Get Connected. Be Involved.

I first heard of SMPS in 2001, but was nervous to attend a program because I didn’t feel like I knew enough. I was a brand new marketing coordinator and I just didn’t think I was important enough to go to SMPS events and network with marketing directors of other big firms. 

Fast forward a few years and my boss suggested that I try SMPS to learn more about how to find the potential in my job. I gathered up my courage to get out of my comfort zone and finally went. It was different from what I had anticipated. There was a friendly woman named Carol at the registration desk that latched on to me immediately and exclaimed, “Welcome! Are you a member? Let me introduce you to a few people!” I found the luncheon topic interesting and the people sitting next to me very friendly. I was still nervous, but much less frightened. I also learned that there were programs for people at different points in their careers, so I could always find something that was relevant to me and an event I would want to attend.

A few months later Carol suggested I become a member, which was echoed by my boss. I was asked to join the same committee Carol was in – the Membership committee. We spent an hour each month arranging the nametags for the next event. Carol made it mandatory that her committee meet in person to do this small task, but we were happy to do so. The other board members learned my name and would stop to chat after the programs. Joining a committee made all the difference and it was so easy and a very small commitment! I felt like I belonged in this group and I wasn’t just sitting in a corner and eating while listening to a presentation.

I moved to Minneapolis five years ago without a job, but with a plan.  I knew if I joined SMPS Twin Cities I would meet people and learn about the local industry more quickly than if I went out on my own. Once again, I was greeted by friendly faces –this time David Seawell, Leigh Kramarczuk, and Tiana Young. I was once again encouraged to join a committee, and then welcomed to serve on the board, which I found to be an awesome experience. I was meeting and making connections with a bunch of people (hard to do when you’ve moved to a new town in your 30s) and learning a lot about the community.

This past spring I was invited to attend the SMPS President’s Leadership Symposium in Alexandria, VA where the SMPS headquarters is located. Again I walked blindly into a room of strangers, but was pleasantly surprised that all of them were friendly and as nervous as I was. It was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had and walked away with connections to over 50 people from around the country.

This is what I’m bringing back to the chapter this year—Get Connected. I believe this is what SMPS is about: knowing individuals by name, volunteering on a committee or serving on the board, and working as a team.

The puzzle pieces you see on our materials this year represent each of us and how we fit together. Connecting with others can help us grow and become even better. Maybe this year you can leave your comfort zone and volunteer on a committee or offer to mentor a new member. On behalf of the board members, we are all excited to welcome you!

Kelly Chaffee, Senior Marketing Coordinator, Leo A Daly

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Bits and Pieces from the SMPS Twin Cities Program on November 6 - Market Research for Business Development

More on our speaker – Joy Svoboda

For more than 12 years Joy Svoboda has helped A/E/C firms with their marketing and business development efforts both locally and nationally. She has conducted many market research studies for clients on topics that include service and production line expansion; geographical analysis; and market segment studies. According to her LinkedIn profile, Joy thrives on information gathering, interpretation and synthesis, and living somewhere between her right and left brain (a definite advantage in our industry). She readily admits to being a research geek.

Presentation Tidbits

Joy’s PowerPoint will be available to SMPS members on the SMPS website. You can also contact her at [email protected] if you have questions. The PowerPoint was very inclusive. Here are some additional tidbits from the presentation.

  • Remember that market research is not only about what you need now, but also what you will need in the future.
  • As you research a client or subject, you should start to recognize useful themes in your research items.
  • Market research cannot predict human behavior, so doing in-person interviews (primary research) can be a great tool.
  • Check out “”, a division of COMPASS Consultants. They produce a monthly Ezine with useful articles about AEC-specific strategic planning and marketing. Joy has written a recent article for them.
  • Clients have become more sophisticated. They know more and demand more. That has increased the need for market research.
  • Know what specific questions to ask a client. It shows you are sincere about trying to find a solution to their particular issues.
  • Along with knowing a client’s business, know their mission/values/vision. Relational alignment is critical with them to help them achieve their goals.
  • Know what recent regulations have affected your client’s industry. For example, a recent food manufacturing modernization act might have mandated changes for a client in that market segment.
  • Client satisfaction surveys are a good quantitative tool, but an interview can give you the client’s voice (qualitative).
  • It is helpful to have a “client experience model.”
  • If you use Google alerts, it is useful to use a different email than your work email, and set up folders for related information. Commit to looking at them – make the appointment on your calendar!
  • Use LinkedIn to find graduation dates and estimate an age range for a potential contact. Use this information to determine who in your firm is the best person to call on that contact.
  • In health care, decisions on large projects are typically made 5 to 7 years ahead of the project.
  • Make sure your key messaging is woven consistently into all your content.

Karla Sampson
Marketing and Business Development Manager
LKPB Engineers, Inc.

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