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Princesses are Pretty, Not Proposals

“Marketing prettied up our proposal, so we can send it out now.” Ah yes, the true measure of a marketing department’s effort on a winning proposal and surely every top-performing marketer’s dream compliment. After working all week to perfect a proposal, there’s nothing I love more than to hear the phrase “thanks for prettying this up.” In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m being sarcastic.

Don’t get me wrong; I really do appreciate the ‘thank you’ as well as the recognition. But compliments like these mostly fall into the category of backhanded, although unintentionally…I hope. So I think it’s about time to speak plainly and set the record straight: if you tell me you are thankful for me “prettying” up your document, you are actually insulting me WAY more than you are endorsing me. Surprised? Let me explain...

Princesses are pretty…not proposals. If I really wanted to make your proposal look “pretty,” I would simply sprinkle some glitter on top and call it a day. But I’m not playing proposal dress-up with sparkling tiaras and shimmering ball gowns. “Prettying this up” makes it sound like my position is to snap my fingers and voilà! The proposal looks more attractive. Instead of acknowledging all of the hard work that went into the proposal, your “compliment” has elevated me to the esteemed status of…wait for it…a little girl running around her parent’s kitchen plastering tiny little bows all over every drawer and cabinet within her reach. Praise, indeed.

I’m so glad that I spent four years of my life studying in college and working towards graduation so that I could go on to a wonderful and glamorous life of… making things pretty. Yeah, that’s sarcasm again. Unfortunately for me, my Bachelor’s degree left me with absolutely NO beauty tips whatsoever. Zero, zilch, nada. In fact, “Making Proposals Pretty 101” was never an available class offered to me and I sure as heck never enrolled in “The Fine Art of Pretty Proposals.”

For those of you belonging to the baffled masses, the point of a marketer’s involvement throughout the proposal process ISN’T to make it “pretty.” The point is to make sure that the proposal’s message is strong and concise, that ALL the questions have been clearly answered, and that the client’s covert motivators (what they actually care about) have been adequately addressed. Without a marketer to quarterback the process, proposals would be all over the place: 100 pages long with no real sense of flow and riddled with grammar mistakes…everywhere. And they certainly would not look very “pretty.”

Note to the rest of A/E/C from us pretty-proposal-makers: there are rules when it comes to proposal preparation…and marketers know these rules like the back of our hands. So every time you send a draft our way and want toRandomly Capitalize words that don’t need to be capitalized…or inconsistently spell out “15” when it doesn’t need to be spelled out…we have to go in and fix all of that, sentence by sentence and word by word. And when we receive 10 pages of verbiage from four different people for a half-page proposal section, we condense it to fit…all the while ensuring that new verbiage reflects one singular voice rather than a big mush of various opinions and information.

Some may think that this process just makes the writing look better and therefore falls under the umbrella of “pretty.” But news flash: it does more than just make the writing look better; it actually makes the writing itself better. Let’s also not forget all those adjustments to font sizes and colors, all the reformatting of organizational charts and the careful selection of the most representative project photos. These efforts actually allow for a clearer message, better organization and sure…it’s more appealing to the eye. The final product might look shiny and attractive to you, but a lot more went into it than me just jazzing it up. In no way am I spending all that time on a proposal because – gee, I really want it to look super cute!

Does no one realize how demeaning this whole “pretty proposal” commentary is? And not just to an A/E/C newbie like me. This affects even the most talented of marketers…even a total marketing goddess, like my boss. She is a Certified Professional Services Marketer, has a ton of experience marketing in A/E/C, and is a terrific strategist and leader. She has shown direct success through her marketing tactics and has more than proven herself to the team. She also consistently gets feedback from the team which indicates that they appreciate marketing as an important aspect of the business. Then all of a sudden, BOOM! Her credibility is demolished in an instant when they open their mouths and ugh – pretty verbal vomit comes spewing out.

Like Really Pretty

OK, I admit it…this all seems really negative…and I suspect that the rest of the team doesn’t understand how they really sound when these horrid words leave their mouths. Perhaps I am being too sensitive. After reviewing my lengthy rant, it has occurred to me that I might be looking at this all wrong. Maybe…just maybe…I have done such a great job on the proposal that the team sees it as seamless. Maybe the awesomeness of my efforts is too difficult to describe. Maybe the final product is so professional looking, that it is in fact “pretty.” And maybe the summary six letter descriptor just happens to send chills down my spine…

So the next time you find yourself on the verge of buttering up your marketing team with adjectives best reserved for fairy tale princesses, try to remember this: marketing departments do MUCH more than make things look “pretty.” If you want to show me real appreciation, first try to understand what it is that I actually do before handing back this “pretty proposal” to you.

 

About the Blogger:  Blunt Newbie is a fresh face in the A/E/C industry.  She knows what she brings to the table and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and shake things up a bit!  And even though she is young and still finding her way, she wants to be taken seriously and will work hard to earn the respect of her peers.    

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Ready, Set, BLOG!

It's a new SMPS year, people...and great things are on the horizon!  OK, OK, you got me.  It's not time to burst open the champagne bottle and bust out the noise makers...YET.  But it IS time to get ready for a brand new SMPS Leadership team.  And among the newbies is A/E/C Beat's newest addition to the blog team, none other than returning SMPS member Jeanna Zelin, who will be assisting BeatBlogger with all things blog-worthy throughout the 2015/16 year...EXCITING!!! 

Of course, with the new SMPS year comes some awesome new content for our A/E/C Beat followers and some brand new contributors ready to make their blog debuts!  It also comes with a new posting schedule which we hope will work better for both our readers and our writers alike.  What is it, you ask?  Pretty simple:  rather than EVERY Tuesday, we'll be posting EVERY OTHER Tuesday.  So be on the watch for our first official article of the year, coming to you all on 10/13/2015.

