Lead-tracking and measuring for AEC firms: The challenge continues

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performance indicatorI’m writing a series of articles for The SMPS Marketer about developing marketing measurement tools and resources for AEC firms.  The initiative has resulted in some useful suggestions even as I’ve discovered that only a minority of businesses in our industry (especially in the business-to-business space) have consistent and comprehensive measuring programs.  The reason measuring is so difficult is in part because of the long-lead time from inception to conclusion of projects, their complexity, and often the varying elements and inputs that go into the decision-making and success process.

This situation is very different than if you are serving retail markets with many (relatively) small clients, or you are a building products/technology/service provider with discrete and specific products/services which you essentially sell off the shelf to a diversity of clients.  From a marketer’s perspective, these sorts of things are much easier to measure and to develop organized marketing campaigns.

Consider, for example, the difference between an architect seeking multi-million dollar commissions for institutional projects and a local roofing contractor who installs $5,000 roofs on individual consumers’ homes.  In the former, the process from initial awareness to winning the commission will take much time, research and effort and requires many thoughtful decisions.  In the latter, you need a lead winning and tracking system fuelled through your sales processes, and you will be able to quickly and relatively effectively measure the cost-per-lead and its conversion process.

Another example:  I described in an earlier posting about David Steinberg’s AdPearance agency, which guides building products manufacturers on paid search engine marketing.  Essentially, (for a fee) his staff design keyword campaigns where paid search traffic funnels to specifically designed landing pages.  Inquiry and conversion rates can be quickly measured, campaigns tweaked, and you know within a few weeks or months your strategy’s profitability.   Then you just build on this process through testing and evaluation.

I’m quite confident this approach would work in some form or another for most contractors and service providers doing work on scale.  But I had my doubts about its practicality for general contractors, architects and engineers.  Steinberg agreed.  In an email to me he wrote:

In regards to GC’s and professional services, it is a little bit different of a strategy we undertake.  Some of what we demonstrated is applicable for case studies and lead generation (ie, environmental building) but generally,  “General Contractors” as a search term is not going to generate a lot of real business.

The strategy for these people is really a multi-pronged approach with some limited SEM, SEO, email marketing, blogging, developing yourself as a resource with active attention paid to analytics and what is and is not working.  A simple and effective tool for these types of businesses has been a drip email campaigning with a well-integrated CRM.  Most of these companies are pretty backwards on this whole process.  We provide the drip-emailing service, SEO, and blogging but have yet to dabble with the CRM integration.  I think that ultimately, we should head in that direction.  What have you seen for CRM’s in the industry?

So, Steinberg ends his observations with a question for which I don’t have an entirely satisfactory answer.  CRM for AEC businesses itself is problematic — systems are built and designed that don’t really work because of failure in implementation.   They can be part of integrated project-management/accounting systems, for which fees are not a minor matter.

A web search into this topic has resulted in the discovery of a UK software vendor Inon, offering a package called “Client Value Management” (CVM) for AEC businesses/practices.  I can’t endorse them, or their solution, because the only thing I’ve seen so far is their promotional website.

The research continues.

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