My CPSM Journey: An Epic Adventure

My CPSM Journey: An Epic Adventure
My CPSM Journey: An Epic AdventureGoing to an amusement park can be exciting but also scary. Especially with those roller coasters … whoa! Roll back the clock two years ago to 2017, and that’s pretty much how I felt about preparing for the Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) exam. Excited, but nervous and not really sure what to expect.

So why did I do it?

Good question. I’ve been in the A/E/C world for 27 years. I spent most of the time in a dual technical/business development role. A seller-doer with expertise in environmental science and a serious passion for building relationships and connecting with people. But up until five years ago when I took on the role as SME’s marketing manager, visibility and branding were not part of my daily routine. I had a lot to learn!

I was blessed with an outstanding marketing team and tasked with building it to be the best marketing team in SME’s history. I owed it to them and my firm to learn cutting-edge marketing strategies, to help the team grow, and to help SME succeed. The first thing that helped me on my learning journey was joining SMPS. The next thing? Earning my CPSM. I had no doubt both would help set me up for success and, thus, my team and my company.

What was the CPSM journey like?

I anticipated the process would involve reading, studying, and taking a difficult exam and not much more. I was so wrong! As it turns out, preparing for the CPSM exam was a thrilling journey! It was an adventure with a-ha moments around every corner and even some “what was I thinking?” instances.

I resisted the urge to just study. Instead, I immersed myself in the process and chose to engage with people and programs at every chance. I started with the Society’s immersion course. It was really helpful, but I didn’t stop there:

  • MARKENDIUM, the SMPS Body of Knowledge that was published in 2016, became my Bible. I read each of the six Domains of Practice front to back, more than once.
  • A/E/C Marketing Fundamentals was an excellent resource and encouraged thinking outside the box.
  • I read articles in the bi-monthly Marketer journal, particularly those that aligned with study concepts I was working on.
  • I watched SMPS webinars like Smart Market Research, Marketing Automation, and Driving Conversations Through Content Marketing and Social Media.
  • I participated in on-line MARKENDIUM Labs. They helped me make connections between study concepts and my real-world business environment.
  • I joined the SMPS Michigan study group, which was supremely helpful in keeping me engaged and on track for preparing for the CPSM exam … and it was fun!

The most impactful tool that helped me go from knowing it to owning it was the MySMPS chat forums. I engaged with fellow SMPS members across the nation and contacted SMPS colleagues personally. We conversed not merely about the study material but about real-world marketing challenges I was facing in my day-to-day business. I learned best practices about how others manage workflow in their marketing teams, how they encourage team members to become ambassadors for their brand, and types of perception surveys they send in conjunction with marketing campaigns. This kind of real-world engagement played a big role in helping me to pass the CPSM exam.

Was it worth it?

The journey in preparing for the CPSM exam and earning the prestigious credential was a game changer for me. Despite 27 years in A/E/C, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The Body of Knowledge and diversity in delivery models are outstanding. The strategies taught are practical, doable, and impactful. Every day, I make decisions and plan strategies from a whole new perspective and am better positioned to transform business through marketing leadership! In the end, my firm will benefit as I bring ideas to the table that are rooted in SMPS education and great minds.

I’ve always said, if you don’t love what you do, why are you doing it? After my CPSM epic adventure, I love what I do even more. If you’re considering the CPSM designation, stop thinking about it and begin your own journey. I was nervous about it, for sure. But looking back, all I can think about now is: What took me so long to decide?

Debra K. Osuch, CPSM, REM, is marketing manager for Midwest-based consulting engineering firm, SME. She can be reached at

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