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Part 2 - Creating Context: Combining messaging and visuals to drive marketing success

As we discussed in Part 1: Hierarchy and Contrast: Understanding the foundation of graphic design achieve visual goals, effective imagery is not just pretty: It ties into messaging and drives business goals and results.

As a marketer in a world where visual communication is becoming increasingly important, you must be able to identify which images are pretty but pointless and which images are engaging, useful and will drive business goals.

We established in Part 1 that the quickest way to do this is to understand the foundation upon which design is built: hierarchy and contrast. In Part 2, we will go a step further and demonstrate how effective imagery and messaging unite to create context.

Why is context necessary?

We’ve all heard that content is king. It’s not. Content is just information. It’s conveying the who, what, when and where. Context is the real king. It answers the question, “Why do I care?” and invites people to experience the product or service in their own lives.

As an example, content is the information a company includes in a press release. Context is the article that comes out in the newspaper after a journalist has spent hours putting the information into perspective. As such, content is the image and the wording of the post. Context is what makes someone click the link.

Here’s an example:

We’ve all had that post with a “great graphic” that got a TON of likes and comments. We felt really good about it and that maybe, just maybe, we’ve found the secret sauce to cracking social media engagement.We were excited to see what would happen… except nothing did. We didn’t get any clicks or any calls. Just a bunch of thumbs up which made us feel like a big thumbs down.

Why did this happen? Content instead of context. You had an awesome image, but people didn’t bother to discover who created it or take the next step to learn about the product or service.  Here’s a fantastic post that illustrates what I’m talking about:

It’s funny and gets the point across very clearly.

However, of the 14 people that liked it, only 2 were not in the same industry as the poster (proofreaders, educators, etc.) and the three comments were all lamenting how frustrating affect/effect is to master. The post got people engaged and talking, which is great, but I bet it didn’t drive any revenue to the poster because it didn’t have any context. That is, it lacked two things:

  1. Branding
  2. Direction for what the viewer is supposed to do with the information presented.

Therefore, it got engagement from the wrong audience (i.e., nonrevenue generating) and probably didn’t drive any business goals. So, how do you overcome this? How do you create messaging and imagery that play nicely together and drive business goals? You got it: Context!

How do you create context?

There are four main principles you must keep in mind when creating context between messaging and imagery:

1. Proximity – How close or far away something is from something else tells you whether that something stands alone or is part of a group. This post does a good job with proximity by using the downward pointing emoji. Look at the difference between these two:


It’s a small thing, yet the difference in shape and color brings your eye up to the word  “Helpful,” which you may not have read in the first picture.

2. Similarity in our Part 1 discussion about shape, we said combining hard edges with round creates contrast between the shapes, while repetition of the same type of shape creates cohesion, or similarity. Just like contrast is the principle that determines what stands out, similarity is the principle that helps determine and establish patterns, groups, and brands.


3. Rule of Thirds The rule of thirds divides a photo into 9 equal rectangles with focal points at each of the four intersections. When we see a photo that is visually interesting, it almost always employs some variation of the rule of thirds. Our eyes are drawn to one of the four focal points because that is where the most visual interest lies. For more information click here.

Image by Prem Anandh

This principle is used in all layouts, not just photography, and is called composition.


A special emphasis is placed on the bottom right focal point – known as the power corner. Because we read left to right and end at the bottom of a page, it is the very last place we look. This is why many of the most effective CTA buttons are on the right of (or span) a page rather than in the center, and also why logos or web addresses are often placed at the bottom right of a page.

If you’d like to learn more about the Rule of Thirds, check out this fantastic article from

4. Continuation and Leading Lines – In the same way our eyes are naturally drawn to focal points, the power of leading lines cannot be overstated. Leading lines are exactly what they sound like: lines that lead the eye toward or away from a particular thing. They can be actual lines placed on the thirds of a photo or diagonal lines cutting across the page and they can change the focal point of a composition significantly. For instance, review the two images below:


Do you notice how you’re your natural inclination is to “look back at,” i.e., into the eyes of the model on the right, while you notice the AIRFRANCE branding more on the left? This is because the effective use of leading lines employs the principle of continuation to take the viewer’s eye through the photo or composition to land on (or point to) the predetermined spot the composer has chosen. In the above example, the use of the pink diagonal line and the little plane icon serve to make sure your eye continues on and up to AIRFRANCE, while the strong horizontal and vertical lines and the use of the upper left focal point makes you stop at the model’s eyes in the photo on the right.

