“I joined a BNI recently and despite the startup costs ($430+) I believe it will be an effective marketing tool… effectively having additional sales people out there looking to refer me out to their clients or acquaintances… to date the results are mixed and a lot of commitment and reciprocal referrals are required.
What is your opinion of the BNI model?”
BNI is not a marketing tool, it’s a customer commodity exchange. Members get together to exchange and trade leads. Here are the reasons you should not participate in the BNI (or anything similar) model.
Customers are not leads, they’re customers. Perceiving potential customers as leads changes how you treat them. You sell leads, while you service customers.
Customers not a commodity, they’re customers. Treating customers as a commodity lessens their value. They become objects rather than individual personalities.
Customers are not to be exchanged, they’re to be treasured and nurtured. They’re not to be bartered or exchanged like trading cards or bargaining chips.
Rather than looking to BNI and other networking groups for ‘leads’ I suggest you look to your customers for referrals. Care for customers, cherish them, provide a remarkable experience. When you do, they will bring you new customers, new relationships. Wouldn’t you rather create a customer evangelist then exchange a lead?
UPDATE: A few months later I had a totally different experience with BNI. Please see my update here: Re-Thinking My Position on BNI