Rise of the Marketer


A friend and fellow SMPS Southeast Louisiana member, Nicole Marshall, wrote a blog on the SMPS SeLA website entitled “Understanding Your Value to Your Firm”. She discusses the need for professional service firms to appreciate and value the resources they have on hand with their marketing & business development teams. Nicole is dead on with her viewpoint in the A/E/C (Architect/Engineering/Construction) industry [and most B-2-B industries], and she cites some great examples, including the lack of education in school for professional services marketing and her experience at the AIA conference. Nicole’s blog got me fired up, and I replied with a comment about a common trend that I see developing, The Rise of the Marketer.

First off, let me explain that I am not an internal marketer, but that I work with many internal marketers and business developers that are clients, fellow association members like SMPS, and friends.  I am a graphic designer and web developer by education, a marketer through experience & my certifications, and a business developer taught by trial and error over the past decade.

I see that we are on the verge of a powerful momentum shift for marketers, one that has been steadily building over the course of decades. Nicole is correct in her assessment that some of the challenges that marketers at professional services firms face stem from the ban on such activities until 1978 because they were deemed as unprofessional and illegal. A lot has changed in 35 years, especially in the past 5 years with the advent of social media, the world’s recession, and the understanding of brand marketing for B-to-B companies.

The acronym “CMO” for Chief Marketing Officer is a new term for many, and it is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the efforts of strong, influential marketers and organizations like SMPS that are championing this shift. For the first time in many companies’ history, the director of marketing is invited to the executive team and strategic meetings for more than merely taking notes or making a presentation. Instead, this director is invited to participate as an equal. This chief marketing officer sits next to the chief executive officer, financial officer, and operating officer as a peer, and in certain situations, as a superior.

As an outsider that is waist deep in this battle for respect, I’ve also seen a shift that includes marketing departments receiving larger budgets. These larger budgets come with a higher expectation to produce tangible results. Strong, knowledgeable marketers have waited patiently for the day when they can dictate their own futures and possess pride in their accomplishments, knowing that they made the call, they executed the plan, and they saw the results garnered through their own unique expertise. This will mean that the weak marketers will perish, as they should. One of marketing’s greatest impediments is a lack of freedom to employ our expertise, and all too often marketing goes to an executive assistant in the office that needs a few extra hours of work. Again, all too often, marketing is thrust in the lap of a person that does not possess the skill, passion, and expertise to effectively manage it, and that hurts a company much more than they realize.

The marketing & business development team is the only group in a company that actually brings money into the firm, although at most firms they are viewed as unbillable and managed by the office manager. The technical team of architects, engineers and constructors may actually bill time, but without someone bringing in the project, there would be no hours to bill, making the technical team unbillable too. When I make presentations at SMPS regional conferences and in talking one-on-one, I challenge marketers to step up and show their value to their firm. Look at what you and your team have done this year, whether it is bringing in ___ % of total revenue or ___ millions of dollars to the firm. Where would your company be without your efforts and expertise? More importantly, where could they be if they removed the shackles that most companies have in place to hold the marketing team back?

Let’s go back to that poor executive assistant that has now been deemed the firm’s “marketer”. This person has two options – take orders from their boss (who is probably a technical billable person or an office manager that “babysits” the unbillable people in the office), or take it as an opportunity. Marketing does not have to be something you learn in a university setting. In fact, most people I know in marketing do not hold a degree in it, and the people I know with a marketing degree usually do some type of sales. This is why I love SMPS so much – because of the highly valuable education that they provide at conferences, association meetings, webinars, emails, and via social media. As I mentioned before, I am not a marketer by education. I have learned the trade through watching the marketers at my company (a design & marketing firm), by observing marketing and advertising in the world around me, and a few years ago, by learning the more “textbook” side and industry specific version of marketing through SMPS’ certification program. One of the best ways to market a company today is through content marketing, which is providing free resources to potential prospective clients; in other words, to learn from companies that want your company to hire them and use content to market your firm by doing a blog, whitepapers and/or a webinar.

Now, please do not mistake this for a rant; this is me encouraging you as a marketer and business developer to stand up for what you deserve to the firm’s principals and executive team, and to challenge your own marketing & business development teams to step up. I will leave you with this thought/example: the world’s best architect would be invisible to the world without a good marketer, while a bad architect can become legendary with a good marketer. The reason that your competitors who you view as “sub-standard” are receiving accolades and projects is because of good marketing and business development. It is a professional services example of the old adage, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”