Until then, if you've got a hot industry topic that you want to '"put out there," WE WANT YOU to reach out to BeatBlogger or Jeanna (we're still trying to figure out her virtual persona)...we accept both "guest" and "ghost" blogger articles.  And for those of you that don't fancy yourself writers/bloggers, that's cool.  We still need your help with keeping the conversation going through your lively comments and online dialogue.  Remember, in big ways and in small, it's never too late to #RevolutionizeYourAttitude 

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Bon Voyage: A Heartfelt Farewell From our 2014/15 President

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The first draft of my final address started out with a reflection on what we had accomplished this past year. But in all honesty, it left me feeling cold and didn’t really express the message that I truly wanted to convey. And then a good friend of mine reminded me that sometimes you just have to say what you’re feeling! So I’m taking this opportunity to touch on a few of the thoughts and emotions that I have as I bid farewell to the presidency. Yes, I’m going to get ‘mushy’ and reminisce about all the ‘fluffy bunny’ moments that we experienced as a group this past year.

First of all, what a ride! I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard…because it was really hard. There were long nights, frustrating moments, lots of laughing, a few dozen happy hours, and some cussing thrown into the mix just for good measure. But it was by far the most rewarding experience I have had the privilege to be a part of. I set out tosurvive…and I DID. But now I find that I’m in a bit of a funk, filled with a strange mix of conflicting emotions. On one hand, I’m completely ready to hand over ‘my baby,’ but on the other I’m not at all ready to let go.

I remember commenting to a friend about half-way through last year that I wanted to bottle up all my feel-good moments; the times when something I was taking a chance on worked out in fabulous ways that I hadn’t expected; the days when someone said thank you and actually meant it; the moments when I realized that I wasn’t completely sucking at this job. As it turns out, I actually was bottling all those moments after all…because, believe it or not, I am experiencing them all in full force as I write this very message. I bottled everything – the laughter, the tears, the late nights, the celebrations, maybe even every weird and wonderful facial expression ever made – and now I take with me the full package of what it means to lead an amazing organization.

To the people that I surrounded myself with this past year – the amazing individuals that all brought a different personality, perspective and challenge – you were simply amazing. You proved that a team of 32 can pretty much KICK A$$ in more ways than one. You increased membership by 16%, held an 86% retention rate, increased networking opportunities, gave back to the community, recognized our members through SoMe, and accomplishedevery single initiative that the chapter set out to accomplish. You made it look easy, even though you spent countless hours volunteering for the betterment of SMPS. You made my heart swell with pride, amazed me with your unrelenting passion, and (quite frankly) surprised me with all that you were able achieve.

Just a few days ago, I was having a conversation with a few Presidents from some of the other chapters and one of them posed to the group a question: “What are your top ten will or won’t misses about being president?” So, here goes…

Won’t Miss:

  • 75 Emails in One Day. You think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. One day I had 103 emails going back and forth. Drop-kicking the person who invented “Reply All” has been high on my list ever since.
  • Working at Night. My “set” SMPS hours were pretty much 6:30 – 9:00 every night and Sunday afternoon from 1:00 – 5:00PM. And on my work days, SMPS would often consume multiple hours. Lucky for me, my company was completely understanding.
  • The Meetings. On any given week, I would have between three and four meetings with individuals or teams. I loved it, but sometimes I wished for a calendar day with no responsibility.
  • Hearing “I’m Busy.” I know, I know, I know. We’re all “busy.” Working full time, having a personal life, and volunteering is hard stuff. But I would be ever so happy to never hear “I’m busy” again.

Will Miss:

  • My Team. That powerhouse that listened to my crazy ideas, somehow turned them into action plans, and then made me laugh every step of the way. I will miss you all the most – you made my heart happy when I was around you.
  • Not Being So Busy. Yeah, you read that right. I actually miss not being so busy. I’m the type of person that operates best under pressure, with a to-do list three pages long. I miss my extra SMPS to-do list. Now it’s just work to-do’s. Wah, wah, wah.
  • My SMPS Strategic Plan Book. I reviewed the strategic plan and action items on a weekly basis, just to ensure that everything was falling into place. I took it out of my bag last week and am missing the extra weight it added.
  • The Shenanigans. I don’t know how many times I would receive an email that would have me rolling on the ground laughing. Every last one of those emails is saved in my “Bad Day Laughs” folder in my email account.
  • What’s Next. I’m kind of like a little lost puppy right now. The emails have stopped, the questions are no longer mine to answer, and I’m not organizing anything. I am finding a new norm…along with a little void in my heart.
  • Writing Thank You Notes. Those suckers can turn around a bad day. I had no idea how powerful a hand written note on a 4 x 5 piece of paper could influence your entire perspective.

Someone asked me at the beginning of my presidency what I wanted my legacy to be. Legacy? I pretty much set out to survive. I wasn’t really thinking about leaving a legacy. I was thinking about having a great year, growing great leaders and giving everyone an opportunity to show their creative side. Did we do that? Well, we did end up winning the SFE Outstanding Large Chapter of the Year. ‘Nough said!

We did it, and we did it as a team; one big (sometimes dysfunctional) and wonderful team. I will miss the presidency, but this team still has plenty of room to keep growing – so keep doing what you all do best! From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for the opportunity to be your “Prez” and for letting me get a little sappy in my farewell address. Please know that I will never ever forget how you all made me feel…which was pretty friggin’ awesome!  “Mic drop, DONE.”

 

About the Blogger:  Grenee Martacho-Celuch, CPSM, is the Immediate Past President for SMPS Arizona. Spending time in the Presidency for the last year afforded her some lessons learned and a few rude awakenings, but ultimately she found a passion for leading people without compromising her straight-forward nature. For someone who is constantly focused on being the ultimate professional, this emotional blog post leaves Grenee feeling a little vulnerable. But it is one more step on her journey to becoming a well-rounded leader.

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It's Transition Time!

"Transition is in your future."  Yep, there's no doubt about it...we are on the cusp of a new 2015/16 SMPS Arizona leadership team and that means it's transition time!  While this year's team is getting ready to bid their roles a fond farewell, the new team is working on getting their feet under them.  There's a LOT going on, to be sure...which makes this the perfect time to take an extended breather from "revolutionizing our attitudes" so that we can get through this transition period with our sanity still intact LOL!  With this in mind, please make note that BeatBlogger will not be posting new articles again until Tuesday, September 15th, 2015.  

In the meantime, here's a recap of what was accomplished this year for A/E/C Beat:

  • 29 Posts with 26 Original Articles
  • 19 Unique Content Contributors
  • 6 Comments per Post (on Average)
  • 1 Re-Branding Effort

So there you have it!  Not too shabby for a new AZ Chapter effort.  Thank you to all of A/E/C Beat's content contributors for their originality and innovation of thought.  And thank you to all our readers who took the time to digest and comment!  BeatBlogger is already curious about what the 2015/16 year will bring!

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Millennials & The Generational Gap: Part 1

How to recruit and retain talent; it’s at the top of mind for most A/E/C firms these days. We just can’t staff up fast enough to meet the growing demands of a recovering economy. Our entry to mid-level workforce was gutted by the recession and our seasoned professionals are starting to think about retirement again. So who’s going to replace them? Millenials.

Every conversation regarding new talent inevitably comes back to Millenials; those “entitled, lazy Millennials.” Of course, negative connotations aren’t isolated to this one generation. Every generation comes with a “stigma” that labels them with a particular mindset. Baby Boomers are “stuck in their ways,” GenXers are “hard to get along with,” and Millenials are “the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world.”

Preceding generations almost always tend to think of their predecessors as problematic. They cause trouble, have a different outlook on accepted approaches and come with ‘questionable’ communication styles. But what parent in the history of parents hasn’t said this about their own child at some point? Generations are different, but the “right or wrong” way of doing things is a matter of personal opinion, not of generation.   And let’s face it; this IS what it IS. The next generation IS the future.

The Facts:
According to Forbes, today’s workers face uncharted territory regarding workforce demographics. There will soon be FIVE generations in the workplace all at once, whereas prior year’s workers contended with only three or four. But Millennials currently make up a HUGE portion of the workforce, and their presence is only going to grow. Here are a few cold hard facts:

  • Millenials are individuals born between 1981 – 2000
  • Millenials represent a population of approximately 80 million people (that’s a lot)
  • Millennials will become the workforce’s new majority by 2015, and will occupy 75% of the workforce by 2030 (according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics)

So what is SOOOO different about this workforce generation that is causing so much heartburn right now? Why do “those darn Millenials” seem to cause such a stir in office trends? Is there no communication in this big blended office family? Hmmm. Since great communication is rooted in a true understanding of another’s viewpoint, here are a few of the fun facts on Millenials:

  • Approximately 15% were born outside the U.S.
  • They have their own computers, phones, tablets, etc.; they don’t need your stuff.
  • Millenials like to work hard, but they also like to play hard. The two go “hand in hand.”
  • They went to school in collaborative spaces with a lot of flexibility. It’s only natural that they would want flexibility and telecommuting options in their careers as well.
  • They grew up with text messages, social media, and instant gratification. Their communication style is fairly informal in comparison to prior generations.
  • Entitled or just young? Hey, we were all young once…but someone saw our potential and took it upon themselves to mentor us.

In a recent Forbes poll, top employers were asked about how multi-generations affected the workplace:

  • 43% say multi-generational teams are good for projects to provide knowledge in specific areas
  • 45% say the biggest challenge to getting along is understanding each generation’s approach to a work-life balance and work ethic
  • 20% say communication style conflicts are the biggest impediment to working together

Pay close attention the first statistic – “43% say multi-generational teams are good.” Wait, what? Based on all the negative hype, you might expect the stats to reflect the opposite. Not so. As this poll suggests, each generation brings value, and how a company uses that value to benefit their clients in a team setting is what’s important.

The Recruiting
Like it or not, it is a job seeker’s market right now in A/E/C (as was so eloquently explained in A/E/C Beat’s “Desperately Seeking MC”), and a lot of those job seekers are Millenials. “They kind of expect a custom deal,” said Christie Borchin, Deputy Director of the California Department of Technology’s Office of Professional Development, during a February 24th panel on recruiting Millennials at the California Public Sector CIO Academy in Sacramento. “You need to really be aware of what makes Millennials tick,” she said, "and adapt your style to meet that.”

Here are a few tips on recruiting Millennials:

  • Build your company brand by engaging potential Millenial applicants on social media. Exhibit events, perks and benefits on Facebook, Linkedin, and other social media platforms.
  • Praise Millennials through the interview process. Interviewing is more than ever a two-way street, and Millenial candidates want to be seen as hot commodities. They know that they need to pitch themselves to hiring managers, but they also want to be sold on the values, mission and benefits of a company. Thank candidates for their time and let them know head-on if you are impressed with how they answered a question or an experience they have had.
  • Millennials expect work-life balance from day one in any new job. They expect to work hard, but they also expect to have the flexibility and time to spend with family and friends. Emphasize your company’s culture and how they will fit into it. Invite potential hires to spend some time in the office getting to know the environment and the people.
  • Perks are an expectation. With all the press around the perks of the Googles and Facebooks of the world, Millennials see these things as the norm rather than the exception. They expect the celebratory food, drinks, and events…along with “Bring Your Dog to Work Day,” ping pong tables in the break room, on premise day care services and pretty much anything else you can think of.
  • Millennials feel strongly about a company’s commitment to the community and making the world a better place.  Have your HR team organize community service events on a quarterly basis, giving groups of employees the opportunity to participate in revolving community service offerings during work hours.
  • Millennials seek incentives and performance-based pay. Of course, everyone loves a steady base salary. But on top of that, Millennials also expect performance-based pay, which rewards them for direct organizational contributions. Get creative with bonuses that incentivize all levels of the company to hit their own individual performance goals.

