Editor’s column

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    Mark Buckshon

    President, Construction News and Report Group of Companies

    The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) most senior members, the “Fellows,” have conducted a survey which shows both challenges and limitations in predicting the future of our industry. SMPS is the U.S. based professional association for architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) marketers. The association has a chapter in Toronto. Since, as business publishers, we derive most of our income from a component of the marketing process (advertising), the direction and perception of AEC marketers has real importance to us.

    The Fellows’ strongest assertion: A major talent shortage has created stresses within the industry, and will get worse. This shortage comes just a few years after the 2009 recession decimated most of the U.S. industry – a crisis that the Fellows failed to predict when they last conducted this level of research (in 2007).

    Today, in addition to staff shortages – as baby boomers retire and there aren’t enough skilled hands to replace them – there are challenges with commoditization of professional services and of course, revolutionary technological changes. Here, I think AEC businesses have it easier than the media and publishing community. I would never have imagined when I started business in 1988 that by retirement age the newspaper would become a scarce technology, much like the horse and buggy became an exotic transportation device when the internal combustion engine arrived (and petroleum fueled automobiles may also be heading for oblivion, though a bit later than newspapers.)

    Artificial intelligence (AI)’s progression has been truly astounding; a force that can be applied for good and evil. (I’ve been fortunate in recent years to receive an annual invitation to Google’s offices, where I can observe firsthand AI’s rapid changes and evolution, reflected in the building industry through augmented reality and BIM modeling.)

    What can we do about these changes? The SMPS survey suggests we should embrace them.

    “That recommendation was mentioned, whether the discussion topic was leadership issues, staffing concerns, technology, or any number of items,” the SMPS Fellows report. “It is quite obvious that the general need to embrace change is an attribute that marketers must embody in all facets of their work life in order to be successful in an ever-changing industry.”

    “Be nimble; the pace of change is accelerating; quickly react to new trends,” said Fellow Scott Butcher. The area of change that got the most mention was technology, with Jane Felsen Gertler, writing that it is “not enough for just younger marketers to know technology. Senior managers and marketers must get on board to maintain understanding and utilize tools that are available. The information technology department now becomes more important and integral to firm’s success.”

    Michael J. Reilly suggests for AEC marketers: “Hire a marketing strategist (CMO level) able to introduce a long-term view for marketing/BD and to shape the firm’s future. Learn how to use marketing automation to its fullest (embed IT expertise in the marketing department).”

    The SMPS report suggests: “Being flexible. Thinking strategically. Embracing change. All are behaviours that marketers need to exhibit as the AEC industry continues to embark on a future filled with radical shifts in the way firms acquire and perform work.”

    You can obtain a copy of the SMPS Fellows’ survey at this link: https://goo.gl/Gr294y.

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