Featured Author

Kristy Cerullo

Marketing Manager

First Environment


Member, SMPS-NY
Director, New Jersey Affiliate

What if your purpose as a professional services marketer was to create environments where people know they matter and recognize that their actions can change the world?

Would you treat your proposal teams differently? Participate in meetings with a different attitude? Allocate your energy and time to give more attention to long term strategic efforts?

The purpose above is the outcome of SMPS New York’s May 18th Leadership Workshop “Amplify Your Voice, Elevate Your Game,” hosted by Brent Robertson of Fathom and attended by a group of marketers anxious to have a bigger impact at their organizations and to lend their voices to strategic planning discussions among firm leaders. Far from your average “sit and listen” program, Brent led the group in dynamic discussions and team exercises to help identify the conditions that often hold us back from planning and pursuing the futures we want for ourselves and our companies.

The workshop began with participants discussing the three dimensions of future design: what we know is true (objective truths about the past and present situations), what we imagine is possible (objective truths that, if they existed in a future time, would mean success and satisfaction), and what we believe matters (core values that make the future path worth fighting for). Here are some examples of what the group shared:

What we know is true:

Marketing is often viewed strictly as a “support” function (i.e., as an expense rather than a strategic investment)
Marketers wear many hats, leading to lack of time to spend on long term planning and implementing strategy
Marketers interact with many facets of an organization
Firm leaders tend to focus on marketing department’s superficial products vs. meaningful contributions

What would be true in three years to mean success:

  • Marketers would have the resources we need to complete all tasks expected of us, including strategic planning
  • All firms would have a C-level marketer to lead strategic decisions at the highest level of the organization
  • Marketers would be ambassadors of technology and innovation
  • Marketing would be viewed as a revenue generator as opposed to a cost of doing business


Why it matters:

  • Opportunity for continual professional growth and development
  • Ability to help our firms do good in the world
  • Fostering of meaningful relationships within the organization and with our clients
  • Seeing the positive difference we and our firms make in the world

The output of this discussion was the greater purpose for us to, in the future, be the professionals in our organizations who create environments where people know they matter and recognize their actions can change the world. A focus like this is something that most firm leaders would support, and also helps us to take responsibility into our own hands to make it a reality even in the face of all the little tasks that consume us on a daily basis.

From here, Brent lead the group in a discussion to better solidify what would need to happen in order to make the future we imagine a reality. To do this, participants identified aspects of our business that are already working, what’s not working, and what’s missing from the equation that would help us achieve success. Here are the top priorities among these groups:

What’s working:

  • Relationships that marketers have with others in our firms and with clients, and a culture of collaboration among players
  • Wealth of passion among marketers
  • Continual professional development and education (including training for staff)

What’s not working:

  • Marketing department is often not included in strategic decision making
  • Most (if not all) marketing efforts are focused on delivering work, not on long term strategic efforts
  • Marketers tend to get stuck in support level roles instead of moving up into leadership roles

What’s missing:

  • A common language for communicating across teams within a firm (i.e., marketing and technical staff)
  • Marketing department having a good understanding of big-picture business goals
  • Marketers’ influence on industry groups such as AIA, educational programs, and other influencers

By prioritizing the many things that influence our day-to-day jobs (and addressing them objectively without judgment or frustration) the group felt better able to prioritize future planning in their organizations and have discussions with firm leaders to turn the “missing” items into goals to work toward. Brent also addressed the importance of marketers as “curators” of content and relationships within our industry – an essential role in technical organizations and one which cannot be replaced with technology and automation.

Overall, attendees said that they felt empowered to have more strategic conversations with their firm’s leadership teams to discuss ways for marketers to have a bigger impact, be utilized more efficiently, and work better with others within their organizations. By creating a habit of thinking in future terms more often, we can stretch ourselves to thing “beyond what’s true” to what’s possible, and avoid holding ourselves back with all of the preconceived obstacles we face (or fear facing). By having the courage to do so and the visceral connection to our purpose or “why power,” marketers can carve out integrated leadership roles in their organizations and build a space for more diverse conversations to move our industry forward.