For Gail Smith, operator of a 3-year-old home-based business in Wellesley called Creative Touch Presence, making contacts through networking is key to drumming up business. After all, she doesn’t have the natural benefits of a physical storefront to promote her gift-giving business.
Smith takes networking so seriously that she serves as president of the Cachet Club, a chapter of worldwide business referral organization BNI (Business Network International) that meets at Wellesley Hills Office Park on Thursday mornings.
The Cachet Club has been around for 6 years and its 4 founding members are still among the club’s current membership of 28 people. The unique thing about BNI chapters, Smith says, is that each can only have one person per profession to avoid competition within the club. Professionals in related fields (say a real estate broker and a mortgage pro) create spheres within the chapter through which they can drive business by word-of-mouth marketing.
“If the sphere is healthy and working well there should be a lot of cross-referrals within the sphere, so there is a mutual benefit to many members at the same time,” Smith says. The more referrals and connections a member makes, the more likely that person will get a lot in return, in the spirit of the group’s “givers gain” motto.
The Cachet Club members referred more than $1 million worth of business within the group last year alone, and she says it’s not uncommon for members to generate upwards of 70% of their business through the club. Given the current economic climate, Smith says outfits like the Cachet Club are more valuable than ever.
“It is the time to step up your visibility, not cringe in fear!” she says.
While the club isn’t looking to grow its membership for the sake of it, it is seeking new members in certain professions. Among them: yoga instructor, junk removal specialist, graphic designer, photographer and home inspector (membership costs $330 annually, with a one-time $100 admin fee).
As for Smith’s business, she could stand to benefit from the closings of local gift stores such as Smatterings and Blue Tulip in Wellesley, and Barber Brothers in Natick, especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner.