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Top 10 Tradeshow Essentials for Success

Tradeshows generate income and improve the bottom dollar. Tradeshows are a great way to meet new prospects, connect with clients, position your firm as experts in the market and gather competitive intelligence. Unfortunately, we often see firms spend thousands upon thousands on tradeshows, without maximizing their time and money to ensure top results. In the past two decades of exhibiting at tradeshows and conferences, I have learned a lot of lessons – most of them the hard way.

Here are my Top 10 Tradeshow Essentials for Success:


Make some goals. Every solid plan starts with clear goals in writing. Goals guide important decisions, helping you determine the best decisions on everything from booth placement to giveaways and provide a yardstick to assess whether the tradeshow was ‘successful.’ Some sample goals could include:

  • Get at least 20 genuine prospects.
  • Ask customers 3 specific things about their business or buying habits.
  • Find 10 good recruiting prospects
  • Talk with 10 industry leaders.

Set a schedule.
Remember, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Create a schedule for everything from securing your exhibit space, to producing pre- and event-marketing materials, including the day of set-up, etc.


You have 3 seconds. Three seconds is about all you get to attract attention with your booth space. You need to decide what your message is early on, and use it often and consistently.  Hint: a photo collage of all your past projects is not a message. The goal is to get people to stop, not to explain everything about who you are and what you do.


Send a personal invitation. Reach out to clients and prospects ahead of time to let them know that you will be exhibiting and give them a good reason to stop by. Direct mail can, and does, work in this instance. Offer something cool and expensive at your booth, but only if they bring the postcard to you. Then, because you collect their card, you have their contact info to follow up later. Don’t forget to put provide your booth number! Emails work as well because you can use the tradeshow’s name in the subject of the email inspiring people to likely read your email blast.

Promote the show. Add a line to everyone’s email signature with the show info and your booth number. If you have a giveaway or something else interesting, say that, too.

Make a date. Set up meetings ahead of time with existing customers, new targets, vendors, editors/publishers and potential alliances.


Location, location, location. Pick your booth location wisely. Think about how people move through a show. They have to pass by end caps, are likely to visit the restrooms, and will gather at food stations. Be in their way. Also, avoid being clustered with your competitors, and try to be adjacent to teaming/project partners.

It’s all about the design. How is your design conveying your one message? How is it showing the unique offerings of your firm? Attendees will see a ton of booths, all essentially identical. You have to do something different. It doesn’t have to be amazingly unique, just different.


Everybody loves swag, right? No! Most of us have many pieces of useless plastic. Try and relate your swag to your message. For example, if you tout technology, don’t have basic pens and notepads – have a cool techy device instead.

Moving pictures work. We tend to look at moving images, especially when they’re bright. Your booth should have a big monitor or a bright projector using video to tell your story. And remember, your story isn’t all of your past projects/experience, it is bigger than that. It should be focused on your UX or unique selling position.


Plan on at least three people to staff the booth. One person should be walking around and going to meetings, and two people at the booth consistently allows for busy times, restocking items, and taking breaks. Most attendees don’t want to talk to sales people; they want to geek out with their peers so make sure you have staff ‘working the room.’

Invest in some pre-tradeshow training. Just because staff have attended a conference before, don’t assume they know what is expected of them when exhibiting (as well as attending). Go over the expectations with staff, review the tradeshow plan with them (see #1 on this list). Take the time to honestly assess if they have the business development skills needed to do well as an exhibitor. In other words, don’t put your most introverted person in the booth just because they are the subject matter expert. If they need to be there, pair them with seasoned business developers and marketers who will help them make connections.


Have a pick-up line. What gets people to stop? To laugh? To say, “Ok, fair enough, tell me more.” Test your pitch all show long. After the 100th pitch, you’ll know exactly what gets people’s attention — now put that on your marketing materials! Your opening line should engage them with something you specifically have to offer. Do some research and develop 3-5 questions that you’re going to ask of people who walk by the booth, then ask away.

Ask questions. Instead of constantly pitching to prospects, have a real conversation. Be genuinely interested in the other person — what do they do, what are they interested in.  If you’re good, they will actually ask you for a pitch as a form of reciprocation.  Don’t ask how they’re doing.

Take names instead of pushing brochures. How often do you dump all of the printed materials you received before you head back home? Do you think your prospects are any different? Scan their badge or get a business card and mail them something after the show.  Remember quality over quantity; if you take their info vs handing them materials, you now have a reason to follow up with them with materials that are customized to their unique issues that, obviously, only you can solve.

Wear comfortable shoes. Stand, don’t sit —sitting looks like you don’t want to be there. Get your body into the aisle. Just because there’s a table there doesn’t mean you have to stand behind it.

Use the time to gather competitive intelligence. Walk the floor and talk to everyone. You can commiserate about how the show is going and how it compares to others. Scope out the competition.

Build your own party. Who can resist free booze and free food? Rent a room at or near the conference site with wine, beer, and basic food. Pass out invites at the show and on your pre-show mailers.


Take notes. You’ll talk to 100s of people: write it down within 10 minutes. How often do you finish a conversation and then can barely recall it? Use their business card to take notes on what you discussed as soon as possible. Use LinkedIn every night to follow up with contacts quickly.

Have a system for lead tracking and train all your staff on how to use it. You have likely spent thousands of dollars to exhibit, make sure you get your money’s worth by tracking all of the contacts you have made and any
potential leads. This is the #1 missed opportunity at tradeshows and the #1 reason why you are there.

