Principals Tackle Major Issues at Roundtable

By Beth Bateman, SMPS San Diego Chapter President, 2016-17
Marketing Director, SMR-ISD Consulting Structural Engineers

Principals Roundtable @ PRAVA Construction Services

What’s your CRM (Client Relationship Management system)?

That was the question Kamala Kuresman of NV5 posed to a group of principals attending SMPS San Diego’s Second Principals Roundtable last week at PRAVA Construction Services.

The principals at the Roundtable represented a diverse set of firms in terms of size, number of office locations, and services offered.  Surprisingly, only four of the firms said they have a CRM, with the most popular being Deltek Vision and Cosential.  Several principals said they have developed their own in-house systems in Word or Excel to track proposals and some marketing and business development efforts, but not necessarily to use as a client relationship tool.  The principals questioned the value of having an expensive CRM system because of the lengthy amount of time it takes to input data and keep it current. As a result of the discussion, chapter leaders at the meeting said they will discuss SMPS programs for the upcoming year to address the pros and cons of various CRM systems currently on the market.

The second half of the Roundtable was moderated by Roger Ball, President and CEO of Rick Engineering, who focused the discussion on California Senate Bill 496.  The bill, which becomes law on January 1, 2018, provides some relief to design professionals by bringing indemnity on public and private projects to more reasonable and insurable levels.  Under current law, a design professional can end up being 100% responsible for another party’s legal fees even if that design professional did nothing wrong.

Principals Roundtable @ PRAVA Construction Services

Roger, who has worked for several years to bring this legislation into law, provided the group with the history of the existing law and heretofore unsuccessful efforts to have it overturned. There are many nuances to the new law which A/E/C professionals should understand before signing any contracts.

SMPS San Diego’s Principals Roundtable was formed earlier this year in response to an expressed need for A/E/C principals to discuss marketing and business development issues affecting their firms.  The Roundtables are held four times a year at the offices of different sponsoring firms.  Attendance is limited 12-15 principals who are SMPS members or have an SMPS member on staff.

The next Roundtable will be held on Nov. 7. Watch the SMPS San Diego website and weekly e-blasts for more information about the topics to be discussed.




Posted in News, President's Messages

Mid-Term Letter from SMPS San Diego President Beth Bateman


Beth Bateman SMPS San Diego Chapter President 2016-2017

San Diego is on the verge of a Renaissance. How do we know? Just take a look downtown and you’ll see construction cranes punctuating the skyline, construction fences surrounding plots of land, traffic cones warning drivers there’s construction ahead, and lines of cement trucks waiting to pour concrete.  And that’s just in Little Italy and downtown!

A new, revitalized Seaport Village is on the drawing board, the City Council approved plans for our first Ritz Carlton Hotel at 7th and Market, and talk is getting more serious about a Convention Center expansion to accommodate Comic-Con and other large groups.  For the first time in many years, the City of San Diego has a strong CIP budget – as do San Diego County and other local municipalities. SANDAG and Caltrans continue to be active with infrastructure projects.  K-12 bond measures passed last November, opening the door for an array of school projects.  And of course, there’s the Big Q – Qualcomm Stadium. What will happen with that? Will the empty stadium attract a new NFL football team to town?  Will San Diego State University take it over for a new complex with a football stadium, classroom buildings, undergraduate housing, parking, and more?  Or maybe there will be a professional soccer team taking over the site, or a world-class medical research center.  All of those options are good news for those of us in the A/E/C industry, because each option requires a team of A/E planners to help bring those ideas to life so they can win approval from the proper jurisdictions.

The news keeps getting better and better because this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more exciting projects springing up throughout the region.

And what’s good for the industry is good for SMPS San Diego. Each segment of our industry has its own professional association, but where can you go to meet key people in all of those industry segments? SMPS San Diego, of course! We have architects, civil / structural / mechanical / electrical / and fire protection engineers, general contractors, landscape architects, environmental / geotechnical and soils engineers, cost estimators, planners, program managers, construction managers, and more.  SMPS San Diego is the one place where everyone in our industry can get together to share ideas, build professional and personal relationships, network, find out about upcoming opportunities, and learn more about best practices in marketing and business development for our firms.

And the kicker is, we all have a lot of fun while doing this! At our annual planning meeting last summer, the incoming Board of Directors adopted “Striving for Excellence” as our theme.   It sums up who we are in our personal lives, our businesses, and our Chapter – we are people who are always striving to be better.

But it doesn’t stop there. We want to strive to be better and we want to do it with fun and with flair, just as we do with our proposals, SOQs, and presentations. There are many images which reflect the special city that we are, but we’ve chosen only one to incorporate into our message this year.  Comic-Con.

