Thursday, August 7, 2008

Welcome to Denver

Hello, everyone, from Denver, site of the 2008 Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Build Business national conference!

We made it in successfully yesterday afternoon, although some of the folks flying in from Boston had their flights delayed late into the night and are likely going to be quite bleary-eyed this morning.

The early buzz here is quite positive. SMPS officials are predicting about 900-1,000 attendees, which is up slightly from last year in Denver. And the atmosphere among attendees is a lively one, as always. If that surprises you, given the uncertainty of the economy and the negative indicators (see the AIA Architectural Billings Index), it shouldn't. Marketing professionals use this event to share ideas and concerns about how to find more work and foster internal support for the value of marketing within their firms.

Most of the attendees I spoke with last night at the welcome receptions and in casual conversations said they are quite busy, giving further credence to the notion raised by many AEC firm leaders that this slowdown is market-specific. Firms working in higher education, health care, and the energy markets are turning away work and/or having a hard time finding people to do it. Those working in different sectors (see residential real estate) find the glass half empty.

There is an underlying fear that, like the recession of the early 1990s, firms will see marketing solely as overhead and cut back on it as backlog shrinks and client RFPs dry up. It's a valid concern, but there is the reality that cutting back on marketing is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. After all, if you stop promoting your firm and reduce your proposal submittals, you are ensuring that the pipeline will slow down, your backlog will disappear, and you will in fact, struggle.

Keep marketing, folks, but be smarter about how you chase after projects. Chasing after every project is only going to reduce your hit rate, keep you from getting shortlisted, and guarantee that marketing will be seen as a waste of money. Target marketing is always a good idea, but it is an absolute necessity when times are tough and margins shrink.

It's time to head over to the Hyatt (we're staying at the Brown Palace), but we will update later.


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