By Mary Kate Gulick, AMA Lincoln PresidentMary Kate Gulick, AMA Lincoln President

Summer is in full swing in Lincoln. That means lounging and grilling and any other heat-related, water-adjacent pursuit you can think of. And what are we doing on the AMA Lincoln board? Every July, we get to work.

On June 30th this year, the 2017-2018 AMA Lincoln board headed to the Lincoln Escape Room to set the tone for the year. The major takeaway as I saw it? You win some, you lose some. One of our two groups was able to master the complex web of riddles and problem solve their way out of the Missing Musician room. The other group couldn’t quite break out of LiCastro’s Lair.

But win or lose, we had ridiculous amounts of fun and discovered who the control freaks and panickers on the board are. So that’s helpful.

Wait a minute. “You win some, you lose some” is the least inspirational message I could have possibly come up with. I might as well choose “Meh.” as the rallying cry for the new AMA Lincoln year. I can do better.

There are problems to solve everywhere. Most of them don’t matter. So focus on the ones that do.

There we go. That’s a theme I can get behind. It’s an approach that will get you out of an escape room (because there are all kinds of decoys and random puzzles in those rooms that can suck all of your time away and distract you from the goal if you’re not careful) and it can also help us give AMA Lincoln members a better experience.

As AMA Lincoln has grown over the last 5 years, we’ve come up with more ways to provide marketing education, more ways to communicate with you and get feedback, and more big brands to bring to Lincoln. While these are all good (great!) things, we were intentional about using last year to find out about you and what you really want to get out of this membership.

Enter the the Great AMA Lincoln Census of 2016-2017. You may remember me contacting (read: harassing) you to complete our member survey last fall. Well, 86% of professional members responded and provided input about themselves, their professional aspirations, and what they’re getting — and not getting — out of their AMA Lincoln involvement. Here’s what we learned are the problems that matter:

1. What you most want from AMA Lincoln and are not getting is NETWORKING.

Got it. Every one of our Signature Speaker Events this year will have intentional networking built into it. And we’re adding an amazing networking event for this fall called Cropped. It’s a design competition based on the Food Network’s Chopped. Mark your calendars for October 26. If all goes well, we’ll think about adding a networking-only event this Spring.

2. The most common career goal among AMA Lincoln members is a promotion into management, and management training was the most common type of training requested.

Done. AMA Lincoln is working with SimpleStrat to develop Marketing Manager Prep School. This quarterly series is free to members, and will take up to 12 participants who are serious about earning a promotion into marketing management. It will be an in-depth, inspirational journey from rockstar individual contributor to marketing leader. More details to come on this.

3. Most of you are doing sales, in one way or another, whether you expected to or not.

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Would you believe that most marketing jobs are sales based? And even the ones that aren’t, have a sales component just below the surface. The problem is that most marketers don’t learn the sales skills that can amp up their performance in school. Then there’s the perception problem that sales is a smarmy, less-than-honorable discipline (which is totally untrue). So this spring, we’ll be holding a full-day Sales Boot Camp that approaches the topic with a marketing lens.

4. You want to hear more about emerging trends, B2B marketing, and digital marketing.

Check, check and check. This year’s Signature Speaker Series is built around these topics (with a little more career advancement thrown in for those who are looking to get promoted). This fall, IBM Watson Marketing will talk to us about how AI and machine learning will completely change the industry in the next few years. SAS will talk about harnessing predictive analytics for marketing. InfoGroup will fill us in on their tips and tricks for Google marketing. And we’re even bringing in one of the country’s foremost trade show production companies to help us get the most on one of the most prevalent, impactful and most misunderstood B2B marketing channels. And we know you still like the big brands, so in 2018 we’re bringing in Sprint, the Kansas City Royals.

So that’s our plan this year to solve the problems that matter. We want to give you the marketing education you want to reach your goals, and help you build the connections you need to keep growing and advancing.

I hope you’ll join us through this year’s journey. AMA Lincoln needs your help to make this happen. Show up at events — if the lunches don’t work for you, come to our free SkillSchool series and Round Tables. You’ll meet people. You’ll learn things. You’ll help someone else become a better marketer. That’s why we’re all here. And those are the important things to focus on for AMA Lincoln this year.