That’s right. Comic-Con.  Already we have seen the emergence of some Super Heroes as our Board of Directors and their committees unleashed their Super Powers over the past six months to bring you the best, “can’t-be-missed” luncheon programs, educational workshops, Leverage Your Beverage events, and other networking opportunities.

Our Super Heroes have an even more exciting agenda for the next six months. Here are just a few of the programs we have lined up for you:

March 23: Leverage Your Beverage:  Networking after work at Quartyard San Diego in the East Village.

Date TBD: Principals’ Breakfast Roundtable:  A series of breakfasts designed for A/E/C principals from a broad cross-section of the industry to discuss marketing and business issues facing their firms.

April 19: Luncheon program: “Cool Streets” featuring retail wizard Garrick Brown on the design of shopping malls in the future.

May 17: Luncheon program:  The Federal Market, featuring speakers from NAVFAC Southwest, the L.A. Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

June 2:  SMPS San Diego Annual Charity Golf Tournament:  An opportunity to boogie down with SMPS San Diego for a groovy round of golf at the Vineyards Golf Course in Escondido – an event not to be missed!

June TBD: Bark-itecture:  SMPS San Diego teams up with AIA San Diego for the Second Annual Dog-House Design Competition – woof, woof – who let the dogs out?

July 19: Luncheon Event:  Our favorite public speaking coach and mentor, Jenni Prisk, shares tips and techniques for making winning presentations to our clients.

Aug. 24: SMPS San Diego Marketing and Communications Awards Gala Event:  Party like Rock Stars at San Diego’s  Main Library downtown to celebrate the winners of our Biennial Marketing and Communications Awards competition.

So join the fun. If you are not a member, sign up right away – many of our programs are for members only.  If you are a member – sign up for a committee to help out.  Let us know if you want to be considered for the Board of Directors – selections will be made in July.

And that’s not all folks – there’s much more coming up over the next 6 months and beyond. So join in and have some fun. Stay tuned for updates on our website, our weekly eblast, Facebook, and Twitter.

It is truly an honor to serve as your president during these exciting times!


Warm regards,


Beth Bateman

SMPS San Diego Chapter President 2016-2017

Marketing Director,

SMR-ISD Consulting Structural Engineers, Inc.

Please contact me:




Posted in News, President's Messages

The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

By Peter J. Kienle, FSMPS, CPSM, MBA, and Judy Kienle, MPH, CPSM, Kienle Communications; and Sean Omitt, MBA, Naval Information Forces Command

The Journal of Marketing Professional Services – Marketer – Volume 35, Issue 4

Recently, we were asked to talk about business development aspart of a panel of A/E/C marketing professionals conducting an executive training program for SMPS Northeast Ohio. With that charge, we decided to poll some of the top A/E/C marketers and business developers in the country about the future of business development. We sent 20 marketers this question, “Give me your opinion. What are the three biggest business development challenges facing A/E/C firms today?” We received 15 responses from SMPS Fellows, SMPS past-presidents, SMPS Business Development Institute (BDI) presenters, and senior marketers— totaling more than 450 years of industry experience. The information was priceless. With all the changes in our industry over the past 10 years, we think the most notable is probably that A/E/C principals/firm leaders can no longer make enough rain to maintain and grow their businesses themsleves. Sean Omitt worked with us to distill and summarize the information collected. The major themes and observations were consistent across the board. In no particular order, the information fell into three major groupings: Differentiation/brand Focus and commitment Business development training Differentiation/brand. According to, differentiation is “the result of efforts to make a product (or service) or brand stand out as a provider of unique value to customers in comparison with its competitors.” As Randle Pollock, FSMPS, succinctly put it, differentiation is “… standing out from the crowd.” Most firms’ business development efforts center around the telling of features—we have this, we do that, we know that. A prospect wants to know more and understand how it will benefit from hiring you over the competition. Some firms do not even recognize competition, believing instead that no one competes with them. If all firms are simply touting features, the clients see no real difference. According to Robert G. Trout, CPSM, “Clients are treating design services as a commodity, to be purchased on price, regardless of discriminators and value that can be brought to a project.” As an industry, we have not gone deep enough to articulate and provide discriminators on why our firm is better than another. In short, we have created this situation and continue to support it. The American Marketing Association defines brand as, “A name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from other sellers.” Without discriminators, a brand is practically impossible to develop. Focus and commitment. Most sellerdoers have a goal of scheduling 10 percent or more of their time for business development activities. In our experience, very few firms reach this goal. The most often cited reason is that they are too busy with projects. Michael T. Buell, FSMPS, CPSM, offered another reason, “…it is often just general complacency.”


