In late winter of 1973, having just moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis and working for my family’s company, my father and uncle sold Zinsco Electrical Products to GTE. At that time, I was working in Zinsco’s marketing department developing ad campaigns for a new Ground Fault product.
Around the same time, Jones Mayer Architects was designing the basement area in my home for our three youngsters. Jack Jones knew I was in marketing and asked me a question: How would marketing help his company? I offered to do a client survey (honestly, I knew the answers). The results were the need of a marketing professional. He offered me a job, and I said yes.
But before the offer, AIA began a cross-country program called “Marketing Professional Services,” led by Weld Coxe. The second leg was in Kansas City. The program was September 15, 1973. I was still working at Zinsco when I attended. For me, this was a “dip your toe in the water event,” and it started well.
As an icebreaker, Weld asked, “All those who are licensed professionals, raise your hand.” Eighty percent of the hands went up. Then Weld asked, “Those who are involved in marketing and not professionals, raise your hand.” About a half dozen meekly did so and mouthed “let’s meet tonight.”
When I arrived that evening, business cards were being handed out. We had camaraderie. From my LA days, I knew of a group called The Sons of Bosses (SOBs). Yet, at that time marketers were called Birddoggers. In addition, all liked being part of a society. The rest is history.
The next morning, we told Weld of our gathering and name selection: Society of Birddoggers, Weld thought it was great and offered to bring in several marketers he knew would be interested: Lou Zickler, Janet Goodman, and Pete Moffitt. We met in Chicago in November, where the first action was a new name (National Society for Marketing Professional Services). We also agreed on $50 annual dues. By December, the word “National” was dropped from the name and changed to Society for Marketing Professional Services.
There is a truism: “If you want to be Member No. 1, be the treasurer.” I had to open the account. Weld’s check was Member No. 2, arriving about a week later. Fortunately, Jack Jones was excited about what we’d done, and I agreed to start working for his company in January 1974. Our fourth child had arrived and my wife, Jean, appreciated my not jumping into a new project as she was giving birth.
By the middle of May 1974, Pete designed a survey to gather ideas from our colleagues around the country, and Lou and Janet created our logo and stationery. I set up our treasury and a make-shift central office. Bud Goodwin, Bob Lakins, and Lyle Trease also joined. And our first “prime-time” audience was at the AIA National Convention in Washington, DC, on May 22, 1974. By then, we had 10 members and were ready to take on the AIA.
You can imagine: I had been in marketing professional services for only five months yet was moderating a panel of architects (my boss Jack Jones included) who had hired marketeers. The program was a success and ran overtime with a standing-room only audience.
We were filling a gap. We were providing information, answering questions to an emotional audience that time and time again expressed the frustrations of marketing. The result: People wanted to know more about SMPS.
For the next three months, we received several hundred inquiries, which were individually answered. First from the national office, then from a member living in the same area.
By mid-July, we had 42 members. Our treasury had grown from $106.24 to $1,279.23. We met in St. Louis to organize and write our constitution and bylaws. We appointed members to serve on the AIA Marketing Task Force to help write the AIA Marketing Handbook.
One year later in September 1974, with 52 members, SMPS was honored by a four-page article on The Marketing of Professional Services in Building Design and Construction magazine. Naturally, we ordered reprints. And naturally, SMPS, a thriving organization with more than 7,000 members, is still strong and growing.
Andy Zinsmeyer became the Society’s first member in 1973 and has been a member since, for 45 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.