Session 5: Marketing & Business Development

Date: February 3, 2017
Location: Town Hall Conference Center
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led By: Valerie Berstene, AIA, LEED AP, CNU-A and Joey Ijjias, RA, LEED AP

Session 5 Program


The fifth session, “Rain-Making” focused on marketing a business with the goal of becoming profitable in a viable way. The session was organized by Valerie Berstene and Joey Ijjas at the Town Hall Conference Center at 19th and K Street. The session began with two energetic presentations, first by Amy Cuddy and Laura Ewan, then followed by Carol Dorscher. The day ended with a panel discussion about business development that included the following panelists: Joe Brancato, Co-Managing Principal for Gensler’s Northeast and Latin America Regions; Joanna Hoffschneider, Business Development and Marketing Team Lead at Grimm + Parker Architects; Deborah Kuo, Vice President of Real Estate & Facilities for Exelon Organization, and; Sean C. Cahill, Senior Vice President of Development for PGP Development LLC.

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Amy and Laura started off the day by discussing their perspective on what marketing means to the A/E/C community. Both women are members of the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), a community of marketing and business development professionals working to secure profitable business relationships for their clients. Amy explained how the marketing industry is changing rapidly from a time when faxing proposals and cold calling clients was a common practice, to new approaches such as the use of social media. Some firms, for example, create themed marketing booklets to share their portfolio of projects with current and potential clients – a relatively novel marketing strategy that is starting to be adopted is the sharing of information that would be unique to a firm.

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Even in a competitive market, sharing information that would typically have been hidden from the public view could now be beneficial to aid clients. Amy then went on to discuss how her firm has restructured their marketing team to become more diverse, robust, and introduce a new hierarchy. In the past, a standardized title system and clear career path didn’t really exist within marketing. Amy, who is very much into data, started to describe the benefits of a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM are practices, strategies and technologies to manage and analyze customer interactions and data with the goal of improving business relationships with customers. CRM can be successfully implemented in a firm if the employees are empowered to enter the information. It can also be as sophisticated enough to track the number of clicks and information that is being read by individuals within a database.

Amy went on to explain that social media has boomed in the last five to six years. Due to the changes in marketing practices, several roles have been defined the scholars were walked through their descriptions. Amy described the importance of participating in a debrief even if the team wasn’t successful in winning a pursuit. There are many benefits that could come from the debrief, including an opportunity to work on another project. An interesting statistic that was mentioned was that 90% of pursuits should make the shortlist. This is because there should be more filtering of the pursuits so time is used more efficiently as there are other ways to get potential clients to know who you are. Lastly, Amy explains that firms needs to identify how to differentiate themselves from the competition. The differentiating factors can be unique for each project. Boiler plate templates can be appropriate for branding, but otherwise proposals and marketing content should be client focused.

Laura, after her introduction, explains that the industry is a bit behind in content marketing. She explains that “content marketing” is a relatively new term and it’s the art of communicating with customers without selling. It was explained that blogs should have a marketing mission and focused on what is being talked about constantly. Laura explains that various content has it’s advantages in different ways. For example, social media is useful for promoting blog content while video can be used to share testimonials. Conferences is an excellent way to capture an audience. Laura then shifted the presentation in talking about brands and how they should align with actions. Brand is a reputation and without proper alignment, clients and employees are going to realize the disconnect.

After the first presentation, Carol started her interactive workshop “The Human Connection: Bringing your Presentations to Life.” Carol is the CEO of Graceworks, a company that trains thousands of professionals on the importance of human connection during presentations and business development activities. Carol, a former Broadway actress, was quickly able to capture the participants’ attention right from the beginning of her workshop. She explains that there is a direct connection of the listeners to the speakers and that live communication is contagious. She further explains that clients care about trust, commitment and chemistry.

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While live presentations can be stressful, Carol suggested ways to minimize the anxiety. Some examples included a breathing exercise and even the simple suggestion of showing up to the meeting early to make friends. Following these examples, Carol facilitated an interactive exercise to understand the “responsive” handshake. Scholars shared their reactions to the exercise and through some more practice were able to feel more comfortable with it. Carol then asked the scholars to share the various “masks” one may use during a presentation. Many of the “masks” are nervous tendencies used which result in severing the connection with the audience. Carol then went into more specifics on some techniques that can be used during a presentation. Body language can contribute positively to a presentation, especially where “big moves” are being use to show commitment. When presenting from slides, Carol explains that the story should come first and the graphics should only be used to reinforce. For slides with a lot of content, you can break it down into multiple steps so it’s early to process. The session ended with one scholar giving a presentation about “What does she love about what she does” and another one use “big moves.” Scholars followed up with some constructive, supportive feedback.

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The day ended with a fruitful panel discussion about business development. Panelists included practitioners, business development professionals, and client side representative. Valerie and Joey facilitated the session with several questions. Some of the takeaways were that business development activity should be natural and purposeful; it’s important to make that meaningful connection. Building relationships is a professional effort but can be personal and ultimately long-term relationships are ones that matter. When aiming to keep connected with a client, understanding the metrics that are important to them and keeping them informed are great ways to maintain the relationship. For maintaining repeat clients, the culture of the firm and the people you will be interfacing with are some main drivers. To finish off the panel discussion, the panelist each gave their advice. Some examples, listen to the opinions of others and don’t get too attached to your outcomes. Be curious of what you are clients are thinking and concerned about. Be passionate about what you do and think long term but still have a good life/work balance.