Episode 288: BNI Spam

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BNI Connect is a great way for members to connect world-wide, but the down side of BNI Connect is that it allows you to make connections and ask for business with other BNI members without a relationship. This amounts to spam–unsolicited commercial email. But it’s an easy mistake to make. A member wrote to Dr. Misner and said the following:

“I used your website to reach out to other chapters, only to be told that I should be reported for doing so: ‘You shouldn’t be sending mass emails like this, it’s unsolicited, it’s considered spam.’ Am I missing something here? I’ve been a model member since I joined a year ago. Is the attitude members should take?”

Nobody likes spam, but BNI members become apoplectic when they get it from other BNI members. BNI’s Board of Advisors has just created a  BNI Connect Code of Conduct. The very first item is Do not spam people. Do not solicit members outside your group for business unless you have their permission.

So how do you build a relationship with someone in another chapter?

  1. Engage in the groups. Join an active group and start talking to people.
  2. Visit the other chapter.
  3. Develop relationships.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 288 -

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?

I am doing great, Priscilla. Happy New Year to everyone around the world. This is our first podcast of the new year, and we are looking forward to another year of podcasts. Thank you, everyone, who comes to these podcasts regularly. Today’s topic is an important one. BNI spam. What it’s about is connecting with BNI members globally without a relationship, which is basically spam. Now that we have BNI Connect starting to rock the world, our own system, it’s really easy to basically spam people and make connections and ask for business without a relationship.

I have talked many times about the VCP process here on my podcast and on my blog, businessnetworking.com. Do a search on VCP and find where I talk about VCP- building visibility, establishing credibility, and then profitability. Then you start asking for business. Doing it too early really creates problems.

Now, I am bringing this up because I got an interesting email from a BNI member. I am going to read it to you. It said, “I’m confused. I joined BNI to be able to grow my business through quality referrals.” Now that’s interesting, quality referrals. Okay, I am going to come back to that. “I used your BNI website,” I am assuming he is talking about BNI Connect, “to reach out to other chapters only to be told that we should be reported for doing so.”

Here is one of the responses: “You shouldn’t be sending mass emails like this. It is unsolicited. It is considered spam. You are lucky no one cared enough to report you.” A little harsh, but I am not surprised. I’ll tell you why.

He then says, “Am I missing something here? I have been a model member since I joined here a year ago.” He then says there aren’t any words for how many referrals he has brought in, he has been on the leadership team. Is this the attitude members should take? That’s basically his position.

Here is my answer to this: Don’t be surprised. It is completely predictable. Absolutely predictable. You want to let the world know about what you do. I get it. But doing it like this will predictably within the BNI context, and heck, even outside the BNI context- how many times have you gotten spam from someone and said, “Really? Who is this person and why are they trying to sell me something?”

If you do it in BNI, where it’s all about relationships, there’s almost a guarantee that people aren’t happy with it. Every time someone sends out an unsolicited request to do business with someone they don’t know on BNI Connect, the BNI website or any venue, the BNI members become apoplectic, okay? They go crazy.

Ironically, the Board of Advisers just dealt with this issue recently and they created a BNI code of conduct and the very first item on the code of conduct- you haven’t seen it yet. It’s going to be going out here in the beginning of the year, and it’s going to be available on BNI connect. The very first item in the code of conduct in operating in BNI is do not spam people. You can communicate with other members for official business, but do not solicit members outside your group unless you have their permission in advance, which means you have a relationship.

It’s all about relationship. If you are going to spam people- take spam out of it. If you are going to try to sell something to someone or promote your business to someone who doesn’t know you, it’s really predictable that they will be upset, whether you like it or your don’t. Having done this for almost three decades, I guarantee you that is what will happen.

Bottom line here is we really urge you not to do this because you will pretty consistently get this response. It’s the kind of response that this particular member received. And I believe this member didn’t do anything with any ill will in mind. They are excited. When you are excited about your business, you want everyone to know about it. I got it. Just take your time and build relationships. Go slow. You can build relationships even on BNI connect.

Can I interrupt you just for one second?


Given that we don’t know the other people on BNI Connect, because they are not in our chapter, how would you advise us to build a relationship with someone in another chapter? What would be the rules for that?

Brilliant question. Really important. First, using “engage” on Connect. The best way to engage is in the groups. Creating groups, maybe, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of groups on BNI Connect. Join one that is active. Take a look at when messages have been posted. If you find some that are active, join that and start talking to people. It’s all about the relationships. I have been on LinkedIn, Facebook, other social media, eCademy, a great website, Chang out of Europe is a great site. I have met people by having a dialogue, by engaging in conversation. That’s the first step.

Here is the second step: If you really want to do business globally- you don’t have to do business globally to do what I just suggested. You might want best practices. You might not ever intend to do business in another country, but BNI Connect is still a great way to talk to people around the world who are doing what you do so that you can get ideas on how to make BNI work. It’s not just about doing business.

However, if you want to do business, you start with a dialogue. And then if you really want to do business, you have to go to that country. You have to go to that region within that country. You have to see people face to face. It will dramatically increase your chances of doing business. What I would recommend you do is start a conversation, meet a few people and then when you decide where you want to go, reach out and say, “Hey, I am coming to visit. I am going to London in a couple of months. I would love to visit your chapter.” Then go visit the chapter and create some relationships. Don’t say, “ I want business. Give me business.” Go and build a relationship.

Once you have had that face to face, you build on that before you ask business. VCP. Visibility, credibility, and then you get to profitability. It takes months. Online it takes even longer to get there. Wherever you are in the world, if you want to go someplace else, just think about it. You have an opportunity to connect with like-minded people of a similar philosophy. You can go to another region and have the red carpet rolled out for you and meet a ton of people in other chapters and have first contact- really not first contact if you do it through BNI Connect- make second contact. Start to build that relationship that can then lead to business.

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. I believe it starts with the groups on BNI Connect. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go to BNI Connect. Get your username and password from your Director/Consultant. Go to BNI Connect and join some groups. Here is a good one to start with: I have a group called From the Founder. Look for From the Founder and you will find the group that I created for talking about things that are going on in the organization.

That was a great question. Thanks, Priscilla.

That was a great suggestion, too. That was very useful.

It is and I hope this helped the member know that it was not intentional, but I also know that it will happen 99.9% of the time. People are going to get that kind of response. It’s about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. The better we do that, the more business we are going to get. Thanks a lot.

Okay, perfect. Well, 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. Thanks for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    We had a guest who attended one of our meetings spam all of us after her visit. BNI members should emphasize our no-spam policy to guests we bring to meetings.

  2. says

    I was “hunting” new prospects online as I was listening to this. Now I know I need to relax and “farm” the referrals that have already been given to me. Great way to put it!

  3. Katie Finch says

    I’ve heard the analogy before of farming vs hunting and it’s good to be reminded.Good suggestion to remind visitors regarding the spam policy.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome