Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for project information capture

  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your technical colleagues and know where projects are up to in relation to key milestones. This habit will help all other aspects of your marketing as well.
  • Develop case studies from inception or commission. Key information to gather includes:
    • Client
    • Value
    • Dates (design and construction phases)
    • Services being provided
    • Current workstage
    • Challenges and solutions (ie, what are the issues and how are they being solved?)
    • Sustainability, including how features are being integrated into design and what the expected outcomes are.
  • Keep all the above information updated regularly and encourage joint ownership between marketing and delivery.
  • Always provide quantifiable evidence of any claims made, including statistics.

Quality project information… Why do you never have it when you need it? Actually it’s a marketer’s biggest challenge working in the built environment. Why do we want all this project information, anyway? To me quality information equals quality content and collateral, enabling efficient and meaningful communication about project benefits rather than project features.The advantages of an organised and proactive bank of quality project information are:

  • Developing compelling marketing messages about design and construction approach and being able to evidence them with statistics and client testimonials.
  • Producing quality project case studies which go beyond the standard project description. These case studies score points at PQQ and ITT stage, ultimately winning projects.
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
Understand 

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.

Pros 
  • 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.
Cons 
  • 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.
Construction marketing: Using Pinterest as one of your key marketing tactics

Construction marketing: Using Pinterest as one of your key marketing tactics

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:

Team
  • 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.
Projects 
  • 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.
Process
  • 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.

Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

One of the main challenges of bid writing and delivering any kind of submission is having an endless supply of accurate information. This task is never complete, but done properly will enable you to focus on developing quality bespoke content for each pitch, rather than searching for material you know you have written before, but can never find when you need it…

I speak from bitter experience on this subject, because I know how tedious it can seem to go back through submitted bids to strip out and archive good content for the future. However, I have also wasted many an hour under a lot of stress sorting through previous submissions for golden pieces of information.

Generic information which is asked for time after time

There is much standard information grouped into business functions which is requested time after time. The more you do to organise this, the easier your life will be.

This information includes (but isn’t exhaustive):

Organisational information

such as certificate of incorporation, company number, VAT number, registered address, number of offices, description of services provided. Review and update annually.

Finance and accounts

(always worth getting annual statistics on turnover by sector and service as well, if you want to be ahead of the game). Review and update annually.

Quality management

Including QA certificates, standard text on approach and process, implementation and non-conformance, and complaints procedures. Review and update annually. Speak to the QA manager following any audits.

Health and safety

Including H&S certificate or relevant procedures and systems. It is definitely worth getting your head around CDM regulations if you are a bid writer/manager working in the built environment. The roles and responsibilities are different and this has an implication for the information required. It is also worth noting the CDM regs will be changing again in 2015, with big implications for architects.

Review and update annually and keep up to date with any changes in regulations, so you can speak to the H&S manager about them

Environment

Such as an environmental management certificate or similar processes and procedures. Try to also to gather information which demonstrates the effectiveness of initiatives. Also, if your organisation is involved in designing and delivering BREEAM-accredited buildings, you can never have too many case studies on how the grade was achieved and what the quantifiable outcomes have been.

Review the standard information annually and produce case studies on an ongoing basis.

People

This information can be wide-ranging, including Investors in People, policies on a range of issues from recruitment to development, staff numbers cut by grade and staff turnover. Best to make good friends with your HR team and ask them to provide a range of information on a regular basis.

Review and update annually

Discipline-specific information

Such as design approach or approach to planning construction projects. This information will be guided by quality management processes and will be available within the business. Ensure you are communicating it accurately.

Review and update annually and be aware of any updates or changes

Bespoke ‘golden nuggets’

This is the information which is created specifically for certain bids and other submissions. It is generally technical in nature and takes a while to produce. Examples can include ‘added value’, ‘BREEAM’ or technical approach, but again, this list isn’t exhaustive.

When the submission has been completed, go through the bid and strip out this content and archive it in a separate Word document. The most simple approach is to create one document with an index of the questions, along with the responses. This will enable you to quickly search through in future and will also provide you with a boilerplate or ‘starter for ten’ for those last minute submissions.

Again, this information can be reviewed annually or more frequently and updated with fresh content or examples. Always key to these questions is the quality of evidence provided to support your claims. Make sure you speak to your technical colleagues to know what is happening on projects.

Please get in touch with me if I can help you develop a standard information library for your business.

Using Instagram to market an architectural practice

Using Instagram to market an architectural practice

One of the joys for a marketer working in the built environment sector, is the visuality and visibility of the end product. This can be a building across a range of sectors, or a road or bridge.

I have been talking with the senior management at work about the possibility of using Instagram to promote completed buildings, or even projects being built.

Is anyone else using Instagram in this way? What results are you getting? Do you have any tips or hints to make the process more efficient or get better results?