February 2021 Program Blog - Effective Virtual Business Development & Communications

Did you miss out on our February program? Titled “Effective Virtual Business Development & Communications: The Master Class for Principal Level Engagement.”, this program brought together marketing professionals from the Twin Cities, Washington D.C., San Diego, and Seattle SMPS chapters. Meg Winch, President at Communications Resource Northwest, challenged us to think differently about virtual communications and technology. 

“Technology is something we love to hate,” said Meg. However, “virtual communication has allowed us to stay in business during this pandemic.” We need to change the conversation from “how do we make technology work” to “how do we be better communicators with the technology?” A few key points from this program include:

  • Good communicators are present and mindful.
  • Communication is 100% learned behavior and 100% intentional.
  • User Interface (UI) relates to the “space where interactions between humans and machines occur.” User Experience (UE) relates to a “person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system, or service.
  • Basics of communications: turn off whatever else you’re working on, look into the lens and focus, remember that this is the most important thing you are doing, and repeat.
  • Avoid winging it, prepare, and plan.
  • Create visuals that are designed for the screen.
  • Set up a rehearsal.
  • Stay committed to your messaging and focus on delivering key items to your audience.

Check out our upcoming events and programs here, including our March panel called “Creating Diverse and Inclusive Project Teams Beyond Enterprise Goals.” Panelists Elizabeth Campbell, Director of Emerging Business Inclusion at Ryan Companies; Willow Nichols, Founding Partner at Victus Engineering; Kristine Hutera, Chief Executive Officer at Empirehouse Inc.; and Alicia Belton, Principal at Urban Design Perspectives.

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Virtual Programming Extended

Happy New Year! As we look towards a new year and all of the amazing programs we have planned for the Chapter, the Board has made the tough decision to keep all upcoming programs virtual through June of 2021. We know how much everyone wants to get back together in person and trust us, we get it. We want to see everyone’s smiling faces in person too! However, we want to do everything we can to keep our members safe, while also abiding by state and local guidelines. Please know that this is not a decision we take lightly and we will continue to monitor the situation and make any adjustments as needed. The Board is also looking at a few options to host smaller, outdoor, events as we move towards Spring and Summer – so stay tuned for more info on that! In the mean-time, please know that we will do everything we can to continue to deliver timely, practical, and engaging programming to all of our members in a virtual setting. And just know that as soon as it is feasible to have this group back together in person, we will be there with bells on!

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January 2021 Program Blog - Building Gender & Racial Equity

Did you miss out on our January program? Titled “Building Gender & Racial Equity: Expanding Your Network, this program challenged attendees both personally and professionally. Speakers for this program included Jennifer Carlson, Senior Project Coordinator at Ryan Companies and President of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC); and Wale Falade, Principal at FIHÀN Design + Architecture and the incoming Vice President of MSP NomaDuring the program, we dug into what it looks like to have a racially and gender diverse network, the benefits of having that type of network, and how to be intentional about building it. Check out some of the Q&A portions of the meeting below!

  • Question: What does it mean to have a diverse professional network?
    • Jennifer: Make sure your network includes people from outside your industry. Surround yourself with people that aren’t like you, and be open to different ideas within that network.
    • Wale: Reaching out across racial, cultural, and gender lines is key. Building a diverse professional network isn’t done for the sake of checking a box, it’s making sure that connection is mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
  • Question: What does it look like to be intentional with a diverse professional network?
    • Jennifer: It’s getting out of your comfort zone. Don’t be comfortable with the same people you’re with every day. Doing so will afford relationships that help you down the road. If you surround yourself with everyone that thinks and acts like you do, you’ll never leave that mindset.
    • Wale: Be proactive in building relationships. The idea is to authentically build relationships and establish diversity in your firms and networking relationships. 
  • Question: What are the first initial steps in building a diverse network?
    • Jennifer: Get used to being uncomfortable. You’ll have conversations with people that you’ve never talked to before. Volunteer or find a group to volunteer with. Go to conferences or attend events like those that SMPS-TC hosts. Make connections with those hosting or the panelists.
    • Wale: It’s like dating. The first date will always be uncomfortable. Go into your address book or LinkedIn and print it out. Look at which connections you’ve made over the last year and how many of those new connections are diverse or not - gender, race, education, culture, etc. Set a goal for how much effort you’ll put in - for example, “I will commit to making one (1) new connection each month. Look at the connections of those diverse connections.
  • Question: How do you build a network virtually - in a COVID-19 world?
    • Jennifer: Make bigger connections. Look at your own organizations and identify where and how you’re diverse. This is the year of YES! Just do it. You’ve learned and reflected, in 2021 it’s time to do the work.
    • Wale: COVID limits certain things but has also created opportunities. I’ve found there are more postings online about events - people are making more of a marketing effort because it’s a virtual world right now. Start attending events across the country or ocean. 

