People everywhere want to do business with BNI members. BNI Connect enables members from all over the world to refer business to you—but only if you fill out your profile with your contact information. Make sure that people looking for someone in your industry can find your address, phone number, website, and e-mail. You can also upload a photo of yourself and your business logo. The more complete your profile, the better your results will be.
If you don’t know how to fill out your BNI Connect profile, ask your local Executive Director.
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Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 224 -
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan, how are you and where are you?
I am doing great, Priscilla, thank you very much. I am wrapping up my visit to Israel this week. Some great members here in Israel. This is my second visit and I am really excited to be back. I am also excited about todays’ topi because I have with me here today Kathryn Lodal. We are going to be talking about the value of BNI Connect. Kathryn is the Executive Director of BNI in San Diego, CA. Kathryn and her team of directors have doubled the size of the BNI organization in San Diego in the last 5 years. She has been a Director for many years, although she had been an Executive Director in San Diego for five years. She was a n Assistant Director for many years in Michigan before she came to San Diego. She also serves as a BNI Distict Director, advising BNI chapters throughout the SW. Kathryn has a bachelors degree from Texas Tech and a masters degree from Northwestern University. Kathryn, it is great to have you on this podcast. I appreciate you doing this today.
I’m so pleased to have this opportunity, and I am glad to meet you, Priscilla.
Kathryn, how long were you an Assistant Director in Michigan before you came to San Diego?
I was there for 9 years and actually, in San Diego, I’ve been there for seven now. It’s gone fast.
Alright. So you have been involved in the organization for 15 years. That is one of the things that I love about BNI. People tend to be involved for a long, long time. It’s great to have people like you. You’re a great District Director and a great Executive Director for the organization. So today you want to talk about BNI Connect. There are three things that you want to touch upon. Theme, value and process. Those are the three things that you want to talk about it.
Before you jump into this, I want to do full disclosure right up front. BNI Connect is a work in progress What I ask of the members is join me in the vision of what this can be. I know that BNI Connect has some bugs and issues. There are a couple of parts that need to be worked on. We know that. We are working hard to bring BNI Connect up to snuff. Particularly the group function is one of the things that we’re working on. A number of other area that we know there is work that needs to be done. We are actively doing this up to where we feel comfortable. So view this conversation with Kathryn as to what BNI Connect can be and how we can all start to get it there. If we can keep the comments and focus on the positive, I think it ends up being much more valuable content for members.
So theme, value and process. Tell us first what you mean by theme.
Thank you. The directors on the San Diego team are very excited about the business that has already taken place for our members via the BNI Connect database. When members see the value of BNI Connect database and specifically, how do prospective customers or clients find you, a member, on BNI Connect?
One of the examples that I think we can all relate to is that people all around the world own real estate. And they often own that in places that they don’t live, either by investment, or by inheritance. So they find themselves in need of a variety of services and they often want to use a BNI member for those services because we have the best vetting process around.
In terms of the value, BNI Connect provides basic information for every member of BNI worldwide. This enables us to be found in the worldwide search. However, we have to remember that the member chooses just how much information to add to the basic information that is posted by virtue of our membership in BNI Connect. So here is the process about how a prospective-
Can I jump in before you get to process, Kathryn? There are a couple of things that I want to touch upon. One is you are focusing primarily on the referral aspect. I think that is valuable, but there is also another aspect, and that is the knowledge and information sharing. A lot of the members can share ideas and best practices. We see it as members having two primary aspects of great value to members. One is information sharing, best practices, what are you doing right? The other is what you are talking about today, which I think is really revolutionary for BNI because everything has been about the local chapter and now you have this chance to communicate and possibly pass referrals around the world.
I’ve had people say to me, “Yeah, but I don’t do business around the world.” Do you have any idea how many people have contacted me and said that they have moved from one place like you did, Kathryn. You moved from Michigan to San Diego. It was great to be able to start up in a new city and have all of these contacts. Or they have friends in another city who need help and it would be so easy for them to refer them. That’s really the kind of thing that you are talking about here- being able to give referrals to people around the world. Yeah?
