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SMPS: Society for Marketing Professional Services of Utah.

SMPS Society for Marketing Professional Services of Utah

A few years ago it would have been unheard of for firms in the building-design industry to have anyone dedicated to marketing. The building-design industry was considered a "gentleman's profession," and active selling was perceived as being on the verge of unethical and at best uncouth.

But Utah is beginning to understand what major design metropolises such as New York; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; and Chicago have known for several years - the days when lunch and a handshake sealed a deal are over. With clients becoming more educated about the design process and the banks more stringent in their lending practices, the method of hiring building-design services has gone from the "good ole boy" network to a detailed process involving the review of several firms.

"Technical competence is only one factor that influences the success of firms. You can be the most creative designer in the world, but if you don't sell those skills you will never reach your full potential," said Cory Cannon, owner of Cannon Communications and Marketing.

How the firm is presented and how it locates new projects is becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. In order to compete in today's market, many progressive building-and-design firms are finding that a full-time marketing professional or marketing firm is the answer.

A reflection of this trend is the recent formation of a Utah chapter of The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). SMPS is the only organization dedicated exclusively to providing educational and business opportunities for marketing professionals in the building-design industry. It was founded in 1973 and has since grown to a worldwide membership nearing 4,000.

The organization is meeting a need in Utah. Since the Utah chapter was organized in September 1990 the response has been overwhelming, with 22 members joining and membership applications increasing every month. The average attendance at the monthly meetings has been between 35-50. In fact, in October of 1990 Governor Bangerter recognized the value of SMPS of Utah by proclaiming October 17 "SMPS Day" in the state and encouraging all design and construction professionals to actively participate.

"In the past year I have seen a change of attitude and a wider acceptance of marketing professionals in the building-design industry in Utah. A year ago there were just a handful of us; now almost every major design firm in the state has hired someone to market for them full-time" says Marianne Cook, marketing manager of Chen-Northern and the 1991-92 president of SMPS of Utah.

Because the profession of marketing building-design services is relatively new, those involved come from a wide variety of backgrounds - from technical professionals who have focused their energies on marketing instead of designing, to people with general experience in marketing.

"In the past, most people got their positions as marketers in the building-design industry by default. It is still not a widely known profession. I doubt there are any high-school students, and very few college students, who are aware of the profession, let alone who aspire to be involved," says Stephanie Craft, marketing coordinator for Eckhoff, Watson and Praetor Engineers and founding member of SMPS of Utah. She adds, "That is why SMPS is so important, whether for someone just starting out or for a senior marketer. SMPS is at the forefront of our relatively new profession, providing educational and networking opportunities and helping set standards of excellence."

One of the most unique aspects of this organization is the synergy created by networking with a variety of building-industry professionals, from construction managers, engineers, and architects, to specialty consultants and developers, all intent on finding out how to better market their services. This may be the only organization that lets marketing managers meet with their peers on a non-competitive basis. It has resulted in several job leads and a much better understanding of Utah's design-build market.

Such networking helped Valentiner Architects locate some key consultants which were integral to their successful bid to design the Olympic speed-skating oval.

SMPS of Utah holds monthly breakfast meeting on the third Wednesday of the month, featuring guest speakers discussing relevant topics such as "The Art of Persuasion," "Utah's Building Opportunities in the '90s" and "Market Planning." Four times a year the organization sponsors evening sessions to give the membership an opportunity to network. In addition to local benefits, members receive an internationally recognized monthly newsletter featuring cutting-edge topics, a membership directory with 4,000 contact listings, and cost savings on educational materials and regional/national programs.

For meeting and membership information for SMPS of Utah please contact Cory Cannon, vice president-membership, at 487-7414.

Dana L. French is marketing director for Valentiner Architects and a founding member and former president of SMPS of Utah.
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Title Annotation:organization providing educational and business opportunities for marketing professionals in building-design industry
Author:French, Dana L.
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Words:787
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