SMPS Luncheon

Keeping up with seller-doer responsibilities is a matter of priority. Nancy Usrey, FSMPS, CPSM, commented, “One of the biggest business development challenges is sustaining the effort, including relationship development, discovery, positioning, influencing project definition, and procurement processes.” R. Tim Barrick, FSMPS, once spent four years of continuous effort with a client in North Carolina before his firm was awarded its first project. In the case of business development, patience and persistence is required. Carla D. Thompson, FSMPS, CPSM, remarked, “The phone will not call your contacts on its own. You have to make business development and reaching out to clients and prospects an intentional part of each week.” Many technical professionals start sweating when they have to call someone they do not know. As marketers, we can help make it a warm call by teeing them up. Then the call becomes less daunting. Business development training. When we’ve asked architects and engineers if they had any marketing or sales training in college, almost 100 percent say no. One engineering principal said the class schedule requirements would not permit it. Even if schedules permitted it, we doubt many would have taken these courses as we often hear, “I did not go to engineering school to be a salesman.” Times have changed. Little did they know they would need to sell. Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM, said, “We rely on the seller-doer model, but don’t provide adequate sales training to technical staff with business development responsibilities.” Most technical professionals think selling is telling, whereas marketers know selling is listening and then working to meet your prospects’ wants and needs. Business development best-practices resources are abundant. As technical professionals learn, understand, and implement business development best practices, they build confidence and steadily improve their rainmaking abilities. If you have a well-trained business development professional in-house who has a successful sales program and knows how to train, he or she can do the training for your firm. If you don’t have the in-house resources, hire an experienced A/E/C business development professional for training. Since “the future ain’t what it used to be,” be proactive and invest the necessary resources to commit to these lessons learned. The payoff for this investment is in staying ahead of your competition and winning more work.

Posted in News

October 19th Luncheon Recap: Architecture in San Diego

by Amanda Eva Jungles, Marketing Coordinator, Delawie

(L-R) Eric Naslund, FAIA of Studio E, Frank Ternasky, AIA, LEED AP of Delawie, Ben Dalton, AIA of Miller Hull, Jonathan Segal, FAIA, and moderator Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, President of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design.

On October 19th, a panel of renowned local San Diego architects discussed the trends shaping America’s Finest City. Moderated by Marvin Malecha, FAIA, President of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, the panelists led the audience of SMPS San Diego Chapter members through brief presentations, all of which harmonized on central themes of community, authenticity and regeneration.

The relationship between thought leaders and various voices in the community struck a chord with a few panelists, as many of them design highly visible structures that are subjected to public scrutiny by various community review boards and advocacy groups. This process may inadvertently diminish a design’s authenticity through repeated requests for revisions from citizens who may lack professional architectural credentials, ultimately frustrating architects pursuing these project types.


The panelists noted that as architects and ultimately as stewards of the built environment, they should be more authentically engaged in the design process, through honesty and simplicity.  Malecha believes authenticity should be paramount, from the way a building interacts with its users, to the way it is embraced by the community. The structures that architects design become longstanding and contributing landmarks and should be designed as a nod to the values the community members embrace. The architect’s ultimate gratification lies in seeing how people become transformed as the building takes shape—from the first pour of the building’s foundation to the first glimpse of the building’s features lit at night.

Continuing the discussion, Malecha politely requested that architects think more about repurposing and reusing existing structures. He noted the change in our values, where we once bulldozed buildings instead of preserving them. The panelists agreed that the catchphrase “sustainability” has been used to the point of ineffectiveness and irrelevance. The word “regenerative” could be an amicable synonym for the aforementioned buzz word. Marvin ended the luncheon with a challenge for society. He said, “perhaps we could be a society that cleans instead of pollutes, a world that generates instead of expends. As architects, we must think about natural systems and be the foremost advocates for regenerative design.”

Don’t forget to sign up for November’s luncheon, Post Election Wrap-Up: What Comes Next for San Diego and the Rest of California?

Click Here to Register Today!


Posted in Events

Archtoberfest: San Diego Architecture + Design Month


Image Courtesy of 2016 Archtoberfest San Diego

By Amanda Eva Jungles, Marketing Coordinator, Delawie

In October, all architecture and design aficionados happily clutter their calendars with a myriad of free or low-cost events centered on Archtoberfest, an annual, month-long collaborative program celebrating design excellence. SMPS San Diego has many architects as members, and we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight Archtoberfest! Check out the events below and meet architects, interior designers, architectural critics, design professors, and most importantly, future stewards of this great profession!