*Sample tracking tools: CRM database, card scanner, tablet, or a simple lead sheet.


If you don’t plan for an emergency, the likelihood of it happening is 10x greater (note this is not scientific, rather based on personal experience). Prepare a tradeshow emergency supply Box of Everything. Here is a starting list for you:

  • Pens (multiple, different colors)
  • Sharpie
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • Zip ties
  • Extension cord
  • Batteries
  • Electric plug bar
  • Post-it notes
  • Rubber bands
  • Tiny stapler
  • Highlighter
  • Paper clips
  • Scissors
  • All-in-one tool (screwdriver, can opener)
  • Medicine (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, Dayquil, etc.)
  • Generic business cards (in case anyone runs out)


The key to getting your money’s worth from exhibiting at a tradeshow is to capitalize on every encounter there. Sadly, more often than not, firms return to the office after a show and get right back to business as usual. It is not surprising, you all have been out of the office for days and there is work piling up! Really, what is the point of all of that time and money if you do nothing with what you learned at the show?

External tasks. The marketing department can do a direct email campaign with lessons learned at the conference, who won your giveaway, or just a Thanks for stopping by email. This is a good time to get prospects integrated into your marketing process. Your business development team should be scheduling follow-up meetings, making CRM entries and sending any follow up information that was promised.

Internal tasks. Don’t forget to debrief internally to improve your processes and make decisions on next year’s attendance. Did you meet your stated goals? Why or why not? What could you do differently?  Also discuss the competitive intelligence you gathered (see #7 on this list). And lastly, apply what you learned. You talked to many firms, pitching a hundred different ways. What did you learn?  How can you use it to improve your firm?

Deirdre Gilmore, CPSM
Founder of Tank Girl Marketing and Co-founder of TGM Development
Deirdre is a Certified Professional Services Marketer who understands all aspects of marketing, from business development through research and operations. She specializes in setting strategies, business and marketing planning, training and coaching, strategic project pursuits, strategy, and brand development.  Deirdre sits on the board of the Arizona Association of Economic Development and received their Member of the Year Award in 2015. Furthermore, Tank Girl Marketing won three SMPS marketing communications awards. When not fulfilling her duties as Sergeant Strategy, Deirdre enjoys spending time with family and traveling the world.

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Five Best Practices for AEC Websites

Having designed hundreds of websites over the past 20+ years, we’ve seen significant changes in website standards and best practices. However, having looked at a large number of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firm websites, we’ve noticed that many are not keeping pace with these changes. If your goal is to attract and engage new clients, you can’t underestimate the role your website can play in this process. Whether potential clients find your firm through referrals, networking or online searches, your website is often the first (or close second) impression they have of your firm.

Whenever we evaluate a website, there are five best practices that we consider first:

1. Website Load Speed/Performance
2. Mobile Responsiveness
3. SSL Security
4. Search Engine Optimized Content
5. A Clear and Engaging Homepage Message

Before you say, “Wait a minute! What about design or style,” yes, of course these factors are also important. However, if your visitors leave your site before they have a chance to notice the design or style, what good is it? The five factors we focus on are directly related to the initial experience visitors have on your site. We also know that these are some of the same critical factors that Google uses to rank your website in search results. Let’s look at each in more detail.

1. Website Load Speed/Performance

What do we measure?
How much time does it take to load your homepage in a visitor's browser on their computer or mobile device?

Why is this important?
Research shows that many visitors will leave your site if it does not load within a few short seconds. A load speed of less than 3 seconds is ideal. We also know that Google considers load speed a critical factor for ranking websites in search results. Your website performance is affected by many factors, including the speed of your server, the plugins installed on your site, and other technical issues. For AEC firms, one of the most common problems is high-resolution, full-screen project images, which can reduce site performance to a crawl.

What improvements can you make?
Photoshop and apps like Squash help you resize and compress images before uploading them to your website. Large, full-screen images should be no larger than 1500 pixels on the longest edge, and file sizes should be compressed to less than 200 KB.

2. Mobile Responsiveness

What do we measure?
Does your website layout properly adapt to different screen sizes on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computer screens? 

Why is this important?
Nearly everyone has a mobile device these days. According to mobile internet search traffic is outpacing that of personal computers and is forecast to continue growing. In 2017, Google recognized mobile responsiveness as a top criteria for search result rankings. More and more people work outside the office from their mobile devices. If your website is difficult to read or use on a mobile device, they are very likely to leave.

What improvements can you make?
Review your website on different sized devices. If you find it difficult to read or navigate, then it's time to consult your website designer to make some changes.

3. Secured Socket Layer (SSL) Security

What do we measure?
Does your website have a Secured Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate, which allows secure connections from a web server to a visitor’s web browser?

Why is this important?
Unsecured websites are more prone to hacking, malware, and other attacks. Starting in July 2018, Google began penalizing (i.e. lowering a site’s search ranking), and in some cases, blocking access to unsecured websites Imagine how potential clients might react to seeing this alert come up when they visit your website.

What improvements can you make?
Visit your site. Check the URL in the browser address bar. If your site is properly secured, the URL will start with https://. If you see http:// then your site is not secure and you need to contact your web designer to install an SSL Certificate.

4. Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Content 

What do we measure?
How well does your site rank for relevant search terms, compared to your competitors? This is your search engine ranking.

Why is this important?
Getting found online is critical for attracting new clients. When your website copy and content is properly optimized for search engine ranking, you appear higher in search results and get found more easily by potential new clients.

What improvements can you make?
Many factors can affect your search ranking, including the use of relevant keywords and properly written content on your site. Regularly update your site to continually improve your search ranking.

