One of my clients recently posted on our internal message board, we call the QUE, asking if there was a benefit to joining BNI or some similar networking group. As expected, there were mixed reviews. Some said it was not worth their time, while others said it was a very worthwhile membership. One of the “nay” responses was from a member who stated that BNI was nothing more than an “old boys’ club” that prevented anyone on the “outside” from getting in, thereby making it a giant waste of time.
This prompted me to focus this article on the VERY important topic of taking advice from peers regarding whether or not an approach, a media, an idea or a campaign is viable.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that if it works for one person, or other people, then it DOES work. Second thing to keep in mind is that ALL WEATHER IS LOCAL. What I mean by that is what one person may have experienced with a media, campaign or approach may not be what YOU experience, for a wide variety of reasons. So while it’s perfectly reasonable to post and ask peers about their results from a specific marketing approach, you MUST keep in mind that there are a number of wildly erratic variables that dramatically impact the results for each person; therefore, you must take their comments with a grain of salt, knowing you don’t have all the information and facts to accurately conclude their opinion is absolute truth.
Take, for example, this thread on the validity of joining a BNI group. Whether or not that’s a practical source of new clients and opportunity depends on 1) the people in the group, who are vastly different from group to group, city to city, 2) the “culture” of the group, and 3) you and your ability (or inability) to communicate and connect with others, “see” opportunities, earn the trust of those who are there and negotiate strategic win-win deals. One MSP who serves home users or small businesses may find a particular BNI group of great value while focusing on large-enterprise clients or a particular niche, such as medical, not so much. Conversely, the small IT shop that attempts to join a group of seasoned, successful entrepreneurs may find itself a “fish out of water” in that environment. The only way to get an accurate answer to the question “Is BNI a good group to join?” would require you to go and visit various BNI groups to determine FIRSTHAND if the people there have similar clients and share similar values, thereby being a good source of leads for you. There is no other way.
Yet I see so many simply accepting the limited opinions of others on a particular methodology, idea, marketing strategy, etc., on an online forum where there is no depth of information or context. “Yes, it works great!” or “No… stay away, it’s a giant waste of money” are merely opinions. They’re ONE person’s experience. Of course, this person’s advice may be 100% valid – but their individual and unique experience with a particular media, campaign or approach may not be YOUR experience. I’m all for reaching out and getting other people’s input and opinions, particularly on our QUE, where I trust the responses far more than in many of the anonymous forums out there. But still, quick opinions provided without context should not be taken as gospel and should NOT prevent you from conducting your OWN test and coming to your OWN conclusion.
For example, to the people who said BNI was “not worth my time,” I have questions. Did you visit multiple BNI groups or just one or two? Did you investigate the members of all the groups to determine if at least a few of the people in a particular group share a similar client base, thereby making them more likely to be good referral partners? Did you hunt around for a group that does? When you joined, what did you do to introduce yourself? To build trust? To demonstrate expertise? To communicate to others the specific type of client you work with so they could more easily refer people to you? Did you show up and share referrals in abundance first to earn trust and trigger reciprocity, or did you give just a few referrals, or none at all? How many times did you show up? Participate? Did you make time to have meaningful conversations with others in the group to understand their business goals and objectives and find ways to be of use to them? To find opportunities in connections they might have that you weren’t aware of, or did you just assume that since their business is selling to a different client, there’s zero opportunity and therefore you made zero effort? Did you receive ANY leads from the group? Tell me about those. When you received a lead from the group, did you ask that member to send an e-mail or make a call in advance so their referral knew you’d be calling? Did you follow up quickly, aggressively and meticulously, or did you just send a few e-mails? Did you thank the person referring and go back to tell them you’d like more or to tell them it wasn’t quite a right fit, so you could help them understand who WOULD be a good referral? Did you craft an offer the other BNI members could extend to their clients to help fuel referrals? Did you offer to do a webinar or create a free report for them to offer to their list? Like all things in life, you get out of something what you put into it.
Those are just a few of the things I’d want to know BEFORE I’d buy their assessment of it being a “waste of time.” I would do the same for those who said it was productive: How did they go about finding a good group? What characteristics did they look for? How did they gain the trust and respect of the group? How are they sharing referrals? What’s working? What’s not? What specifically are they doing to fuel referrals?
Sadly, we live in a society that makes decisions based on “tweets” of information. YOU CANNOT allow yourself to be duped by doing the same. Dig. Investigate. Ask questions. Don’t “assume” anything. If ONE person is getting results, find THAT person and learn what they are doing, rather than coming to any conclusions based on cursory, limited information. And finally, ALL marketing methods require work and strategy to produce results. Expecting easy results without such an investment of time and work is sure to produce “no results.””
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