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Painting a Better Picture of Networking
How prepping for a referral opportunity makes all the difference.

I live in a historic…well, really just an old, house. Built in 1920, our home challenges us weekly with quirky things that are the result of many different people living and working on this house over the years. This summer, I decided that I wanted to paint the exterior of my abode, so I spent some time with my husband picking out colors and trying them on for size. We eventually landed on a combo that we thought served our Craftsman-style home well.

With the colors all picked out, I wanted to jump right in and get painting. Just hand me a brush!

Art of Networking_Dec2015_jill home23222222222q

But, like the networking lessons I have learned at BNI, I quickly realized that a little prep work would go a long way toward making my paint stick. Like prepping for painting, prepping a referral can make all the difference:

  1. Tools: Now is the time, before you start any actual work, to assemble all the tools you may need to do the work, such as business cards or brochures.

  2. Clean: Do a little ‘Rolodex’ housekeeping and make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information on anyone you plan on referring.

  3. Fill: Make sure that any possible referral holes are filled by having a 1-to-1 meeting with your fellow BNI member before you refer them.

  4. Sand: Knock off any rough edges or sticky spots during the meeting. Ask them to educate you on how to best refer them. For example, some businesses may have set rates that they want you to share, while others simply want a warm introduction.

After making the referral (or painting a well-loved home), it simply makes sense to go back and check your work. Were there any areas missed? Does something need to be gone over again? Making sure to check in with both parties is a sure-fire way to make your referral stick.

PR Chick Jill Bode founded Designed Write Public Relations in 1998. Working with recycled bubble gum, string, and duct tape, she managed to craft a cutting-edge, custom PR consortium that works with clients all over the world. Rabid entrepreneurs frequently stalk Jill for her knowledge of word-of-mouth marketing.  At Designed Write PR, Jill employs basic kindergarten teaching techniques—patience, kindness, & cupcakes—to work with a number of organizations, including Central Indiana BNI, to build word-of-mouth marketing campaigns and train employees.

Check out Jill’s soapbox at



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7 Responses to “Painting a Better Picture of Networking”

  1. michael putman Says:

    I am a paint contractor in miami and i enjoyed this article!

    -Michael Putman

  2. Mariska Says:

    Thank you for the article, Jill. I really appreciate your analogy between preparing for referrals and painting (I just painted my office so I can certainly relate). My biggest takeaway is the education or “sand” piece in your article. I notice that there are many times in which BNI members have not educated each other on how to refer them properly. I was very guilty of that until I joined the Referrals for Life Program at Referral Institute SF Bay (I literally would say, “I’d like to have an intro to X. They know what I do so just ask if I can call” – I know horrible). Now I, and my great coach Mickey Griffith, can educate my fellow BNI members properly and I have a better idea of what I need from them to be able to refer them better. Thank you!

  3. Andrew Graham Says:

    Fun and fabulous article!!

    While searching for an Educational Moment to present to my Woodland Hills,California BNI Chapter “Net-Works”, I found your article enjoyable and in perfect palette as I am the Interior Designer/Color Consultant of my chapter! OMG! :)

    I am now thinking of tying to my commercial! Brilliant!
    Thank you for your article! You deserve applause!

    Cheers to You!

  4. Xiao-Qing Carrie Lu Says:


    A fantastic comparison. I painted a room in my house before. The details I must apply to painting must be transferred to referrals as well. Thank you for bringing it relevant to today. I am constantly in a learning mode to provide better referrals to my BNI chapter. You have showed me one of many ways to prepare.


  5. Paloma Cuevas Benítez Says:

    Muchas gracias me gusto el artículo voy a reinvetarme con alguno miembros de mi capitulo y me hacen falta con algunos hacer uno a uno.


    English Translation:
    Thank you very much. I like the article and I will share with some members of my chapter and I will do a 1-to-1.

    Thank you

  6. Pamela Says:

    This article will help me in my one-minute commercial. Going into detail of ‘how you can help me’ by giving a name or a referral idea is not easy for writers like myself. I want my book to be ‘discovered,’ not referred. But of course, referrals are how authors get noticed these days. During one-to-ones, I always ask the BNI member ‘how can I help you?’ It’s a great ice breaker. :-)

  7. Nathan Eberly Says:

    Preparation is important on some many levels. Referrals out and referrals in are definitely important to be ready!

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