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SMPS Boston’s blog is moving!

February 13, 2015

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Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go — relocating to our new home as part of the completely redesigned SMPS Boston website!

We’re extremely excited about the new site, which promises to enhance our chapter’s web presence and outreach to our members in every way. Our new blog setup will enhance our ability to deliver enjoyable and valuable posts to you, our readers!

To continue receiving posts from us by email, you’ll need to head over there and re-subscribe via the simple form in the left-hand column.

Thanks to all who have followed us here at WordPress. We hope you will join us in our future explorations of marketing excellence at smpsboston.org.

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Celebrating New Members and Anniversaries for December 2014

December 31, 2014

Every month, Outlook gives a shoutout to all the new members of SMPS Boston, as well as those members celebrating their anniversaries of joining the organization. The brilliant Bianca Girazian of Acentech fearlessly mines our membership database to bring you this list of honor every month.

Welcome to oNew Memberur newest SMPS Boston members:

  • Alexandra Dupnik, Project Manager, Dyer Brown Architects
  • Sarah Koelker, Administrative Assistant, BVH Integrated Services
  • Brittany Busa, Marketing Coordinator, TG Gallagher

Happy Anniversary to the following members!

1 year:

  • Shawn Vetere, Director of Business Development, Knollmeyer Building Corporation
  • Eric Wilson, Director of Social Media, New England Real Estate Journal
  • Genevieve Cahill, Vice President, BSC Group

anniversaries

2 years:

  • Anna Roi, Marketing Communications Manager, Trinity Building + Construction Management
  • Christine King, Marketing Manager, BETA Group
  • Jennifer Cheek, Marketing Coordinator, ARUP
  • Janet Daly, Director of Client Services, TCI/Thompson Consultants Inc.

3 years:

  • Thomas Levi, President, Levi + Wong Design Associates
  • Kerri Sellers, Marketing Director, Rickes Associates

5 years:

  • Vanessa Ryder, Communications Manager, VHB

8 years:

  • Karen Euler, Regional Marketing Manager, NBBJ

9 years:

  • Howard Levine, Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing, Duncan Galvanizing

10 years:

  • Sarah Hotchkiss, Marketing & Business Development Strategist, Commodore Builders
  • Jay Moskowitz, Marketing, URS

13 years:

  • Susan Shelby, President & CEO, Rhino Public Relations
  • Patricia Tracy-Callahan, regional Marketing Manager, VHB
  • Melissa Shaffer, East Region Marketing Manager, GEI Consultants

14 years:

  • Karen Medeiros, Vice President – National Sales & Marketing Services Director, Gilbane Building Company

20 years:

  • Lori Chicoyne, Business Development Director, Kennedy/Jenks Consultants
  • Dagmar von Schwerin, Partner, 96pt.

29 years:

  • Carol Adey, Vice President, CRESA Partners

Interested in joining SMPS Boston? The benefits go way beyond a blog post shoutout. Learn more here.

Is SEO Worth Your Time?

December 22, 2014

Vanessa Schaefer, the President & Creative Director of Clockwork Design Group, has twenty years of experience helping A/E/C and other professional service firms create websites, printed materials, strong corporate brands, and impactful proposals.

The overall goal of SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization”, is to improve a website’s ranking in a search engine’s “organic” or un-paid search results. Most people immediately assume high rankings are something they must have, even if the cost of getting those high rankings is, well, high. But spending marketing time and dollars on SEO should be considered carefully. In some instances, returning high can actually be detrimental to your marketing efforts. Let’s consider SEO, starting from the basics:

Organic versus paid search results

There are two main types of search results, “organic” and “paid”. When I Google the keywords “construction company Boston” here’s what I see:

Boston-Construction-SEO

The two areas marked “A” are paid ads. Also called “Pay-Per-Click”, you must bid on keywords (such as “construction company Boston”, as in this example) and based on the amount you bid and other factors, your listing may appear in the top or right sidebar areas when someone “Googles” for those keywords. Personally, I avoid clicking on paid listings, they are often not at all what I am looking for (note the Asphalt Paving and the Recruiting ad in the sidebar, etc.) The area marked “B” shows organic “Local Search Results”, and the area marked “C” shows the top organic returns. (More info on Local Search is near the bottom of this article.)

How to rank highly, organically

Google makes it very hard to “cheat”. Google constantly changes its algorithms to improve search results for accuracy, relevance, and to prevent ways of spamming the system. Yes, it’s important that your site is built correctly and programmed cleanly, so it is crawlable and includes XML sitemap files. Yes, links from external, credible sites to your site help your rankings (but if they are not credible sites, you can get penalized). Yes, optimizing your site for mobile viewing with responsive design may improve your organic rankings. But more than anything, relevant, fresh, informative content is the most important criterion for improving your organic search results.

It’s a process, not a project

SEO is not a “once-and-done” effort, it is an ongoing activity. The content on your website must be kept current, not stagnant. That means you have to write – often. Plus, you need to blog, Tweet, post to Facebook and LinkedIn, and maybe even add videos to YouTube. It’s work; it takes time; and time is valuable. There’s no silver bullet. Google is too smart for that.

