Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: BNI Executive Director Edition

This week we feature Business Network International Executive Director of Utah North Kameron Thorne. Before Kameron purchased his BNI franchise, he joined his first BNI chapter in 2006 to help grow his coaching business.

His first year he only generated $5,000 in referrals, but over the next five years, he increased his referral revenue to over $180,000! He did this through BNI’s structured, positive and professional referral program, and leveraging a relationship marketing strategy.

Kameron will talk about his incredible 12-year journey with BNI and how relationship marketing allowed him to maximize his efforts not only with his clients but with his referral partners.

Kody Bateman: Hey everybody. This is Kody Bateman here at SendOutCards. Welcome to our weekly Relationship Marketing show. Very, very excited to have you on. We’re going to have people coming on to this Facebook Live from all over the world today. Please say hi to us as you come on and we’re going to get started here in just a second.

I have a really, really exciting show today. The purpose of the Relationship Marketing Weekly is to be a source of education to business owners, salespeople and people in business on the power of relationship marketing and how it can help you improve your business and improve your life. So that’s what the show is all about. I’m really excited for our guest today.

I have with me today Kameron Thorne. He is the Executive Director at BNI. He’s also a BNI franchise owner. For those of you who don’t know what BNI is, that stands for Business Network International. It is the top networking organization in the world today. It’s franchise-based and Kameron Thorne here out of Salt Lake City, Utah is one of the franchise owners and he has over 40 BNI chapters within his organization. Kameron, welcome to the call today.

Kameron Thorne: Thank you. I appreciate your time. Thanks for having me.

Kody: I recently spoke at a BNI conference down in Las Vegas and we had a chance to visit down there and just love hearing your stories, brother. I mean you’ve got some great stuff. In fact one of the things I would like to do is really spend a little bit of time in the beginning of this show and have you tell us a little bit about BNI, just how it works, because again, we’re all about relationship marketing and my company SendOutCards has a strategic partnership with BNI because we have the same philosophies on giving to give. BNI talks in terms of “Givers gain.” We talk in terms of give for the sake of giving and everything else kind of takes care of itself. I know that that philosophy changed your life. Can you just share with us a little bit about BNI and why it’s so important to creating good relationships?

Kameron: Absolutely. I mean BNI is a structured organization, about 230,000 members. Here locally in my region, we have about 1347 chapters. Everything about BNI is about building trust and something that I’ve learned over the years and – is trust takes time. You can’t shortcut the process at all. You cannot shortcut it because too many people think, “Hey, I’m just going to get to know this person and they’re immediately going to throw business to me.”

That’s not how BNI works. Absolutely it’s not. You join a structured organization where we go in these groups together where we only have one profession in each chapter, where one profession – so we will have anywhere from 20 to – my largest chapter being 80 members inside of that or we go in there with a philosophy of “Givers gain,” where you teach me how to sell for you and then I help you go find business and as I help you, you want to do the same for me.

So everything is about building trust just like it is with SendOutCards and it’s just one of those mechanisms we use to help build this trust and especially that long-term trust that all of us are looking for because the long-term trust builds wealth. It’s not just a quick sell. It’s that long-term trust that all of us –and it does take time. It’s like – Ivan Misner used to tell the story of him – his grandma making this peach vinegar. It was really wine but he calls it peach vinegar and he said grandma gave him his recipe and he wanted to taste it before it was finished. He kept tasting it. It was just horrible, horrible, horrible and he calls grandma and says, “It’s just not working,” and she said, “You got to give it the time. It needs the six months to do what it does.”

When the six months finally came, he said it was delicious. Exactly how he remembers and relationships are the exact same thing. They take a while for us to cultivate that. We plant seeds and then we cultivate them later. BNI is exactly that. It’s a mechanism to help us with that, to grow our business over a long-term period of time and it works extremely well, extremely well.

Kody: Yeah, no question about it. The results that you provide for people as far as gaining referral business is just phenomenal and like I said, you – BNI is under a franchise business model. You are a franchise owner and mentioned you have – you said you’ve just added a chapter to your franchise. So what’s the total amount of chapters?

Kameron: I think we have 48 today, 48 as of today. We just launched one in Sandy, Utah. Yeah.

Kody: So 48 chapters. What’s the average amount of members in each chapter?

Kameron: About 32.

Kody: So for those of you who are new to BNI, you can join a BNI and join a local chapter. There’s an average – in your case, there’s an average of 32 members per chapter. So imagine going in and there’s one member that represents each industry. So there would be one realtor, one insurance person, one mortgage person, et cetera. In your case, an average of about 32. Imagine being able to go there once a week and helping each other and that’s really what BNI is about.

Now as a franchise owner, your job is to teach and educate and grow your franchise, those kinds of things. So tell us, what are some of the things – and you’ve had some other businesses too. I want to come back to that. But while we’re on the building of your franchise, what are some of the things that you do? Like you said, you just added a chapter in Sandy, Utah. How do you go about doing that? I mean how do you generate new business for your franchise?