Let’s revisit our original post example and compare it to one who effectively uses the above principles:


As you can see, combining all the information into a single image (proximity), adding repetitive color (similarity), and creating hierarchy through the rule of thirds and leading lines makes for a very clearly branded and engaging post that provides the necessary context for the viewer to understand what to do with the information presented and drives business goals.

This goes to show that by employing these rules, you can create beautiful imagery that is also purposeful. Understanding composition and creating context can help you move beyond content and take your business to the next level by increasing the quality of communication you have with your designer, increasing the effectiveness of your use of creator apps like Canva and Adobe Spark, and skyrocketing your marketing effectiveness to drive business goals.

Jennie Jerome
CEO, The Strategic Artisan

Jennie Jerome is widely recognized as an emerging business development leader dedicated to crafting memorable brand identity systems throughout the world. She has been the CEO of The Strategic Artisan for the past eight years and has been in her industry for 11 years. She currently serves as Adjunct Faculty for both the Business and Graphic Design departments at Scottsdale Community College and is an Associate Professor at the prestigious ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation. Jennie is a national level equestrian and has been to over 50 countries for work and play. As an Arizona native, she tries her best to be overseas during summer. 

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Hierarchy and Contrast: Understanding the foundation of graphic design to achieve visual goals - Part 1

Join us for a two-part series exploring the principles and best practices of creative imagery in marketing effectiveness. The goal of this series is to teach readers how to identify and create imagery that is not just pretty, but effective.

Effective imagery is not just pretty: It ties into messaging and drives business goals and results.

As the world becomes increasingly visual, marketers are relying more and more heavily on either partnerships with graphic designers or the use of graphic design apps such as Canva and SparkPost to create visually pleasing imagery.

Neither approach is better than the other, and both can help you achieve your goals depending on your budget, scope, and time restraints.

But… How do you know if the imagery you create on these apps is effective and not just pretty? How do you know if you hired a designer – someone who will visually communicate what your brand represents and help facilitate sales and growth – or a decorator – someone who will give you a gorgeous image that will just sit there driving no traffic because it doesn’t resonate with your audience?

Simple: You must educate yourself enough to be able to identify which images are pretty but pointless vs. engaging and useful.The quickest way to do this is to understand the foundation upon which design is built: hierarchy and contrast.

Hierarchy is about determining which aspect or information is most important. Contrast is about making sure that point is emphasized and stands out.

Poor contrast and the emphasis on “Nicole” crushes the hierarchy of this hero image and almost guarantees no one is going to click the button that says “2016 Collection,” much less read the information below it.


Excellent contrast through color and hierarchy through size makes sure you look at the figure, and read the title and supporting information – nothing is left out or gets skipped. See example below:

In marketing, we establish hierarchy by choosing titles and pull quotes. We create contrast to emphasize that hierarchy by making those titles and pull quotes bigger and/or bolder.This encourages people to read and absorb the information.

Good and bad hierarchy applies to large sets of text as well.The example below portrays bad hierarchy with large blocks of text and no clue as to what the reader will learn:

Below is an example of good hierarchy with lots of context clues and easy “skimmability."

Let’s take a closer look into what’s actually happening here. There are three key elements that factor into creating hierarchy and contrast:

  1. Size – In general, we tend to make the things we want to stand out bigger and the less important information smaller.
  2. Color – In general, warm colors inspire us to take action and cool colors inspire us to relax. Restaurants almost always use some element of red or orange in their décor to inspire your appetite, while spas almost always use elements of cool greens and blues to help soothe. 
  3.  Shape – Shape can have profound effects on the success of your design. Combining hard edges with round creates contrast between the shapes, while repetition of the same type of shape crates cohesion.

