A Networking Group That is Worth Your Time

Networking groups.  Many of them are boring and offer a poor return on investment.  You give up your free time to make awkward small talk and hand out some business cards.  If you’ve been to a Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber (Jaycees), Elks Lodge, Lions Club, you may know what I’m talking about.

It’s about as much fun as sitting through this guy’s class.

Some of these groups do great things for the community and I don’t want to detract from that.  But as a source of patients,  you may have been frustrated like I was.  Well, I found a good one that may work for you.

In an earlier post, I referenced a local networking group in which I participate.  BNI, or Business Networking International, has been around for a long time.  I’m willing to bet there’s one in your town that you didn’t even know existed.

They meet every week, typically at 7 AM at a local restaurant.  Yes, that’s very early in the morning.  I like my sleep, so the idea of networking at the ungodly hour of 7 AM is horrifying.  But I gave it a shot one day and never looked back.

Here’s what makes BNI different from other groups:

You meet once a week

Bad, unreliable referrals come from strangers; good, reliable referrals come from friends.  By meeting every week, everyone gets to know each other pretty well.

Let’s say someone I know is about to buy a home.  Thanks to my BNI group, I know a real estate agent, mortgage broker, home security specialist, etc.  I’m happy to refer a friend to people I trust and I’m happy to give my BNI friends business.

There won’t be any other dentists in the group

It can be uncomfortable when you bump into another dentist at a networking meeting.

“Oh hello! It’s so great to see you here. So, uh… how’s business?”

Fortunately, BNI only admits one person from each profession.  No other dentists can become a member of my particular BNI chapter until I leave.  They’re welcome to join another BNI chapter nearby, but I’ve got dibs on this one.

You will get patients, guaranteed

How can this be guaranteed?

First of all, I’m sure you will begin to treat some of the members of the group.

Second, even if you don’t treat a single person in the group, they’ll still refer you patients.  You see, every week you are expected to give one referral to someone in the group.  This is actually not a big deal, especially in our profession.  If you can’t find a patient every week who needs some kind of service, then you aren’t talking to your patients enough.

Anyway, say there are 30 members of the group.  Ideally, there are at least 30 referrals being passed every week within the group.  If you miss a referral here and there, it’s okay you won’t be kicked out.  But membership in a BNI group is anchored to your ability to produce business for other members.

I promise that if you show up, smile, and give other people business, you will absolutely get patients.

Is it all worth it?

So that’s the rundown of a BNI group.  As of this post, over 25 patients have joined the practice because of my commitment to get up early once a week.

But equally as important is the business I’ve given to BNI.  Quality services I’ve received include: financial planning, logo design, business card printing, insurance policies, an office security system, legal advice, office supplies, and so on.  The motto of BNI is “Giver’s Gain.”  In my experience that is quite appropriate; the more you are active in a networking group, the more you will get back.

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