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Transformation? There’s a Strategy for That.

A/E/C marketing is in flux, buffeted by huge transformative factors such as technology, the talent shortage, and changing contractual models.

As the SMPS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter looks toward the future needs of our members, we embrace the Society’s vision statement: Business transformed through marketing leadership.

How do we embody this on a local level? On June 2, the chapter convened a group of members to set the foundation of a three-year strategic plan. We chose to cover a three-year period instead of the traditional five years in response to the rapid pace of change and the natural transition period of the chapter’s executive board.

SMPS SFBAC Board Members Nicole La, Michelle Martin, and Susie Smith organized and led the strategic planning session. We sat down with them to discuss the need for strategy and the future of the chapter.

Why conduct strategic planning? How does it benefit our members?

Michelle Martin: Just as with any business, strategic planning helps build a framework around which the chapter can identify and achieve the goals that will add value to the member experience and help articulate the value members take back to their own firms. This three-year strategic plan will serve as our guide to stay future-focused. Each annual plan can then inform how and what we implement to achieve greater heights on an annual, cumulative basis. If you only do an annual plan it’s very tactical; a three-year plan makes us take a step back and gives us space to dream up a new future to ensure our members thrive.

Nicole La: Three years makes sense because being Chapter president is not just a one-year commitment. It’s really a three year commitment: the president, past president, and incoming president work closely together. If you’re able to have a three-year vision you can make a difference by continuing initiatives from year-to-year. That gives you the opportunity for a more collaborative, strategic vision.

Who attended, and what was discussed?

MM: We did things a little differently this year. Rather than rely solely on the Past Presidents Advisory Council, we involved a variety of active members and past presidents who come from different disciplines within the industry: communications, marketing, proposals, and business development. A real mix of folks at different levels of seniority. We felt this change was important, because these up-and-coming members are the ones who are going to embody what SMPS SFBAC is going to look like three years from now.

Susie Smith: Tapping into BD was a big part of this. We intentionally tried to get input on how active they are in the chapter.

MM: Same with the communications individuals, who have little to no role in the proposal process. We wanted to understand “Why are you a member; as marketing disciplines evolve, how do we continue to provide value?”

SS: One of my favorite things that came out of the session was understanding the plan needs to be flexible but also incredibly ambitious. Our facilitator, Dawn Savage, encouraged this thinking and it really changed the ideas that people came up with. That was exciting.

What do you see as key takeaways from the session?

MM: The discussion added value to exploring how we as a chapter will live up to the Society’s vision of “business transformed through marketing leadership.” How can we make that concrete and tangible?

NL: If our vision is the Society’s vision, what does that mean for our chapter? How can we weave that into our programs, etc.? One big takeaway was the importance of student outreach to the future of the chapter. If we keep cycling our marketers throughout SMPS, that leads to burnout. We need to go to universities and get the graduates excited about the A/E/C industry, mentor them, give them scholarships, get them attending programs, and help place them in jobs. Their whole career can be guided through SMPS. Hiring business marketing professionals will help build our profession and give us credibility in the industry.

SS: This issue of the ROI of an SMPS membership, and our credibility as an organization, really lit up everyone in the room across all the content. We questioned our place in the A/E/C world, who we are and what we want to become. How can we be a bigger, more trusted part of the industry? The influence on our career paths is enormous.

MM: Another thing is more tactical: This need in our really busy and digitally focused lives to have small, focused events. Or even if you’re part of a big program with 100 people, breaking out into smaller groups. The cohort idea.

SS: Peer-to-peer learning was a common theme. Coupled with increased collaboration between committees there is real momentum for peer collaboration. In addition there was an ask for clarity about our events — i.e., programs are about education, let’s not muddy the waters by adding networking to it.

The group was collectively inspired to be leaders in the A/E/C industry. What about a hackathon, wellness programs, etc.? Let’s get in front of the trends.

MM: And let’s serve as a resource for other organizations within the design community. IIDA should look to us as a strategic partner to elevate their marketing.

SS: We should be the go-to if anyone in the design community needs marketing or business development consultation or advice!

MM: In order to transform our firms, we must first transform ourselves by tapping into our leadership skills. That's the ultimate goal of a strategic plan, and a challenge we're ready to face head-on.

Stay tuned for the release of the Strategic Plan. Interested in getting involved? Volunteer today!

Traci Vogel is Content Manager at TEECOM, an international engineering consultant that prepares its clients for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and conversational interfaces. Visit TEECOM’s blog.

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