Business so far…
I’ve been busy trying to grow the business over the past couple months and hit a dilemma most business founders have at the beginning. How do you market when you are doing the work as well? After reading business literature, I understood that the main source of business comes from referrals. We just don’t have the time and finances to do full scale marketing. Referrals are basically where its at. This presented a challenge to me though as the IT space is very competitive and the customers that have been with me for a while only presented so many opportunities.
I tried the usual via business networking meetup and asking other business owners in my position. Some referrals came through these meetings, however this seemed more happenstance. My biggest frustrations which came from Business Networking Events was how unstructured and daunting they were. You get yourself to the meeting but need get to introduce yourself to all the cliques you see. I’m not a gregarious person, nor a social butterfly, so this presented a real challenge for me.
Then in one of these meetings, I met a guy who invited me to a BNI chapter. The rest, as they say, is history. The concept is so simple, it just makes total sense to me. Basically, you have a group of people who represent their respective industries. No-one can be the competition of services to the other – ie only one representative from each industry. The idea is that you establish trusted relationships with each member. You get to know who they are, what they represent and what they do – so no assumptions. BNI has policies, procedures and traditions which are very simple to understand and follow – in so doing, it facilitates the increase of referrals to your business tenfold. The other members that make up the group are then marketing your company whenever they have the chance. And you do the same!
So what’s the catch? In my opinion, it’s that you have to have a long term vision – and be a decent human being. This is encapsulated by a simple philosophy of BNI called ‘Givers Gain’. What this means is that you first look to provide referrals to the members in your group before expecting referrals to come flying in to you. Its a very basic tenet that spans religions and cultures. First look to give before you get. S0und familiar? The system is self regulated. You will only refer business when you trust the member providing the service you are recommending. Can’t work any other way. So when you get to know this person, you do so with a view of establishing trust in what they do and how they do it. Likewise. So this can only attract a certain caliber of individual.
Your reputation is on the line when you actively refer. The better the service provided by your fellow members, the stronger your marketing power and the more referrals are provided in the group. The organisation’s strength lies in everyone actively referring each other and the ability for members to actively and properly service the referrals provided.
In a cynical world of dog eat dog, step over your competition, win at all costs mentality, this working concept of co-operation, goodwill and small business reputational marketing appeals to me. It is an effective long term solution to marketing your business. The added benefit is that you are among positive people in their respective fields, supporting each other and possibly becoming firm friends in the process.
Anyone reading this who is starting out in their business or is considering how to grow their business should check out this networking group in their area – have a look here – https://www.bni.co.za/.
It’s working for me.
Proud BNI member – BNI Profile