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Friday, 18 February 2011

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Business Network International formed in Sri Lanka:

‘Word of mouth’ used as main tool

Several businessmen in Colombo and Kandy got together last week for introducing the BNI concept (Business Network International) in Sri Lanka which is a novel concept to the country and which helps businessmen to promote their business mutually and collectively over regular weekly breakfast meetings and subsequent follow-ups.

What is BNI?

BNI is a worldwide professional business organization established in the United States founded by the Business Writer and a Scholar on Business Promotion Dr Ivan R Misner and the group has several thousand Chapters throughout the United States and a membership of over 134,000.


Business network build-up

A Chapter is a group of 20-35 members and only one person from each profession or business is permitted to hold membership in one Chapter. BNI Chapters can be formed in major towns and a congested town or a city could have more than one Chapter. The group is spread throughout the world in 54 countries and in the Asian region it has successful Chapters functioning in Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, India, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE, Israel, Hong Kong and some other countries.

Its representation in Malaysia dates back to over 10 years and the group has contributed immensely to the Malaysian miracle in Business Development. During its four years penetration into the Indian Business market, it has spread its wings to almost all regions in India and targets to incorporate 10,000 members.

The philosophy of this organization is built upon the idea that by giving business to others, you will get business in return. This is based on the age-old idea of “What goes around comes around.” The mission of BNI is to help members increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional “word-of-mouth” program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.”

BNI is designed to increase business, fine tune presentation skills, develop an advisory group, participate in joint marketing efforts, arrange speaking engagements, become a resource for customers, become an effective public speaker, gain valuable feed back and learn new sales techniques.

Sri Lankan Chapter

The Sri Lankan group of this Organization held an introductory training session in Colombo on Feb. 8 and it has been arranged to have the official launch of BNI in Colombo on Feb 24. The Sri Lankan Group is headed by Marjan A Manzil who holds credentials of BPharm MCIM (UK) and Chartered Marketer from UK and has marketing experience of several years in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

He is the Country Director/National Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives. Brigadier J P A Jayawardena is the Regional Director of this Business Network.

At this introductory gathering the philosophy, the operational method, the advantageous available and the effectiveness of the BNI concept was elaborated with facts and figures to the participants by the National Director Marjan A Manzil.

Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) Technique

Presentation made at the Introductory Seminar, attended by professionals and business from the import/export, educational promotional, travel, manufacturing and service sectors, convinced the participants that the concept of business promotion being done by Word of Mouth by members representing the Chapters is a very powerful tool and it is equivalent to having several, twenty or more professionals and businessmen in continuous sales promotion and in mutual and collective expansion of each other’s businesses.

It was also convinced that the World of Mouth business promotion is very effective.

Last year alone, members of BNI the world over have passed 6.5 million referrals to each other resulting in over 2.8 billion US$ worth of business for its members.

The system provides an environment in which personal relationships are developed with dozens of other qualified business professionals with opportunity created to substantially increase businesses among each other.

Breakfast Meetings

The system of functioning of a BNI Chapter is highly professional and not only one person from each profession or trade is permitted to hold membership in the chapter but they should also be in permanent business and not a part time businessmen or professionals.

Each Chapter holds weekly breakfast meetings and attendance at these weekly meetings of 90 minutes duration is compulsory except for medical reasons and in that situation represented by a substitute and these meetings are the core engine of driving businesses.

During the ninety minute session members get the opportunity of getting themselves introduce to other members, explain about their product and services and their objectives, discuss business prospects and opportunities available, improvements to business that the market sector warrants, and new referrals they have found relating to each other’s businesses and who could further expand their business, etc.

BNI provides a structured and supportive system of giving and receiving business referrals in this manner.

These meetings also provide the opportunity for members to have one to one meetings, after the breakfast meetings, discuss about follow ups and even to get visit to referrals or news business establishments arranged.

National and International Business Promotion

The members in a chapter are permitted to bring in referrals/visitors to their breakfast meetings and such a visitor’s attendance is restricted to two visits. The members can offer their products on a door price at the breakfast gatherings during 10 minutes presentation and this is awarded to a member who brings highest number of referrals/visitors.

The members in a Chapter are provided with details of businesses of other members and their Business Cards, so that when the members meet a referral interested in one of the business being carried out by another member in the Chapter such details are passed on to the referral and contacts are established resulting in a business promotion move. Similarly members also undertake the responsibility of promoting the businesses of their colleagues in the Chapter.

Interested professionals/businessmen could establish BNI Chapters in any of the towns under the purview of the National Chapter, which offers the opportunity for the members to interlink with other towns and regions as well. Also the BNI members have the possibility to expand their businesses worldwide through the members listed under a country profile in its worldwide website www.bni.com and members could visit and establish contacts with overseas members by visiting BNI Chapters in the countries of visit.

Administration of Chapters

Administration work relating to a Chapter is undertaken by a President, a Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, with team support from Visitor Hostd, Membership Committee and Educational Coordinator. These members are chosen by consensus, as there is no contest for posts under the BNI concept. The core functions related to the posts are more or less similar to other organizations but Membership Committee has an onerous task of screening membership applications and to listen to complaints from members and take corrective action as it deems necessary. The Educational Coordinator is responsible of representing a networking education topic during the weekly meetings.

Conclusion

There is an annual membership fee for becoming a member in a Chapter and this fee is peanuts when compared to the advertisement charges being levied by print media for a single day advertisement, which mostly are ignored by the business community, in particular.

The organization is an economical promotional medium for any businessman, industrialist or a service provider and in the highly competitive market BNI is a vibrant vehicle for getting several professional businessmen voicing and working collectively for your business promotion, efficiently and effectively. (niz).

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