Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Project information capture: a construction marketer’s biggest challenge 

Without a doubt a construction marketer’s biggest challenge is securing and interpreting a never-ending stream of project information to enable quality content marketing to be produced, build profile and win projects.

Project information capture: why, what, when?  

There are some key considerations for project information capture.

They are:

  • Why do we need project information?  
  • What does quality project information look like? 
  • When do I capture it?
Why do we need project information?

Project information shifts your marketing content and tender responses from being descriptive and features-based, to being outcomes and benefits-based. 

From a marketer’s perspective, quality project information is literally worth its weight in gold. I believe its value can be demonstrated in one simple formula:

(Quality project information = quality content) = more projects won + more people in work.

Showcasing benefits, rather than features, speaks directly to client needs and wants, as well as demonstrating innovative thinking and added-value. It also creates amazing bid responses, award submissions and shareable blog posts.

From a purely practical point of view, proactively captured project information goes a long way towards making any kind of submission process a lot smoother.

What does this information look like?

Quality project information clearly shows why your organisation provided a better service to the client and project than your competitors. It will tell a story using examples, evidence, pictures and some words.

First things first 

It may sound basic, but double-check the project details you have on record. Include the contractor, architect, engineers and of course the client. Also find out who the contact is for references going forward.

Speaking with your project-based colleagues (the who bit of the process)

Speak with technical colleagues about projects regularly and schedule a formal interview when the project is completed.

Consider the following points during your conversations:

  • Challenges of the project and the solutions developed to meet them. Challenges will generally focus around key areas of site, programme, budget or sustainability. These issues require innovation and ingenuity to solve them and its these solutions we need to capture and communicate efficiently to our stakeholders.
  • Benefits delivered to the client and project through approach.
  • Examples of innovation, including why the approach or solution was innovative and quantification of the project and client benefits.
  • Added-value examples.
  • Examples of sustainability, quantifying benefits.
  • Examples of cost and programme savings, with the impacts properly quantified.

Use these conversations to develop your knowledge (assuming you’re a desk-bound marketer). If you are unsure of technical language, ask for clarification. And remember the golden rule: evidence, evidence, evidence. Any claim which can’t be backed up by proper evidence or examples shouldn’t be included in any piece of collateral or content marketing.

Information storage 

Using a tabulated format like this facilitates capture, storage and eventual retrieval. You will also find that this kind of format will provide a great ‘starter for 10’ when putting together those pesky last minute PQQ responses.

Challenge Solution Outcome Benefit to the client Examples or evidence
Challenge A
Challenge B
When do you capture project information? 

Please see above about regular dialogue with technical colleagues and a project completion interview. 

I’m a great believer in creating a project sheet right from the project being formally commissioned by the client, so essentially project information should be captured and organised from a project’s inception.

Please don’t leave project information capture to when a job is handing over. Clearly the delivery team will have other things on their minds to be wanting to help you.

Construction Marketing podcast – capturing project information 

For some more detail on this topic, last year I took part in a podcast with Pritesh Patel and Mike Reader. On the podcast we discussed the challenges and provided some solutions. The podcast can be listened to here.

Next steps

If I can help you to to efficiently capture project information, or use it to create amazing content marketing or scheme-winning PQQs, please get in touch and let me know.

CRM for construction businesses: 10 best practice points for successful implementation

CRM for construction businesses: 10 best practice points for successful implementation

My original CRM post was turning into a bit of a monster, so I have split it out. I have been involved with CRM at a variety of stages in a number of different businesses over the years and there are always recurring themes. This piece looks at some key points of best practice for successful implementation.

1. Having a marketing strategy which is clearly aligned to the company’s objectives 

This may sound like common sense, but so many businesses overlook the fact that marketing plans should be integrated into the company’s goals. CRM needs to support the direction the business is travelling in and it there needs to be clarity around how CRM will facilitate this.

Communicate this clarity to the business via the comms plan (below) and develop your roll-out strategy around it.

2. Gaining executive-level buy-in and sponsorship throughout implementation and beyond  

One of the key reasons for CRM failing is that senior management don’t buy-in to it. Equally, when CRM has been successfully embedded into an organisation, the key theme has been executive level support and their demanding a flow of quality management information from the system. Pulling the information up through the organisation via non-negotiable reporting requirements has been the single most important contributor to success, in my experience.

3. Appoint a strong project manager   

The project manager will be the ‘face’ of the project, managing information requirements and delegating tasks. They will provide the interface between the software provider, senior management and users.

