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What's in a Domain?

What's in a Domain? It’s a statement frequently heard in Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) circles that I’ve even uttered: “I didn’t go to school to be a professional services marketer, I sort of ‘fell’ into it!”

For those, like me, who hold a degree in marketing or business, our education focused primarily on product—not services—marketing. As much as I tried early in my AEC career to apply the Four P’s of Product Marketing—product, promotion, placement, and price—in the AEC space, it didn’t quite fit. Other colleagues joined the profession via different avenues—perhaps with degrees or experience in journalism or liberal arts, as a technical professional, or through an administrative support path. No matter the path traveled, knowing what to do and gaining the insights and skills to help your firm grow and thrive are challenges faced by us all.

When SMPS began developing a long-awaited Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) program, the first step in the process was defining the practice of marketing and business development in the AEC/professional services realm. The result of in-depth research and numerous interviews with practitioners across the country are what we now know as the six Domains of Practice, specific content critical to building individual skills and supporting firm growth:

  • Domain 1 - Marketing Planning
  • Domain 2 - Marketing Research
  • Domain 3 - Client and Business Development
  • Domain 4 - Proposals
  • Domain 5 - Promotional Activity
  • Domain 6 - Management

The Domains have a much broader meaning than the basis for the CPSM. Within these six Domains are the building blocks for understanding the role professional services marketing contributes to the success of the firms for whom I work, as well as opportunities to expand my skills and understanding. 

These Domains provided a roadmap for the different phases of my career and while I mentored others. As a marketing coordinator, my early “AEC marketer” life centered around proposals and promotional activity. The best practices and skills identified in Domains 3 and 4 helped me understand how I could help my firm stand out and succeed in winning new work. In turn, those same Domains helped to set expectations and share best practices with coordinators who worked with me as I moved into manager roles.

As I moved into manager and director roles, the remaining Domains helped me understand how market research and planning could differentiate my firm by collecting valuable intelligence and insights then using that information to differentiate the firm from our competitors. By collecting and sharing insights into geographic markets and market sectors, we connected with existing and future clients using client-focused messaging and understanding of their issues and concerns. Domain 3 provided best practices and guidance working with our technical professionals to build and deepen client relationships.

Now, as a consultant working with AEC firms across the country in the areas of strategic guidance and facilitation, training and coaching for marketing/business development teams and doer-sellers, and marketing communications, I still reference the Domains on a regular basis. I realized long ago that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and this old dog turns to the Domains, Markendium, and other SMPS resources on a regular basis to check my thought process and broaden my perspective to consider approaches to benefit each of my clients. (For the record, I prefer the term seasoned veteran!)

In our current economic and social upheaval, I challenge you to consider how the Domains can help you to help your firm survive and thrive. In times of uncertainty, firms have been known to turn into ostriches (stick their collective head in the sand and wait for this to pass) or Chicken Little (the sky is falling!). By applying the guidance offered by the Domains and SMPS Body of Knowledge, your firm will benefit by taking a broad, offensively-focused view of the market factors impacting future work, assessing opportunities to address those factors, engaging individuals across your organization to connect with existing and future clients, creating thought leadership pieces to position the firm in a specific market sector or geography, and developing key messaging that identifies your unique differentiator. If you’re keeping track of my thought process—that’s Domains 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5!

Today, Markendium—SMPS’s Body of Knowledge—is a living, breathing compilation of insights you can use to gain firm leadership buy-in, along with the ability to share documented best practices for our profession in the AEC space. Technology is changing how and where we do, pursue, and win work—and the Domains are flexible enough to roll with those punches. Supplemented by the robust conversation happening daily across the online communities of MySMPS and the resources available through the Markendium Online Learning Center, the Domains provide a framework for our profession so every marketer can contribute to SMPS’s vision, “Business Transformed Through Marketing Leadership.”

Donna Corlew FSMPS, CPSM is chief WIT (whatever-it-takes) officer with C*Connect. Driven by a passion for coaching and helping others identify and maximize their unique talents and expertise, C*Connect works with firms across the US to focus strategic vision and market research, grow connections and chemistry with clients and targets, and help seller/doers and marketing/business development teams to thrive and win profitable work. Want to talk further? Contact Donna at [email protected].

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