5. A Clear and Engaging Homepage Message

What do we measure?
Does your homepage answer the three important questions critical to engaging new visitors? Those questions are:

  • What does your firm do and who do you do it for?
  • What key "pain point" do you resolve?
  • What is the next step to move forward?

Why is this important?
Your website should introduce visitors to your firm and bring them to in-depth content that will answer their questions. If your homepage messaging does not convince them to go further, they will leave.

What you can do?
Take time to ensure that your homepage clearly and concisely answers The Grunt Test. (Could a caveman understand what you offer?) A clear message is your best opportunity to engage and convert new website visitors.

Ready to Take Action and Take Control of your Success?

It's important to have a website that connects and engages with prospective clients. The five essential factors we’ve covered are critical to your online marketing success! Following the best practices we’ve outlined, you’ll rank better in search, attract more traffic, and bring visitors deeper into your site.

Bryon McCartney
Chief Idea Guy & Managing Partner, Archmark Branding & Marketing
Bryon has been in the marketing and branding industry for more than 30 years and has worked with AEC firms for 20.  His past experience includes professional photographer and video producer where he completed assignments around the world.  When not working, Bryon enjoys golf, traveling, and building with Legos. If you’d like to know how your website measures up, get your own website evaluation, FREE for SMPS Arizona members by emailing Bryon at You’ll get a detailed review of your website and concrete steps you can take to improve it.

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Live Deliberately! - 3 Ways to Raise Your Level of Fulfillment and Happiness at Work (and in life) in 2019!

It is that time of year. For many of us, it is a time of excitement, goals, and resolutions. A NEW BEGINNING! Or maybe it is just another day at the office… If this describes you, feel free to move on to the next post on the web. This post is for those of us that, for better or worse, ring in the New Year with almost a child-like feeling of anticipation.  “This is my year!”  “I know I still have that gym membership, and Thigh Master that got used twice, but this year, by golly, is going to be different!” If you are anything like me, you start each New Year out with the best intentions, but it doesn’t take long for those intentions to get pushed to the back burner or off the stove completely. What’s up with that? Why is it so hard to do something that we want to do? Life, work, family, friends, pets, Netflix always seem to get in the way.

So what is the solution? How do you break the cycle of unmet goals and unfulfilled potential? Below are three simple, but not necessarily easy, things you can do to make 2019 your best year yet.

1. Live Deliberately! 

A few years ago I woke up on New Year’s Day and made a decision to “Live Deliberately.” I wasn’t sure what that meant specifically at the time, but I realized that no one else was responsible for my happiness. Not my boss, co-workers, wife, kids, and not the 1,879,652 drivers on the 6-mile section of Interstate 10 that I happen to be on. I took ownership of my life, and stopped playing the victim. I decided that I was going to do the things that I wanted to do, not what I thought I was supposed to do. Which brought me to three very big questions:

  • “What do you want?”
  • “What is your definition of success?”
  • “What makes you happy?”

I believe that the vast majority of people do not know the real answer to those questions. Sure we can all come up with an answer if pressed. A healthy family, a secure job, a nice car, the corner office, money, become partner, work life balance (whatever that means), and so on. Those are all great, but what I have found is that most people answer what we have been educated and trained to think since the day we were born. In order to get what you want, be successful, and happy, we first must know what the real answers to those questions are. And only one person has them. You. So ask yourself these questions and start searching for your answers. What we want today may not be what we want in the future. The key is to be deliberate about what you do, the decisions you make, and the goals that you set. If something isn’t moving you closer to your goals, then you should probably ask yourself why are you doing it, and reevaluate. Take responsibility for your happiness and success. There is nothing more fulfilling.

2. Manage Your Thoughts

Depending on what research you read, we have between 12,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Or if you have ADHD like me, it could be approaching 200,000+ thoughts per day. Studies have also shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative. Well that’s a bummer. Maybe not. We are actually hardwired to go to the negative for one important reason. STAYING ALIVE! So if we can’t control what thoughts come into our head and the majority of the thoughts that we have are negative, what are we supposed to do? Luckily, in 2019 most of us live in a world where there isn’t something trying to eat us or really even harm us every time we step outside of the house. Therefore, we can train our brain to dial back that immediate fight or flight response. Not eliminate it, but just make it take a quick pause.

When a thought enters the brain, one of three things can happen. 1) The thought is acted on. 2) The thought is sent to another (higher more cognitive) part of the brain and expanded on, debated, analyzed, stored, and countless other options. 3) The thought is dismissed as not useful and discarded. In his bestselling book Infinite Possibilities, Mike Dooley says that “Thoughts become things, so choose good ones.” This very well may be the most powerful advice ever given. A person that can train their mind to focus on the positive aspect of any situation is almost certain to be happier than someone who is mired in negativity. Positive people tend to create their own luck. They find beauty in places that most do not. Opportunities of all kinds present themselves to people that are more positive. The Law of Attraction states that what an individual focuses on is what will come to them. If this theory is even remotely true then learning to manage your thoughts and being deliberate about what you focus on is at the foundation of achieving any goal. Spend most of your time focused on why something WILL work, instead of why it won’t. Try it for a week and tell me it doesn’t make a difference.

3. Embrace the Contrast

Edgar Allan Poe said “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

Life is an adventure! And no matter what anyone says, sometimes it’s hard. In fact, the moment you wake up in the morning there are thousands of forces out there that are trying to mess up your day! Traffic, the wrong coffee order, someone parked in your space… It’s not personal. The Universe doesn’t hate you. It is just the way life is. How you choose to deal with the obstacles and challenges is completely up to you. And that is key. You can’t expect to get smarter without studying. How can you get stronger without exercising, pushing yourself, stretching your limits.

