Staples’ Marketing Specialist Attends SMPS-PRC

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Staples Construction's Marketing Specialist, Danielle Nguyen, attended her first SMPS Pacific Regional Conference. Here's a look at Danielle's personal thoughts and experience as a marketing professional new to the A/E/C industry! 

It's been a little over a week since I attended SMPS-PRC and it's taken me this long to digest my pages (and pages) of notes. As a newbie to the AEC industry, and a 6-month member of SMPS Los Angeles, I never imagined there was an entire association dedicated to marketing, let alone a regional or national conference. But it sure is refreshing to know that the tribulations that come with generating an RFP response are a universal issue, and not something I face in my own little world.

Arriving on Wednesday for the opening session, I found a friendly group of people. Despite not knowing anyone personally, everyone was kind and welcoming. You could see the excited reactions of friends who haven't seen each other in a year or two (thanks, COVID), and it really gave you a sense of community and comradery.

The opening session was led by Frank Lippert, FSMPS, CPSM and Donna Corlew, FSMPS, CPSM and solidified my first impression as fact-- SMPS is a group of lifelong friends. Frank and Donna shared short stories of their lives growing up, and how their worlds have collided. Their ultimate message: relationships are about small gestures all the time. The night concluded with a cocktail reception where I was able to meet members of SMPS Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, and San Francisco from a wide range of companies.

For breakout sessions the following morning, I elected to float between the three tracks available to us: Leadership and Management, Marketing Best Practices, and Business Development.

The first session I joined was led by Barbara Shuck, FSMPS, CPSM and Craig Park, FSMPS, Assoc. AIA titled "The Architecture of Vision: A Leadership Framework for Professional Success." There, topics of innovation, inspiration, and integrity were framed in the context of leadership credibility and what is valued most from employees. When asked which of those aspects we individually valued most, the majority of the session's audience (including myself) chose integrity. Barbara and Craig expressed that while we used to desire innovation the most, nowadays we look for someone with character and integrity to back it up.

The second session was hosted by Fawn Radmanich called "Become a Professional Opportunist - Being Strategic with How You Strategize." This session was centered around identifying your individually unique strategic capabilities and utilizing them to maximize your impact. I learned that I need to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test immediately to find out what my strengths are. I look forward to finding out if I'm innately strategic! The other important thing that stood out to me in her presentation was the concept of "blue sky thinking." In a workplace surrounded by technical staff, your greatest advantage as a marketer is thinking beyond the norm. Blue sky thinking proposes that anything is possible, so come up with the creative solution and say it out loud.

The third session I attended was a panel hosted by Marion Thatch, FSMPS, CPCC with the leadership team of UNICO titled "Leadership Alignment: An Overlooked Component in Strategic Planning Implementation." As their company rapidly expanded, they saw a great need for a unifying leadership message that could be implemented from the top down. With the consistent messaging, strategic implementation became more attainable, dialogue within the office became more consistent, and a bond was formed within the organization organically. My favorite takeaway from this panel was the "Personal User Manual Exercise." This exercise is a living document that is designed to identify your operating style to eliminate breakdowns in communication. Questions are posed such as "When do you like people to approach you and how?", "What do you value?", "How do you make decisions?" and many others that are to be answered and shared with your colleagues. The company's leadership team reportedly took this exercise and implemented it within their own departments and was considered widely successful.

Friday morning, I was fortunate enough to catch Josh Miles's "How the Future is Influencing Brands and Trends in A/E/C." I had a heads up that Josh was an entertaining presenter, and I was certainly not disappointed. With a presentation dappled with GIFs, Josh presented some insightful points that will carry with me for years to come. Some of the highlights include:

  • Instead of chasing your competition, retreat back to your core.
  • You have the option to choose yourself every day.
  • Go through the thought exercise of "no holds barred, what's possible?"

And lastly, a quote from David Maister read "What a group does with its billable time determines its income for the year. What it does with its non-billable time determines its future." I see that the most in my own company as we move towards reinforcing our staff and enhancing our client support. It's a part of building something bigger and more impactful for years to come.

My final session was "A Shark Reminder: Staying Top of Mind" with Melanie Meeks and Allie Horne. Their presentation got back to the basics with how best to stay in front of clients in a culture that has shifted to be less organic. Fewer are the days of bumping into each other at a networking event. However, there's still plenty of reasons to check-in and stay top of mind. One of my favorite focal points during this presentation was the importance of public relations. The way Allie put it, it's "free third-party validation" and she couldn't be more correct. Finding opportunities to collaborate with clients and be more intentional with messaging and content is a great way to stay top of mind.

Like I said, I had pages of notes. This write-up hardly skims the surface of the wealth of knowledge held by the industry leaders that presented at SMPS-PRC. The most prominent sound bite that has replayed in my head came from the keynote speaker, Lt. Colonel (ret) Patricia Murray. After six tours in the Middle East, she has become an expert in leadership. Her biggest message: "Run your own race, and let them chase you." I think it'll replay on a loop for the remainder of my career… we're all on our own path, and it's up to you to propel yourself forward.

What a wonderful experience at SMPS-PRC. I can't wait to do it again!

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