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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