For more on color theory in marketing, check out this fantastic article from November 2017 in the Huffington Post, Is ‘Color Theory’ An Effective Marketing Tool?

The beauty of working with a designer or apps like Canva and Adobe Spark is that they have already taken these principles into account, so you are almost guaranteed to create a beautiful image. However, as our Nicole example above shows, it is up to you as the marketer to make sure that the hierarchy and contrast are in the appropriate place and on the appropriate element.

We’ll discuss how to do this in depth in part two of our series exploring principles and best practices of creative imagery in marketing effectiveness, Creating Context: Combining messaging and visuals to drive marketing success. Mark your calendar for April 18, 2018!

 Is ‘Color Theory’ An Effective Marketing Tool? 

Jennie Jerome
CEO, The Strategic Artisan

Jennie Jerome is widely recognized as an emerging business development leader dedicated to crafting memorable brand identity systems throughout the world. She has been the CEO of The Strategic Artisan for the past eight years and has been in her industry for 11 years. She currently serves as Adjunct Faculty for both the Business and Graphic Design departments at Scottsdale Community College and is an Associate Professor at the prestigious ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation. Jennie is a national level equestrian and has been to over 50 countries for work and play. As an Arizona native, she tries her best to be overseas during summer. 

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The Power of a Testimonial

The importance of testimonials for your marketing collateral and digital presence

Testimonials should be a priority in your marketing collateral, proposal, conference, presentations, and digital presence. Why? There are few marketing vehicles that are more convincing than a testimonial. If your clients are speaking highly about you or your firm, then you must have something to offer.

Testimonials in your content is proof

Sujan Patel of Content Marketing Institute states “We look for and act on (even if subconsciously) social proof in all areas our life” – this includes how clients behave when selecting an architect, engineer, or contractor, including how we behave and the purchasing decisions we make online.

“It doesn’t matter if that social proof comes from friends or strangers. What matters is that we’re seeing evidence from our peers – that the decision we’re about to make is the right one” (Patel, 2017).

This same proof applies to the AEC industry. More and more clients are asking for references and evaluation forms on their proposals. Why? Because they want the proof that the company they are choosing is also endorsed by their peers.

As OptinMonster co-founder Syed Balkhi, writes:

“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.”

Another study from Nielsen’s Global AdView Pulse found that the testimonials are the second most trusted form of information about a brand or product, with the most effective being recommendations from people known personally.

Make it easy!

Asking your client for a reference can often feel awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes difficult – especially for technical staff who are often introverts. As a marketer, make it as painless as possible for your project managers and your clients.

Four things you can do to help make the process simple!

  1. Offer to write the letter/quote for the client to review, revise and approve.
  2. Conduct an interview/survey at the end of the project. Your clients are most excited about your work immediately upon completion. Make use of this time by asking for an interview or to take a quick survey.
  3. Use what people are already saying - People may say nice things and provide feedback through email or even social media. Reach out and get permission to use those nice words as testimonials.
  4. You can hire a third party to get testimonial statements from your clients.

Stay in contact with your references!  

Once you have a testimonial secured, be sure to stay in touch with that client! Not only is that great business practice but it is key to ensuring you always have their updated contact information. It’s also a good idea to receive two testimonials from the same company in case one client retires. Bottom line? If someone needs to verify your reference, they should easily be able to pick up the phone and call your contact.

There are many reasons to use testimonials to position your firm successfully and win your next project. While you pay attention to your entire marketing program, remember to include testimonials as a personal touch to strengthen your marketing strategy!


Ampy McIntyre
Chief of COntent, TankGirl Marketing

With more than 15 years in the A/E/C industry, Ampy brings high level proposal and content management to TankGirl Marketing. Ampy has been at TankGirl for almost two years and is the Chief of Content. During her free time, she likes to workout and read about latest trends in home and fashion.

