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October Client Roundtable Review

A/E/C Industry Marketers gathered late last month at the Client Roundtable where SMPS attendees had the opportunity to hear from Bret Firebaugh, DBIA, Northern California Regional Vice President at Pankow Builders; Chris Haegglund, Principal at BAR Architects; Chris Thompson, Vice President at Cumming; and Tom Poser, Executive Vice President at JLL. The program was moderated by Vanessa Pelletier, CPSM, Director of Business Development at Cumming, and was a great opportunity to pick the panelists’ brains on everything from Business Development practices to Branding and Design.

People observing a panel at the 2018 SMPS Client Roundtable
Photo by Emily Hagopian

Starting with brief introductions from the panelists, the tone of the session was one of optimism for the present and preparedness for the future. With high construction costs and a rapidly changing business climate, thinking about alternate delivery methods and ways to be innovative and collaborative was emphasized by all of the panelists. Additionally, discussion on the increasing commoditization of A/E/C services and understanding of the millennial generation set the tone for what was to come in the roundtables. Before breaking into small groups, Vanessa asked each panelist to share with the room their “spirit animal,” helping to further instill a level of ease in the room.

All attendees had the opportunity to meet with two of the four clients in intimate groups of around ten attendees. The free flow mood of the sessions sparked open discussion about where the industry is heading and how we can help move our businesses successfully forward.

Sitting down with Bret Firebaugh to discuss Business Development was a natural draw for many attendees. It was refreshing to hear from Bret that the industry is more about relationships and client values and less about presentations, as he says: “bullet points kill!” Bret recommended asking your client directly how they like to communicate, at what regularity, and in what form. He emphasized that understanding your client’s communication style and preference will make all the difference in maintaining a successful relationship.

Marketing professionals discuss branding with Tom Poser, Executive Vice President at JLL
Photo by Emily Hagopian

Communication strategies carried on into the discussion on branding with Tom Poser, Executive Vice President at JLL.

“Send a pdf brochure to a millennial owner and they don’t know what to do with it; it just gets lost in their e-mail. They want answers quickly and immediately and don’t want to flip through some pamphlet,” Tom said when discussing the challenges of branding for multiple generations. He highlighted that we are in a time where your clients are from two drastically different generations, and to be successful we must accommodate both in our branding. This means really looking at who the client is and catering to its specific needs. A baby boomer may be interested in a printed pamphlet and a thorough background on the firm, but a millennial just wants a fast solution provider that will get the job done.

With an experienced and open group of panelists, the Client Roundtable provided a great opportunity for attendees to engage directly with potential clients and ask them the tough questions, leaving the room buzzing with lively discussion well beyond the end of the roundtables. Hopefully many others left as I did, feeling like I had new tools to put into practice and some new connections as well!

As Marketing Coordinator at RIM, Katelyn Surprenant works to uncover RIM's creative strategies and innovations on each unique project, in order to create winning proposals that address clients' needs. She has been involved with SMPS San Francisco for 2 years and currently supports the Communications and Sponsorship Committees.

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