Kameron: We’re fortunate where the economy is good. People want in most places – I wouldn’t say Utah is any different than anywhere else. All of us would rather grow a business through word of mouth referrals than we would going out and spending really expensive marketing. Marketing works. But it’s expensive. So people go and they visit. Because of the size of my region, people visit and they immediately want to be a part of that because they see the excitement. They go to the chapter and people are high-fiving and they’re passion millions of dollars in business.

I mean we’ve passed nearly $2 million a week in closed business just in my region. That’s just the stuff that’s reported. So people see that. They get excited. They want to be a part of that because – they come to BNI because they’ve tried other things that just simply didn’t work as well for them. So when they come, we just say, “Hey, let’s start. Let’s start gathering our people,” and we have a list of people that are trying to get in and then we teach them how to recruit people.

You SendOutCards is one of those recruiting tools. A lot of these chapters will go in and say, “All right. We’re going to invite these people,” and when we have our kickoff meetings, SendOutCards is a big part of that in a lot of the chapters is we send out our welcome, our invitation letters through SendOutCards. We’re doing a big gala in February. Everyone is going to get their invitations through SendOutCards. We’re excited about it.

It’s just one of those, again, mechanisms that helps us gather the people because you have to have 20 people in order to start a chapter and yeah, as soon as you get 20 different people that are willing and make the commitment, we move forward and that used to be a challenge here. It’s not as big of a challenge as it is. But even so, there are still thousands and thousands of people that want to get into BNI and a lot of them simply can’t because their industry is already taken in all the other chapters.

Kody: Well, it’s a great success story. I’ve got a card here that you use. It says, “I appreciate you,” on the front. It has got your branding on the back. So this is your branding and this – I don’t know how well you can see that.

Kameron: Yeah, I can see it great.

Kody: Your information on the bottom. Then can you tell us, what is this card and who do you send this out to? Just explain this card to us.

Kameron: This is a card that I send out. I just recently sent out to every single member, just letting them know that I really appreciate them. Each one of those members is a client but they’re also a referral-based for other members of my client. Ivan Misner came out here this – just a couple of months ago and he did a presentation to the BNI members and we had hundreds of members in attendance and so that’s a picture I took with them. I just let them know. Guys, I really appreciate you guys being a member and I can’t even tell you the overwhelming response that I have received from that.

I know you’re going to go into one. But relationships that weren’t going as well are now opening back up. People that we had – just I’m getting text and I’m getting emails and I’ve shared them with some of the members over at SendOutCards. I said look what is happening right here. I’m getting all these thank-you notes from people and I’ve also received three other thank-you cards from other people through SendOutCards.

It has been wonderful and people don’t tell you they appreciate you enough. We simply don’t. That is a lost art that is – the internet I think has ruined it for some people and they think a text or an email is good enough, which is better than nothing. Face to face is the best way to thank someone. But the second best way to thank somebody is sending them a card and/or brownies or a gift or something, letting them know of your extreme appreciation. There is no better way.

Kody: Now you mentioned here, you made reference to a story that I might refer to. Let’s talk about that right now. Interesting story. You had a bit of a falling out with somebody and you ended up having a card story there. Can you share that with us?

Kameron: Yeah. Yeah, this was a good friend of mine, a very good friend of mine that was in BNI. We did a lot of business together. We sent a lot. There were some things that happened and sometimes – when you work together, sometimes if somebody makes a mistake that cost somebody a lot, the relationship is broken. That happened to me. They made a big mistake and it cost me a lot and ended up breaking off that relationship and I have to see this person at least two or three times a year. It got where I – we both see each other and avoid each other and it’s something you don’t want to do. But I sent – and I’ve tried to reach out to this person.

But after sending out this card, I did get a message back that said, “I thank you for sending out that card.” Last week while I was visiting that particular chapter, we shook hands and said, “Let’s go out to lunch.” That was six years in the making and it needed to happen and I’m feeling gratitude over that because that’s something that has been bugging me in the back of my mind that I needed to fix. I needed to. So it did help.

Kody: Appreciate you sharing that, your transparency in that story. Listeners listening in, we can feel that. You’re speaking from your soul right now and that’s – that’s what’s so cool about relationships. All of us have challenges in relationships. Everybody does and sometimes things get sideways and sometimes you have falling-outs with people. One of the greatest joys of life is when people come back together again after something like that. I could feel that in your heart, just as you share that and that’s really important. It’s really important that we – you know, that we care about people and we forget people and we move on and it’s a very important aspect not only in business but in life and you’re a great example of that.

Now you’ve also had other businesses. You’re a very successful franchise owner at BNI. Interesting business that you had between the years of 2011 and 2017. About six years, you recently sold that business. I’m going to let you tell the story about the business you’re in. It’s kind of – well, it’s a little bit shocking that there’s such a huge need for this business in the State of Utah and it sounds like a need for it everywhere. But can you share what that was with us?

