Friday, July 5, 2013

Networking and Giving to Gain are the green way to grow your business

Thriving enterprise is crucial to sustainable local economies, but smaller businesses face marketing challenges. They can’t afford the expensive national newspaper or TV advertising campaigns large corporations regularly use to build their brand. They can print and put their flyer in neighbourhood mailboxes, but can be both expensive and wasteful; not only does it create a lot of paper that just goes into the blue box (we hope) unread, but much of it goes to households who aren’t likely clients. So what to do? Online advertising is one alternative, but there are also more humanizing approaches.
Since our Green Party riding association joined the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce six years ago, I’ve learned first-hand the power of network marketing. Requiring only that you attend meetings and exchange introductions and business cards with other members, it creates leads and future business without papering the town. Chamber activities do wonderful things to help connect and promote local businesses to each other and the public.
More recently, the Business Networking International (BNI) “Simcoe Executives” chapter has adopted Living Green as their sponsored charity member, donating the annual membership fee and fundraising on behalf of our local projects, like tree-planting.
BNI is more structured than most networking activities: each chapter forms a tight group of mutually supporting members. The special twist is that instead of marketing to each other, members effectively becomes sales reps for each other, through referrals. For example, a BNI member who is a house cleaner notices a leaking pipe and refers the homeowner to the plumber from their BNI chapter. The homeowner benefits from an established relationship with a trusted provider (instead of having to choose blindly from phone book ads or mailbox flyers), while the tradesperson gets business without advertising cost.
The basic principle is called “Givers Gain” (a version of “what goes around, comes around”), and by carrying each other’s business cards and recommending them to clients in need, members build up each other’s businesses. All this happens during the course of their regular day, rather than having to hire a dedicated sales force, do cold calls, or cut down trees.
If you’re curious about how BNI can help you grow your business, a fantastic opportunity is coming up to experience it first-hand. Simcoe Executives’ annual “Great Canadian Breakfast” is Wednesday, July 17th, 7 a.m. at Tangle Creek Golf Course. Along with a deluxe breakfast, you will network with hundreds of other local businesses, get inspiring self-promotion ideas as BNI chapters compete in the Infomercial Challenge, and hear keynote speaker and Master Performance Coach Rich Grof’s “Tale of a Lion, a Monkey, and a Bucket of $100 bills”.
No tickets at the door, they must be booked by July 10, so to get your spot now, call Gwen at 705-722-5377 or email

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Networking event a great way to make new contacts".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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