Ranking high… for what?

Often, clients ask me “How can I get my company to rank #1 on Google?” My response is always, “Rank #1 on Google for what?” When considering SEO, step one is to define what you want to return high for. In the example I used above, I searched for “construction company Boston”, and many of the top, big firms showed up. But who, really, would search for “construction company Boston”? Is it a person with a multimillion-dollar budget? Or is it, more likely, someone looking to remodel their bathroom? The last thing you want as a marketer is to spend time and money on SEO, only to be inundated with calls from prospects you don’t want. Think about your clients and what specific services you offer that they might really Google for. For example, if you offer a niche service – something unusual that is hard to find – consider spending more time optimizing for that. Furthermore, if you do have an area of specialty that is B2C, start there for SEO work.

How key are keywords?

It is important that your content be meaningful to your readers. Write for humans, use different words and mix things up. It’s impossible to predict the exact words people may Google for, so don’t waste too much time trying. Concentrate on writing educational, interesting content, not loading keywords onto pages.

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are the snippets that show up on search returns under each link. These “Keyword Meta Tags” are important because they help people understand why they should click on your link, rather than the one above or below. However, Google announced back in 2009 that they do not use this information to determine your page ranking. So craft these tags as you would any marketing headline: to entice your target audience.

Local search tips

Here are a few tips to help you rank in Local Search Results: Your website must be rich with relevant content, you can’t get around that. Be sure to include your company’s name and address (I like to add that to the footer of every website I design so it’s on every page.) In addition, be sure to list your company on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing, and review sites like Yelp, and make sure your listings are exactly the same — Google is looking for consistency in your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number). To check for inconsistencies, go to Yext.com. Include NAP on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Get reviews on Google+ and Yelp.

Think “thought leadership”, not search returns

At Clockwork Design Group, we work primarily with B2B professional service firms including A/E/C, legal and financial firms. The work they do is extremely specialized; the projects are typically complex and very costly. Thus, few credible new business prospects find them on Google. Rather, prospects usually have a “short list” of firms they know and like, and supplement with referrals from trusted advisors.

So why spend time and money on SEO? Although your target prospects may not be “Googling” to find you, relevant, educational content is still necessary to build trust and win business. Savvy business people are on the web every day reading articles, news, blogs, and more. Significant projects are awarded to service firms that have strong brands and reputations. That’s how we get on the short lists. By writing pertinent content, your firm grows a reputation as a thought leader, and you stay top-of-mind with your clients and prospects. By doing so, you are also improving your SEO.

For some great insights to SEO, check out the free PDF book “17 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2015” by HubSpot.

If you enjoyed this article, check out more from Vanessa Schaefer on Outlook! 

Find out more about Vanessa and Clockwork at their website, or continue the conversation on Twitter: @cdgi

SMPS Boston Wants to Hear From You

December 19, 2014

1920s_Surveyor_Gurley_TransitSMPS Boston is surveying our membership. But we’d also like to hear from non-members!

What do you find valuable about the chapter? What could we do better? What types of events would you like to see in the future? And what opportunities would you like to seize to take part in SMPS Boston’s programming?

Voice your choice to help us deliver the best value for you. And if you complete the survey by January 8, you’ll have a chance to win a prize!

Click here to fill out the survey. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes, and the chapter will greatly benefit from your insights!

Voice from the Trenches: Create Change By Admitting You Are the Problem

December 10, 2014

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Voice from the Trenches is a monthly series written by Valerie Conyngham, CPSM. Valerie is Marketing Manager at The Cecil Group, an urban design and planning firm in Boston.

How do you ignite change in your organization? It’s a big question, with lots of answers. But, the first step is recognizing the problem.

You know there are problems. They might be small, medium or large. They’re there, looming over your head. You think about the problems and the potential solutions. You catch yourself saying “if only [fill in the blank], then I could fix the problem.” No matter how much thought you put into it, you’re still in the same place in three months, six months, even a year later. That’s because you haven’t developed the actions to start realizing the change.

It’s OK not to change. But if you choose not to change, you at least need to take ownership that you are the problem. Don’t take it personally! I don’t mean you as an individual, I mean you as a department or you as a firm.

Change is hard, no one really likes it, yet it’s integral to growth. In our industry, time is consumed producing billable work. Many firms have the mentality of billable before everything. That mentality makes it hard to embrace new technologies or processes, because the learning curve is certain to result in (albeit short-term) lower utilization rates. We get stuck in the now and forget the future. We know we would eventually save time/money/resources, but something holds us back.

What’s holding you back? Is it fear of failure? A perception that there are better things to do? Lack of a long range plan to look to for guidance? We all know that change is hard. But it’s not impossible. There are many things you can do to start implementing change. Think about this year’s stalled projects, and make 2015 the year you get those projects back on track.

Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Articulate the problem statement

First things first, you need to clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve. Make sure you frame it in a way that people will care about. To do that, you need to show how this is a problem for them, not just you.