No wonder they are considered “the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world.” But seriously, whodoesn’t expect kudos for a job well done. Take an inventory of your current employee offerings and ask yourself this: Are we up to the challenge of recruiting these types of job seekers? 

The Retaining
Starting with the very first conversation, ask Millennial candidates about their career aspirations and goals. In addition to focusing on their aspirations, find out what they don’t like to do. Then be attentive to, engage with, and respond to their stated aspirations and goals. Here are a few key motivators for Millenials:

  • Millenials view work as a key part of life, rather than a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. Be flexible with the hours they work, and they will work them.
  • Millenials want a roadmap to success. Maybe not immediate success, but they want to know that a path doesexists and they want to know what that path entails.
  • Millennials are inspired by working with bright and creative people. Create environments that are conducive to brainstorming, emphasize engagement and provide plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Millenials are more likely to perform (and less likely to quit) if they feel that their work has meaning or is connected to a bigger picture. Acknowledge their work and highlight its significance to the overall project/company (or world!).
  • Millenials want a strong sense of their company’s mission and vision. Be forthcoming when explaining the “whys” behind decisions and provide social activities to foster company community.

The Bottom Line
Now, we’re not saying that you have to adapt everything that you’re doing as a firm to meet the demands and expectations of the new Millenial workforce. As with any healthy relationship, acclimating to the multi-generational work environment of the future will require a little give and a little take from both (or in this case, all) parties. A modest evaluation of faults is not unwarranted, but a healthy inventory of generational value-added will be the key to bridging this gap. The bottom line is that we all need to find a way to get along, and with that comes understanding generational characteristics.

For all the Baby Boomers and GenXers that just read this article, please consider it a quick lesson on “how to train your dragon…errr…Millenial.” Yeah, we’re sorry Millenials…nobody’s perfect. Not the Boomers, not the GenXers, and not you. But don’t get disheartened. Part two of this article will talk about what you can do to overcome that pesky “entitlement” stereotype in the workplace and prove to the rest of us that you’ve got the chops to take on the future!

 

About the Bloggers:  BeatBlogger was thrilled to be the first to read this post, authored by two of her favorite SMPS Arizona leaders.  Here are their stories:  

  • Deirdre Gilmore is a stereotypical GenXer. She loathes useless meetings, people that can’t put their phones down, and most social media. However, in order to avoid becoming a “get off my lawn you punk” adult, delved into understanding the generational gaps and how we can leverage them to get results.

  • Grenee Celuch is caught in the middle of GenX and the Millenials. She has little patience for people with “entitlement” issues and believes that working hard and going above and beyond your job description reaps huge rewards. Studying the different generations has made her realize that it's a give and take from all generations for the workplace to work as a cohesive machine.

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"8BITSME" Read the License Plate

I have this quirky little habit of reading personalized license plates; I just love trying to decode people’s one-line messages to the world. Sometimes my interest is the result of traffic-induced boredom and sometimes it’s just for the entertainment value that I get out of it. Either way, this pastime has typically served as fleeting enjoyment only, with each message being easily forgotten as soon as I put the pedal to the metal. That is, until a few months ago when I found myself stuck in traffic behind a vehicle with a decidedly piquant message.

“8BITSME” read the license plate. Now, for those of you needing a little refresher, eight bits actually equals one byte. Message decoded: “Byte Me.” I chuckled to myself as we both accelerated out of the lane and continued on with our separate days. And as I drove off, I couldn’t help being slightly proud of the fact that I was just enough of a data-geek to have gotten the joke. But I had no idea at the time that this single message, posted inconspicuously on a stranger’s license plate, would continue to resonate with me for months following that day. Why was “8BITSME” so appealing to me? Aside from the obvious sentiment, of course LOL!

Taking Chances

I think the thing that struck me the most was that this guy (Mr. 8BITSME) took a chance. He submitted his personalized plate to ADOT knowing full well that the censors might recognize its meaning and reject it. But he also knew that there was a decent chance that his message might make it through…and out into the world. Besides, what was the worst that could have happened to him should he have been denied? He’d have to opt for another personalized message? No biggie. He clearly viewed the reward as far outweighing the risk, and so he went for it.

This made me think of one time in particular when I “went for it.” Perhaps it was because “8BITSME” appealed to the data-geek within, but I quickly drew a parallel between his message and a massive data-driven project that I had pitched internally to my company just a few years back. It was a pitch that outlined the firm’s need for a centralized CRM (Client Relationship Management) database. In all honesty, my initial pitch fell flat on its face. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I let my zeal for features overshadow the big picture benefits that the firm would realize.  

Rejection always stings a bit, and this one was no exception. It was a classic case of egg on my face, but it was still a risk that I was willing to take. And despite the initial outcome, I was still willing to “go for it” AGAIN. As it turns out, I actually learned quite a bit from that initial exchange; my subsequent CRM pitch was eventually escalated up through the ranks where it was finally accepted and approved at the Executive level. Fast forward to today: the company has a robust CRM system and I’ve gained valuable experience as the lead for a major corporate initiative.