4. Understand your clients’ and business needs

The whole process is about putting your clients central to your business operations. As part of point 1 above, take this opportunity to crystallise what your clients need and want from you.

As part of the research phase, really take the time to understand the needs of the various teams internal to your business. This will also link into point 1 above. How can CRM support the teams to achieve the goals the senior management of the business has set?

Process mapping  

Mapping the work flow through a business is key to understanding how CRM will impact each team. This will make any customisation of the system easier. This could also be an opportunity to objectively review how things happen and whether they can be improved.

5. Develop a strong network of CRM champions throughout the business   

This localised support is essential during implementation and afterwards,  providing knowledge, guidance, training and report-production on an on-going basis. Involve the champions from the earliest stages, throughout implementation and beyond. They will be the strongest advocates of the new system and help drive behavioural change.

6. Have a clear strategy for roll-out  

Set a clear vision with clear goals for roll-out. Develop a number of quick-wins around your company objectives. For example, this could be creating a single contact database or proactive pipeline management. Focus on these areas first and implement a ‘step-by-step’ roll-out, which doesn’t overawe the business. Roll-out is an ongoing process, taking months or even years. In certain circumstances, new modules and parts will be continually added. It shouldn’t be thought of as a project with a specific end, because it will almost certainly evolve with the business and will require ongoing updates and training.

Be clear about the fact that CRM isn’t a technology, it’s a state of mind.

7. Develop a robust communications plan  

Any change management programme requires the support of a robust communications plan. The key requirement of a CRM implementation plan is to focus on value, both for the business and the user. Frequently CRM fails because client-facing teams of the business fail to see any value in what they are being requested to do. In the case of construction, this is technical people already busy with project delivery.

Communication channels will range from internal communications, training and consistent messaging provided by the executive sponsor, project manager and CRM champions.

8. Have realistic expectations for the short- and medium-term  

CRM definitely isn’t a panacea for any business’s ills. It requires sustained effort to embed cultural and behavioural change, particularly amongst the team which is client-facing. It isn’t realistic to expect a 100% increase on sales within a three-month time period. Manage the expectations of senior management.

9. Data cleansing and integrity   

If you are moving data across from a previous system, even if it was in Outlook or Excel, check and double check the integrity of the data before undertaking a mass upload. If you do this step properly, it will save a lot of time and you will be starting off from a good foundation. Getting this step wrong will compromise the whole project.

10. Training  

A comprehensive training programme is key, along with the provision of a suite of materials to support users on an ongoing basis. The CRM champions should be responsible for coordinating and delivering training programmes, feeding back comments and observations.

CRM for construction businesses: pros and cons

CRM for construction businesses: pros and cons

I have had a number of conversations about the value of CRM over the past few months and have recently been commissioned to investigate implementing a system for a new client. This has got me thinking about what the value of CRM is in construction businesses and what the best practice approach is for successfully implementing a system to ensure buy-in.

My own experience

In all of the construction businesses I have worked in, whether contractors, architects or other consultants, CRM was a hot topic and systems were either being implemented or were planned to be implemented. I have worked with a variety of customisable off-the-shelf and bespoke systems.

In my view CRM is a marketer’s dream and a technical person’s nightmare. There are many pros and cons, which I am sure many of my construction marketing peers have experienced. I have noted a few below.

That said, I am a passionate advocate of CRM. Its ability to provide data-driven, empirical insight into projects and clients in real-time is tremendous, but there are significant challenges to making it work effectively.

Practising what I preach 

I use a (free) web-based CRM system for recording my own interactions with clients and contacts, as well using it to manage potential projects and pipeline. I find it useful, particularly to capture opportunities and diarise follow-up actions.

What is CRM?

CRM is an acronym for customer or client relationship management. At its most basic level, it allows the storage and proactive management of client contact data, as well as pipeline management of potential opportunities. It can also map relationships across organisations, showing breadth and depth, as well as recording previous projects and related information.

CRM – pros and cons 

I say above, as much as I am an advocate of CRM, I am also acutely aware that implementing and using systems within business is not without its pain points. CRM is about culture change, rather than about software. Implementing the new technology is easiest part of the project, but this needs to be supported by appropriate training and communications.