Check out our upcoming events and programs here, including our February program with Meg Winch titled “Effective Virtual Business Development & Communications: The Master Class for Principal Level Engagement.” Join us and other SMPS chapters across the nation for an engaging presentation on better communication in a virtual environment. 

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Wednesday Wisdom from SMPS Member and CPSM Kimberly Kayler

In this month’s Wednesday Wisdom, Kimberly Kayler, CPSM, takes time out of her busy schedule to chat with SMPS-Twin Cities. Kimberly, who is the President of AOE, shares some words of wisdom with us and also discusses some of the benefits of being a Certified Professional Service Marketer (CPSM).

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I completed my Journalism degree at the University of Arizona, where I interned with the College of Engineering & Mines as a reporter. That’s when I discovered my love for technical writing. After college, I edited a book for Armstrong Laboratories at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base before accepting a marketing position with a 70-person civil/structural/environmental engineering firm. I then moved to a Director of Marketing position at a 200-person A+E firm that provided services in North, Central, and South America. In 2001, I started Constructive Communication, Inc. (CCI) to serve the need of professional service and business-to-business technical firms. In my role as president of CCI, I helped clients define strategy and develop marketing action plans. In 2018, CCI merged with CAM to form AOE -- a full-service consulting firm which I now lead.

What are some of the most common challenges you've faced recently and how have you overcome them?
I think most of us struggle with work-life balance, especially in our pandemic world right now. A friend of mine provided a tip to me a few months back that has been incredibly helpful – do two things a day. So, that may mean work and one volunteer activity. Or maybe it is work and one get together with friends. It applies to work as well. Don’t cram five public speaking engagements into one day, or four meetings that you are the facilitator for – opt instead for two so you can have the right stamina for each event. It is about focusing energy! 

What inspires you and keeps you motivated on a daily basis?
What keeps me motivated is continuing to learn new things. The pandemic has opened new possibilities in terms of online learning – not only in our profession but developing outside interests. For example, I recently signed up to become a master gardener through online classes. A year ago, I didn’t even have such an interest.  So, explore new passions. Participate in an online painting class, connect through a book group or develop a new hobby. Be sure you are taking a break from constant online learning related to marketing as there is so much out there now, which is awesome but can easily lead to burnout. 

How has being a CPSM helped you advance in your career?
In so many ways! I was one of the first 10 people in the nation to earn the CPSM back in 1999. I sat for the very first test offering. Although I meet many people that are unfamiliar with the CPSM designation, it is always a conversation starter that gives me an opportunity to showcase marketing’s role within our industry.

What’s on your bucket list?
Travel, travel, and more travel. I also want to accomplish a goal I am working on right now – running every day for one year straight.  As of writing this, I am on day 206!

To learn more about Kimberly and AOE, visit them online at

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Program Recap: CRM – Best Practices and Lessons Learned

By Danielle Hilmo, BWBR Architects, Inc.

Interesting perspectives from three diverse firms. There is no “magic” system – each company needs to find what works best for them. Most important, a champion is needed to work at creating a culture of compliance, where everyone understands the value of consistent and correct usage.


HGA has 800 employees in eight offices. CRM is integrated with accounting, planning, and project management in a powerful database, with connections to third-party solutions for company intranet, digital asset management, and project sharing/data transfer. With a powerful, intelligent, and multi-faceted tool, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.

