Project data is a marketer’s arsenal for better marketing, customer engagement and business development. What do I mean by project data? Project data includes the components of a project or its size. These include how many linear feet of gravity sewer line were installed, how many tons of asphalt were laid or how many miles of 110kv line were designed. This project data is static and tells a portion of the project story. The static project data gives the client a sense of the size and maybe complexity of a given project. But what most engineering firms miss in marketing is the dynamic data.
Dynamic project data goes beyond the components which describe size or complexity. Project data such as the difference between an engineer’s estimate of construction cost, the construction bid and the final construction cost tells a dynamic story about cost estimating accuracy, budget alignment and design plan accuracy. Or, for example, how aware was the owner of project design milestones? Was the owner able to know exactly where the design team was on construction plan development and if this was ahead, on, or behind schedule? What was the story of owner communication? The ability to showcase results as they happen, rather than after they happen can differentiate a project team in real time.
So how do we capture, understand, communicate, and highlight dynamic project data? Here’s an example. One of my firm’s Principals forwarded an email to me from a Utility Director at a client company. We are currently performing a design for water system expansion. Part of our responsibility was to obtain approval from Missouri State Historical Preservation Office regarding an easement across Missouri Department of Conservation property. We produced approval quickly and received this response from the Utility Director, “Wow! You guys are efficient plus 10.” I attached this email and quote to our Client Relationship Management (CRM) system record for that client and specific contact for future reference. Now, we have a brief story to tell that demonstrates our efficiency in permitting, working with multiple Missouri agencies, and keeping projects on schedule.
The key to capturing, understanding, communicating, and highlighting dynamic project data is to share your data with marketing. Meaningful correspondence with clients, project innovations that save time and/or money, process efficiencies, use of technology that saves time and/or money, etc. are all good dynamic project data! All you must do is share it. :)
I remember when my father instituted a policy for every Project Manager (PM) to help them be more responsive to clients. He asked every PM to write a monthly letter to every active client. The letter was to explain where they were in the project schedule, how much budget had been spent and how much was left (if applicable), and what the client could expect from them in the next month. It was a simple status report.
Several months into this new policy, one Project Manager replied, during our monthly PM meeting, that he had not written to two of his clients because nothing had been done on their project for that month. There was nothing to report. In a very calm but direct manner, my dad paused the meeting and explained why we were writing the letters. Even if nothing was completed for the month, it was vitally important that the client know there was nothing completed, and more importantly, why.
I tell this story because it points out a secret marketing power you have as a Project Manager. The power is responsive communication with your clients. Keeping your clients well-informed does several things.
If you would like your clients to feel important, in control and smart, then keep them informed and stay ahead of the responsiveness curve. How smart do you look when you answer their questions before they even ask them?
I’ve been reminded a few times lately that it is sometimes a good marketing decision to turn down work. Saying no to certain clients and projects is a good marketing strategy for several reasons.
Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC