“Spheres of Influence” at BNI

Graphic Designers, even freelance ones, rarely work in isolation. They collaborate with other professionals to complete a project. Whereas designers provide concept and design, others on the team may guide production or distribution, for example.

I belong to a chapter of Business Network International (BNI), billed as the largest referral organization in the world. Members pass along referrals to other members, and this reciprocity builds businesses — many members say their company’s annual retail sales are as much as 30% attributable to the word-of-mouth referrals they get through their BNI memberships. The BNI motto “Givers Gain” certainly is illustrated in those numbers!

My membership is a wonderful marketing tool, since fellow members are all marketing for each other. And I get to share my passion for my work every week in “60-second commercials,” and periodically in a 10-minute presentation to highlight my business.

One of the happy potentials of any chapter is the chance to build “spheres of influence.” Many businesses have a natural “fit” to work together — such as florists, caterers, and photographers for weddings, or realtors and mortgage brokers to complete real estate transactions. These combinations are particularly likely to refer business to each other.

The most logical “sphere” I belong to within my chapter includes a printer and a sign maker. We’re looking for a representative of a promotional products company, and I’d like to see a web services provider, too. But beyond my sphere, I can also be of service to the realtor, who’s thinking of starting a newsletter, or perhaps the caterer, who wants a new web site home page, to cite two examples. And they are just the “inner ring” of potential customers – they have friends and business contacts who they can point in my direction. Remember the old hair care commercial where “they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on…”? Similar concept.

If you are a business owner, I highly recommend membership in BNI. You’ll likely get more out of it than what you put into it!

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