HGA has been using Deltek Vision for 12 years and instituted a robust process for CRM 5-1/2 years ago. They track from lead to opportunity to interview, then data rolls into a project. All information is available on the company intranet, including activities surrounding the pursuit and all the internal people related to each client contact. Promo projects track costs. HGA’s business development team is largely responsible for tracking all of this.


Guaranty Commercial Title is a specialty title insurance company with 15 employees that tracked leads and opportunities manually in spreadsheets until this year. They needed a flexible, agile, and intuitive tool to match their fast-paced business. Since they implemented Salesforce in July, they are transforming their CRM process into a fast and lean mustang.

Guaranty previously tracked their best contacts for new business. Thanks to how Salesforce is set up, they are now focused on tracking the best performing accounts. The seller-doers keep information up to date.


RJM Construction has 120 corporate employees. Microsoft Dynamics is intelligent, but most of it is hidden (like a hippo underwater), so you’re not really sure how big it is and what it can do…not so user friendly. This is a legacy system for RJM, and they are now exploring other options.

RJM enters a lead for “anything they we hear about on the street,” categorized by market. More developed prospects become opportunities, and projects with active preconstruction services are “top opportunities.” Categories for contacts are key decision-maker, secondary decision-maker, and vendor.

Tracking and Metrics for Success

  • HGA tracks a lot of information, which can be sliced by market, office, or principal. A matrix documents common reasons for a win or loss. Intelligence is captured for large opportunities. Go/no-go scores are compared to the actual outcome. They even analyze the opportunity success rate depending on the consultants used. HGA gets value from how easy it is to answer common questions. If the system is not answering an often-asked question, it can be adjusted to improve the response.
  • Guaranty is small so they understand why they win or lose without tracking formally. Tracking cost is important. The new Salesforce dashboard alone has paid for itself – a “scorecard” that used to take several hours to develop is now automatic and available at the touch of a button!
  • RJM tracks the types of projects competitors do and bidders on each project, so their differentiators can be refined. It is challenging to nail down exactly why a project was lost. RJM reviews hit and capture rates quarterly, and monitors the good connections that put them in a position to win.

Train Early, Often, and in Many Ways

  • Continuous training is key to maintaining a successful CRM system.
  • People respond to different teaching/learning techniques. After initial training, one of the more effective methods is one-on-one troubleshooting: real questions asked and answered, with problems solved together.
  • Outlook integration is easy for users, but this must be paired with regularly reinforced training; otherwise the integrity of data suffers.
  • Other methods include intranet tips & tricks, webinars, small group refreshers, and encouraging constant use.
  • Strategies for getting user buy-in:
    • Show how painful the former process is compared to the promise of the new one.
    • Use peer pressure and accountability by regularly distributing performance reports to leadership.
    • Give users a “gold star” for compliance.
    • If it’s in a spreadsheet somewhere instead of in the CRM, “it doesn’t exist.”

Lessons Learned

  • Regrets: Guaranty spent too much time using their old system, and then looking for a new one that fit their industry to a tee. When RJM leadership changed suddenly, they didn’t have time to research and discover a new system to coincide with the new generation. Lianne wishes HGA standardized their CRM process sooner.
  • Don’t design the process around the tool; know what you want out of it and figure out a way to achieve that.
  • System integration not only enhances data, but can also improve relationships between the different departments within a company.
  • Beware of applying too many third-party integrations. It’s challenging to know which options may be valuable, and sometimes integration isn’t as seamless as promised.
  • Data gatekeepers are needed to avoid duplicate info and incomplete records.
  • Consider having separate database administrators for content (system customization, processes/workflow, compliance, communication) and technical (IT).

Looking Forward

  • All three panelists want more CRM and project data integration benefitting to the whole company, not just marketing.
  • Kelle wants to “run lean” – for example, be able to see information without having to call each other.
  • There is a desire for better opportunity forecasting and backlog analysis.
  • RJM is researching a new CRM system, something they can use without too much customization. Cosential and Deltek are the current frontrunners.

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