Understand and accept that sometimes bad things are going to happen and realize that without the bad times you would not appreciate the good times. I am not saying not to get angry, frustrated, sad, or any other negative emotion that arises when bad times come. Those feelings and emotions are real and part of the coping and healing process and should be acknowledged. What I am saying is accept that nothing is perfect, learn from the bad times, find the good in it, and move on. Don’t stay in the negative space for one minute more than you need to.

Make 2019 your best year yet by choosing to live deliberately, focusing on positive thoughts, and learning from and understanding that there will be bumps in the road.

Matt Connor, CPSM
Owner, Coach Connor Consulting
Matt has over 25 years of marketing and business development experience which he shares with others through his speaking and coaching consulting firm, which he founded in 2017.  Matt is a past president of the Houston Chapter of SMPS and has been a member for 17 years.  As his motto is "If we aren't having fun, then why are we doing it?" it's no suprise his free time is spent with friends and family, playing soccer and dancing.

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2018 Year at a Glance: Were You a Wrecker or a Builder?

Ah yes, the new year. A clean slate. The season where we gorge on tasty treats, resulting in some extra insulation to keep us warm during the cold winter months (the irony is not lost on me...I live in Phoenix). Or maybe you were one of the rare creatures able to resist the candied pecans and pumpkin pie (are you out there, mystery person? Do you even exist?). The end of a year always begs for a moment of reflection. You may be asking yourself questions like 'did I accomplish my goals?' or 'What are my ambitions for next year?' Maybe you're already making a list and checking it twice, saying quietly to yourself, 'this year will be different'.

I'm going to propose a new perspective of reflection. A new question to ask yourself: Was I a builder or a wrecker? The question stems from a very old poem 'Builder or a Wrecker' (posted in full below). In it, the writer dubs a builder as a person who: 'works with care, measuring life by the rule and square...shaping my deeds by a well-made plan, patiently doing the best I can.' Versus a wrecker who: 'walks the town content with the labor of tearing down'.

Now, I'm no fool. You said you were a builder, didn't you? Of course you did. Nobody wants to be a wrecker. Nobody likes that guy. But you know what? Wreckers don't call themselves that either - they think they are builders. Take a real moment to ask yourself:

  • Did your interactions with other people build them up or did you cause them to second guess themselves?
  • Do people come to you for advice, or do they flinch when they hand you something to review?
  • When you accomplish a goal do you take the time to recognize the team of people who helped you achieve it?
  • Do you encourage or discourage others?

A wrecker undermines growth. They discourage and dispirit whether subtle or overt, whether through words or actions. We've all had moments where we've been a wrecker. As we reflect on our year, we should revisit these instances and ask ourselves how we could have been builders; the ultimate goal is to take those lessons with us into the new year.

A builder empowers themselves and those around them. They encourage and educate, whether subtle or overt, through actions or through words. In reflecting on instances when we have been builders, we should take note on the outcomes of those occasions and measure stock in those successes.

As we head into the new year, brimming with opportunities and challenges, we can go into it with the single question navigating our way: Do you want to be a wrecker, or do you want to be a builder?

Taryn Harbert
Brand Specialist, Rider Levett Bucknall
Taryn has been a member of SMPS for three years and currently serves on the Publicity Committee.  She is also a published author.  When not writing fiction, essays or poetry, Taryn enjoys reading fiction, thrillers, suspense and horror novels.  She is in training for her first ultra marathon race. 

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Leave Your Comfort Zone - Why Career Change is Healthy and Necessary

People often say that change is hard, but that it’s a good thing. Others like to say how change can be great for growth. I once read–pretty sure on a fortune cookie in fact– that “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. Most of these sayings are clichés to highlight the fact you are doing something unfamiliar and new. For me, it’s highlighting the fact that I was choosing to leave the side of the AEC industry that I had known the longest and where I got my start. And I was doing it in the middle of my career.

This no doubt has created a lot of questions amongst my peers ranging from “Why would you want to switch?” to “Do you know what you’re doing?” to “Don’t business development people just golf all day? Because you’re terrible at golf.” That latter part is true of course, but I’d like to think I am like most people who find themselves in a business development or marketing role in the AEC industry. Namely, how did I get here? The AEC industry wasn’t a career path that many were exposed to during undergrad in the marketing, communications, or business schools. And this was before social media or the internet were things. At 22, I was a prelaw major planning to become an attorney and work for a sports franchise. My career plan B was to become a meteorologist. So clearly, the engineering industry, let alone construction, wasn’t on my list of options.

After I relocated to Arizona, I was lucky that my first real job out of college was for a large engineering firm based in the Midwest. Fast forward several years and after taking a range of twist and turns, riding out the recession, chasing my professional sports marketing career for a minute, I found myself at 39 at a position and company that I liked. But I also felt I needed and wanted to do something different professionally. I just didn’t have a clue what it was. I knew I liked aspects of the engineering industry, but I was gravitating towards a relationship-based, sales-based role. I didn’t dislike the company I worked for (it’s still annually listed on Fortunes’ 100 Best Companies to Work For List) and I still have many friends, mentors, and now clients there. But it simply wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted something new.

