Ivan Misner – Master of Networking

Case Study #2: Ivan Misner –
Master of Networking

Before the Campaign

Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI (Business Network International), the world’s largest business-referral organization, wanted to incentivize BNI’s 30,000 members and franchisees worldwide to increase the organization’s numbers. BNI is a franchised organization. Because of its structure, BNI members are incentivized, by leads, to grow their respective chapters; and, there is no competition in chapters, as there are no members from duplicate or competing companies.

Each chapter of BNI runs a weekly and highly-organized networking meeting. The yearly membership fee for BNI is $500, and only one person per industry is allowed per chapter — thus, 1 doctor, 1 lawyer, 1 insurance salesperson, 1 car salesman, 1 plumber, 1 accountant. Each BNI chapter meeting is the same no matter where it is held, whether that meeting is in New York City or Johannesburg, South Africa.

Each week, the members choose two other members of the chapter to receive warm-hot leads (which are defined by the immediate need for a product or service). These two members are chosen in a way that ensures everyone is selected as many times a year as possible based upon the size of the chapter. This means that 20-100 chapter members will be doing the “Sales” work for those two members, generating sales in a non replaceable way.

Meetings are weekly. If a member misses more than three chapter meetings in a year, he or she loses that membership. Similarly, if a member doesn’t bring in warm leads for the weekly selected members at least three times in one calendar year, that member also loses his or her membership.

The Bestseller Campaign

To grow the BNI business, Michael Drew worked with Ivan Misner and publisher Ray Bard to create what became Masters of Networking.

The concept was to create a book for which franchise owners throughout North America would each write a chapter. The goal was to set up the franchise owners as the experts in business networking in their local markets.

The book marketing was simple: each franchise owner/contributor set up a one-week, local author tour culminating in a one-day event, that would be held in 56 different cities across North America all on the same day and at the same time. The event was called Masters Day.

In the week leading up to Master’s Day, each franchisee — under Michael Drew’s direction— set up local media promoting the day and a special book-signing event at a local bookstore. BNI members in each local market were to bring guests with them to the local book signing as part of a membership drive.

The Results

The campaign was a smash. The book sold more than 15,000 books on Masters Day, launching the book onto The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller lists. Masters Day broke a world record for the most book signings on one day in different cities (56 book signings).

BNI more than doubled in size to more than 75,000 members within the year after Masters Day (and Ivan credits this growth to the successful promotion of Masters of Networking and Masters Day).

Masters Day won Ivan and Michael Drew the highly coveted book marketing award: The Benjamin Franklin Award for Innovation and Excellence in Marketing: For Campaigns that Cost Under $10,000.

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