I have blogged about CRM before here and here. This post details the top 6 benefits of using CRM in construction businesses.
The top 6 benefits of using CRM in construction businesses
#1 Managing the flow of business development intelligence
[bctt tweet=”CRM systems organise the diverse flow of information from wide-ranging stakeholders.“]
Companies working in the construction sector strategically manage relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, including contractors, architects, engineers, clients, consultants and local authorities. Efficiently capturing, managing and interpreting this data is critical to effectively controlling the business development and bidding processes. A CRM system streams this diverse inflowing information, allowing it to be efficiently interpreted.
#2 Knowledge and understanding of clients, consultants and other stakeholders
[bctt tweet=”Segmented information allows you to understand your clients and target your marcomms”]
Over time a significant bank of quality data will be captured, including projects worked on together and opportunities referred. This information is extremely valuable in the business development and work-winning processes. Segmented information also enables you to sort the organisations you work with and target your marketing communications. For example segmenting by discipline, by value of opportunities referred or by client type.
#3 It provides quality management information
[bctt tweet=”CRM provides real-time management information, allowing for informed decision-making”]
Decision making is well-informed by real-time data and provides real visibility across the business, accessible by everyone. This is particularly useful around pipeline management and sharing relationship/marketing information across the business. A CRM system can also provide the perfect location for sharing project-related collateral, or information on organisations you have relationships with.
#4 Proactive management of business processes
Tasks and activities can be diarised and centrally coordinated, as well as providing total visibility around who is responsible for specific actions.
#5 Drives efficiency throughout the business
CRM provides a single location for a whole host of information. This ranges from the simple to the more complex and minimises replication.
#6 Improved relationships within the business
[bctt tweet=”Sharing information across the business improves relationships and increases efficiency”]
Sharing client information across the business improves relationships between teams, as well as developing a culture of working together towards common goals. This is particularly important for organisations based in a number of offices.
I have worked with many CRM systems, particularly during implementation stages. I can work with you to develop the right protocols for your business to drive the right insights from the data.
My earlier post talked about how to capture project information. In this post I am going to talk about the myriad ways you can recycle and reshape it, to create a range of content suitable for multiple channels and platforms.
- Case studies
- Project information on CVs
- Awards submissions
- Online and offline media
|Online and social media
- Website content
- Develop a bank of library of project information, ready for a range of questions.
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.
- 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.
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.
||Benefit to the client
||Examples or evidence
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Pinterest isn’t automatically thought of as being a key social platform for construction marketing, but I believe it’s one of the most useful and one of the most underused in the industry.
Current demographics suggest more women than men use the visual bookmarking service, but this should not negate the platform’s usefulness for the AEC sector, because there are so many benefits. Users in the US alone are predicted to reach 50 million by next year. There is an interesting recent article on Pinterest statistics via Sprout Social.
This blog post looks at the how and why of Pinterest for construction marketing.
Why should Pinterest be used to support construction marketing?
So, in an already over-crowded space, with multiple platforms clamouring for space and attention, why should Pinterest be used as a key marketing tactic in the construction and built environment sectors?
1 – It’s visual
Design, construction and engineering are beautifully visual activities and this this alone makes Pinterest perfect for showcasing the expertise in the sector. From creating boards showing design inspiration and themes, to uploading progress and completion project photos, the possibilities for communication and story-telling are endless. Furthermore, content does not have to be static and can include YouTube videos or SoundCloud files.
2 – It drives traffic back to your website
Key to the point above being a success is pinning content (photos, images, videos and infographics) which are interesting, attractive and informative, as well as referring the pinner back to an appropriate landing page on your company website, increasing traffic back. This may well include people who hadn’t heard of you before, but may now want to work with you in the future.
3 – It can develop and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders
By pinning content shared by organisations and people you work closely, with or want to work with, you will further develop relationships and links with them. A relevant example of this could be architects, contractors or engineers using boards to pin products they may want to specify in future projects, or examples where products have been used before. Remember to tag the photos appropriately. Equally, product manufacturers may use Pinterest to supply the need and get products in front of specifiers via a different platform.
When people comment on your pins or repin them, remember to respond to their comments or thank them for the repin. Social media is about relationships between people, after all.
How should Pinterest be used to support construction marketing?
1 – Pin collateral
Use Pinterest to pin all that collateral that the marketing team is usually nagging you to help them to write. See below.
2 – Create multiple boards
Create multiple boards, with clearly defined purposes.
These should cover:
- Pin CVs and photos which link back to the team page on your company’s website. This shows potential clients who they would be working with.
- Pin photos and information of activities which demonstrate the culture of your business. This could be social events, charity activities, training or working on site.
- Encourage your team to directly contribute to your Pinterest by giving all members of staff their own boards on your account, so they can use them to pin photos of inspiration and ideas. This will enable your team to directly communicate with potential clients and other stakeholders.
- There can be no better way for an architect, contractor or engineer to clearly demonstrate their expertise than via a dynamic online portfolio.
- Project photos, including themes and inspiration, progress and completion photos.
- Collateral, for example project information sheets and case studies, as well as any other copy which has been repurposed for Pinterest.
- Pin the images from your website, so that traffic is referred back. Also pin the first page of the case study or other piece of collateral and make sure the link takes the viewer back to the right landing page on your website.
- Pin the first pages of your (online) brochures, taking the viewer back to the page where they can be downloaded. This could be via your own website or on your account on Issuu.
Blog posts and key web pages
- Using rich pins for articles, pin your company blog posts.
- Pin other articles of interest, for example industry trends or changes in legislation.
- Create infographics to clearly chart out your company’s approach and process to key activities. This could be design, planning, preconstruction and construction or handover. Infographics are much more likely to be repinned, because information is easily understood.
These are just some ideas I have been mulling over, but I would love to hear what you all think, and how you are using Pinterest to market your construction business.