A friend of mine last year was laid off from his firm after downsizing and yet just a few months later found himself in an entirely new career but in the same industry. I asked him how he landed where he was and he said he reached out to a mentor of his who gave him the task of creating 10 things he would want in a job, regardless of industry or pay. And once he could determine what that was, his search became easy because he could quickly determine his options. It’s an interesting question to answer when you are free from any constraints and can draft a job description of your choosing. But finding a role that I thought would be challenging and rewarding while also allowing me to do what I felt I was good at was going to be fruitless without a plan. I recently attended a Fiesta Bowl event and heard Coach Herm Edwards say “A goal without a plan is a wish”. And that has stuck with me since.

Since I made the move, I’ve been asked what I would have done differently, if anything. And what is the most challenging thing about switching industries. The easier of these two questions is the latter. Mainly the hardest thing is learning the entire company history and project resume to sell it. This is by no means unique to me but it has been my biggest challenge. Well that and figuring out how to do my timesheet. But I’ve realized that’s a “Kirk thing” as I’m consistently bad about it no matter where I work. As for what I would have done differently. Honestly the answer to that is nothing. The path, direction, and way my career path has progressed and evolved, I think, is exactly how it was supposed to go. I’m grateful for the time, mentors, and relationships I was able to make while on the engineering side of the industry. My time on that side has given me an advantage that is unique in the industry. There are however questions or brainstorming activities I wish I would have known to ask myself when I started this process. 

Brainstorming Activities for Career Change

  1. What do you think you are good at?
  2. What is most important to you in a career? (Rank your answers accordingly.)
  3. Would you be able to take a pay cut to make a career change?
  4. Who are your mentors that will give you honest feedback?

What I learned through this process was that I liked the development aspect of the industry the most. And I enjoyed connecting and helping people. It’s now been five months since I decided to leave my comfort zone and join The Weitz Company as their Senior Business Development Manager. The change has been exceptionally fast-paced and I’m learning an entirely new side of the AEC industry. You may have read a blogpost on this same site that referenced learning what you don’t know. That more than anything was one of the primary drivers for me to switch. For me to grow professionally, I needed a new challenge, see new ways of doing business, and learn from new people. And as a creature of habit, trying something new not only fulfilled a professional goal but a personal one as well.

Kirk Fonfara
Senior Business Development Manager, The Weitz Company
Kirk has been in the AEC industry for 15 years and with his current firm for 6 months. He is actively involved with 9 committees through out the commercial real estate industry including NAIOP, ULI and the Fiesta Bowl.  When not on the golf course in his BD role, Kirk enjoys watching golf and football.  He is proud to have been at Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs won a World Series Game.


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From Marketer to CEO – Focus on the Big Picture for a Big Career

A lot of people think I had a well-executed plan to get to the CEO position, but the truth is, I didn’t really. Don’t get me wrong, I knew where I wanted to go in my career, but if I had to map out an actual plan, well, I probably would have failed harder than I actually have in the past. Here is the reality – I love my job, I love every part of it, the good and the bad, the fun and the boring. When I’m working, I’m not really working. When someone tells me to shut off and go on vacation, I really just go to a different place and have fun, while working along the way. I’m not saying you have to constantly be working to get to CEO, but in my personal experience, you always need to be thinking about what is next and act on those thoughts. I have always had well thought out goals to get to where I wanted to go. I’ve been learning as I go but thinking back, there are a few big picture items that have helped get me to where I am today.

7 Actionable Ideas for Thinking Big

1. You don’t know what you don’t know – learn what you don’t know.
Every single person knows something you don’t know and the only way you will learn what you don’t know is to listen, listen more, and listen often. You will never know everything.

2. Embrace your weaknesses, emphasize your strengths.
Sometimes I think I know my weaknesses better than my strengths. I know when I’m not suited to a specific task and will surround myself with people that will do said task much better. On the flip side, I know what I’m good at and will insert myself where I think my ideas will be well-received.

3. Set time aside to sit and think.
The general rule of thumb is you have to be “producing” if you want to be a leader, but in fact the opposite is true. Think about the challenges facing your firm, the big picture, making your leadership team stronger, etc. The key to thinking is that you have you do it uninterrupted – so walk your dog, sit on your patio, or find a park bench and start the wheels turning.

4. Say you’re going to do something and then do it.
Novel concept; but it turns out that following through is one of the simplest ways to be a leader. Say what you are going to do. Do it. Follow-up. Simple. The amount of credibility you gain by following through is huge, as is the amount you lose when you don’t do what you say you will do.

5. Have a plan, not excuses.
I fully admit I stole this line from a billboard, but it’s so true in this thing we call our careers. I’ve created plenty of plans only to have them fail, then I would make an excuse. About five years ago, I stopped making excuses and instead started adjusting and continuing to move forward. Turns out if you don’t throw your hands in the air and admit defeat, people accept changes to a plan to get back on track.

6. Take care of yourself.
If you would have told me five years ago that I would be waking up to go to a 5:00 AM workout, I would have laughed and called you crazy. Yet, here I am, waking up in the early morning hours to get a workout in, knowing that if I wait until the afternoon I would slowly lose control of my day and miss boxing or yoga. Exercise gives me energy and an hour to myself where I am completely disconnected. I plan every day around my workout.

7. Be present.
It took me six years of lying on a yoga mat to grasp this concept. Our jobs can get overwhelming at times. As my firm goes through this Leadership transition, I’m often finding myself taking part in leadership decisions for the firm, having lunch with a client, and reviewing a proposal all in one day. It got overwhelming at one point, until I took a tip from my yoga instructor and just focused on the task at hand, took a deep breath, and moved onto the next moment.