That is exactly correct. We know that when we move to a new region, we want to start with BNI connections. We also have friends and family, by example real estate property that needs servicing. It’s amazing how many opportunities are already occurring. So I’d like to just cover if somebody needs a service in San Diego, what do they do? First of all, they have to find a regional website address. The best way to do that is to go to BNI.com because you can look up regions all over the world. Find the regional website. Connect with that. Once on the regional website, you simple click on find a member and look at the drop down list of professions and identify which professions it is that you need service in. So that’s how a prospective member begins to find us.
That’s very important. Now, then I want to focus on three different things about what happens next. First of all, when the prospective member starts looking at this list of cleaning services as an example- because they own a home. They have a rental property. They have a parent who lives in San Diego and they need a variety of services. There are certain things that BNI Connect provides no matter what each individual member does. That is their name, their company name, their chapter name and their industry. If that is all the prospective client sees, then they have to do further research to reach our member because no contact information is on there unless the member has chosen to provide it.
So secondly, let’s look at what a prospective member would see if the member chooses to fill out the options on the profile page. There can be a photo, a company logo and a variety of means of contact- address, multiple phone numbers, a way to send an email. It says”send message” but it never reveals the actual email in order to protect our members from spamming. You can post your website. You can post your social networking links. But remember, each member chooses what they do and don’t want to post on BNI Connect.
I would like to close with a few stories because we are beginning to see the success stories roll in. I will start with myself. I was looking for a florist in another city to send flowers for my son and his wife’s anniversary. I found 4 florists in that community, only one of whom had posted contact information. Guess who got my business.
I just got a call from someone the other day who lives in a nearby county in California. Their mom lives in San Diego. They had found a house cleaning service via BNI Connect. They just wanted to follow up and make certain what the reputation was. But they had made the connection by going into our website and looking for cleaning services.
When I made this presentation at one of our chapters, one of the members stood up and said, “I’d like to share with you one of the referrals that I just received. My business is lighting fixtures. Through BNI Connect, I just received a request for a quote from Mumbai, India.” That individual who was a member in India wanted to consider the prospect of buying the fixtures in the US and shipping them via paying the prices in India. I thought that was very exciting because as you said, Ivan, we sometimes think we only do business locally, but it’s going to happen internationally as well as other places within the United States. I bet you’ve had some experiences with this already, too, Ivan.
I have. I had somebody come up to me just recently and say they got a $10,000 referral off of somebody. It was a SendOutCards representative. They were completely shocked that they got this business. They were going into it with the idea that BNI Connect would be a knowledge network to share ideas and resources. Then, boom!, they got this huge referral.
So it is absolutely going to happen. You are right. It is not going to happen if the members don’t get on and complete their profiles. So if you are listening to this message and don’t know how to do that, you want to contact your local Executive Director and ask how you get the information to be able to sign up for BNI Connect and start your profile. This is a process. This is going to take 6 months to a year to get members fully on board, to get the software- we are doing this completely inhouse. We are not bringing in a venture capitalist to do this. It’s a slow process, but we’re going to get it there and it’s already started to be an amazing thing from what I have seen.
Any closing thoughts, Kathryn?
Yes. I would like to remind us all that people are looking for member services, whether it is from within our region or outside our region. The more information and the more attractive the member’s profile page is, the more likely a connection will be made.
Yeah. Very true. Very true indeed. Listen Kathryn, thank you very much for being on the podcast today. You are a great Executive Director. You have a wonderful message.
Members, get on BNI Connect and play around a little bit. Be patient. Be tolerant, but get engaged because this will continue to improve. We are investing a lot of time and energy in this. It’s going to be what I’ve been saying: Local business, Global network. It’s going to enable businesses that are local to have a global network and to connect all 140,000 of our members worldwide. Kathryn Lobel, thank you so much for being on our podcast. Back to you, Priscilla.
Thank you, Ivan. I just have to add that I got a phone call this week from somebody who tried to find me on BNI Connect, and all I had was the basic information. They did the research to find me but let me know that I didn’t have my phone number on there. So it’s really timely that you said all of this.
That’s good and I think it’s a really perfect example of why it’s important to get your contact information up there. Thanks for sharing that, Priscilla.
Okay. Thank you both. That was a great podcast. I think that is it for this week. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.