Bobby Hollis, VP of marketing for Cosential, joined the A/E/C industries this past year and brings a decade of sales experience along with him. Bobby sits down with SMPS to share his favorite parts of the job as well as the challenges and rewards of his career.
How did you decide to have a career in the A/E/C industries? I love to tell this story because I was actually recruited. I’d been in SaaS sales for over a decade, managing sales teams from Dell to Google. Along the way, I worked with a fantastic guy. He left and joined Cosential as the VP of sales. In 2016, he called me and asked, “Are you ready to talk about marketing?” At first I thought he was seeking to purchase my company’s services, but turns out he wanted to hire a sales-based marketer to work alongside him.
How would you describe your role/job? The technical answer is I’m responsible for all things marketing and business development. Webinars, tradeshows, email campaigns, the website, social media, blogs, content, PR, attribution, opportunity creation, all of it. The fun answer is I’m blessed to come to work every day and make the amazing happen—from meeting amazing people and building relationships, to working with a great staff on ideas and campaigns that represent the problems we address for A/E/C firms.
What is your favorite part of the job? Simply put, the personality of all those within the A/E/C industries. Everyone has such a positive attitude and loves sharing their story, learning new things, and helping others. Being able to learn from this market, come up with new ideas to engage it, then travel and meet clients and earn quantifiable results is nothing short of fantastic.
What have been the challenges and rewards of your career? Stepping into a marketing role without the background has been a challenge, but a great one. I had a healthy intimidation for months. It was at Build Business 2016 that I had the epiphany: I was overthinking it. Coming from a world where I was used to selling products against the world of project sales, I came to identify the credible overlap. That moment helped me understand as well as market our own product much better.
The reward has been pulling it off. We’ve completely revamped the website, branding, event strategies, and so much more. In the last year, we’ve blown every marketing and sales metric goal out of the water. From webinar attendance, site traffic, demo requests, and sales, it has been rewarding to learn so much, not just about marketing but this market.
What has been your most meaningful project? When I walked into the A/E/C space, the language was foreign, especially the acronyms. I started writing them down and filled my wall with sticky notes. I became obsessed with them, quizzing myself as if it were a grade school multiplication table. I bookmarked several online resources but found them to be a bit stale, lacking in updates and personality. One day I came up with the idea to make a new online resource, then it occurred to me to get help from those living it. That’s where the A/E/C Acronym Contest came from. I wanted to make it fun, interactive, and when it’s done, I want it to be a place where newbies to A/E/C can search it, while all can contribute. As I write this, we’ve collected over 600 unique acronyms from hundreds of firms.
How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm and your career? Our implementation staff, all members of SMPS, gave me the best advice in the first week: join SMPS and get active locally. I would not have had the success we’ve had in the last year without having done so, and getting out of my comfort zone to attend local lunch and learns, conferences, sessions, and online forums. I’m on most newsletters at the local level and ensure our presence at all regional and national conferences. The relationships built and knowledge gained—especially the challenges marketers and business developers face—have been my inspiration. But it wouldn’t be that way without the sheer kindness, candor, and proactive feedback I receive almost daily from SMPS members.
What has contributed to your success? Surrounding myself with people who challenge me. Signing up for things outside of my comfort zone. Asking questions then asking more. Showing respect and genuine interest in different points of view. Giving credit where credit is due. Paying as many things forward as possible. Humor. Last but always first, my family.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter the marketing or business development field? Join SMPS. Go to as many events as you can, even if it’s not a topic within your purview. Network your tail off. You will quickly find others who can relate and advise. Find the most tenured member of your firm and pick their brain, hear their story. Find the least tenured member of your firm and pick their brain, hear their story. Spend at least five minutes a day on MySMPS, join communities, and follow and contribute to topics of interest. Study your competition and partners. Marketers: get your hands on as many proposals as you can; BD folks: find a non-competitor and make a pen pal. Never pass on the opportunity to review and study Marketing Communications Award (MCA) submissions at the local, regional, and national level.
What is the best pieces of advice you’ve received regarding your career? Under promise and over deliver on everything you do. It’s okay to stand out. It’s okay to go over the top. And most important, it’s perfectly okay to fail. Just fail hard and fail fast.