Kameron: Yeah. I do meth cleanup and that was the business that I was in is meth remediation is through BNI and through one of my contacts, I met my future business partner who happened to be a large property management company. He had hired me to help grow his business. I was a vice president of a really large cleaning company years and years ago and did a lot of consulting for cleaning companies.

He said I’ve got all – during that last transition, when the economy tanked, he was managing all these homes for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and he said these houses are so full of drugs right now, especially methamphetamine. He just said, “Kam, you want to do met with me?” I said yes, I said yes. I haven’t slept for six years. I just want you to know that.

But I – meth jokes are funny every time, sorry. But yeah, we got involved in this business where we were actually finding these contaminated properties and it’s incredible that nearly 10 percent of the homes in the whole United States are contaminated. People don’t believe me and then we start testing and they’re like, “Oh my word.” Yeah, and I was telling Kody a little bit about it. But we use SendOutCards a lot.

Every holiday, we were sending out thank-you cards. One story I wanted to tell was one gentleman, he was from Asia and he had lots of money and he would buy these meth-contaminated properties and he used us once. So we sent him a card. We took a picture of the home and it was a nice home. I took a picture of it and he owned the property. Nobody throws a picture of their own house. So I created my own card and sent it to him and I just said, “Thank you for allowing us to serve you.” That was all it said.

He had never seen anything like that. Meth companies are not supposed to send nice cards. That’s a gross, dirty business. None of you should ever do it. But I sent that to him and he called us back and said, “I have another house for you and another one and another one,” and they kept coming.

He was so grateful for that and he said, “When I need to find you guys, I find that card you sent me with my picture of my house on it that had meth in it.” That made us a lot of money. That little $2.50 made us between $20,000 and $35,000.

Kody: Boy, you want to talk about return on investment. That’s the story and it’s interesting to me Kameron because we – you know, we have this show every single week. We interview people from all different types of industries. They tell very similar stories about a tangible touch, like a greeting card and a gift attached perhaps that goes out to somebody, that turns into thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in business.

Same thing happens when people regularly attend a BNI chapter. You go there and you share information with each other. You bring referrals to people. You don’t go there expecting referrals. You go there to give referrals and then everything reciprocates. So it’s what I love about our business SendOutCards and your business BNI. There’s so many synergies between – it really comes down to the philosophy. You know, the philosophy of just giving for the sake of giving and everything kind of takes care of itself.

I want you to speak to this as we close the show. There are so many people that still – even after all the stories we tell, just appear to not believe us. It’s like what do you mean? I’m a business. I got to go close the deal, not all these givers stuff.

It’s amazing how cynical people are in the business world about this philosophy. I want you to speak to that because I know you deal with that. You educate people. Part of BNI is educating people on “Givers gain.” Close out the show and share with us why this is important.

Kameron: Well, first thing I want to say is we can’t get through life without each other. We need each other’s help. We can’t get a – I see it in my chapters. I see people that are close to losing their home. They’re losing their car. They reach out. They say, “I need help,” and the way – they said, “The best thing I can do is give you a referral.” Then when we find those people, it is so – it’s heartwarming to see them reach out to each other and help each other and bring them up because we – again, we’ve got to lift each other. Givers gain is about lifting up each other. We can’t get through this life without each other’s help.

We don’t show enough gratitude. We simply don’t. We’ve got to have better ways of showing gratitude. We can’t do enough. I mean everybody needs help. Everybody is going through something. Someone is going through a relationship. Someone has got health problems. Somebody is about to go through a bankruptcy. All we can do is help them. That’s what we can do and that’s what “Givers gain” is about, absolutely.

Kody: Well, Kameron, we certainly appreciate having you on the show today. It has been a delight. I want to share with you. You know, the founder of BNI is Dr. Ivan Misner. You recently had him out here like you said, having your picture with him. We got the book coming out here, The Power of Human Connection: How Relationship Marketing is Transforming the Way People Succeed.

The foreword to this book is written by none other than Dr. Ivan Misner. There are some great stories in here about him and we have over 40 featured stories in here, many of which came from this Relationship Marketing Weekly show.

So that’s going to come out in mid-July and again, appreciation to you, to BNI, to Dr. Misner, to everybody for all the work that you’re doing out there to help this world be a better place. So Kameron, thank you for being on the show today.

Thanks everybody. If you want to find out how Kameron does some of the stuff he does as far as following up with people, get back with the person that shared this show with you. I’m sure they can show you how.

We’re looking forward to next week. Actually we will have a week off next week. It will be at Fourth of July. But two weeks from today, we will be back with another exciting episode of the RM Weekly show. So Kameron, thanks again. Appreciate you.

Kameron: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

Kody: And thanks everybody. Take care now.


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If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate a Relationship Marketing Strategy in your business, feel free to call or text me at {LEAD_OWNER_PHONE|}I will answer all your questions and help you build relationships, increase referrals, and make an amazing impression on all your clients, friends and family!

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