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How to convert visitors into members

by Colin Kennedy

Are you frustrated by your chapter’s member conversion rate? Perhaps you have a lot of visitors – a pre-requisite for a dynamic chapter – but fail to convert more than 20 per cent. Here are some tips for improving your conversion rate…

1. It is everybody’s personal responsibility to welcome visitors.

The single worst thing that can happen to any person who visits a BNI, or any networking event, club or group, is to be ignored or, after the official welcome at the door, to be left to their own devices in a corner somewhere.

The reason this happens is ‘abdication of responsibility’. If you’re not a visitor host or member of the leadership team, well then, it’s not your responsibility to care for strangers, is it? Besides, they don’t look friendly, and what would I say? I mean, perhaps they’re waiting for the person who invited them and he or she will be along soon… This kind of attitude is completely unproductive. To you, your business, your BNI and the visitor.

When a visitor arrives at any event with lots of people, and they don’t know anybody, they’re desperate for friends. They would probably welcome you with open arms. I would venture that it’s a rare occasion when a total stranger is that eager to connect with us. What an opportunity to make a real connection with someone!

The first step to converting more visitors into members of your BNI is for everybody in the chapter to take personal responsibility for welcoming strangers and making them feel at home. If you don’t know what to say, ask them lots of questions about themselves.

2. Does your treasurer read the verbatim statement welcoming visitors to consider joining, and explaining the fees? Change the wording if you must, but keep the essential information because nobody is going to consider making a commitment without an invitation and some basic information. It’s sales 101 – ask for the business!

3. Invite more than one visitor from the same category to the same meeting. The competition does wonders for conversion rates because people fear losing out to the competition.

4.  Do you give all visitors an application form and explain what’s required? Give it to them before the meeting gets going. Offer to help them complete it.

5. Like attracts like. If an electrician visits the chapter, who should make sure that they definitely step up to welcome that person? I suggest it should be the plumber, the builder or another tradesman because they all share a similar business model, challenges and dare I say, world view? The same holds true for other industries and professions.

6. Don’t rush the referrals. How often are your referrals, raps and recaps crammed into the last 10 minutes? This is the most important part of your meeting. Let visitors see it working; give them time to soak it in. Enjoy the process more yourself.

7. How much benefit is demonstrated to visitors? Use raps at the end of the meeting to present success stories so they can see BNI working for themselves.

8. Ask the visitors to tell the meeting (at the end) what impressed them most. By verbalising and articulating the benefits themselves, visitors will be more inclined to commit.

9. Enthusiasm sells. Your energy and enthusiasm during the meeting will be the single biggest decider for a visitor. Before they think about the benefits for their business, they have to decide whether or not they’re going to deal with you – and that comes down to: “Do I like you, or not?”

Joining a BNI is a big commitment. Make it easy for your visitors. Do all the things suggested above and you’ll be more likeable so that they will want to spend a morning every week with you.

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David Wimblett 2 February 2009 - 9:21 pm

Great blog – some good ideas.

Colin Kennedy 2 February 2009 - 9:41 pm

Thanks David

Glenn Kirkwood 3 February 2009 - 2:41 am

Colin, Great Blog, this would make an excellent presentation for a chapter (Chapter Development), a director or as the Education Co. Well done, I look forward to seeing more from you.

Richard Ellis 12 June 2009 - 5:07 pm

Hi Colin
Enjoyed that I will use it this coming week so I apologise in advance as you have already heard it!
Richard Ellis

John Cook 12 June 2009 - 5:16 pm

Asking the visitors to tell the meeting (at the end) what impressed them most with them verbalising and articulating the benefits themselves is a great important step and visitors will be more inclined to commit.

possibly a suggestion is once this has been completed there should be a call for action and some sort of an incentive for them to take action there and then while they are excited about the benfits of BNI and what it can do for their business.

saves having to chase them up days later when who knows what is on there mind

Alastair Christie 12 June 2009 - 7:51 pm

Hi Colin,

You have summarised a great BNI topic. Well done!!

Everything you have outlined is simply “doing the basics” but his is the best sumary I have read for some time. My chapters will all be getting a reminder to print out this off and implement this as a weekly event.

Vicky Kennedy 13 June 2009 - 12:54 am

Thanks Colin – very good points. Our chapter is looking forward to seeing you on Friday.

Gary Sims 15 June 2009 - 12:04 pm

So true Colin

I witnessed a substitute carry out point 8 last week. This person stated they had never been to BNI before so were expecting the biz professionalism but what came as a surprise was the fun and positive attitude of all members. That person will spread the good word.

Michael Waters 8 August 2009 - 7:35 am

Excellent post! As a Chapter who is striving to grow this is a great reminder of the steps we should be taking to attract and convert visitors! Thank you.

Cara Tipping Smith 18 May 2012 - 1:40 pm

Nicely put – thanks!

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