Making your CRM work for your firm

Jan 01, 2023

Your CRM should be a major asset for your firm, but you have to make sure your people are using and updating it.

I’m sure practically every company in the AEC business has a CRM (client relationship management) system these days. It’s not a radical idea like it once was to have all the information on your clients and potential clients in one place where anyone in the firm can access it. It’s just smart. You don’t want people coming and going from the firm and losing all of the contacts they made while they worked there. You want to capture all of this so you can promote what you do directly to those you have done business with, those you are doing business with, and those you want to do business with – right?

Not to mention the value of all of this information on clients and potential clients. I can tell you the first time we sold the firm (Zweig White, today known as Zweig Group), we had a tremendous CRM. It was on everyone’s desk and every single purchase made from our clients since day one was in the system. It used to blow people away when they would call and we’d ask how they liked the seminar they went to in Tulsa on a certain date, or what they thought of a survey report they purchased a month earlier. When we sold our business to a private equity firm, they combined our business with two other companies they owned – a magazine group and a trade show group – and called it all Zweig White Information Services. Our CRM was a big part of the reason they wanted to buy us.

But just saying you want to do this (have a real working CRM and providing the software application for everyone so they can do so) is not the same thing as making sure everything goes in there and gets maintained once you have it. That’s often a very real challenge that many firms struggle with. Here are a few ideas to help you with this issue:

  1. The principals must use the CRM if you want everyone else to. If your top people are not using it every day to track their client and potential client interactions, how can you expect the rest of the people in the firm to do so? You can’t. They need to be adding names of people they meet, making corrections when needed, and recording calls, meetings, and proposals made.
  2. Don’t use your admin people as the sole means of maintaining the CRM. Some firms think they can do this. It won’t work. It says it’s not important enough for the line staff to do it themselves. Big mistake!
  3. Track and report activities in the CRM regularly. I would share the total number of organizations, people, new names added, and corrections made with every employee of the firm at least once a week. It shows the importance of it when you do this.
  4. Get all of your marketing reports from this thing. All the info should be in there. If it’s not there, don’t report it and then maybe the offenders will be sure that doesn’t happen again. You have to insist the system be used if it is going to be any good.
  5. Harvest everyone’s contacts from Outlook so you can beef up the CRM. There is a lot of gold on each employee’s network. Get those names into your CRM.
  6. Use your CRM for marketing, client surveys, invitation lists, and holiday cards. The more you use it, the better the information is.
  7. Focus on adding names versus making corrections. Sure accuracy is crucial. But adding more names instead of seeking perfection is even more important. I often see this preoccupation with perfection getting in the way of adding people to the system. Don’t let that happen to you!

Is any of this making sense to you? I hope so, and I hope you will listen. Your CRM should be a major asset for your firm – right behind your brand, your reputation, and your people. Make it so!  

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.