Archtoberfest kicks off on Thursday, September 29th, with San Diego Architectural Foundation’s PechaKucha Night, a presentation of 8 creative minds showcasing 20 curated slides in 20 seconds increments.

Interested in seeing which local projects will win San Diego Architectural Foundation’s coveted 2016 Orchid & Onion Awards? On October 13th, celebrate 40 years of friendly, engaging and provocative architectural criticism with a reception at Horton Plaza followed by an awards ceremony at Sprekles Theatre.

See just how artfully San Diego architects are shaping San Diego’s built environment at SMPS San Diego’s October 19th luncheon, “Architecture in San Diego: Trends Shaping the Future of America’s Finest City”, featuring a panel of leaders from prominent local architecture firms, moderated by Marvin Malecha, FAIA, President of NewSchool of Architecture + Design. Confirmed Speakers include Jonathan Segal, FAIA, of Jonathan Segal FAIA & Development Company, Eric Naslund, FAIA, of Studio E Architects, Frank Ternasky, AIA, LEED AP of Delawie, Ben Dalton, AIA, of The Miller Hull Partnership LLP, and Kotaro Nakamura, AIA, LEED AP of Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, Inc.

On October 27th, towards the tail end of Archtoberfest, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Diego Chapter will host its annual Design Awards Program. This event will recognize outstanding architectural design by AIA San Diego Chapter members, San Diego-based architects in any location, and work in San Diego by architects around the globe.  

If you’re an architect or simply inspired by design, October is the month to celebrate San Diego’s architecture scene—from the visionaries to the built environments they create.

Archtoberfest |

Orchids & Onions |

AIA San Diego Design Awards Program |

Posted in Events

Brand Marketing to Boost Your Firm’s Marketing ROI and Visibility

By Sylvia S. Montgomery, MBA, CPSM

While brand marketing is far from a new concept, it’s undergone quite the evolution in the last several years. Having a strong brand and building a positive reputation, prior to 1978, relied on word of mouth. Eventually, print ads and sponsorships gained some traction, both with little ability to track their return on investment (ROI). Fast forward to the past decade, when the digital revolution has caused brand marketing to take on a whole new form. Not only is brand marketing multi-faceted, it is also measurable. Today’s consumers are highly sophisticated. They expect answers to their questions with just a few keyboard clicks. They expect much more transparency prior to selecting a services provider. Luckily, digital brand marketing allows firms to not only establish and enhance their brand, but also amplify their value so prospects can experience greater relevance. Here are three tips for using brand marketing to boost your firm’s marketing ROI and visibility in today’s competitive and digital marketplace.

1. Create a Solid Strategy

Having a strong brand-building strategy begins with defining your target audience. When you have a clear understanding of your audience, where they spend their time, and what they’re looking for, you can create messaging that speaks to their needs and positions your firm as the solution to their problems. Typically, most firms think about their target audience in terms of market sectors—such as healthcare, education, or commercial. However, a more impactful approach to identifying audiences is often the role of those audiences targeted. For example, your firm may have strong relationships with the middle management levels of existing clients, yet lack strong connections with C-suite or decision makers. Each of those roles responds to different triggers during the vetting and selection of a services provider. By taking the time to understand your prospects, your firm can build a brand that connects you with the right audience, which helps to ensure the time you’re putting into nurturing leads is well spent. However, creating a solid brand strategy doesn’t stop there—it’s also about setting your firm apart from the competition. Discovering meaningful differentiators has become increasingly more important in the digital age. The shift to online marketing has widened the playing field by minimizing geographical limitations. Buyers of professional services no longer feel the pinch to hire locally, even if the expertise and talent are there. Instead, the primary motivator is to seek out the best provider. The development of this new competitive marketplace has created a demand for firms to stand out and establish their expertise in a particular service or skill. Building your brand strategy around a key differentiator for your firm is a crucial element in maximizing your visibility.

2. Go Beyond Traditional Marketing

Even though online tactics have taken the advertising and marketing worlds by storm, offline tactics still play an important role. In fact, using the two approaches in tandem can allow your firm to reach your target audience even more effectively. For every offline tactic, there is an equal— and often, better—online tactic. While a speaking engagement is still important, combining that face-to-face strategy with hosting an online webinar brings even more visibility to your firm. The same goes for publishing in print publications and publishing online—the two approaches are stronger together. See Figure 1 on the previous page for more examples of how online advertising can give traditional advertising a boost.

Just remember: Different channels work better for connecting with different audiences depending on the goal at hand. The key to successfully going beyond traditional marketing is being able to identify the best channel for the best situation.

