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Networking - Does it work?

I am sot sure if networking works. By this I mean joining a networking group and paying a large amount of money for the privelage.

I was a member of BNI for 6 months, I just could not stand it anymore. This was for the following reasons:

  • Rules, rules, rules!
  • The phrase they over use "Givers Gain" - BNI itself is so far removed from this.
  • I could go on....

On the whole it would be great to hear accountants experience of networking- did it genrate business? If so what was the fee level like? Was the time and money spent justified?

I found that when I attend networking meetings, in the main, others there were expecting business from me in particular IFAs. Everyone wanted business, yet I did come not across any buyers. Further, I found those attending networking groups tend to be small or startup businesses. The more established ones do not attend networking meeting.

I found telemarketing and website SEO seems to work better.

It would be great to read experience of accountants.

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By Anonymous
15th Oct 2009 19:41

lots of different methods

can work.  Depends on you and your target markets.

BNI is indeed rule based, and hard-edged.  If you do not like US based "focus" and razz, it would not work for you for sure.  But it most certainly works (i)  for folk who can adopt or welcome that milieu  (ii) if you put work into generating referrals for the others.    I'm surprised you mention money as a BNI issue ;  that is about the last problem with BNI if you have any sort of budget or practice at all.  It costs £400 per year, plus weekly breakfast.   For most accountancy practices,  including even start-ups,  the money is totally minor compared to the new business ;  it's the time element that is "costly", not the fees, and that time commitment does need to be factored in carefully .

"Softer" networking is OK, but can be pretty slow even when approached well (which it often is not).

Telesales can be fine if you are starting up - need to get right listing and telesales outfit, obviously, but it can be faster than other methods.   Quality of leads / meetings will of course be variable, however good the telesales person and their briefing, but it's not a bad way to try to get quick lift-off if you are starting out.  Not so great if you are established and trying to expand, and in times of recession it tends to harvest a high percentage of fee-chasers  (all marketing methods will have higher percentage of fee chasers in recession that in boom, but telesales seems particularly prone to this in my experience).

SEO ; well, you need get your web-page on the first page of the google search for sure, to have any hope of meaningful "cold calls" from this source, but don't expect to be inundated by good quality clients even if you are one or two on the list.  But you can pick up some reasonable level of OK possibles from this source, who will reflect the site you have of course. 

But realistically, none of the above (apart ironically from BNI) really is likely to produce any meaningful "stream" of work, more a trickle.   Not that I am recommending BNI as such ; it clearly works for some, and clearly does not work for others.  Those it does not work for tend to be those who are unable to generate referrals for others (so if you are an accountancy start-up yourself, that can be hard work or difficult at best) or who cannot stand the regimentation / US style approach.  Most accountants who get on with it find it an excellent source of new business ;  I was a member for 2 years and must have gleaned well over £60k of good quality new business from it.  I just hated getting up at the crack of dawn once a week, which was (in all seriousness) the reason I gave it up.  Early risers should definitely give it consideration!!

 

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By Anonymous
15th Oct 2009 20:17

IBNI mustb be working..............

BNI mus be working, as every chapter in my area (NW London) has an accountant and the area director tells me that once in,.acciuntants tend stick like super glue.  Going on waiting list is no good as waiting list itself is long enough.

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15th Oct 2009 20:57

Tele marketing

Do you know how much it cost for telemarketing, do they charge per lead or per call? and can you recommend good telemarketing individual or company in east london or essex

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15th Oct 2009 22:28

It does work but.....

Networking does work but only if you approach it the right way and frame of mind and you are someone who does get along with the other networkers and can be trusted.

The biggeset failure of other people I have spoken to is impatience. When I first went networking a fellow accountant said to me "don't expect any clients in year 1, accountants need to be trusted as it is a very sensitive issue, people will not recommend you to their clients and friends until they trust you themselves"

With that in mind I started networking early this year , local chamber, 4Networking, few other local groups and also tried BNI but could not get in.

4Networking is relaxed and has gotten me 5/6 clients. Some "new recession forced" start ups who need a lot of time investment for what will be low fees and the others are friends/colleagues of these people who already have an accountant but are looking to change. Because I got on (regularly) with the folk at the meetings I was referred to their friends - these clients are more profitable as they are used to paying accountants fees.

The other smaller meetings have yielded little, probably because I do not attend consistently enough.

BNI - I tried to join a local group but could not as an accountant had just signed up but I was allowed to attend the meeting to watch how it worked. This accountant was the third member of the same firm to sign up as the "in situ" accountant at BNI groups in the area - this was a medium firm with 6 partners who were putting in a lot of effort as they were getting a lot of work out of it. I spoke to him and he told me "there is a reason why we have all joined". I have since been lucky enough to get into a new group and have thus far got one client which will at the very least cover my annual fees. The group is small but growing and potentially two of the other members are going to be clients.

Yes it does have rules to follow but as the guy running the group I am attending says, "we are here to get business not have a chat that is why we follow a structure - if chat is what you want go and join the local breakfast club". Harsh but true!!

Ultimately it is down to the individual, I like it because it has sown a lot of seeds that hopefully I will be able to harvest in full over the next couple of years. It has cost me a few hundred business cards so far but, if they are out there in someones in tray or on their desk, they may just call one day!!

Enjoy

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By Anonymous
16th Oct 2009 00:12

Worked for me.... and I'm a sceptic!!

I have attended one local networking event .... through Simply Networking.

It was a one off £10 fee on the day and I got 1 new client and 2 good contacts from it - one of them a fantastically supportive Business Link contact who has been a huge help to me.

BNI I could not get into - cost, rules and timing (ie family commitments mean Breakfast meetings are a no go!)

I would say find a local networking group and go for it, my £10 was very very well spent.

FTR, I hate the concept of networking. I am, in general a very confident person but the thought of a room full of strangers that I had to talk to absolutely terrified me.  I went with a client/friend and we both did so well out of it.

Good luck.

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By Anonymous
16th Oct 2009 09:16

Speed Networking

If you're in the South East then Speed Networking could be worth a try for you. For £25 you get to meet 20 to 30 different businesses. You only get 3 minutes with each person (it's like speed-dating for businesses) so it forces you to really focus on what makes you special. It makes for an intense afternoon but plenty of interesting leads have come out of it.

It is also worth bearing in mind that people wanting work from you isn't necessarily a negative thing. If networking links you up with a business that provides a service you needed at a good price then that can be as much a benefit as a paying client. One of the events I went to hooked me up with a very reasonable scalable archive storage firm, vital for those old but still within date medical records.

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By Anonymous
16th Oct 2009 09:51

BNI

partly depends on the strength of the leadership team which changes every 6 months.  We also have probably the best trainer in BNI as area director.

Apart from the weekly meetings (this week my chapter had all 35 members  and 4 visitors present and no substitutes) the training workshops are brilliant because apart from the time commitment (usually after hours) they help you to put your business across in situations totally outside BNI. I have been in BNI for over 9 years and because there was already an accountant when I joined I have a seat as a tax consultant/ advisor.

You are not looking to act for the other members but for their contacts.

 

One further point: It is always going to be worth getting to know business people in your local area and talking to them on a regular basis but not necessarily putting a sales pitch to them. Work will flow naturally as a result

 

 

 

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16th Oct 2009 10:02

BNI definitely works for me
I've been a BNI member for 5 yrs, so it must work for me. I must sit down sometime and work out the exact figure of work derived from it - it must be many tens of thousands of pounds. The only downside I have found is some referrals can be poor quality clients. I have generally taken these ones on in any case, really to foster good relations with other chapter members. Other referrals have more than made up for it though. I recently picked up a job with recurring fees of £5,500 via BNI ! In contrast my partner joined a chapter and left after 3 months - he felt it wasn't for him. More recently I have been much more focused in asking for decent jobs, which has leaad to a fall off in the number of referrals, but of a higher value.

I dont understand how any accountant in practice cannot find at least one referral per week for fellow members, even if it is just getting someone to have their utilities reviewed or recommending a new printer.

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By mmladd
16th Oct 2009 12:47

Problems with BNI
I attended BNI meetings regularly on behalf of our Practise but have since resigned.
The problem is that you do not know who you are dealing with.
A lot of the members who were Clients thought it OK not to pay fees, some went into liquidation
owing us dosh, and still had the audacity to turn up at meetings re-incarnated as it were.

All for one and one for all, not a chance.

I have since joined the local Chamber Of Commerce, and a local business club.
Far cheaper, diverse events, and it works for me better.

--
Malcolm ladd

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16th Oct 2009 15:20

Networking is work. If done well it is hugely rewarding

Networking is a marketing activity which needs investment, planning, perserverence and skill.

It will not be for everyone but make no mistake, done well it will repay your investment many many times over.

Not mentioned so far is the fact that there is a cumulative effect at play in that you build very strong relationships with clients within the networking group (can cross sell and explain why additional time spent with you covering a topical issue would be worth their while).  Having network members effectively acting as your extended sales force is far more effective than selling your own services...and I could go on.

My recommendation is that you should give it a try and if you find it is not working accept the often free training offered to assist in gaining referrals and effective networking.

Myles Mayne
www.pcacoach.com

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By Anonymous
16th Oct 2009 16:05

I have seen

fantastically shy  almost stammering professionals and trades people  transformed into confident networkers within a very short time through being given structural guide in how to present their business at BNI. One of the secrets is to find a different aspect each week and don't expect anyone to understand accounting or tax jargon. 

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By Anonymous
17th Oct 2009 14:35

BNI

Joined local BNI group when it formed - been a member now for nearly two years.  Over half the members of the group are now clients and before or straight after the meeting is ideal for catching up with them on a weekly basis.  We have also had good quality referrals from member contacts.  It takes time to generate business for accountants because trust is paramount and that takes time to build - but meeting people every week and getting to "know, like and trust" them really does work.  I hate getting up that early in the morning - but it is for my business so I do it. If it was just a breakfast club no way would I get out of bed every week - so it being a very business focused organisation is fine by me! The contacts you make are also an extra service you can offer to your clients - they get to know that you are well connected.

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