As marketing professionals, we take chances like this every day…or at least, we should be. After all, it’s a key ingredient when paving the way for new ideas and initiatives, both big and small. We pitch them to internal and external Clients alike, all the while knowing that each idea (or campaign or proposal, etc.) will end in one of only two ways: Acceptance or Rejection. If we have done our jobs well, we go into the pitch with the odds already leaning in our favor, although there is rarely any guarantee on the outcome. On the other hand, we know with 100% certainty the outcome of not making the pitch at all. And so we go for it, just like Mr. 8BITSME did.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

Of course, just because you take a chance on a pitch doesn’t mean that everyone is going to “get” it. Maybe not right away, maybe not ever. Even if you put together the most eloquent pitch on the planet, you still run the risk of a miss. Let’s face it; some of your pitches are going to be lost on those who have neither the base-knowledge nor the perspective to see the bigger picture. This goes for on-going buy-in as much as it does for initial acceptance and approval. Just like the censors didn’t see “Byte Me” when they read the proposed personalized plate; just like 80% of the drivers stuck in traffic behind Mr. 8BITSME will miss its meaning.

Accept that not everyone will “get” it, but don’t let those who don’t share in your vision or see the bigger picture deter you from following it through to fruition. Let’s go back to the CRM pitch and subsequent implementation that I mentioned earlier. For those of you that have ever led a CRM implementation, you know that it represents an enormous undertaking. In fact, it might be one of the largest internal campaigns that you will ever be involved with. But getting everyone to agree on the need and the product (i.e. the initial pitch) are sometimes the easiest part of the whole campaign. Getting buy-in throughout the duration of the campaign? Not so much.

Establishing and maintaining buy-in on ANY lengthy campaign that you embark on (not just CRM) will try your patience, test your endurance and rattle your dedication to the long-term goals that you set forth at the onset. I remember all the tactics that I employed during the company’s CRM implementation that I hoped would clarify the bigger picture. Internal newsletters, regular GoToMeetings with focused user groups, travel training, user contests and everything in between. You name it; I probably tried it. But there was still a faction within the company that wasn’t “getting” it.

Although it was frustrating to say the least, I soon realized that it wasn’t their job to share the vision or even see the bigger picture…it was mine. And as the “man with the plan,” it was my job to see the project through to fruition. Of course, I didn’t abandon any of the tactics that I was utilizing. But I did make a conscious effort from that point on NOT to let the tactics, or the daily CRM minutia, or a handful of dubious employees distract me from the bigger picture. The campaign wasn’t just about a software roll-out; the campaign represented a cultural shift within the company.

Handling the Nay-Sayers

Naturally, when you’re working on a campaign that aims to shift more than a few fundamentals within a company, you will encounter no shortage of naysayers along the way. Whether they “get” it or not, there will always be individuals that just don’t like it. And you are sure to hear from them on this particular point frequently and with much fervor. And that’s OK. Be professional, be helpful…maybe even overly polite. But never ever let them get the best of you.

Naysayers occupy every level within a company, from Office Administrator all the way up to CEO. And because of this, you might stumble onto the occasional naysayer in some unexpected places. Be prepared with your quick-pitch, regardless of how it is received. You might find that you spend a great deal of time providing helpful tools that naysayers never intend to utilize; do it anyway. You might find that you spend a great deal of time having discussions with naysayers that seem completely pointless; do it anyway. You might even discover that the hard-core naysayers in the company have launched their own grass-roots internal campaign against yours; ignore it.

In your mind you must become an untouchable island, impervious to the effects of the naysayers. You must ignore their incessant doubts; you must resist being sucked into the vortex of negativity. But you can NEVER ignore theirneeds, because that’s the moment that you end up discrediting yourself and quite possibly your entire campaign. Instead, when you find yourself in the midst of naysayer hell, remember that for each one of them, there are probably twice as many individuals that believe in the cause...and maybe even you. Or you can do what sometimes do after having a face-to-face with a naysayer. Kindly thank them for their input, and after the door has closed behind them, mutter quietly to yourself, “8BITSME.”

 

About the Blogger:  Amy Villasana-Moore, CPSM is SMPS Arizona's 2015 Blog Chair, is a marketer and business developer, art and music enthusiast, fan of all animals, darkroom-trained photographer, recovering “workaholic” and movie buff.  She can meet you at the intersection of “strange” and “brew” and if the need arises, can have an entire conversation with you using only movie quotes.

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The Tao of Booth

According to Wikipedia, Tao or Dao is a Chinese concept signifying 'way, 'path,' 'route,' or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle.' Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of "life," that of which cannot be grasped full heartedly as just a concept but known nonetheless as the present living experience of one's everyday being.

My Dad was born back in 1932 at the tail end of the depression, making him part of the Silent Generation. Like so many other members of his generation, he had very simple expectations for life: get married, work a decent job, buy a house, have a couple of kids, and be happy that you have food on the table and a roof over your head. He was a man of few words, but a gentle heart.

At the age of 51, my Dad found himself weighing in at 285 pounds; he was hypertensive, had chest pains, was suicidal and was battling alcoholism. Needless to say, he was not at a good place in his life; he had hit that point where something had to give. And that’s when it happened…that’s when he found his Tao, setting out on a new path in life…literally.    

It took place on a decidedly unassuming day, while standing at the end of the driveway dressed in his usual uniform of Bermuda shorts and loafers. He was staring out into the sunset, just like he had every other day before. But this day was different somehow because all of a sudden, he pulled a Forrest Gump. Out of nowhere, he started jogging down the street. I suspect that it was not the sunset that he was staring into that day, but rather the abyss of his soul…or he “just felt like running.” But whatever the reason, that was the day that he found his bliss.