  • Single point of truth on relationships, project information and contact details. 
  • Often cloud-based allowing team members to access data in real-time.
  • Brilliant source of information when data mining for opportunities, pitches and bids.
  • It provides total visibility across pipeline management, giving clarity around who is doing what to secure opportunities. 
  • Provides client, contact, project and opportunity data in real-time, often across multiple offices.
  • Can provide a repository for quality project marketing information, adding value to the work-winning process.
  • Gives visibility to the work-winning process and actions around converting opportunities into projects.
  • Implementing and ongoing management can be painful.
  • Can be perceived as being ‘knowledge-hungry’, requiring a never-ending flow of information to be inputted, particularly from technical staff who don’t see the value in what they have been asked to do.
  • Value of using the system for marketing information is frequently not seen or is totally misunderstood.
  • Changing cultural attitudes and behaviours can be challenging.
  • The cost of the software and multiple licences, particularly if they won’t be used.
Buildings I love: a blog series

Buildings I love: a blog series

Following on from my recent blog post about Manchester, one of the reasons I committed to the built environment sector as a marketer was the ever-changing landscape in the city I grew up and continue to live in.

This gave me an abiding love of buildings, and how they are designed, engineered and built. So, from time to time, I am going to blog about some of the buildings which inspire me on a daily basis.

I walk around Manchester on a daily basis and the city itself provides a rich seam of subjects, so these will be the focus initially. Response to buildings is entirely subjective, so I will welcome your feedback and comments.

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Further to the post I wrote in November 2014 about the bid cost survey MarketingWorks and the University of Reading were undertaking, the results have recently been published in Construction News.

The results were very instructive and clearly demonstrate the need for everyone working in the construction industry to be:

  • more selective about the work they pitch for; and
  • spend much more time pre-bid getting to know the client and understanding their drivers, needs, concerns and aspirations for the project.

When I was working in-house, I spent much of my time being instructed to ‘take a punt’ on opportunities we were clearly not going to win, because we didn’t have the right relationships or experience. Basically we hadn’t done the right groundwork in advance. The impact of this was sub-standard submissions, no marketing and a very cheesed-off bid coordinator (or bid gimp, as I started calling myself).

There were some interesting statistics published in the article, including the rather startling assertion that some contractors are spending an average of 22% of their operating turnover pitching for work. If companies were more strategic about their bidding activities and the opportunities they were pursuing, they could convert this potential loss into a potential profit.

How much does it cost to bid a construction project?

The bid cost data was collected throughout 2014 and provides a snapshot of the industry during an improving market. It provided a sample of £11.3bn of total project value, of which £8bn has full cost data. This reflects a significant chunk of the total industry for the year.

Using this data, it was calculated the average cost of a winning tender was:

  • Contractors: £60,208 
  • Consultants: £23,821

These costs were calculated as an average across all respondents and project sizes.

This is where the 22% of operational turnover comes in. It is based on a conversion rate of 1:5. This figure will be challenged by many, however look at it from the opposite perspective. Basing your bidding strategy on a conversion rate of 1:5 still means you are planning to lose four out of every five pitches you submit. If your hit rate is lower than this, you are actually planning to be even less successful and therefore waste more overhead on pursuits you won’t win. Surely it’s time for a new approach?

Work-winning behaviours

The article points out that a number of behaviours play a critical role in work-winning, bid selectivity only being one of them.

Spend more time developing your proposal

This includes business development activities, like getting to know the client and understand the project, as well as bidding activities such as Go/No Go, proposal development and review. Clearly, this will cost the business more in terms of overhead spend, but if you are being more strategic and selective about the work you are pursuing, the costs will balance out and the rewards will be greater.

Client feedback, or lack of it

I know only too well the difficulty in obtaining quality client feedback following a submission, whether it has been successful or not. As Philip Collard rightly points out, the bidder not understanding the reasons for bids being unsuccessful “…leads to the conclusion that the industry as a whole (both sides of the work-winning process) are not valuing the role that feedback plays in improving the efficiency of work-winning approaches and behaviours.”

From a bidder’s perspective, if you don’t request feedback on bids, whether they are successful or unsuccessful, how will you know where you have gone wrong and how you can improve your submissions in the future. Similarly, clients must be prepared to provide detailed and valuable feedback to bidders, clearly highlighting perceived weaknesses and strengths. Closing this loop is essential if the industry is to make any attempt at continuous improvement where bidding is concerned.

Both Philip Collard and Jan Hayter (marketing director, MarketingWorks) can be contacted directly if you wish to discuss this research in more depth. You can also join in the discussion on Twitter via #bidcostsurvey.