Grenee Celuch
Vice President, Concord General Contracting
Grenee is currently Vice President of Concord General Contracting and will be transitioning to CEO January 2020.  She has been with Concord for 12 years and part of the AEC industry for 15. Grenee is obsessed with the podcast “How I Built This” and listens whenever she is in her car. She finds the stories of people who built wildly successful companies from nothing fascinating!  When not car bound, she loves to travel anywhere and everywhere.

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Pop Up Best Practices Inspired by Beyonce

Employing pop ups on your company’s website is a great way to grow your email list, engage website visitors, and drive people to connect with your brand. While these list-growing gems have the potential to add value to your website and to your business, when done wrong, pop ups have the potential to annoy your website visitors and drive them away from your site.  In order to create pop ups that add value to your website visitors, you’ll have to be strategic and think of the opt-ins as a relationship building tool. Beyonce Knowles, affectionately known by her fans as Queen B, is a singer, dancer, actress and businesswoman whose success is largely driven by her ability to make a connection with her fans through her art.  Beyonce’s lyrics illuminate different aspects of relationship building that can be applied to companies looking to create a connection with their customers through opt-ins.

Here’s a look at pop up best practices inspired by Queen B herself.

  1. “I Don’t Know Much About Fighting, But I Will Fight For You”  - 1 + 1 Application: You’re Fighting For Your Users Time and Attention. Fight Wisely.

In a society inundated with social media and a constant flow of information, companies must compete for consumers attention. Getting someone to your website is a victory. But, you have to fight to keep them on your website. It’s important to create engaging, irresistible pop up offers that demonstrate why the consumer should take action. Fight wisely for your consumers attention by utilizing exit intent popups to grab their attention as they move to leave your website. It’s also a great idea to use visuals and keep your opt-in messaging short and sweet to immediately communicate the value to your customer.

  1. “I’ll be There For You If Somebody Hurts You” - ’03 Bonnie & Clyde Application: Communicate Why Consumers Should “Trust” You

Since pop ups are relationship building tools to connect with your customer, it’s important to communicate the value your company brings to “the relationship.” Just like Beyonce’s iconic Bonnie & Clyde lyrics, you can use your pop up’s message to communicate your company’s willingness to “pick up the pieces” of any negative past experiences your potential customer may have had. You can do this by communicating that people can opt-out of any unwanted email communication from your company and, by highlighting what makes you stand out from your competitors.

  1. Don’t Bore Me, Just Show Me - “Check On It” Application: No Boring Pop ups Allowed

The visual appearance of your pop up matters. You can create a wonderful offer, but if your pop up looks plain, boring or otherwise unexciting, people are less likely to pay attention to what you’re offering. Instead, leverage color, images, fonts, and other aspects of visual design to create a pop up that’s visually appealing.

  1. Some Call It Arrogant, I Call It Confident - “Ego” Application: You Have Something Great to Offer. So, Offer It!

Have you ever questioned whether to use pop ups on your site for fear of being spammy or annoying? The truth is, pop ups that offer no value to customers and that appeal consistently throughout someone’s website experience can be annoying. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. Pop ups that offer visitors something valuable, from a discount, to regular updates on your company’s newest products, can enhance website visitor’s experience and get them excited about continuing to connect with your brand. So go for it! Be confident in what you have to offer, and let people know how they can get involved. Pop ups with valuable offers will help you grow your email list and can be the starting point for a “long term relationship” with your customers.

Saundra Wilson 
Digital Marketing Director, Markitors
Saundra is a digital marketing director at Markitors, a Scottsdale-based digital marketing agency that specializes in small and medium businesses. She recently spent several days at MailChimp HQ in Atlanta as part of an exclusive Partner Program. She’s passionate about living her best life, self-care, writing, and empowering others. When she’s not busy helping clients connect with customers, you can find her watching Say Yes to the Dress and practicing her best hip hop moves. 

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Rise Up!

Welcome to the 2018-2019 SMPS Year Arizona! Here we are at the start of the New Year. Over the past three years, our Chapter has been working to find the right balance of events, and created the foundation for continued advancement, growth and opportunities to our profession, our firms and our industry. Today is an exciting time for SMPS; we have a new society brand with a belief in Business Transformed through Marketing Leadership. Similar to headquarters, it is time for our Chapter to “flip the script”. (cue Taylor Swift - …Ready For It?)

We are at a turning point of settling on complacency or digging deep and rising up. I don’t know about you, but I choose the rising up. So what, what does this mean?

A combination of last and this year’s boards have been going through strategic planning and we have some aggressive overarching goals:

  • Be the Go-To Resource in Education, Creating Connections, and Developing Leaders in the Industry
  • Leadership Development for you within your firm and our SMPS Chapter
  • Elevate the SMPS Experience

One of our commitments is to transparency. We will be adding a page on our website laying out our goals and highlighting accomplishments and completions. Stay tuned for more details as we are finalizing our 3 Year Strategic Plan over the next 2 weeks.

We have some new and fresh Programs and Education opportunities  in the works that we are excited to share with you. Then there is Leverage your Beverage; our membership team is hard at work. We also have the Phelix Awards, CPSM, Mentoring, and a couple special events in development. Of course, do not forget the Secretary and Publicity branches will be implementing the new society brand to our chapter oh-my!

