Clients buy into ongoing relationships when they are sold on the experience your firm provides. How can you deliver at the highest levels on every project and gain an edge on your competition? Consider investing in an architecture CRM system to manage your business processes end-to-end.
What is CRM?
CRM is shorthand for customer relationship management. It’s more than just another software package or cloud-based service. Customer relationship management is a business strategy that helps architecture firms to increase revenues, reduce operating costs, build and nurture client loyalty, and improve bottom line profitability.
Think of CRM as an information hub. It gathers data from various sources including project budgets, conversation logs, project proposals, and invoices to give you a holistic real-time view of your clients and projects.
Why architecture firms need CRM
CRM helps you improve responsiveness and communication. Not only does it help improve direct communication with your client, but it also allows your employees to be more responsive to team members and be more proactive in completing tasks that make your projects run smoothly, completing them on time and within the budget.
CRM allows you to measure the value of each client and each project. You’ll gain insight into how well you provide value to your clients. Together, this information helps you identify growth opportunities and develop strategies to expand relationships with your key clients.
CRM in architecture not only helps you manage client relationships, but it also supports every component of business development from bidding and proposal delivery through project lifecycle management.
5 Features Every Architecture Firm CRM Must Include
There are many CRM systems on the market. Some are specific to the architecture, engineering and construction industries while others are designed to work across a much wider variety of product and service industries. Here are the must-have features for an effective architecture CRM system.
- Project-based sales
- Go/No Go functionality
- Central database
- Relationship intelligence
1. Project-based sales
You sell finished projects instead of physical products. Winning the next bid hinges on using information from the last project you completed. You may already use robust project management, PM, system and overlook this essential feature when selecting a CRM for architecture firms.
When choosing a CRM, you can select a system that links to and integrates data from your existing PM tool, or use a CRM with project management features incorporated. Keep in mind the differences between the two.
Project management focuses on short-term items including start and end dates, milestones and deliverables, workflow management, and task tracking.
Customer relationship management focuses on long-term goals that support relationship building that leads to more business. Both PM and CRM support communication tools for contact management and emailing, scheduling and time tracking, and planning and analysis tools.
An efficient project-based CRM gathers information from the systems and processes you already use to complete projects. It supports your proposal and bidding process with analytical tools to help you estimate budgets, completion timeframes, and logistics schedules to deliver more accurate project bids and proposals.
Configurability, including scalability, will ensure that your CRM will serve your business needs through crucial growth periods and beyond. When searching for the right CRM, remember that customizable and configurable are not the same thing.
In software, customizing involves coding. In other words, you’ll need your IT person to custom code the fields, features, and functions you need. Configurable CRM systems allow non-IT users to change features and functionality through the built-in native tools in the system.
Configurability does have limitations. You’ll need to consider whether the CRM system is designed for wholesale or retail product distribution, home or business service providers, or project-based service delivery.
While a product-driven CRM may be fully configurable, it lacks the project-driven components that are essential for architecture firms. Additionally, ensure that your CRM is scalable and adaptable as your business processes change.
One example of a scalable and configurable CRM feature is telephone dialing, call logging and recording, or message transcribing for mobile and desktop users. An effective CRM supports your staff through internal process changes without the need to migrate to and learn new systems each time you make small changes to your business model.
3. Go/No Go functionality
Automating opportunity analysis supports intelligent business decisions. Early in the business development process, your CRM should be able to qualify or disqualify, leads and projects together and separately.
To analyze new potential deals, you can configure the CRM to score a lead according to user inputs and reach a go/no-go decision. When bidding additional projects for existing clients, your CRM can pull details from previous projects, timelines, budgets, and customer experience data along with user input to yield a go/no-go on specific projects.
You can even use a go/no-go calculator. The free tool below allows you to answer questions about a potential pursuit and then generates a weighted score based on your answers. You'll be able to quickly determine whether a project is worth your time and effort with a simple go (green), no-go (red), or neutral (yellow) readout. Download the free tool here.
4. Central database
Being able to find the data, documents, and information you need all in one place ensures a faster, more seamless workflow. The ability to search and sort, upload and download, retrieve and duplicate information, files, and data from a variety of locations is an essential feature of a robust customer relationship management system.
CRM should bring together back-office documentation and client-facing information making them accessible in a few clicks. Also, your CRM should be able to extract data from one source and copy data into other functions to streamline workflows, task completion, and milestone delivery.
A highly functional central database supports you in administrative processes such as onboarding new clients and finalizing completed projects.
5. Relationship intelligence
Data without context doesn’t supply you with useful information. You need details that help you understand your clients and metrics that let you evaluate the impact on your bottom line. Relationship intelligence helps you achieve your most important business development and client-specific objectives.
The most important function of the relationship intelligence feature in a CRM system is its ability to provide users with predictive information. It tells you if your firm’s relationship with a client is on track and profitable or if it’s at risk in any way. Automated relationship intelligence tracks interactions across multiple projects, can flag potential issues, and create a corrective action plan.
With relationship intelligence, your team members know what needs to happen at every stage of a project and throughout the client life-cycle.
Architecture CRM Meets Needs of Forward-Thinking Firms
In summary, choosing a customer relationship management system is a critical decision for your company. Architecture firms sell experience and expertise.
Being able to quickly and easily access past and on-going project information is crucial for writing winning architectural project proposals. Static, one size fits all solutions won’t get the job done. You need a robust CRM solution that allows you to configure your specific workflows, reporting, and analytical tools.
Architecture firms need go/no-go tools that help them quickly determine whether opportunities are worth pursuing, which projects get automatic approvals, and which ones require management input. A centralized hub for data facilitates better deal analysis and faster proposal creation.
Architecture is a highly relationship-based industry. Therefore, make sure that the CRM architecture and design you choose supports your ability to determine how clients, internal project teams, and external partners impact your firm’s bottom line.
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