There are plenty who have heard those three letters “CRM” and aren't sure what the acronym stands for. Quite often at events our staff asks, or gets asked, what the acronym means and it's a testament to the more recent awareness and adoption within AEC firms that many people to this day cannot define it. That’s okay; you’re not alone. CRM in concept is arguably one of the newest types of software to be implemented within AEC firms and the timing, while arguably late against other verticals, certainly aligns with younger generations joining and taking the helm.
CRM by common definition means “Customer Relationship Management”. The earliest adopters are the organizations who have sold products, software, or "stuff" for decades. They operate in a world of high volume conversations, pitches, and attempts to win over most their perspective TAM, or Total Available Market. AEC firms that sell projects over products are adopting CRM's for core reasons such as having one source of truth for contact information, lead and opportunity pipeline management, and to streamline marketing efforts such as accessing historical project records for proposals and/or easily organizing email campaigns to clients, partners and prospects.
Arnold Neustadter first marketed this practice in 1958 with his rotating index file cardholder we all know as the Rolodex. That type of tool reigned arguably well from its conception to the 1980’s when Robert and Kate Kestnbaum pioneered database marketing. In 2007 the CRM took off fueled by the SaaS market and while you may have not known the acronym of CRM until recently it’s highly unlikely you have not heard of Salesforce, arguably the most popular and traditional CRM used by product and software based companies to date.
If we were immortal, only loyal to one employer, had immaculate memories, and of course telepathic there would be no demand for a CRM. Perhaps in galaxy far away this is the case but here on Earth that’s not the case. At a business level the information gained through years of relationships and transactions is the lifeblood of a company. Documenting client names, contacts, contact information and history is vital.
So here we are, human. We are forgetful tend to change jobs from time to time. Combing through a departed employee’s laptop to recoup business intelligence is a familiar sight, but not needed for businesses capitalizing on technology such as a CRM. The “tribal knowledge” of a company’s relationships can, and should be documented within a modern, easy to use forum so much that when CRM is done right it’s the source of truth for your staff.
What Do Most CRM’s do?
The elevator pitch for a CRM is that it’s a software system businesses used to document the existence of prospects, customers, and house anything and everything associated with them. Expect a CRM to house accounts, and all the contacts with their respective telephone numbers, email addresses, notes and conversations.
Most CRM’s have a component that automatically logs every email between companies, showing who sent what and when with complete transparency. At minimum, all CRM’s allow users to log their own notes related to an accounts, contacts, and sales pipeline. It’s the sales pipeline that business leaders focus on. Having a single pain of glass view showing what deals are in work, closed, and forecasted aligned with the ability to quantify or dig into activities is vital for leaders and executives. That is what affects major business decisions and what feeds information back to owners, boards or investors.
Life without a CRM
Every business with ambitions to stay alive must have an aggregate view of performance. Traditionally those without a CRM live within an endless array of emails, spreadsheets and attachments with a poor soul tasked to consolidate the data frequently. It’s that simple, but it’s not. In such a world as this the more people contributing data the higher the odds of it either being vastly inaccurate, and extremely subjective in format and content.
Redefining the "C" in CRM:
Fortunately, the first letter of the acronym CRM is flexible. The official definition is Customer Relationship Management. But do you think of your projects as customers? Do you vest into having a customer support lines, or a venue for customers to make returns, submit trouble tickets? For AEC firms the answer is obviously not. Cosential has redefined this “C” for years in marketing to AEC firms as a “Client Relationship Management”, tool and a taking a step further with "Company Relationship Management". When you consider how AEC firms manage not just clients, but partners, suppliers, and prospects, a CRM truly allows a firm to have a fantastic grasp on all relationships that matter.
What if you could automate a process to reward your subcontractors with a gift or a shout-out for receiving the highest average customer satisfaction score from your most recent client? What if you could do that without lifting a finger? Relationships drive your business. One day you may be competing head to head with a firm and the very next day, teaming with them to win a big project. The relationships you manage with Architects, Engineers, General Contractors, Sub Contractors AND clients are equally important. One squeaky wheel can derail an entire project.
So, does your firm use a CRM? We would love to share more with you about our CRM system. Check out our site or give us a call today! 800-505-7089 ext 1.