler
Joined
Sep 15, 2002
Posts
48
From
PA
I am a small framer, in a rural area, and advertising and getting new customers is always an ongoing task. I was looking into a networking group called LeTip, and wondered if anyone has used networking groups to their advantage?

I must say after the free breakfast and the fast pitched sell, and the opportunity to tell the group about my framing shop, I went home a little overwhelmed about the join up fee, and quarterly fees. But an hour later I received a phone call from someone needing a framing job. Hmmmm.....
 

David Knox

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Joined
Feb 8, 2001
Posts
429
From
Hillsborough NC
Last month I was a guest at Business Networking International. As soon as I clear the decks so I can attend the weekly meetings, I plan to join. The group is fairly large for this area, and very active, so I feel it will be well worth it. If the one job is a large one, it might pay most or all of the fees and especially if the customer becomes a repeat customer and begins to tell others about you.
 

Elaine

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Jul 9, 2001
Posts
1,569
From
Skaneateles,NY USA
The one in my area did not stick around long; we are located in a small touristy village and the demographics are not large.

I am very much for networking, and I do a lot of it through my chamber of commerce, merchants association and attending other local chamber meetings, local functions, etc. With the BNI (Business Network International), I did not like the weekly meetings talking to the same people and telling the same people about the same businesses. It almost felt cult-like. How many times can you tell the same people the same things??? I looked at the price of belonging, and did not see the value for the price. BNI, I believe is a franchise and there was a feeling of making someone else wealthy off of my fees and not getting much in return that I did not care for; it could have also been the leaderhip - no energy, etc.

This is just my experience on my local group - I do not get the same impression from other area group (in the larger cities), that it is the same everywhere. I have considered attending another larger group to see if they are different, and I may even be pleastantly surprised.

I think you have to decide for yourself if it is right for you or not. I attend a lot of the free functions that ask for doorprizes and always take a gift certificate for the shop along - many new people come in the door just from those.

Good luck with your investigation

my 2 cents

elaine
 

AWG

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Jun 12, 2003
Posts
1,021
From
North Carolina - Picture Framing Capital of the Wo
My experience with networking groups is that you'll benefit only based on 10how much YOU put in and 2)the rest of the group. We belonged to a small group of mostly home-based businesses and got little out of it except breakfast. Nice folks, but little business. We were invited to visit (and will join) another, larger group of more established, larger businesses. While the cost of joining is $$$ I think it will be worthwhile.
Anecdotally (sp?) I've heard that BNI is a worthwhile organization - they require attendance, are run more professionally, and tend to help your business.

Tony
 

Elaine

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Jul 9, 2001
Posts
1,569
From
Skaneateles,NY USA
I agree with you Tony - Critical factor is participation and Leaderhip; if the group has that, then it is worth the dollars. My chamber membership and my merchant assocation dues are not small dollars, but well worth every penny

elaine
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Apr 12, 2001
Posts
7,261
From
Destin, Florida
I was involved with BNI as a substitute for some of their business members who occasionally had meeting conflicts and called me to fill in for them. It didn't cost me a penny and I didn't have to attend every weekly meeting but, out of each meeting I attended over a period of maybe 8 months or so, I got at least one new customer and met and networked with at least 20 other businesses per meeting that I may not have otherwise made any contact.

I agree that any business networking group is only as good as the group allows it to be. And the more input and feedback you get from others in the group, the better you can prepare for such networking with other groups such as the CC or Main Street or other community groups.

Framerguy
 

Rick Bergeron - CPF

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Aug 18, 1999
Posts
2,280
From
Canistota, SD USA
Business
Lost Cajun Chateaux
We were members of BNI for 3 years and Elaine is correct in that it is a franchise that benefits one person by the number of chapters and members within the franchise area. The program offered works in principle and like everyone has already mentioned.... depends upon the group and group leadership. The franchise owner could really care less, but talks a good story. The referrals we received in a 3 year period were mainly chapter members wanting framing at "member disount" pricing. I am still a BNI substitute which is almost as good as being a member like Framerguy said.

The local Chamber of Commerce is dependent upon where you fall in the cliche. When we joined, the new member table was as far from the rest of the meeting group as it could have been and still be within the same room. That worked wonders to make a new member feel welcome. One of the first things new members were told is to not expect any referrals from another member until at least $3000-$4000 worth of referral business to that member were made. A few months later, the chamber started a program to specifically benefit a group of competitors of which less than 25% are Chamber members. A group like that required more work than I was willing to devote for participation and payback.

I agree that there is great benefit to being members of groups, but these are a couple of local groups where my participation is limited.
 

SCFramer527

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Joined
Oct 23, 2003
Posts
104
From
Columbia, SC
The benefit from any business group you join will depend on the others in the group and how you all work together. Have been very active in BNI for several years and have received a fair bit of business as a direct result. The premise is that each of the members of the group actively promote each other's business on a weekly basis through word-of-mouth advertising. That's why you talk to the same people every week -- to let your "sales force" know how to promote your business that week....what's going on new, who is a good referral for you, what they can do THIS WEEK to help your business to grow. And if you have an active and growing chapter, you're also talking to a new group of "visitors" each week.

If you have an active group of agressive business owners working for each other then the results are great. If you have a complacent social group who "shop with each other" then neither your time nor money will be well spent.

Incidently, we have a GREAT "franchise owner" in this State who works constantly to make her many chapters successful....I'm pretty sure she isn't getting rich on our Dues tho. So again, a lot depends on the individuals involved.
 

ChrisW

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Joined
Jan 23, 1999
Posts
116
From
Brockville,Ontario, Canada
Networking works, it's the most cost effective advertising I've ever done. Now, I've tried alot in 17 years of small business, CofC, ad clubs, service groups (still in some but not for the business ). BNI is the only one that works and I belonged for 3 years and yes it brought me lots of business, well worth it. The structured approach helps educate the other members in what you do, after a while, its like having 25 sales reps. Once I gave a 10 minute presentation about how framing shouldn't be done. I had a customers needlepoint to reframe. I got to show them a staple gunned over foam onto cardboard frame job compaired to a cross-section of how I do them. Got the point across.

Unfortunately the person who owns the franchise wasn't so hot. When we had questions as to the reason for an increase in fees he verbally attacked 4 and 5 year members. Membership dropped from 30 to 8.

We formed a new group, still charge the same fees but keep the money locally and invest it, sharing the profits between the members. All the networking benefits plus profit sharing and a reason to stay in.

Interested? www.universalnetworkinvestments.com
or e-mail me.
 

Little Conestoga

Grumbler
Thread starter
Joined
Sep 15, 2002
Posts
48
From
PA
Thank you. I was apprehensive about the fees, yet the weekly meetings I can do ( breakfast at 7:01 am). I felt the money I was spending on local paper advertising was not getting me very far. Direct mailers seem to work better when I run a Christmas "special" or the Valentines Sweetie discount, but I dont hear from "them" much the rest of the year.

Luckily I was able to talk to a former president of the local chapter. The input seems to be as positive as I read here. So I will give it a try for a year. Financially I hope my advertising budget will be put to a better result. Thanks!
 
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