It’s Wednesday night so I should be writing my 60 second infomercial.
What, you ask?
Being self employed is liberating, and terrifying, an adventure and ulcer inducing (all at the same time BTW). Especially so if you become self employed on someone else’s agenda rather than your own timeline.
Part of me long suspected I was on borrowed time with my last employer. The news business was changing, the company was struggling (as all media companies are) But did I plan for it? Kinda. Sorta. Was I ready when the axe fell? Heck no. I knew what I wanted to do but that was about it. I didn’t have a business plan, didn’t have a marketing plan, didn’t have a set of short and long term goals.
Enter BNI. Business Networks International.
A friend introduced me by inviting me to a meeting. The premise is simple and elegant and yet surprisingly demanding. Small businesses and entrepreneurs need clients and a tried and true method of finding new clients is from word of mouth referrals. That’s BNI, referral marketing.
I won’t lie. The first meeting was pretty intimidating. Every action is scripted: Don’t sit during mingling time; don’t be late; don’t be absent unless you can find a substitute; pop up like a “whack a mole” and give a 60 second pitch every meeting; fill out statistics for everything – every referral you give, every meeting with a team colleague, any revenue generated from a referral; don’t be caught without your name tag.
I came home from attending BNI A-Team as a visitor and compared it to the Masons or the Stonecutters (the Simpsonverse version). The tipping point may have been when I had to stand and describe the meeting in one word (not a sentence, just ONE WORD).
BNI requires a financial and time commitment but after attending one more meeting as a visitor I decided to take the plunge and join. Other than this website with my delightful URL (I do stuff online and my name is Smith. Get it?) and some business cards from Costco, I didn’t have a clue how to market and find clients. If nothing else BNI is forcing me to promote myself, develop confidence explaining myself and stockpile a variety of elevator pitches.
One of the pillars of BNI is knowing your team members. You have to meet them one-on-one, learn about them and learn about their business. That way, when you make a referral, you can do so with confidence. So if you need a real estate agent, lawyer, mural painter, luxury travel agent, house cleaner, insurance agents, mortgage broker, financial planner, virtual legal assistant, professional organizer, any type of lawyer or a researcher (FYI that’s me) then please let me know.
And now, about tomorrow’s infomercial.