Within a year of that day, my Dad had successfully quit drinking, had run his first marathon AND had lost 50 pounds. Within two years, he had become an ultra-runner. And for those of you that don’t know, an ultra-run starts at 50 miles which turns a marathon (26.2 miles) into a short little training exercise. Talk about a turn-around! He was living it; the Tao of Booth.

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A change of this magnitude earns a person several hard-won lessons in life. And what my Dad learned was the zen that comes when it’s just you and the road for up to 24 hours. Hey, you tend to figure out a few things about life when there are no distractions in your way. So here they are...

Life Lesson #1: Don’t Miss Out on the Good Stuff.
Fast-forward 15 years from that day, and I was going through a few struggles of my own. I was raising a child by myself, struggling to build a career AND put food on the table, and desperately needing some Dad advice. But at this point, of course, the only way to catch him was to strap on a pair of sneakers and run with him.

So there we were, running down the trail together, when I asked the question. “Dad, what is the important stuff that I need to know about life?” He stopped running (which was extremely rare), and gave me one of those leveling “Dad” looks. And he said very simply, “I never wished that I had worked more. Your family can be fragile and work will always be there. Don’t miss out.”

Admittedly, I brushed it off a bit. Didn’t he know I HAD to work hard? But with more than 20 years behind me since that day, I can honestly tell you that my Dad was absolutely right. I don’t wish I had worked more. I missed out on so many things when my girl was growing up, and I can never get that time back. There’s no time like the present tomake time for the things in life that are truly important.

Life Lesson #2: Just Keep Moving Forward.
I kept up with running. Not only was it a great way to bond with my Dad but it also afforded me opportunities to blow off steam. Actually, I learned to love running. And several years later I was even bold enough to sign up for a marathon. But on the eve of my running debut, I found myself trying to come up with ways to back out of it. So I called my Dad for some much needed advice (again).

Here was his advice: “It will be hard and you will want to quit…many times. But the secret is to just keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter if you are running, walking, crawling bloody and battered; just keep moving forward and you will get there eventually.” This one piece of advice has kept me going through the highs and lows of my career and my life. No matter what, just keep moving forward.

Life Lessons #3: Endurance is everything. Be YOUR Best.
Dad continued to run until he was 75 years old. In fact, it wasn’t until he contracted a disease of the nervous system - making him unable to maintain his balance - that he actually stopped running (stubborn old dude!). In 2009, he passed away and we held a service; it was attended by lots of buddies from the ultra-running group that he had belonged to for 25 years. One of the best parts of the service was hearing them tell their stories about their adventures with him on 24-hour runs, runs through the desert that went on for days, etc. Then his best friend proceeded to tell the story of what it was like to train with Marche (my Dad).

You see, at least twice a week the group would run up the highest hill in town, each challenging the others to be faster. This is what he had to say about it. “Marche was huge compared to the rest of us. He wasn’t born with a runner’s body; he was never the fastest. We would always get to the top of the hill and rest while we waited for him. And when Marche would get up there, he would take one look at us all, mutter ‘wimps,’ and then head right back down. He had an iron will and the endurance of an ox.”

This is when I knew that I was truly my father’s daughter. Dad wasn’t there to compete with those skinny guys; he was there to be HIS best. Likewise, I don’t care to be the fastest.  I only care to compete with who I am today and focus on how I can be a better "me" tomorrow.  Combine that with an iron will and it can take you pretty far in life.

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Two days after his passing, my daughter ran her first half-marathon. As she crossed the finish line, I could see that iron-will look of determination on her face and I cried with pride. I am my father’s daughter, and she is her mother’s. I often envision my Dad running alongside others while offering silent encouragement on the trail to Lake Ilsanjo, leading to the very same hill that he used to run to the top of with his trail mates and the very same hill where his ashes now rest. Thanks for the wisdom, Dad. I can still hear you, loud and clear.

 

About the Blogger:  Deirdre Booth-Gilmore, CPSM is the owner and president of TankGirl Marketing. She’s a pretty average runner, but what she lacks in speed and grace, she makes up for in pure stubbornness. Her “just keep moving forward” philosophy was the impetus for opening TankGirl Marketing.

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The Imposter

When I was growing up, my absolute favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. I even dressed up as Dorothy for my fourth grade Halloween costume; blue smock, braids, straw basket and a small stuffed dog that barked when I squeezed it. But despite my love for the film, there was this one part that I never really cared for. And it is probably the most pivotal point in the movie. I’m referring to the scene when the Wizard, played by Frank Morgan, is revealed to be nothing more than a small old man behind a curtain. His threatening voice and stature - all his supposed power - turn out to be a façade of mechanical controls and sound effects. Even as a kid I remember being disappointed and confused. Not only did I think it was a little over the top; I also thought it was completely unnecessary, not to mention fairly cheesy, too. What a fake!

Of course, everyone’s heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it.” In other words, act like you know what you’re doing or act like someone that you’re not; just do it long enough to get through that meeting, that interview, or that dinner with the in-laws. And if you do it often enough, then the act eventually becomes your standard modus operandi. A simple and anecdotal solution to a complex problem. Now I’m no fan of the phrase, but I can’t deny that I’ve “been there and done that.” Often. In fact, I lived that phrase throughout the entirety of my first year in the A/E/C industry.

