Focused Networking Pays Big Dividends – Part I

Every six weeks I get to tap into some of the smartest minds in professional services marketing.  We trade war stories, discuss industry trends and try to figure out how to refer each other business.  And, wonder of wonders, it doesn’t cost more than the price of a conference call!

The structure that provides these benefits is a network of firms – or individuals in large firms — whose primary focus is on professional services organizations.  It is named FOE, which does not connote an antagonistic demeanor, but stands for “Friends of Ed,” which all of the original members of the group seemed to be.  Because FOE has been so valuable to BlissPR, I thought some of our learning might interest you.

The guiding light of FOE has been Ford Harding, founder of an eponymous sales training firm ( and author of Creating Rainmakers. We established the network in 1995.  It met monthly in our office and varied between 7-10 members.  On the plus side, three of us wrote a fair amount of business from FOE referrals.  On the minus side, participation by other members varied greatly and we felt the organization had run its course by 2000 and disbanded it.

In the following years, our firm looked at other networking organizations but found them lacking for our purposes.  What made FOE unique was its singular focus on professional services.  All our members spoke the same language and most understood relationship marketing as opposed to transactional selling.  This was not the case in more general networking groups.  No offense, but people selling office supplies and equipment tend to be more transactional and also sell to functional levels below those we target.

In early 2009, we re-established FOE with a new game plan.  The focus on professional services stayed the same, but we changed the body from a New York-centric group that met in person to a virtual one that meets by phone.  More than one member of an organization can be a member.  As a result, we now have six members in the NY metro area, five in greater Boston, three in Chicago and one each in Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Equally important are our areas of specialty:

  • Research
  • Identity
  • Sales training
  • Public relations
  • Building online communities
  • Marketing management
  • Operations management
  • Executive search
  • Legal services
  • Compensation  consulting
  • Professional services associations

Clients run the gamut from management consulting, I/T services and the “built environment” to accounting, actuarial, law and executive search firms, including market leaders in each area.

In my next post, I’ll explain how we structure our meetings for maximum benefit and give example of the content and leads that we produce.

Have you had networking experience?  Has it been positive or negative?  What have you learned?


To reach John:

Phone:  212.840.0444
LinkedIn:  John Bliss