Professional marketers have worked tirelessly to earn their stripes in the A/E/C industry. What had previously been seen as a support function is now recognized as a fundamental and often critical role in the success and growth of consulting firms. Within many organizations, senior marketers are enjoying executive-level status — as seen in the proliferation of vice-presidents, chief marketing officers, and even managing directors — and they are contributing to a wider range of strategic business initiatives at the highest levels of the industry.

This transformation from an administrative position to a professional discipline based on knowledge, skills, and experience (not to mention education and certification) follows the trajectory of an industry that continues to experience considerable change. We had already been operating in a more competitive and revenue-minded marketplace before the 2020 bombshells of alternative work environments driven by the COVID-19 public health crisis, heightened advocacy for racial and social justice, political inertia in New York City real estate, and an economic freefall with significant job losses and furloughs.

These complex demands (and those ahead of us) underscore the need for professional marketers who can rapidly and effectively assess and respond to changing circumstances. No matter our role within or among the marketing and business development team, there are concrete actions we can take to elevate the profession in these trying and unusual times.

  • Anticipate – Senior leaders of the firm have a lot on their minds, from employee satisfaction and running a business to bringing in new work and investing in technology. Market research, unfortunately, often falls by the wayside. Research drives everything we do as professional marketers to write better proposals, develop stronger relationships, and manage more compelling visibility campaigns for our organizations. By conducting simple research into client needs, industry trends, and partner/competitor news, we can help our firms anticipate near-term threats and opportunities and respond accordingly.

Research is more than focus groups, surveys, and polls. We can take the time to attend a virtual client panel and share notes and takeaways with appropriate colleagues, and distribute news articles and social media posts about clients, competitors, and partners. I set aside an hour each day (whether before, during, or after work) to skim industry blogs and social media for relevant industry news that saves time for our senior leaders and makes them more informed seller-doers.

  • Participate – Bring power and influence to your voice by turning research into talking points for both one-to-one conversations and group meetings. Professional marketers should not settle for just arranging meetings and taking notes; we should be proactive, informed participants when it comes to discussions about teaming strategy and client development initiatives. An elevated profession is one in which meetings are organized because of the marketing team, not despite them.

Another way to participate: be the conduit to information people need. Offer to track and maintain a record of client contract awards and anticipated solicitations, or demonstrate value as a researcher by googling one’s way to previously unseen or obscure articles about the firm and its projects. Setting google alerts for relevant keywords (not just a company name) can go a long way. Some of mine: offshore wind, land use, green infrastructure, and affordable housing.

  • Facilitate – Offer to make connections. SMPS is a vast network of 7,000 professionals across 3,500 companies in 60 chapters, and reaching out to a fellow member is the easiest cold call I have ever had to make. Whether a firm wants to introduce itself to architects, engineers, or contractors, or learn about a new geographic market, facilitating a meet-and-greet adds networking value – which many technical leaders overlook when it comes to their marketing department.

Facilitating conversations and meetings can take on other forms. With industry events still virtual, now is a great time to submit paper and presentation abstracts for new or previously untapped technical conferences without travel, lodging, and other financial concerns. Connect with the organizers to bring insights and information back to your technical team. I recently did so for the New York Charter Schools Association and Association for Women in Science (both new to our firm), and we will be better prepared for their speaking and marketing opportunities down the road.

With regard to our network of SMPS colleagues, among these ranks are more than 1,000 Certified Professional Services Marketers who meet a rigorous standard of marketing proficiency and competency. The certification of hundreds of industry marketers in the last few years speaks volumes about the demand for professionals who have committed themselves to elevating the art and science of marketing. Now is as good a time as any to educate your supervisor and senior leaders about the value of CPSM certification and demonstrate your dedication to success – both for you and them! – by setting your sights on becoming a certified professional.

We work in a business environment that calls for stark differentiation among firms, strategic alliances, and competitive intelligence, and the increased presence of senior marketers in positions of trust in the executive suite indicates a significant change in the conventional leadership of A/E/C firms. Collaboration among leaders of all stripes will continue to ensure that business development goals and strategic growth initiatives are driven by a well-rounded perspective on the future needs of a company. Elevating the marketing profession – even one person at a time – will help us collectively earn our turn in the driver’s seat.

Want to share a success story or need help elevating the profession in your firm? I can be reached at jtaub@akrf.com and would be happy to hear more.