Some years ago, BNI New Zealand was faced with something of a dilemma because the international organisation promotes ‘referral networking for business’ as the most effective form of marketing in the world.
This automatically disqualifies BNI from undertaking most forms of conventional marketing (like advertising) to its B2B market.
BNI’s core ‘service’ is structured business referral networking. BNI recruits business owners to be members of networking groups (chapters each between 20 and 40 business owners) located in most suburbs, towns and cities across New Zealand. Chapters meet each week and follow a structured programme that helps them generate business referrals for each other.
The more members a chapter has, the more referrals it generates for individual businesses. In its first years BNI grew by word-of-mouth as members started up chapters in most major centres, but soon members wanted ‘faster’ growth and began lobbying for wider exposure.
In addition, BNI wanted to own the referral networking space through brand recognition and expert positioning.
BNI retained our agency to carry out a content marketing programme for the organisation because content marketing was the one discipline that most closely aligned with BNI’s values…
* Both are about creating conversation/buzz about a product or services;
* Both deliver value through education and information.
Colin Kennedy, working with BNI’s management team, created a content marketing strategy for BNI New Zealand, with the focus on delivering valuable information, education and training that would help members resolve common SME issues and empower them to do better business.
1. Content partnerships were established with media. For example, one such partnership was with NZBusiness. Each member of a chapter’s leadership team received free copies of the magazine for the duration of their term, and members qualified for a discounted subscription.
In return BNI published ‘how to’ articles about networking, referrals and marketing in NZBusiness magazine.
2. Regular weekly ‘how to’ articles such as the ‘value in selecting employment candidates based on the quality of their wider network’ and ‘how to build a strong referral network’.
These articles were published in the newsletter, on the blog and distributed to wider media such as NZBusiness, BusinessToBusiness, Scoop.co.nz, bizbuzz.co.nz etc.
3. BNI established a very successful blog, www.bniblog.co.nz, which was concerned with educating, informing and motivating better business around subjects like networking, public speaking, productivity, marketing etc.
4. BNI established a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and held a Facebook competition for members where members had their 60-second presentation (elevator speeches) filmed and uploaded to Facebook for both ‘likes’ and ‘judging’. The national competition was extremely successful with the winner, the owner of a plumbing business, having filmed a talking toilet delivering his elevator speech.
5. BNI conducted regular annual seminars around the country on topical business subjects such as social media, public relations, human resources and finance. These seminars were cross-promoted in the media, on the blog, on social media and via partner media outlets.
6. BNI entered and won Two Vero Excellence in Business Support awards.
7. Over this time, BNI partnered with enterprise development organisations, such as business educators like WHK Gosling Chapman, and various chambers of commerce around the country for cross education, support and exposure.
9. BNI carried out public speaking campaigns pitched to associations from which BNI draws its members e.g. the Royal College of Chiropractors.
10. A monthly newsletter was sent to BNI members presenting real member stories – challenges and how they overcame them, advice, information, news and tips, as well as success stories.
11. Members were provided with booklets and articles about how to promote membership of their chapters and ‘regional directors’ were responsible for visiting each chapter almost monthly to deliver five minute educational talks about marketing, networking, public speaking and recruiting new members.
Today BNI New Zealand has the highest market penetration of all BNI’s worldwide, at more than 130%. It is a recognised brand name within the SME sector and completely dominates the referral networking sector.
BNI has more than 2,600 members in over 126 chapters nationwide.
As a result of BNI New Zealand’s wide digital presence – including content generating initiatives like a survey of how SME’s engage with charities and fundraising for hospices around New Zealand – the organisation has been invited from time to time to appear on radio and television.