Marketing Technology for Professional Service Firms Flow ChartThis week’s post is focused on marketing technology as a way to improve marketing results and the win rate in A&E firms. In Part 1 of this 6-part series, I wrote about the culture in A&E firms that does not value marketing resources, and in Part 2 we looked at trends in marketing driven by economics and technology. In this post, we will look specifically at technology as a driving force in A&E marketing, and how it can be used as a competitive advantage. With the cultural issues we identified, it is easy to see that there is much room for improvement, and even more room for firms that are more advanced to take the lead in their specific areas. The trend towards global competition means that you now have to be smarter, and more technically capable than firms all over the world, not just in your back yard.

Client Relationship Management (CRM)

By now most of you have heard of CRM systems, and according to the ZweigWhite 2012 Annual Marketing Survey, many of you (69%) are using some form of it, and 53% of those using a system are using Deltek Vision. However, my observations are that most firms are not utilizing their CRMs in a strategic way, but rather as a repository of data, with little thought as to how this data can be used in a strategic way. According to Scott Klososky, Partner, Future Point of View, LLC,

There are two things people fail to do with CRM.  One is to really sell the concept of CRM as a single source of customer truth to the whole organization.  The problem caused by this is a lack of full acceptance.  The second is they fail to tie the CRM into their BI strategy which means they struggle to really maximize the customer intelligence they could be getting from the CRM.

Considering the amount of time and money most firms spend trying to implement CRM systems, it is important to have a strategic plan for optimizing the use of the system to its full extent. Two areas that CRM systems can vastly improve marketing success are in the Go/No-Go process and in managing project opportunities.

Go/No-Go Process

The value of the Go/No-Go process is to save the company money by limiting bad choices and increasing the firm’s overall win rate. It can also save the company down the road by eliminating the potential for the firm to win a project for which it is not suited or will lose money.

In order to put together an effective Go/No-Go process, you need to determine the criteria that will help you assess both the likelihood of winning the project and how successful your firm can be at executing on it. While there are many common approaches to this, here are a few high-level questions that need to be answered:

  • What is our relationship with the potential client?
  • Who are our competitors and what is their relationship with the potential client?
  • Have we done business with them before?
  • Is our cost competitive?
  • Is this our “sweet spot” considering our project history or outside of our normal skill set?
  • Do we have the qualifications they are looking for in the RFP?
  • Can we make money on the project?
  • What will it take to respond to the RFP?
  • Can we put together a successful team?
  • Can we do the work?
  • Will we be successful at this project?

In looking at your win rate, as well as the level of success you are experiencing in picking the right projects to bid on and accept, there is an inherent ROI you are realizing from your investment in the proposals on which you are bidding. By understanding the cost of each lost proposal and the criteria used to pick the winning team, you can start to define a Go/No-Go strategy and criteria that are more appropriately rewarding your efforts.

Managing Opportunities

Once you have chosen which projects to pursue, using a streamlined and comprehensive opportunity management process is a critical factor in achieving competitive success, as evidenced by a high win rate. This is managed in firms in many different ways, from spreadsheets to basic or very sophisticated CRM systems. A good CRM system, along with a detailed and well-executed opportunity management process, will ensure that your firm can stay competitive and continue to bring in new work. It will also help firm management assess the success of its marketing efforts and provide better visibility into future project revenues.

Depending on how your opportunity management process is established and who in your firm works on pursuing new business, you may have information in many different places. A CRM system can provide a valuable tool for consolidating all the data about your projects, people, qualifications, and opportunity history in one place. Consider a few of the many benefits of managing your marketing and business development data in a CRM system:

  • Allows you to track all of the leads and opportunities that your firm is pursuing
  • Helps make your sales team’s job easier
  • Holds the responsible parties accountable for achieving the firm’s new business goals

If your firm is not using a CRM system, then you are potentially allowing valuable firm data and project opportunities to slip through the cracks. You are also not operating your firm with the best information possible. An industry-specific and project-based CRM can make it even easier to adapt the system to your process, and evaluate the effectiveness of your proposal efforts.

Proposal Preparation and Management

The main complaint I hear from A&E marketers is the cumbersome process of gathering the data, and assembling the proposal into a winning format. I find that bottlenecks and deficiencies in the typical proposal process occur in a few primary areas:

  • Access to key qualifications and project data housed in the accounting system or other databases
  • Difficulty assembling the data in the proposal forms
  • Locating the right boilerplate documents for customization in a proposal
  • Management of templates for resumes, project detail sheets, etc.
  • Consistency in the proposal formats between teams
  • Lack of targeting due to using a few standard templates for every proposal
  • Lack of collaboration and sharing of data between multiple teams or offices
  • Keeping all of the data updated

By addressing the specific bottlenecks your company is experiencing in the proposal process, you can see remarkable results in both the quality and quantity of proposals you are able to submit. As most firms use a certain amount of the Project Manager’s (PM’s) time in proposal development, this will also free up time for your most valuable resources, and potentially enable them to be more billable.

A good proposal management system will be completely integrated with your CRM, and optimally, your accounting system. This will help alleviate some of the friction between marketing and accounting in sharing data. Additionally, the system will allow flexible template formatting and ability to control the templates the staff uses.

Marketing Analysis

Depending on your firm’s inbound marketing and social media strategy, you may need to consider a marketing automation product such as Hubspot or Eloqua.  These systems offer different features and functionality, but overall offer the ability to automate inbound marketing, content management (such as a blog), and provide analysis as to how your different marketing campaigns are performing. Getting this analysis is important in determining whether your strategy is working, and which content and marketing messages are getting the most traction.

Eighty-one percent of business buyers start their quest for a solution with a general web search, according to a May 2012 DemandGen survey.  Just getting traffic to your website is not enough. It needs to be the right traffic (e.g. your ideal prospect). Then, you need to provide the right information at the right time to answer the questions your visitors want answered, and convert them to potential prospect.  According to Brenda Stoltz, Founder of Ariad Partners, an Inbound Marketing Agency, content and social engagement  has always been key to converting visitors to leads, but now they are becoming more important in SEO. If you want to get found online, you are publishing content and sharing it socially.  Tools like HubSpot coupled with  your CRM, provide closed-loop marketing analytics so you can track exactly what is working and what is not, so you can adjust and continue to improve your marketing ROI.

In addition to marketing automation products, it is critical for marketers to have access to core data within your firm’s systems to analyze important project and client statistics. This data, such as profits by client, project, and type of work can provide insight as to which projects are most successful, and help to form the strategy to pursue the right type of work.

Analyzing your win rate is another key component in understanding your firm’s success. Your ability to dissect the win rate by lead marketer, industry, type of project, client, office, and other factors will help to better identify what is working, and what needs to be improved.

In Part 5 we will look at how to analyze the ROI from marketing investments, and in Part 6, I will provide some ideas for how marketers can add more value to their firms.


Check out the other posts in this series –

In Part 1 – We look at the culture challenges for A&E firms today.

In Part 2 – We look at the trends that are shaping the marketing efforts for A&E firm marketers today.

In Part 3 – We look at how technology can help marketers to increase the firm’s win rate

In Part 4 – We discuss the benefits of viewing marketing as a strategic investment

In Part 5 – We look at how to measure the return on investment from marketing efforts

In Part 6 – We give some tips for marketers on how to add more value to their firm’s success.


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