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SMPS Launches a Graduate School Course in AEC Marketing with University of Maryland

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For the first time this year, marketers in the AEC community will be able to earn university graduate credits for advanced training in professional-services marketing.

At its annual conference, which drew 850 marketers and firm principals to Chicago on Aug. 24-26, the Society for Marketing Professional Services announced, in collaboration with the University of Maryland (UMD), the launch of the SMPS University Leadership Advancement Program. The course is geared toward mid-level marketers who wish to advance to the so-called C Suite, earning titles such as chief marketing officer.

Scheduled for two-day sessions in October and November, the course will provide 25 continuing-education credits from both SMPS and the American Institute of Architects, as well as two transferable graduate credits from the university.

Carolyn Ferguson, who wrapped up her term as SMPS president at the Chicago event, said she repeatedly heard from mid-level career members that they needed a resource to “move up the ladder and be a stakeholder” in their firms. SMPS issued a request for proposals, received three submissions and eventually teamed with the Robert H. Smith School of Business at UMD, providing $25,000 in funding for curriculum development.

Janet Wagner, UMD program director, said the university liked the idea of focusing its existing leadership program on a specific market sector. The curriculum will cover strategy, research, finance, organizational dynamics and leadership. It will include case studies, guest lecturers classroom discussion and work groups.

“We know the first students will be guinea pigs—they will help shape the course for future attendees,” added Ferguson, also president of WinMore Marketing Advisors, Kingwood, Texas. For more information on SMPS University, visit

Appreciation for Marketing

The recession has brought a greater appreciation for the job that marketers do, according to several top firm managers.

The ability of marketers to research appropriate projects and differentiate firms in the marketplace have helped firms win business. “We rely on them. They have become more of a partner … involved in strategic planning,” said Scott Pepper, senior vice president of Pepper Construction Co., Chicago.

“The director of marketing has always been at a high level” in Nitsch Engineering, added Lisa Brothers, president and CEO of the Boston-based firm.

But metrics for compensating business developers are difficult to define.

A purely incentive-based compensation plan doesn't work because it is “too hard to tell who brought in the job or the client,” Brothers said. Jeffrey Gerber, president and CEO of Houston-based PGAL Architects said, “It's hard to have hard and fast metrics, [but] the expectations are to make the shortlist.” PGAL's incentive plan is “heavily weighted compensation on collaboration” because the firm has found that this leads to a higher success rate.

Peering into the future, presenters forecast the need for flexibility, advances in technology and increased globalization.Robert Nilsson, senior advisor to Turner Construction, said increased globalization and staggering new technology “will revolutionize what we do.” Of the top jobs in demand today in the U.S., 90% didn't exist in 2004, he added.


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