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Diary of a CPSM Candidate: Strategic Planning and Marketing Plans

April 9, 2013

Diary of a CPSM Candidate is written by Valerie Conyngham, Marketing Manager at The Cecil Group, an urban design and planning firm in Boston. The opinions expressed below are hers and hers alone. She can be reached through LinkedIn or Twitter @valconyngham.

SMPS CPSMI’m four weeks into studying for my CPSM. This is my second “diary” post, which means I’m through two domains, four to go. If you missed my first post you can read it here.

I was feeling pretty confident after domain one, domain two put some cracks in that confidence. It’s not that the subject of domain two is new to me, it’s on strategic planning and marketing plans, it’s the sheer mass of information contained within this domain, much of it off topic. After attending the study group I realized I wasn’t alone with these feeling. Study group = awesome commiseration.

First, let me vent…

Domain two in the Marketing Handbook is dense and not particularly fluid. While it shouldn’t be hard to put together an entire section on planning, this book falls short. There are a few relevant chapters, then a chapter that is essentially an advertorial for a particular planning method and then there’s the rest. And by rest I mean this section contains every chapter that didn’t reasonably fit into any other domain, even some that could be argued don’t belong in a marketing book.

What I was hoping to find was a discussion on strategic planning and how other plans (operation plan, marketing plan, financial plan, etc) are developed to support the strategic plan. From there I wanted a discussion on best practices, some tools to use in planning and a good solid outline for what a strategic plan in the AEC industry should contain (preferably based on life stage of the firm) and what a marketing plan in the AEC industry should contain. I was hoping these outlines would be evidenced based, developed from years of researching how the industry’s most successful firms are planning. Essentially, I wanted to be able to test whether my own plans were up to par with that of my peers.

Now, on to some substance…

I’m going to leave the realm of study materials and point you instead to the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. I started reading this book shortly before my attention turned to CPSM and it has some valuable insight into strategic planning processes, including a two page strategic plan template.

In strategic planning there are two things that can make or break the process. The first is defining the goals, but then sharpening the focus. Strategic plans are about setting the vision for your company. In order to carry out that vision you need to define clear goals that will help you achieve the vision. However, too many goals and your vision gets clouded. This particular book suggests establishing your top 5 goals and then identifying your top 1 of 5. Get everyone to work on the one most important goal and it will get accomplished quicker than having five teams attacking five goals simultaneously. That’s not to say you forget the other four goals, you just have laser focus on the most important one. I can see this working for personal growth goals as well.

The second necessary thing to achieve your goals is continuous communication of them to your team. Let’s say the firm’s top 1 of 5 goal is to work more collaboratively. Marketing could support the goal by making a sign for everyone’s desk that says “ask someone for input on your project today,” staff meetings could include project pin-ups, proposal writing could involve a rotating team of writers from technical, professional and marketing staff, you could hang signs around the office to encourage collaboration and set up special collaboration areas throughout the office. The idea is to get everyone in the office focused on one goal so that it becomes engrained in the culture of the firm. Once the goal is met you establish your top 1 of 4. Imagine how much of your strategic plan you accomplish if every quarter your entire firm was focused on making one goal a reality, by the end of the year you’ve accomplished four substantial goals and moved your firm toward real growth.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2013 7:47 pm

    Excellent post. I just finished domains one and two. I have also read Creating Rainmakers and found that helpful on a global level. I agree that are a few sections of the handbook that are out of date, not cohesive and sometimes conflicting. I understand that National is undergoing an update to all of the Domains so I would assume the handbook would be updated to. I am enjoying your diary. Thank you!

  2. April 10, 2013 10:07 am

    Very interesting points, Valerie! I just added the book you recommended to my to-read list! Was there anything in Domain 2 that you did find valuable?

    I am loving your diary entries – thanks so much for doing this series!

  3. April 10, 2013 12:11 pm

    Lindsay, I’m glad you’re enjoying the diary. National is updating the handbook and I’m looking forward to a new and improved guide. I think the timeframe is 2014.

    Anna, there’s a lot of good information in Domain 2 about the importance of truly defining what it is your firm does and then committing to that vision and executing it through yearly plans. As marketers we know the value of that, but our firms often get swept into the allure of chasing projects that are interesting, but don’t necessarily contribute to a firm’s goals, whether they be financial or positioning based. Domain 2 is a good resource to help you continue to champion your firm’s brand through its planning. I also got a lot out of the evidence based marketing section. It’s directly applicable to a marketing initiative we have at The Cecil Group this year and helped me to retool one of the tactics that I had proposed as part of my marketing plan.


  1. Diary of a CPSM Candidate: Please, Just Tell Me Something I Care About | Outlook Blog
  2. Diary of a CPSM Candidate: Executing your Marketing Plan through Promotional Activities | Outlook Blog
  3. Diary of a CPSM Candidate – The End is in Sight! | Outlook Blog

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