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Simple and Creative Ways to Refresh Your Work space

Life have you feeling “cluttered”? When was the last time you looked through that bottom desk drawer and got rid of the stuff you didn’t need? If you’re too embarrassed to admit how long that has been then you are overdue for a spring-cleaning session! Don’t have the motivation or time to clean? If you are already creating excuses in your head, stop now. Sure, it sounds like a daunting task but just think about it, you’ll feel much better after you tidy up and organize – plus you might find documents that can be beneficial to future work! Check out these simple and creative ways to freshen up your office!

I don’t have time – This is the major hold-back for a lot of situations in life but let’s talk about the stuff you can take care of right away.  Look around your desk. Do you see supplies on your desk or folders in your drawers that you haven’t used in a while? Ask your co-workers to see if anyone needs them, if not, take them back to the supply room. Your company will save money by not having to order extra supplies and you’re contributing to environmental awareness by recycling.

I need change but I can’t afford it right now – Feel like some change could do you some good? On a budget? No sweat.As working professionals, we spend a good chunk of time at work and something as simple as bringing that neglected plant from home to work will make a great addition to your office or desk. It will instantly change your space and release oxygen into the air to keep your mind focused.  Don’t have a green thumb? Bring that old mason jar or cute mug in. It will make a great holder for those loose pens and pencils you have on your desk and it will give your workspace that simple yet modern look. Make your work station a place you ENJOY to be sitting at for 40+ hours a week!

Check out this article for 20 cubical décor ideas to make your office style work as hard as you do! You’d be surprised how many small DIY projects are shown online or inexpensive gadgets there are available to liven up your workstation. If you walk into work and instantly feel comfortable and excited, you are bound to have a more productive day. Take a few ideas from SMPS Member, Ashley Black! She livened up her workstation about a year ago and loves it.

“I knew when we completed our office refresh I would want to spruce up my workstation a bit. I decided to buy a bunch of inexpensive DIY stuff from Hobby Lobby and I focused on a white/silver theme to match our new desks. I bought a ton of white paint, silver glitter, some cheap wooden shapes and magnets – and went crazy! I also repurposed my name plate from a bridal shower as decoration. This was inexpensive and made for a very fun/fulfilling Saturday afternoon!”


I’m too stressed to clean - Simplicity is key and believe it or not, cleaning can be therapeutic. Change the desktop background on your computer to something visually appealing like the beach, your favorite vacation spot or a far-away galaxy. It will put a smile on your face and make you feel slightly more relaxed. Open the blinds to your windows and let natural light in – it’s like an instant facelift for your office! If you have a private office, invest in a small oil diffuser or some battery-operated candles, they will change the ambience of your workspace and instantly give that spa-like atmosphere. If you are in an open-office format then bring in a customized calendar or something that reminds you of your favorite things in life!

Is having a clean work area really that important? YES! Your workstation is exactly what it sounds like, a station to do work, not a storage facility! You will become more productive and chances are if you brighten your office a bit, your mood will be uplifted as well! Everyone owes it to themselves to have a fresh new look. Why not start at your desk?

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Maria Mejia
Marketing Coordinator, Dibble Engineering

Maria joined the A/E/C industry five years ago and has worked at Dibble for her entire A/E/C career. She joined SMPS three years ago and is one of our talented social media chairs! In her free time she enjoys making homemade soaps using all natural ingredients. It's a lengthy process but she said the results are worth waiting for! 

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The Eternal Cheerleader - Why Being the Most Positive Person in the Office Pays off

With a calendar packed to the brim with requests for proposals and qualifications to be updated, how does a marketing pro remain positive and sane with deadlines constantly looming over us? The answer to this question looks different for everyone, but I think there’s common ground we all stand on: a positive approach to work leads to a balanced and productive work life. An uplifted attitude has many benefits, some may not show themselves in daily, tangible ways but the lasting effects of a team player attitude are impactful.

The alternative is an attitude that defaults to panic in the face of a heavy workload. This pattern can quickly breed uncertainty and discomfort in a team. We may have ten deadlines and five days to do them but responding as a victim to our circumstances will only complicate the process of tackling the task at hand. When your workload seems insurmountable, take a moment to check yourself and assess where your priorities need to fall in that situation. Below are some helpful tips to dialing into situations at work that have us reaching for a piping hot cup of negativity.