To be honest, I know what you are thinking….this sounds like a lot. It is scary. I don’t disagree. So to take a scene from one of my favorite shows Scandal (Gladiator in a Suit):

“You really want to ask me who I work for? Ok, so who do you work for? The SMPS Arizona Chapter. The SMPS Arizona Chapter? You did apply for a job. How do I know? I have your resume on my iPad, the way I know you’d kill puppies to have this job because you stopped breathing when I said SMPS Arizona Chapter. I’m gonna offer you a crap salary, but we all get crap salaries. But don’t feel bad. We’re the good guys, I’m a good guy. Best job you’ll ever have. You’ll change lives, slay dragons, because the SMPS Arizona Chapter is as amazing as they say.”

So much will be taking shape over the year, it is a marketer’s Disneyland (can you sense my excitement). When you find yourself in that place that all marketers do…overwhelmed, proposal deadlines swooshing by, amongst many other things - just know, the Chapter is here for you. We are each other’s greatest strengths, rocks and resources in this crazy world of A/E/C marketing. However, if you need a further push, take a cue from:

Eminem - Lose Yourself

The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar - Pray For Me

Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do

Beyoncé - Run the World

Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling

Hamilton: My Shot

Christina Aguilera – Fighter

DJ Kahlid – All I do is Win

Imagine Dragons - Believer

Kendrick Lamar, SZA - All The Stars

Queen - We Are the Champions

What are you looking forward to for the upcoming SMPS year? Or what is your secret motivator? Leave a comment below!

Brandi Barr
SMPS Arizona Chapter President
Associate Vice President, West Region Manager for T.Y. Lin International

Brandi holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University and has nearly 20 years of AEC marketing professional services experience. For the past 10 years, she has worked for T.Y. Lin International. She has also been recognized by the SMPS, Arizona Chapter as the recipient of 3 Marketing Communications Awards - Best Proposal (2014), Marketer of the Year (2015) and most recently Best Project Pursuit (2016). Her favorite thing to do hang out with her husband, three kiddos and French bulldog. To find her outside of work, check her daughter’s dance studio, son’s soccer or baseball practices or watching sports (probably checking on her fantasy football teams this time of year).


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SMPSBB18 Conference Takeaways

Build Business – a conference full of great insight from A/E/C experts, networking, excitement and a great way to recharge your battery. This year’s 45th Annual Build Business Conference had a record-level attendance rate, revealed the new SMPS brand and had impressive guest speakers from all over the world providing great insight.

Here are just a few of my takeaways from the conference:

Get Known Everywhere: Using Publicity to Market your Services  
Jill Lublin, NSA, CEO, - Jill Lublin provided great insight about the publicity and how to get known everywhere. A few key concepts include:

  • Use everything you’ve got! Don’t fall down the same, boring path of submitting information about what your firm DOES to every media outlet in hopes of getting press. Instead, look at all your firm’s traits and characteristics. Does your company have a stand-out culture? Use that to your advantage! Gather the data and submit information about your company for awards and publications that will care about how great your company is!
  • Get mentioned! Your company should be mentioned in your local business journal publication every 60 days
  • People on the Move! You can utilize the people on the move section in business journal publications for more than just new hires. For example, congratulate a coworker on milestone anniversary
  • Craft the right message! Translate your message appropriately and get rid of the jargon!
  • Be a problem solver in the market place. Tell your client what the problem is and then give them three solutions that are interesting, dynamic and relatable

The problem today is that 4/5 businesses will go out of business because of lack of publicity. Here are three gorilla publicity tips to keep you in business
1. Create your “ooh ahh” factor
2. “I’ve heard of you” syndrome
3. Networking 2x a month at minimum

Creativity Myth Busters
Craig Atkinson, VP of Communications & Strategic Services, Walsh Construction

Craig Atkinson takes iPhone photos as a creative outlet and he’s found it is a great mind-escape when he flies – one of his biggest fears. Craig explained the importance of being intentional with all you do – even with taking iPhone photos. You can see some of his incredible iPhone photos on his Instagram.

  • Being creative is not a trait, it is a muscle and you’ve got to strengthen it!
  • You can and DO shape your brain with your thoughts – suffering is a choice, so is happiness
  • Be intentional with all that you do – notice what you notice
  • Don’t feel like you have time to be creative in a proposal? Adjust your cropping on an image and make it unique – take the small chances to show some creativity, even when you’re up against a deadline
  • 80% of our wandering thoughts are negative and 90% of those are repetitive – get out of your own way!

Beyond proposals: Adding Value with Project-Specific Marketing Plans
Jennifer Lacey, CM-Lean, CPSM – Division Marketing Director, Robins & Morton
Bill Stevens, Senior Superintendent, Robins & Morton

It’s important to build relationships with your team members and the Jennifer-Bill duo were a great example of why this can be so beneficial. Not only do you build team comradery, but you will be more successful!

  • Get to know your team members and get the right people involved with project marketing from the beginning. This means your Division Manager, Project Manager, Project Engineer and Superintendent.
  • Creating that bond with the field team will open so many opportunities. A few examples include:
    • Play the love vs. loathe game with your coworkers – really get to know them
    • Working on a hospital? Create a poster with inspirational imagery and verbiage that relates to each floor on the hospital to get your subs dedicated to the project
    • Create campaigns with your teammates’ input – the example the presenters used was a “small wins” campaign. We always celebrate the large milestone achievements but what about the small wins?
    • Jennifer got to know her field team so well that she met a laborer their company hired that was previously incarcerated – they created a touching video to show the strength of their culture at Robins & Morton.

