Like most of us, you probably have business cards scattered about on your desk from seminars, events, trade shows, and other business functions. Churning through them to find qualified leads can be as daunting as finding a lost wedding ring at the dump. Enter “fee-based” business-networking organizations such as BNI (Business Networks Int’l) and numerous similar organizations.

For an upfront fee, networking organizations promise to provide what we really want, qualified referrals. But buyers beware; the membership and annual fee isn’t your only cost and the total marketing expenditure is far greater than most of us realize.

Committing resources to a networking group without a well thought out strategy can be a colossal waste of time and money. What does it really cost to benefit from membership in a networking organization? Are there proven strategies for maximizing your ROI?

No doubt, joining the right organization for your business is an efficient way to develop referrals. All networking organizations have one main goal in mind, building relationships and obtaining the referrals that generate new business. There are many types to choose from:

  • Business-networking organizations such as BNI,
  • Numerous professional associations, social clubs, and
  • Internet based networks that focus on making business connections (very successful for certain professionals and a trend well worth investigating).

I have prepared a marketing plan that focuses on business-networking organizations (both local/national and Internet-based). Contact me if you would like more info concerning their effective use, the true marketing costs associated with membership, and issues such as:

  • strategies for choosing a group,
  • "working" a group,
  • preparing a marketing budget, and
  • subsequently maximizing your ROI.
  • Are you a member of a networking organization such as BNI? Any comments on your experience or strategies for others to consider? I’m interested in what you have to say – let’s hear it.