Is this task a huge problem or several, manageable problems? By breaking your mountains into hills, you afford yourself a greater number of success opportunities. The productivity experts at Trello write, “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation.” Therefore, by boiling our problems into smaller, strategic items we increase our levels of dopamine thus improving our mood, attitude, and ultimately our environment.

Everyone deserves a win - Comradery in the workplace is an honorable goal, but when achieved and continued through bonding over common gripes and dislikes, comradery can become a feeding ground for poor attitudes. Be the change! Become the catalyst of change for negative groupthink and establish yourself as the flagpole to which your teammates can stand under and know they’ll feel encouraged and uplifted in times of shaky circumstances. Everyone deserves a win; be the beacon of light, be the spokesperson of positivity, be the cheerleader.

Dude, it’s ALL about Perspective - It takes everyone from the c-suite executive to the big idea designer to the copy writer to land a job. When we step back from the unnerving intricacies of what our roles as marketers are and embrace the truth that we are an integral part of the pie, no matter what size, we gain the pride of being a part of the team. Perspective breeds positivity.

Ask for help - Set an internal threshold meter of how much work you can comfortably manage that allows you ample time for creativity but also challenges your limits. Then, express that to your manager. A manager or boss who truly advocates for you will appreciate your honesty and go to bat for you and your abilities. Waiting until you are in panic mode to raise the white flag opens the door for mistakes heightened by stress, unclear thinking, and resentment. A clear set of expectations opens the door for positive motives to fuel you.

The goal to generate a more positive approach to work is achieved in slow progression, it is built upon tiny tweaks in the way we think, communicate, process, and interact. Take your time, check in with yourself and your superiors throughout the process, and you will slowly reveal to those around you the life-changing true of a positive attitude.

Michelle Harrison
Senior Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR

Michelle has been in the industry for the past four years as a Senior Marketing Coordinator at SmithGroupJJR. Although not currently a SMPS member, this is Michelle’s second guest blog post for our chapter! In her free time she enjoys road tripping and camping with her adventure cat, Mango.

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Networking for the Anti-Networker

I am the worst marketing person.  Don’t get me wrong, I love marketing.  I mean I love creating graphics, coordinating events, and organizing those unique touches that make an impact. But when it comes to networking and talking to complete strangers, I am the worst.  I once equated networking to awkward high school dances. So yes, I am the lonely wallflower waiting for someone to ask me to dance.  

I know that there are other wallflowers out there, lurking awkwardly on the sidelines. So how do we find our comfort zone in a sea of extroverts? I scoured tip articles and came up with this list:

Embrace It and Manage Expectation – Embrace that you are an introvert.  You are not the master of the elevator pitch. That’s ok. Let someone else be center stage while you are the fun conversation on the side. Quality conversations with a handful of people are always better than short, forgettable conversations with every person in the room.

Plan AheadPrior proper planning prevents ...well you know what it prevents. But nevertheless, prepping some ice breakers before an event is always helpful. Think of a few open-ended questions that are generic, like, “What do you do at XYZ Company?” or “How long have you been there?” Then, prep a few that are event-specific.  “Have you seen this speaker before?”, “How long have you been with the hosting organization?” or “What brought you to today’s event?” Prepping both types of questions also helps with the sometimes awkward silence after the initial introductions.

Time Limits Some networking tips say to make sure you get to an event early and stay the entire time.  But for some, this sounds like a slow, painful death. Instead commit to a short window of time for networking. Perhaps 20 minutes before or after. Or, spread over both, 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after. But the kicker is that you have to commit to actually networking in that shorter or shortened timeframe. You might even find that you stay longer than your allotted time!

Use your Connections – Perhaps you are going with someone or you know one or two people who will be at the event. Ask them to introduce you to someone at the event. Armed with a few ice breakers and someone to help keep the conversation going, you’ll be in a conversation before you know it!

Use your Listening Skills – Introverts are notoriously good listeners. Empathetic and fully-engaged in a conversation, we will make people feel heard and valued, which in turn makes them feel good. This will also help with asking questions that creates a memorable conversation!