Fresh out of college; LITERALLY fresh out of the classroom. I graduated on a Friday and started my part-time Sales/Marketing Coordinator gig the following Monday. Sporting brand new dress slacks and a pair of sweaty palms, I was ready to do whatever a part-time sales and marketing coordinator was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that was. A week later and I was a wreck; I was scared out of my mind. My Pagemaker skills (yes, sadly, Pagemaker) were lackluster and I was seriously wishing that I had paid more attention in school when the class was learning how to do animations in PowerPoint. But perhaps the worst part of the week was admitting to the President of the company that I had absolutely no idea what a “debrief” was. I remember wondering why they even bothered to hire me…

As the lone marketer in the company, I did the only thing that I could think of to solve the problem. I faked it, in true Wizard-like style. I put up a curtain utilizing a barrage of research on best practices. And it worked! I got through my first year one day at a time, all the while assimilating the tricks of my trade. I learned how to conduct debriefs and I figured out what the difference was between an RFQ and an SOQ. 

However, even after several years in this industry, I still felt like a fake…like an imposter. I had developed a bad habit of downplaying my accomplishments in favor of casting the professional spotlight on to someone else…usually one of my technical peers. I also often found myself crediting the achievements that I did allow myself to claim as LUCK, pure and simple. I would tell myself that I had just been in “the right place at the right time.” I was actually an A/E/C Marketer, but everything in my psyche said that I was still faking it; it hadn’t occurred to me that I had actually made it.

In 1978, Oberlin psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term “impostor syndrome” to describe this very phenomenon. Those who suffer from this syndrome experience an unrelenting underlying feeling of being a fraud. In their mind, their accomplishments don’t equal what external observers see and they often end up working two to three times harder in order to avoid being discovered as less competent than others perceive them to be. Just like the Wizard did to stay in the Emerald City, they work their tails off to maintain the façade of success and secure the illusion of their mastery in a given field.

Does any of this ring true for you? And if so, have you ever really considered where these dark thoughts are coming from? Why do we punish ourselves so? I can’t really speak for other A/E/C marketers on this, but after some serious soul searching, here was my conclusion: my “imposter syndrome” was coming from comparing myself to the engineers and architects that I worked with. I had been measuring my own success in degrees of technical knowledge possessed by my “techie” counterparts. And it was only recently that I relented this parallel as unjust and inequitable.

As A/E/C marketers, our technical command lies in an entirely different arena; it lies within the realm of branding, messaging, communication, client relationships, visual design….fill in the blanks where applicable. Comparing ourselves to the architect in the office down the hall from us is just like comparing apples to oranges. The two are different. And if we focus our energy trying to be more like them and less like us, then we come up short in both scenarios…and as imposters on both fronts. So, what’s the answer?

Enter at stage right, our very own SMPS; the yellow brick road in this analogy. As marketers, all we really have to do is follow the path to the Emerald City, unearthing professional truths, collecting allies and conquering inner demons along the way. I was lucky to find SMPS early on in my career and was elated when I learned that being surrounded by other marketers actually caused that pesky “imposter syndrome” to fade, albeit incrementally. I had found a group of my own and was collaborating with individuals that were traveling the same path. And I began to feel less like a fraud and more like myself. I was creating a new definition of professional success. It was therapy, straight up SMPS-style.

I now know that there are SO MANY definitions of success in the A/E/C marketing world, and as a result, my personal definition has evolved over the years. In the beginning of my career, it was as simple as getting through an industry networking event without breaking out in hives. Several years later, success meant earning my CPSM certification. For others, it may be launching a new branding initiative, implementing a new CRM system, mastering a new skill in Creative Suite, becoming an SMPS Fellow or being awarded the coveted Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award. ROI, of course, is the ultimate measure of success for A/E/C firms. And mapping out a plan to achieve my goals has always translated over as a benefit to my employers.

These days, I have more compassion for the Wizard; he really thought that he couldn’t achieve fame and fortune as a magician in Oz without faking it. I can relate. I felt the same way that first day on the job as an industry newbie; that same day that I suddenly realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. But I also feel sad for the Wizard. After all, despite all his gadgets and gizmos, he had actually achieved his status as the Wizard himself…even if he had the help of a few witches along the way. He was a legitimate success in the Land of Oz, but he never recognized it and he never allowed himself to enjoy it…

Over time, I have had to learn how to shake off the effects of “imposter syndrome” and have come to embrace my qualities as a marketer. I now own my successes as well as my failures. I am also much more confident in who I am and where my place is in the A/E/C universe. I still question myself sometimes and I still tend to pass along kudos before accepting praise. But I no longer feel like I’m “faking it.” I may have to remind myself every day, but I’m now a big believer in the importance of pulling back the curtain, revealing my strengths (and weaknesses), and recognizing the value that I provide as a marketer.

 

About the Blogger:  Maureen Varela, CPSM, is Marketing Manager for Pulice Construction, Inc. and 2014-2015 Publicity Director for SMPS Arizona. She and her husband are owned by two rescue dogs and spend their free time in pursuit of the best hunting, fishing, hiking, and kayaking spots that Arizona has to offer. As a transplant to the Valley of the Sun, she believes in the power of family and friends, good neighbors, and rainy days.

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Beatblogger's Brain is getting recharged...

Phoenix weather:  hot, hotter and hotter than hell LOL!  With temperatures reaching 115 degrees, I think it's safe to say that most of our brains are reaching their boiling points.  We're feverish and flustered and the summer has only just begun.  So how about a quick recharge?    BeatBlogger could certainly use one.  But it won't be for too long...posting will resume next week (06/30/2015) with more original content to get you through our seemingly endless summer.

In the meantime, if you have any comments, thoughts or ideas that you want our readership to consider, feel free to post them below!

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THE “SLEUTH” METHOD

It’s an age old adage for a professional services marketer:  you want to blow that agency/client out of the water, but you’re not a technical professional.  You don’t know all there is to know about roadway geometry, wastewater treatment plants, or architectural design.  Unfortunately (for you), “all there is to know” is exactly what you need to win the job.  That means you’re going to need a lot of help from one of the technical folks if you want a shot at the masterpiece in your head. 

