Business Network International (BNI): Growing via Referrals

In this post I am going to discuss the importance of Referral Marketing and Networking for a successful growth and expansion of businesses. In the Sri Lankan context, the country has started to upgrade its socio-economic affairs within the country limits as well as outside of its geographical boundaries. This will soon impose stagnation in almost all industries where the competition will be high while the profit making abilities and widening the revenue channels may become difficult. In such situations the businesses should be ready to proactively face the maturity stage. In such circumstances, my personal view is that the Marketing sphere should differ from the status quo. The dynamic features of marketing such as Offline Advertising, Online Marketing, Branding, Loyalty Marketing etc. should be combined with Referral Marketing and Networking.

It has become apparent that a business, being a sole entity, cannot survive anymore in this fiercely competitive business world. For example unlike ever before, most of the value chains have started to shrink and the entities have started to invest more in backward and forward integration while making mutually benefiting agreements with the value chain members. Hence the phenomena of marketing via referrals and networking will be the dominant feature of the forthcoming business era. Though this is a global trend which has not yet thoroughly dominated the Sri Lankan context, this will soon be the trend in Sri Lanka as well. Hence Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs should be ready to welcome such a transformation.

Recently I came to know about one of the world’s largest referrals and networking organizations, Business Network International (BNI). I got to know about this organization through my Business Partner who resides in California, USA. As I have stated initially, I strongly believed that referrals and networking can render immense benefits to businesses in Sri Lanka, especially small scale ones and start-ups. Hence I was interested to know more about it and soon experienced the worthiness of such an organization in the contemporary world. This encouraged me to become a member of its Sri Lankan wing too. Resultantly I am writing this post by connecting the importance of referrals, word-of-mouth and networks and the experiences I collected to this point as a member of BNI, Sri Lanka.    

Word-of-mouth is arguably one of the most effective forms of Marketing, and has an especially significant effect in the B2B market. While referrals are not guaranteed sales, clients who have been directed towards your business through mutual intermediaries are much more likely to become loyal customers. However, in order to conduct proper referral marketing, a company must first establish a network of business contacts. This can be especially hard for new business owners and young entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka who are yet to forge healthy, lasting business relationships, which is where a business networking platform like BNI comes in.

Chapter members hold regular meetings in order to foster stronger business relationships with each other. At these meetings, each member is given a chance to describe their business and the services they offer to the others, and what kind of referrals they are looking for. When a member comes across a potential client looking for a service provided by one of the other members, they recommend the member to the individual and provide them with a referral slip at the next meeting for them to follow up on. This is how the business network uses word of mouth marketing for the mutual benefit of members. These meetings are also useful to culture professional networking skills, and will aid members in making long-term business relationships.

BNI has recently established chapters in Sri Lanka, and is currently looking for new members. This provides valuable networking opportunities for new entrepreneurs and established professionals alike; bringing together high level decision makers that can contribute towards each other’s success. The current roster of members includes recognized businessmen from the fields of Digital Marketing, Media, Hospitality, Textiles and Education, among others, and is looking to expand through the addition of new members. This is assured to facilitate the growth of the local business network by putting several professionals in regular contact with each other.

As its name suggests, BNI is an international network, and has over 150,000 registered members in several countries around the world. This network is accessible to all BNI members through BNI Connect, and is an invaluable resource for business owners looking to upscale their operations globally. I strongly recommend all business professionals, both new and established, from all fields to take advantage of this opportunity and join this growing network.

For more information on how to get involved and expand your network of referrals, contact me on 071 303 2422.

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