Share Yourself – In my opinion, the best way to make a conversation engaging and to leave an impression is to share personal stories. I will remember a person if there is something unique to attach to them. But just like there is a fine line between asking questions and interrogating, there is a balance between sharing stories and oversharing.  As a notorious over-sharer, I need to remember that people only need to know that I have two boys and not how I gave birth to them.

Practice and Go Slow – While practice makes perfect, the practice is still intimidating to us wallflowers. So go slow and don’t be too hard on yourself. You won’t make 20 new contacts the first time, but you will gain some confidence and maybe a new person to talk to at the next event.

Now it would be a double standard for me to write this and then continue to stand by the wall, so I commit to trying these steps as well. So if you see me at an SMPS event, say hi! let’s exchange business cards, and I won’t tell you about the Vaseline my dog ate, again…unless you ask.

Sara Reynolds
Marketing Coordinator, Wood, Patel & Associates, Inc

Sara has been in the A/E/C industry for a decade and has been a SMPS member for the past two years - ever since joining Wood, Patel & Associates. She is a mother to two boys (ages 8 and 4) and her free time is consumed by Cub Scouts, Legos, Nerf wars, all things trucks, and sharing the refereeing duties with her husband. She enjoys good whiskey, a good book, and good conversation. 

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Let the fun times roll!

All work and no play makes for a very dull life.  In the age of “maintaining” a healthy work life balance, the line separating our professional and personal lives are a bit more blurred these days, especially in an industry like AEC where everyone knows everyone and early happy hours often turn into dinners.

But what about those days when you’re stuck in the office? You know, cranking out proposals, meeting deadlines, and replying to emails in between meetings – bring the fun to you!

As the marketing and business development leaders in our firms, we’re more than likely the most energetic and talkative ones in our offices (especially if you’re working with engineers). It’s natural for us to become “culture leaders” and “office champions” without even trying. 

So, in honor of the Unofficial National Fun at Work Day on January 28, here are a few (almost too) easy ways you can incorporate fun at work:

Turn Up the Music – Take your music service subscription to another level and share the wealth with your office. If you’re lucky enough to have a speaker system throughout the office make use of it. Allow everyone in your office to suggest radio stations on Pandora or Apple Music, put the stations on shuffle and voila! There’s nothing like Britney Spears circa 2003 and Tracy Chapman to get the office rocking. Side note – if you have a few sticks in the mud, suggest this for a Friday afternoon!

Let the Games Begin – Instead of formal lunch and learns, host a B.Y.O. Lunch and play. Set up a Cornhole station, Hole-in-One obstacle course (a golf club, ball and a few red solo cups), or various board games; if you want to make it even more interesting, turn the lunch into a tournament that lasts a few weeks. 

Internal Happy Hour – I don’t think this one really needs an explanation, but if enjoying a few adult beverages in the office is a no-go, make root beer floats or ice cream sundaes. When I host an internal happy hour I make it a rule that everyone has to hang out and mingle, no getting the goods and sneaking back to their desks.

Conversation – I may be the queen on distracting my coworkers because I’m always talking to them about anything and everything. Filling up your coffee next to someone you hardly know? Ask them about their weekend, their kids, last book they read… anything, just as long as it’s lighthearted and fun.

Splurge a little – Liven up your workspace! You spend a minimum of 40 hours a week there, make it exciting! Throw some color, photos and maybe some new trinkets on your desk to brighten up your spirit.

Feeling like you don’t have time to coordinate this on your own? Get a committee going or ask your office manager for help! They will probably love the idea and jump right on board!

Lastly, I think it goes without saying that you make sure to get the okay from your boss before you start the Conga Line or blast Chance the Rapper through the speakers. And that’s all I got for ya; now go have some fun!

*Bonus tip – share the fun on your firm’s social media accounts.

Tiffany Johnson 
Marketing Coordinator, Bridgers & Paxton

Tiffany has been marketing, developing business and creating content at Bridgers & Paxton for two and a half years. She has been in the A/E/C industry for three and a half and has been an active SMPS member for two years. In her free time she enjoys brunching with her friends, plotting on how to become the next Martha Stewart (cooking, home design, lifestyle hacks), writing and beating everyone she knows at TopGolf!