2. Find a champion and a supporter 

It’s important to get buy-in for your project. Start at the top and sell it to leadership. Get a firm principal to be the champion of your project and s/he can tell others how important it is to the firm. Then you can fill the role of supporter and get the project done.

3. Create a plan

Change often fails because there’s no plan on how to implement it. Put together a plan that thinks though all the steps and all the potential obstacles. The better prepared you are, the easier implementation will be.

4. Create small wins

When creating your plan, keep in mind the small wins. It’s easier to implement change if you can obtain a series of small wins. Celebrate them so that people feel their contributions are proving successful. This will give people encouragement to keep the project moving.

5. Change habits 

Most change is about changing or creating new habits. Think about what it is you’re trying to change or create, then think about people’s habits and the triggers. If you can identify a trigger and change or create a new habit for that trigger, then you’ve won.

Connect with Valerie through LinkedIn or on Twitter @valconyngham.

Favorite Five: Debug Your Brain

December 4, 2014

Headshot_ElenaLelchukElena Lelchuk is a Marketing & Public Relations Manager at Commodore Builders and the Chair of the SMPS Boston Communications Committee.

Every month, she compiles her favorite five links from the last 30 days in a series we call, very creatively, Favorite Five! 

You can connect with Elena through Twitter (@ell923) or LinkedIn.

This month, my Favorite Five teaches you how to increase your productivity,  how to add interactivity to your marketing materials, and how to avoid holiday clichés. Consider this my festive gift to you.

#1. “How To Debug Your Brain And Get More Done” by Oliver Emberton

Deadlines, events, holiday parties multiplied by 10! That’s December for many of us — and frankly, pretty much Fall as a whole. Now is the time to teach yourself how to identify what’s urgent and important, and what probably can wait.

#2. “15 video marketing trends for 2015” by Kevin Allen

Are interactive videos the next big thing? I wouldn’t argue it! Images and videos are more successful, and as we all know, including an image with your message = more clicks! I’ve always been an avid supporter of engaging, short and sweet marketing content. We have taken this approach at Commodore: check out our latest episode of On-Location Innovation. A little self-promotion here, but it was relevant! 🙂

#3. “A Three-step Marketing Ladder” by Seth Godin

(1) Awareness, (2) Education, (3) Action…one can’t go without the other!

#4. “The Death of the Single-source Story” by Glenn Leibowitz

Not only do multiple point of views make a story more credible, but it will also make your story more attractive to your audience and to a wider audience. Next time you are write about recently completed project, don’t forget to include your project team’s perspectives.

#5.”6 dos and don’ts of holiday PR” by Michelle Garrett

‘Tis the Season, but try and avoid the clichés! Make sure your email doesn’t get lost in the impending flood of Holiday Greetings!

Presidential Thoughts: Aspire

December 1, 2014

Benjamin Sawa is the Corporate Development Manager at GEI Consultants and the President of SMPS Boston. This is his second Presidential Thoughts column of the year.

SMPS Boston recently held its first New Member Orientation Program of the year – and, as far as we can tell, it was the first in our Chapter’s history as well!

Out of the 30 or so attendees, there was quite a mix of people in attendance, including recently minted members, people who had been members for a year but maybe never made it to an event, and even prospective members. I was amazed at the diversity of the group and how many new faces were out there. I couldn’t help thinking that somewhere in this group were the future leaders of this organization. But I also felt concern that left to their own devices, these people might merely represent untapped potential. My biggest takeaway from the Orientation event was that our chapter needs to show each person the value of SMPS: what it can do for them both professionally and personally, and what it can do for their firms.

This brings me to SMPS Boston’s mission for 2014-2015. Over the course of the summer, the Board of Directors met three times to discuss overarching strategy and planning for the upcoming year. A central theme that kept coming up was the need to move the Chapter forward by investing in our members, our programming, and the chapter as a whole.

SMPS-Aspire-Logo-2014-15So we came up with simple word – Aspire – to reflect this charge. We thought collectively: how can we strengthen our membership and create meaningful value for you? How can we grow a more engaged group of members and volunteers? How can we advocate and promote our members’ achievements in their firms? How can we, as an organization, aspire to be the best that we can for our membership? And how can we inspire YOU to aspire to be the best that you can be?

We have an exciting New Year coming up at SMPS, full of programs that support this goal. Here are just a few of the things that we have planned for you in the months to come:

  • Launch of the new SMPS Boston website, which will be much more user-friendly.
  • Continuation of our successful Building Leaders Series and other educational programming that will help you build skills and knowledge
  • Increased scholarships and other member investment activities
  • An assortment of networking opportunities, from regular Mix@6s to our Annual Holiday Party
  • A super regional conference that represents the collective efforts of 9 SMPS chapters, right here in Boston.

Stay tuned for even more, and I hope to see you at an upcoming event!

Questions or suggestions for Ben? He can be reached at bsawa@geiconsultants.com.

For more from Ben, check out his Career Ideas series.