You convince yourself that this is not an obstacle.  After all, your main “techie” has been in communication with this agency/client for a while and has known about the upcoming project for some time.  AND he keeps telling you that the RFP/Q is coming out soon and that you should be ready.  Nevertheless, as soon as it hits the streets, the man up and vanishes like a fart in the wind.  Nothing left but a collection of red pens on the table.  You are tempted to check for escape routes hidden behind that ever rotating set of plans that he has been using as office art for the last two decades.   

Understanding Your Target
Technical people are a peculiar species when examined through the lens of marketing.  While marketers focus on making their firm known and understood, “techies” focus on quality deliverables.  No doubt, our core motivators are different.  But there are some parallels between us.  Like marketing professionals, “the techie” works on deadlines.  And like marketers, they are very busy folks.  It’s just that the “tech specimen” is busy solving technical problems; that’s the stuff that s/he really likes to do. 

The idea of stopping to take part on a proposal is just about as appealing to “techies” as serving five to ten in Leavenworth.  Most of the time, a proposal is nothing more than a “necessary evil” that must be completed in order for them to keep doing the things that they like to do (i.e. building roads, designing buildings, running an HEC-RAS drainage model, etc.).  For “techies,” a proposal is like some strange form of marketing bribery; paid on demand to keep “the heat” off their back.  No wonder they get particularly busy when it comes time to collaborate with marketing…   

But if you understand what motivates a “techie,” then you can use that perspective to your advantage.   To entice your technical staff to participate in proposal preparation (and well in advance of the due date), a slick marketer will figure out how to create problems that their “techies” will enjoy solving.  This harmless form of entrapment should prompt them into demonstrating their technical abilities and prowess.  Before they know it, they have unwittingly been lured into committing the ultimate offense.    They have committed…MARKETING.    

Setting the Trap
So now that it’s time to lure those technical folks into helping you, what do you do?  Chase them down, lock them in a room and “good cop, back cop” them, right?  WRONG!  A figurative strong-arming will only solidify your “techie’s” resolve to lawyer up and ignore you (and the proposal) for as long as possible.  What you really need to do is set a trap and reel them in.  Simply put, you need to start writing the technical components to that proposal yourself. What?!?!?  Yeah, you heard me right. Hey, you didn’t think it was all up to them, did you?  Besides, crafting a trap takes some planning and forethought if you want it to be effective. 

If it’s a project approach that you need, then use your own refined, not-too-techie, but surely creative problem solving skills to come up with an initial draft.  Dig into the resources that you already have.  Rummage through old project approaches, search the internet, ask a friend, call your mentor.  Do whatever you need to do to come up with something that might pass for a decent approach.  Waste of time? Not really...and here’s why.

Have you ever met an engineer, contractor or architect that doesn’t just love his/her red pen? In fact, they don’t just love those things; they are sure to have at least a dozen nearby, just in case the menu at a restaurant needs to be revised.  They are the ones making sure that the waiter knows that the wrong entrée has been listed on the buffet sign.  And at dinner parties, they are the ones correcting the name cards should there be a misspelling.  In their never-ending quest to create a better and more perfect world, they search out things that they can fix.  And this, my friends, is your ticket to setting an irresistible trap. 

Sealing Their Fate
To ensure that your “techie” actually takes the bait, you’ll want to misspell something right at the start of your newly crafted project approach.  This should really get them going. Doing this is akin to staging a murder within the first two pages of a suspense novel; it will suck them in and they won’t be able to put the draft down.  That red pen will start working and their brain will start churning, and all of the information that you had been looking for will miraculously stream out of them in a flood of red lines that would make one of the pages in that murder mystery novel look tame. 

Your “techie” now feels obligated to help you (an obviously naïve marketer) understand the complex world that is technical project management.  Never mind that maybe you have been at this for a while and that you may have learned a few things along the way.   Now you will be graced with the knowledge that you have been lacking for so long.  And because your “techie” has worked so hard to establish a strong relationship with the client, s/he will wantto make sure that everything the client reads is clear, concise, and above all, accurate. The proposal must be perfect, and s/he will take it upon themselves to make sure that happens.  And that’s when you know you’ve GOT them.  That’s when they have sealed their own fate, having actively participated in the convictable crime that is…MARKETING.

Celebrating Your Victory
But there’s no need to alert them to this fact; there’s no need for them to ever be made aware that they were the unwitting accomplice in the marketing scheme known as “proposal submission.”  You have what you need to finish today’s proposal and your stealthy methods remain cloaked to your unsuspecting target.  Or should I say, asset?  Now don your most sinister of hats and trench coats; it’s time to pack up and hit the road for a much deserved cold beer, glass of champagne or tasty cocktail.  Congratulations, you did it again!   

Note:  As many of you know, being a marketer in the A/E/C industry is part writer, part cat-herder and part detective. We also know that technical folks aren’t the only ones who can solve problems.  We've got skills; mad skills....supersneaky skills.  Like the “sleuth” method...which works for everything from project approaches, project/key staff experience and cover letters to any other part of the proposal document.  It can also work with time cards, employee reviews, or whatever else isn’t getting done. Make sure to pass this along to anyone who struggles with this age old problem.

 

About the Blogger:  Supporting a staff of over 120 certainly keeps Laura Turiano on her toes. To balance the load, she decompresses by spending time with her husband, 6-year-old son and beloved yellow lab. It seems that her son is in training as a stand-up comic, which keeps the family in stitches most of the time. Laura considers herself a Ninja when tracking down engineers and surveyors and even takes this skill home with her from time to time.  She sometimes dreams of being a rock star, but with very little musical talent, feels grateful for a more simple life.

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