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.