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Getting a Seat at the Table

Are you being left out of integral business discussions or strategic initiatives where your perspective could add great value to your organization? You are not alone and there are ways to combat that fight.

Brandi Barr, Senior Associate and Business Development Manager at T.Y. Lin International has made large strides at her firm since she started almost a decade ago.

Q: What does it mean to you to have a seat at the table?
To have a seat at the table means two things:
1) Being involved at an equal level in all marketing decisions (i.e. pursuit strategy, go/no-go, etc,). The perfect sum is – being more than a formatter.
2)Participating in the office operations meeting. Having an opinion and equal voice to the other department managers in regards to operational decisions.

This being said, it also comes with accountability. You can’t be at the table without being held accountable for the marketing budget, yearly sales plan (goal), strategic decisions, etc.

Q: What are the benefits to including marketers and or business developers in leadership decisions?
The main benefit of including marketers and/or business developers is providing a different perspective to a given topic. For example, when looking at a strategic hire, technical professionals typically look at project execution. A marketer/business developer might ask the following questions: Is the candidate a repeat work seller or can they develop new clients, or both? How do they fit into our culture? Do we see them as someone who is a good mentor?

Another example: the go/no-go decision on RFPs. Most technical professionals believe submitting proposals is the best way to get in front of a client. A marketer/business developer offers an alternate perspective. Because we are relational, we offer insight into what other options might be beneficial. In addition, we might offer perspective from what we’ve heard in the industry (i.e. who has been chasing it, relationships between firms with the client, etc.)

Q: How can someone that is an entry level marketer or business developer leverage themselves to have a future seat?
First, have patience. Typically, companies don’t know what to do with marketing professionals, they just know they need them. When that is the mindset, then you are going to have to prove yourself. Finding creative ways to contribute, being responsive and having good communication are all good ways to start. Other ways to contribute would be to conduct project research, establish relationships with sub-consultants and of course build relationships with your peers at SMPS. Lastly, find ways to improve the quality of proposals.

Another important facet is to find your champion - you need to find a person in your senior management. This will help tremendously. It’s always best when someone else is doing your promoting.

Q: How can providing data be beneficial to someone that is trying to prove their value?
If there is one thing, management understands its metrics. When reading a performance evaluation it is always a strong case to present the hit ratio if it has improved. (Granted it is not all about the marketing, as much as I would like to say it is.) However, we are a big part of the process. This is also beneficial when demonstrating the workload, especially if there is a case for additional staff or if a no-go decision needs to be evaluated.

Q: How has your career changed since you’ve gotten a seat at the table?
My career has changed through my day-to-day responsibilities. There is less heavy lifting in the proposals; however, proposal responsibilities never go away. There is more time spent on metrics and tracking (budgets, sales projections, reporting), managing staff, meetings not just on marketing – operations, business development. The thing no one tells you is that you go from the proposal deadlines swooshing by, to worrying about having won enough work to keeping all of the employees busy and worrying if are we meeting the metrics set by headquarters. How can we make sure the people not involved in pursuits aren’t worrying about what their next job is?

Q: What is your advice for a marketer or business developer fighting for a seat at the table?
My advice is probably untraditional, really evaluate the things about your job that you like and dislike. Don’t be in a hurry, if you work for a good place and have a good manager, things will happen for you. It takes time to build the trust (it took me 8 years).

If you are in the right place to be fighting for your career, don’t ask for it. Just start doing it. Again, most companies don’t know what to do with marketers. The age ole’ saying of, “They don’t know what they don’t know,” Is very prominent for this industry. You need to show them by doing what you should be doing. If then it doesn’t seem to be progressing, you will need to have the conversation about the future and/or evaluate your next steps.

In closing, I leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Be the smart person your company hired, it’s in every single one of us. Position yourself in such a way that your presence is needed at the table. 

