Your CRM Sucks. Time to Fix It!

I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and environmental firms lately, and I’m seeing a very disturbing trend. In this time of information overload, our data sucks. I mean, really, really, sucks.

Sure, we have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Deltek Vision, Cosential, Salesforce, Insightly, or something else, but we’re not coming close to taking advantage of the capabilities of these products, much less using them for meaningful business development and marketing data.

Folks, isn’t this the era of Big Data?

And it’s not just my customers. When I present to audiences, I often ask about their use of CRM within their firms. Rarely do a find an audience member that truly believes that their firm is maximizing the use of their CRM database. I talk with fellow AEC marketers, business developers, and seller-doers, and they share the same sorry story: “We don’t have good data.”

But why not?

Part of the problem is that we don’t particularly seem to care. Oh wait, we “care” in conversation; we just don’t care in actions. We say we need better data, we say we are going to do a better job at inputting and sharing data, we say this is the year that we’re really going to do something.

And then we do …

… absolutely nothing.

Business-to-Consumer marketing, aka, B2C, is light years ahead of B2B (Business-to-Business) in this regard. Amazon knows a lot about you. They know your shopping habits. They know the products you buy. They know the products you consider. And when you consider, but don’t buy, they know how to find you on Google and social media, thoughtfully displaying ads to remind you that you were considering a purchase. And if that’s not enough, Amazon is pioneering anticipatory shipping – predicting your next order before you place it, and pre-shipping it to a fulfillment center near you.

We are moving toward the robust integration of personalized marketing and account-based marketing. With personalized marketing, companies focus their messaging specifically on the individual, building a customized marketing campaign unique to the prospect or client. And with account-based marketing, companies look at their prospect’s organization as a unique market unto itself, developing specific messaging to the key individuals within that organization.

Now apply this thought process to your company’s CRM database.

How Accurate is Your Data?

When was the last time it was updated? Perhaps when you sent holiday cards last year? Boy, that was a fiasco, wasn’t it? Your project managers got angry, didn’t they? “Bob left this company two years ago! Why don’t you have Cindy listed as the client contact?”

How many times did that conversation play out?

But wait … did your project manager actually tell anyone that Bob no longer worked there? Or that Cindy was his replacement? Oh sure, maybe your PM updated their personal Outlook, but did they ensure that the new information was updated into Vision? Or Cosential? Or whatever database you use?

Nope. Nada. Didn’t happen.

I know this because it never seems to happen. Over and over and over again – thousands of times every day at AEC firms far and wide. (Or maybe the accounting department was notified but – horrors – their database is not integrated with the CRM database, leaving your marketing and BD team in the dark!)

Ask a project manager why they didn’t update the database, and you’ll probably get one of the following responses:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have a seat license
  • I don’t know how to
  • Would you rather me do billable work or data entry?
  • It’s not in my job description

Do any of these responses sound familiar? In fairness … are your project managers wrong?

They are kinda busy. Many don’t actually have a CRM seat license – or if they do, they’ve never had the proper training. And is it really in their job description?

And yet, if they aren’t updating the data, who is? How can our companies function effectively if we continue to fly blind, or at least half-blind?

From the marketing perspective, we need accurate, current information about our clients for marketing campaigns, whether print or electronic. We want to be able to segment them and target them.

From the business development perspective, we need a historic record – when did we last contact them, what projects have we done with them, what proposals are outstanding, what was the last conversation about?

(And these examples are just scratching the surface, btw.)

What happens if your business developer, or seller-doer, leaves the firm? Or gets hit by the proverbial bus? How can you keep their activities moving forward? What if you hire someone new into BD? How will they know where to focus their energies – and who is being targeted (contacted) and not targeted?

How embarrassing is it to call on a company that is already working with your firm? Or that a coworker is already calling on?

How embarrassing is it to send a holiday card to a contact that left their company two years ago? Or passed away? (Yes, that happens.)

How can you as a firm even begin to think about personalized marketing or account-based marketing if you can’t even send an e-blast without 30% of your emails being rejected?

What’s Holding Us Back?

So why don’t we, as companies, take action and fix the problem?

For one, we fear the cost. Perhaps not the out-of-pocket cost, but rather the opportunity cost of having the people “in the know” (think project managers) review and update the data.

That’s certainly true. However, there is a more fundamental issue at work here. Too many of our firm leaders don’t truly see the value in this data. And until this perception is dealt a fatal blow, marketing and BD professionals (including seller-doers) are going to struggle with the lack of meaningful, accurate data.

We need buy-in from the top. We need principals, project managers, seller-doers, business developers, and marketers to be held accountable for the data. This needs to be part of their job descriptions.

We also need the right tools, in place, for all to access. Having a Deltek license doesn’t mean that everyone has a CRM license. And if your firm has Cosential, or Salesforce, or Dynamics, or Hubspot, or (fill in the blank), does everyone have the ability to access the information? (I know, I laughed when I typed that. As if…)

Tomorrow’s business development winners will know how to effectively capture and manage data, because it will drive their relationships and interactions.

It’s has been more than thirty years since Harvey Mackey gave us the “Mackey 66” in his landmark book, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Back then he was focused on the importance of data, and 66 things you should know about your clients. And while his focus was understanding the personal side of your clients – birthday, spouse’s name, children’s names, colleges attended, etc., so many AEC firms struggle to even get a name in their database, much less any meaningful information.

Make this the year that your firm really, actually, truly does something with data. Populate your CRM. Scrub your CRM. Hold everyone accountable for reviewing the data that’s in there, as well as taking responsibility for inputting useful data about prospect or client interactions, leads, proposals, and projects. This is a critical element of your company’s knowledge base, so it’s time to stop neglecting it.

Your Customer Relationships Management process, and software, are the foundation for successful marketing and business development. And we all know what happens to a building or structure without a proper foundation. If your firm is okay with your BD program collapsing, then feel free to continue neglecting your CRM. Otherwise, perhaps now is the perfect time to begin giving it the attention it deserves!

Not sure where to start with your CRM? Drowning in data – or standing in a vacuum of missing information? Contact Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM at 717.891.1393 or to talk about getting real with your CRM.

Connect with Scott

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