Business breakfast groups — Worth getting out of bed for?
Word-of-mouth marketing via creating networks, mainly through business breakfast groups, web-based communities and the like, is fast becoming a major channel to market for small businesses, especially start-ups. Many groups are now international — such as BNI (Business Network International), which started in the USA and now has groups across the globe. These types of network groups are franchise businesses in themselves with the members as their customer base. The business model is very simple: representatives from businesses gather round a table over breakfast (or sometimes in the evening) to refer work to each other. They each act as a salesperson for colleagues in the group during their daily business interactions, actively trying to get them introduced into new areas of opportunity. Groups such as BNI work on a trust basis; as confidence in your colleague around the table grows, you are happier to refer him or her to someone you know. It is claimed to be a cost-effective method of marketing — but does it work? The author has conducted a small study based on businesses in the Shropshire and Staffordshire areas that belong to such network groups, and the initial results indicate that for some professions or trades it is a very useful form of marketing.Journal of Direct Data and Digital Marketing Practice (2006) 7, 101–108; doi:10.1057/palgrave.dddmp.4340561