Facilitation Meets Play  
Jennifer Newman, CPSM, CEO, Ignite Coaching & Consulting, LLC
Donna Corlew, FSMPS, CPSM, Chief WIT* Officer, C*Connect

Lego Serious Play is method to produce a deeper understanding of a topic through this hands-on, learning tool. We learned the following:

  • How to facilitate meetings more effectively with better results that foster creative thinking and unique solutions
  • Understanding of different modes of communication
  • How to encourage curiosity by establishing thinking with the hands and listening with the eyes

This facilitation method would be great for improving group solving or even interview preparation for people that are not used to answer in on-the-spot environments. We were even told that one company that was shortlisted for a construction job showed up to the interview and had to participate in Lego serious play to win the job! The following pieces are important to the overall puzzle of Lego serious play: 

  • Goal setting
  • Team building
  • Idea generation
  • Values and behaviors
  • Shared vision
  • Avoiding meeting agony

Marketing Communications Awards
Wow! There were some brilliant ideas that came out of the MCA’s this year. If you haven’t had a chance to see the finalists and award winners, click here. You’re sure to walk away with a few dozen ideas for your firm. In case you haven’t seen it yet, the new SMPS Brand video can be accessed here! Did you attend Build Business? Do you have additional takeaways you’d like to share with the chapter? Please, comment below and share your knowledge!

Ashley Black
Marketing Coordinator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves traveling, basketball, cooking and spending time with her niece, Halle.

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Closing a Great Chapter

“Experiences become a part of our identity. We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been.” This quote, from one of my favorite Forbes articles, “Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things” along with the people I have met throughout the year rings true of my experience as Chapter President. Being Chapter President has been a highlight of my career and one that has played an important role in who I am at this moment.

In this closing message as President, I want to share my top three chapter and personal highlights. As I do, I want to remind those who read this that, none of these have been possible without a dedicated, committed team of volunteers – nine Board of Directors, 28 committee chairs, and numerous committee members – all who have contributed to make SMPS Arizona be successful. Thank you to all who have served this year!

Aside from our great programming, networking, and award events that we all had the chance to experience, what else happened to support our organization today and for tomorrow? Here are three areas that took the pulse on our Chapter this year.

Strategic planning: This year was our third year in our three-year strategic plan. We asked ourselves, “what’s next?” and dedicated three sessions to discover the answer. The current and incoming Board of Directors has spent significant time (12+ hours in visioning and planning sessions) defining strategic goals for the next three years in order to take the Chapter to new heights that will enhance your experience and elevate our programming.

Financial strength: As a non-profit, we are not in the business to make money; however, we are in the business to be responsible stewards of our resources. We’re fortunate to have been able to give back more to our membership this year through three conference scholarships, contribution to the SMPS Foundation and a sponsors-only event.

Strong Membership: Our chapter membership is currently at 158 members, welcoming 34 new members over the past year. We’ve been hovering around this membership number for the past couple of years, which means we’re challenged with retention. While we may have lost some to other industries, we are aware of our continued need to bring value to all levels of membership.

From a personal perspective, the greatest benefit I appreciated as President was the perspective and ability to experience every function of our chapter at once. To see all our activities and tasks work together and come together gave me a deeper and more complete understanding and appreciation for what we do. Additionally, my top three highlights as President are:

Increased network and opportunities to learn from others. A SMPS President’s experience truly begins at the Presidential Leadership Symposium, which not only prepared me with leadership skills and Society policies, but also introduced me to 60 other Chapter Presidents. The strength and support in these resources were invaluable throughout the year and will remain as such in my career for years to come.

Deepened appreciation of SMPS and what it offers our industry professionals. Being able to see and experience SMPS from this position gave me a deeper respect and appreciation for what it offers us as professionals and firms. To have an association dedicated to success of marketing and business development leadership and the amount of resources dedicated to this is impressive.


Expanded network and relationships among my local industry peers. Working with the committees this year, and observing the results of collaborative teamwork, have left me in awe. I’ve been impressed with the degree of respect that is shared with one another, the creativity and talent that surrounds me, and the energy and enthusiasm that exudes from our membership. I’ve learned so much from each member whom I’ve met and become more acquainted with. For that, my life is richer and fuller. This, perhaps, was the most impactful – to know, be aware and to participate with so many unique and talented professionals.

In closing, I’m beyond grateful and humbled to have had this experience and am excited for what’s next in our Chapter. Each SMPS year builds on the last and we took that concept very seriously. Everything that we’ve done this year has been with not just the present, but with the future in mind. I’ve worked closely with the Directors and incoming President, Brandi Barr, to make certain our decisions and actions lead to a self-sustaining business. Our year’s decisions and actions were meant for a lasting impact. I’m excited to see this year’s activities continue and evolve to be better each year.

What’s coming up next year? Well, you’ll have to wait and see. I can assure you there are good things and better things, in store! Now is as good as a time as any to be part of it so I invite you to join a committee this year. You won’t regret it!

My deepest gratitude, again, to all who have been part of this experience with me. I hope to see all of you at a future event! Until then, as my late Grandfather would say when departing with friends, “I’ll see you along the trail.” 


Emy Burback, MBA, CPSM
Lead Strategist, Marketing Engine, LLC.

Emy has been working in the A/E/C industry for the past 18 years and has been an active SMPS member for the past 10 years. She has enjoyed working for a variety of firms in the AEC industry. Most recently, Emy has started her own Marketing and CRM consulting firm, Marketing Engine. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is hang out with her husband and dogs on the beach in Rocky Point. Emy is passionate about traveling and loves an adventure! She enjoys hiking, going to new restaurants or buying a plane ticket to somewhere she's never been! 


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