Guest Blog

How AEC Firms Can Use CRM Data More Strategically

Unlock the power of your CRM data and use it to grow your AEC firm profitably. Learn how to utilize customer relationship management insights more strategically to drive more informed decision-making.

When it comes to using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, many Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) firms use them primarily as a platform for accessing their contact database and producing reports. That’s not a bad thingit’s a primary reason why you have a CRM in the first place    

But AEC firms solely using their CRM systems for this and as a tool for generating basic reports aren’t realizing the full potential of the data they hold. In today’s competitive market, AEC firms that are able to leverage CRM data to support their strategic growth goals and leadership decisions can differentiate themselves from their competitors.  

Here’s how your AEC firm can balance its mindset to cover both tactical and strategic needs to derive more value out of your CRM data.  

Using Your CRM Data to Find the Right Balance Between Tactics and Strategy 

The first step to using CRM data more strategically is to recognize and acknowledge its potential beyond mere tactical tasks. Many firms lack the ability to explain to their leadership how the data can drive strategic business decisions. AEC firms must ensure that the team responsible for managing and utilizing CRM data fully understands the company's strategic goals and leadership's intent and can link this to the utilization of CRM data.  

Some examples of company-wide tactics that can feed your strategic insights include:  

  • Growing your contacts: contact, client, and partner management 
  • Sharing relationships: understanding client and partner relationships, touchpoints, and history 
  • Managing your pipeline: opportunity management, risk assessment, and rumor management 
  • Submitting proposals: accessing targeted project and personnel data, competitor intelligence management, and win/loss intelligence management 

Internal training and rethinking the approach to CRM data can drive strategic changes needed to realize its true potential. To fully realize the potential of CRM data in the AEC industry, leaders should be prepared to invest in these necessary strategic changes such as education on using the tool more effectively. It’s about creating a mindset and cultural change throughout your company.  

Why is it critical to use your CRM data more strategically? Because it promotes more informed decision-making, putting your data to work for you.  

Create Proof Statements 

The next step in driving the shift from operational to strategic use of CRM data is to create proof statements or “war stories” showcasing tangible examples. These proof statements highlight how changing the approach to CRM data can benefit the firm and add value. These stories should emphasize how using CRM data more strategically can help win the right work – profitable work that aligns with the firm’s strategic goals. 

For instance, by analyzing your firm’s CRM data, you might recognize potential clients in an emerging market that aligns with your strategic goals. Even if these new projects might not be as profitable initially, they may still lead to long-term growth and diversification. 

Define the “Right Work” 

One crucial aspect of strategic CRM data usage is defining the “right work.” It can mean different things for different AEC firms, so it’s essential to communicate this within the team. For some, it may mean focusing on profitable projects; for others, it could mean venturing into new markets or industries. You may also want to align with a specific customer you’ve long coveted. Whatever the rationale, your firm can grow more reliably and sustainably when it understands what kind of work is the most valuable for it to pursue. Many firms simply focus on acquiring more work, but quality often beats quantity.  

By using CRM data to understand trends in the market, customer behavior, and even employee skill sets, AEC firms can effectively align their strategic decisions with available resources and make informed decisions, such as: 

  • Investments in new technology or resources 
  • Identifying go/no-go opportunities
  • Pursuing potential acquisitions or partnerships
  • Making HR and staffing/hiring decisions

Take Action 

To begin leveraging CRM data more strategically, now is the time to: 

  • Review your firm's CRM system and identify its untapped potential 
  • Communicate the strategic goals to all stakeholders involved with CRM   
  • Invest in training and aligning expectations for CRM usage   
  • Define the "right work" for your firm and make data-driven decisions  
  • Share success stories and learnings within the company 

By taking these steps, AEC firms will be better prepared to harness the power of CRM data to drive informed decisions and achieve long-term growth. 

Dennis Cornick has worked in the AEC business for over 40 years. He recently retired after 33 years with Gilbane, a 153-year-old global provider of facilities and construction services with an annual volume exceeding $6 billion. During his tenure there, Dennis led strategic and tactical initiatives, resulting in consistent sales, revenue, and profit growth. Dennis is currently president of DMC Consulting, which focuses on leadership development and sales and marketing training in the AEC industry. Akshay Mahajan is executive vice president, AEC, at Unanet.