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We'll Get Through This, but It's Going to be Weird — by Heidi Maki, SMPS Seattle President

First off, this blog title credit goes to Ted Sive. Thank you, Ted, for always saying something memorable!

A huge thanks to our six Seattle Fellows (Karleen Belmont, Vicky Cooper, Kenda Salisbury, Ted Sive, Bill Strong and Carla Thompson) and to Elevate Marketing Advisors for supporting SMPS Seattle’s first virtual program.

The Virtual Fellows Forum: Make Lemonade took place on Thursday, April 2nd, with 76 people in attendance. Thanks to all involved, it went off without a hitch. After a brief welcome, the group was randomly divided into 6 break out rooms, each moderated by a Fellow, where the discussion centered around how to bring value to our companies during this unusual time. At the end, we re-joined the main room to share how we’re making lemons into lemonade during COVID-19.

The Work from Home (WFH) situation has:

  • Forced change to electronic submittals. We’re hoping this becomes the norm!
  • Encouraged previously unenthused firm leaders to embrace the technology needed for WFH.
  • Emphasized two camps: WFH is (1) more or (2) less efficient than working at the office. This is seemingly directly proportional to the number of dependents in a household.
  • Led many people to working longer hours.

This is a good time to update or enhance:

  • Technology
  • Website
  • CRM
  • Project descriptions
  • Social media
  • Marketing database
  • Marketing templates
    • All the above will improve the marketing team’s future time management.

This is a good time for:

  • Investing in marketing! The marketing and BD teams are needed now more than ever to assure success when we come out of this crisis.
  • Customer care. This is a perfect time for personally reaching out to current, past or future clients via phone, email or LinkedIn. An unforeseen opportunity from this crisis is that we now have something in common with everyone, which makes communication easier.
  • Accessing time with firm leaders and technical staff. Whether it’s time to talk about potential thought leadership topics or updating project data, this is a great time to connect.
  • Reviewing winning proposals. Public entities typically have proposals available for review. In the past this has normally been done in person. Is it possible to do it remotely?
  • Using/updating the strategic plan. Use the firm’s strategic plan to guide personal outreach.
  • Capture plans. This is a great time to review client lists and update (or create) capture plans for getting more work with preferred clients. This is also a great time for client research!
  • Focus on positive changes that may result from this situation. Will this situation lead us to efficiencies for client and team communications? Interviews? Hiring?
  • Interview prep. Be prepared that the virtual interview prep process may take twice as long as in-person prep.
  • Firm-wide education. Set up virtual meetings to (1) highlight the company’s marketing plan, (2) explain what marketing can do for them, or (3) educate the technical staff about why the marketing team should be involved in project completion meetings. There are many more good topics out there!
  • Company connectedness/camaraderie. It’s imperative that people still feel part of the whole. Schedule optional small or large group virtual coffee breaks, lunch hours, happy hours. Add a personal touch by encouraging people to bring their current workmates (aka kids or animals) to the meeting.

Don’t forget to:

  • Maintain a daily schedule/routine.
  • Take breaks – stretch and flex!
  • Communicate often and clearly - internally and externally.
  • Include empathy in your communications – marketers bring a great human-side to our AEC world.
  • Embrace your creativity – constraints often elicit creative solutions.
  • Read! - Read as much as possible about the current situation and understand the stimulus packages and how that relates to your firm.

Fellows final thoughts:

Bill — Be strategic!

Karleen — Understand everything that’s going on out there. Be a resource for your leadership.

Vicky —Be vigilant about internal and external communications.

Kenda — Stick with the plan. How can we better meet our clients’ needs now?

Ted — See the headline of this article! Plus – focus on yourself and cherish the moments of creativity and inspiration.

Carla — Don’t waste time chasing markets you wouldn’t normally pursue. Do be adaptable and flexible to our new normal.

Last, but certainly not least, the 10th Annual Fellows Scholarship was awarded to . . . drum roll . . . Ranjana Sterling! According to the Fellows, Ranjana’s entry was well thought out, captivating and clever. The $2500 scholarship goes toward attending the SMPS 2020 Build Business Conference in Austin, Texas. Congrats, Ranjana!

Thanks, once again, to our 6 Seattle Fellows for their continued support of the Seattle Chapter year after year!

Heidi Maki
SMPS Seattle President
Associate Principal, Marketing & BD
Swenson Say Faget structural engineers

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  1. Erin Hatch

    Apr. 13, 2020

    Great post, Heidi! You're right. We will get through this, and yes, it will be weird!


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