3. Build Your Expertise

Buyers want to hire firms that are experts in their fields. One of the most effective ways to build your firm’s expertise—and, in turn, your reputation, visibility, growth, and profit—is by promoting your goto staff as something we at Hinge call Visible ExpertsSM. Visible Experts are those individuals with strong expertise in a particular niche that attain the visibility required to reach critical mass and become widely known for their mastery of a topic. In order to understand the impact of Visible Experts on their firms, we conducted extensive research and interviews with Visible Experts and buyers of professional services. We found that even those expert individuals with the lowest level of visibility had a substantial impact on their firm’s ability to build a strong brand, experience growth, and attract new leads. Perhaps most notable, we discovered that Visible Experts were able to command higher billing rates—with buyers being willing to pay up to 13 times more for the highest level Visible Expert. Building your brand by establishing expertise is one proven-effective way to get results and attract better clients and partners. The bottom line is: Accidental marketing does not work. Instead, intentional marketing that leverages the combined strengths of online and offline strategies is essential to connecting with the right target audiences. Utilizing these brand-building strategies and promotional channels is the best way to boost your marketing ROI and increase the visibility of your firm.



Posted in Marketing Tips

What are the Right Questions?

Evan Ross

By Evan Ross, CPSM
SMPS Advisory Chair/Chapter Liaison
Marketing Manager – San Diego
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

“It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” G.K. Chesterton

Are we getting the right answers? That depends on the questions we’re asking. As business development professionals who regularly engage with clients, we constantly ask ourselves (or should be), “are we asking the right questions?” Questions that elicit the most revealing and pertinent information; questions that drill directly into the core of the situation, the problem, the solution from the client’s perspective.

We make this inquiry over and over again to refine our communication, to shape our vision and our message, and to position our firms to win work. But really, what are the right questions? Often we formulate questions based on expectations, learned assumptions or what we anticipate to be true. Or worse, we frame questions that are actually leading; directing the answer where we want it to go. We don’t let the client offer their true, unconstrained opinion or perspective, or we don’t let them dive deep enough into the muddy nuances of the issue. We do this for many reasons, often because we think we know the answer or we want our team’s knowledge and technical prowess to dictate where the conversation goes—hopefully right to the solution that proves our brilliance! Or we do it because we know that neat, whole answers require less inquisitiveness, analysis and follow up than the nebulousness that often accompanies real perspective.


Evan Ross speaking at the SMPS Marketing Bootcamp on business development.

Does this line of questioning get us the information we need? Probably not, and for several reasons. Because while we’re not getting to the root of the issue and helping our client explore the many layers of their challenge, we’re also not really altering the complexity of the problem in their mind, even as we’re reframing the problem into something solvable.

So at once we miss the opportunity to listen to their most covert motivations or intentions and also to serve as a true advisor. And when we simply take the information we’ve acquired—the proof of our presupposition—and synthesize it into whatever form suits our message or product or deliverable, we continue to ignore the truth: that this is a reality we’ve manufactured for them and not their honest appraisal.

So how do we provide a forum for our clients to pontificate freely and share the crucial information we need to truly understand their needs? We start by developing the right questions. The right questions are free of assumption; they do not imply that we have already framed the challenge and simply need to ascertain that we are on the right track. The right questions are thought provoking and open-ended, and allow the client to express the problem in their terms and from their perspective. The right questions typically open the conversation broadly and then home in on more specific themes, and they may be prepared to a degree but then guided by the dialogue in real time. Such questions will push the respondent in certain directions, and will highlight or clarify particular shared points or thoughts. They may also lead the client to new or previously unexamined ideas, or elucidate features that were confusing or cloudy.

Most importantly, and as the G.K. Chesterton quote above illuminates, the right questions help the client better see the problem they are trying to solve. It helps them dive deeper into it by stepping back and exploring it from various angles. This enables them to more clearly define the primary elements of the problem that keep them up at night. And those nuggets are the gold we are panning for in the discourse; the building blocks of a truly personalized, customized solution that hits on all of the client’s particular worries and proclivities. Without a foundation built on such specific insight, any solution we posit is likely to miss the variables of most import to them. That’s the sort of approach that loses pursuits, and leaves clients wondering where we got our information. Because, surprise, that’s not how they saw the issue at all!

It’s helpful to remember that successful people don’t have all of the answers, but rather they ask the best questions (and they listen closely to the honest answers). Finding the right question comes from a lot of trial and error and requires humility and considerable preparation. But the effect of removing ourselves and our assumptions from the query is the benefit of a deeper understanding of our clients, and a stronger position from which to serve them.


Posted in News
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