Brandi Barr 
Senior Associate, Business Development Manager 

Brandi has been in the A/E/C industry for 18 years and an active member of SMPS for 13 years. You can typically find her and her husband at their daughter's dance recitals or watching their boys play soccer or baseball. She is very in to sports and always keeping tabs on her 5 fantasy football teams in addition to watching the SF Giants! 

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No More Excuses!

I don’t have time. I have too much else to do. I’m tired. Change is scary. It could be better, but it’s really not that bad. I can always do it later. And on and on and on. We all make excuses for why we can’t get to those extra tasks or goals. And I really don’t think it is an indication of laziness (although it can be). Change is hard. In fact, according to Newton’s first law change is downright unnatural. “An object in motion continues to move at a constant speed unless it is compelled to change its state by an external force.” In order to change our predictable and routine behaviors, we have to be our own external force, which takes boatloads of motivation and commitment and since we’re already motivated and committed for our companies, our families, our friends, our dogs, it’s no surprise that most of us are running low on energy for ourselves.

With a goal or task in mind, follow along with the chart, here, to break
down the top three excuses I catch myself making.

Chelsea Hickok 
Marketing and Business Development, Kimley Horn

Chelsea has been in the A/E/C industry and at Kimley Horn for just over a year. She's been an active member of SMPS for eight months and participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, Chelsea loves backpacking, wine-tasting and reading lots and lots of fiction! 

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New Year, New Me – The Productivity Fumble

As the end of 2017 approaches, we find our workload getting heavier and heavier. End of year reports, last-minute submittals and deadlines that just seem to keep creeping up. But despite the end-of-year rush, the new year is just around the corner and we cannot help the feelings that come along with that—a clean slate, a fresh start, a metaphorical reset button for all the goals we maybe didn’t quite get to in 2017.

Whether or not you are the New-Year-resolution-type, below are some tips to make sure you get a running start into the New Year.

“New Year, New Me”
I’m going to tell you the one thing you don’t want to hear – you aren’t a new you. You’re the same you. But you know what?  That’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. You are the same person who made that tight deadline everyone thought was impossible. The same person who brought an innovative and creative flair to your workplace. The concept of new year, new me is a fallacy. Instead, think ‘Same me, but better’.

Whether your goals are to chase a promotion, live a healthier lifestyle, or get around to that vacation to Greece you’ve been wanting to book for too long to remember—create a big picture goal and work down from there. What are small steps you can take toward achieving that promotion?  Let your intentions be known. Take initiative, don’t wait for someone to ask you step up and make that extra effort. For a healthier lifestyle, make smaller changes that add up to bigger results. Go for a walk every day. Get a fitness tracker and invite your friends to competitions so you have accountability to more than yourself. Take all the junk food out of your house. Replace one meal a day with a healthy alternative. What about that vacation?  Make a savings goal. Chart your progress each time you hit a milestone. Put a picture of the Anthem as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself of what you are working toward. Take little steps toward that goal. You’ll get there sooner than if you never started.

Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
Recognize that things worth having are hard to obtain and the only way to get them is through sincere dedication. You’ve got to play an active role in your happiness; it has to be a choice. By announcing your interest for a promotion, your committing to the level of effort it takes to get there. By choosing to rise a half-hour early everyday to make time for that walk, you’re making a choice to commit to your fitness goals.

Immerse yourself completely
When I set out to make my resolutions, I don’t make a handful, I typically focus on one. Then I build myself slowly around that goal. Last year I told myself I wanted to be published before the end of the year. I made time every day to write, spent time every weekend sending query letters and for every rejection I submitted two more. I listened to writing podcasts and audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I froze my Netflix subscription and started reading more books. Essentially, I focused every bit of my energy on obtaining that one goal. Before I knew it, I had four short stories published.

It may feel like you are shoveling rock from a sitting position. But you’re not – you are building a mountain. And you can’t get to the top without making your way up that hill.

Taryn Marie Harbert
Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Rider Levett Bucknall

Taryn joined the AEC industry in 2015 and is a Corporate Marketing Coordinator with Rider Levett Bucknall. She joined SMPS last year and is loves the organization; she is a member on the social media committee. Taryn loves creating writing - she's been published several times ! She  loves to read, run, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time.

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