Business networking groups, like BNI, consist of business owners/marketers who meet once a week to pass leads to one another. Leads are considered potential business offerings. Each business represents a category and only one business is allowed in the group per category. For instance, the group will only allow one general contractor, bookkeeper or hair stylist.
I have found a few steps handy while choosing which group to belong to. Depending on where you live, you may have several groups to choose from. It is a good idea to check out each group's website to see that your business category is available. In addition, look for members in each group in which you could be strategic partners. It is very important that you figure out if you will get business from the group before you join. Your goal is to find a group that will give you the most business. It is also likely that you might attract referrals through these steps, even if you don’t join the group.
Sometimes there are reasons you shouldn’t join a group, such as if you aren’t planning on attending regularly. Most groups will terminate your membership and the other group members may view you as unprofessional. Put in one year of being a member. After that year you may be too busy to attend the meetings. One year will give you a chance to make good contacts. You will probably continue to get referrals until someone else takes your category. Sometimes, people may not like the new member in your category and may continue to refer to you. Remember to make the process smooth for all referrals generated by the group as it can get back to the businesses that referred you. This is extremely important as it could jeopardize their business as well.
Choosing the best business networking group is essential to get your business off the ground and can add to a growing business marketing strategy. It is a lot of work and time commitment but can be much cheaper than other forms of marketing.