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Though many facility managers may think marketing doesn't fall within FM's core competencies, the facility management team must consider how it markets facility services in its contact and conduct with customers. In this respect, customer service is vital. The terms marketing and customer service are not synonymous, however. While customer service provides opportunities to reinforce positive images of a facility management department, marketing involves first researching who the customers are and then selling and promoting facility services to them. The main responsibility falls on the shoulders of the facility management department leader.
All facility managers should understand the following basic concepts of marketing:
Know the market
If a facility management department is one of the administrative services supporting the core business departments, it is unlikely that much thought has been given to marketing the facility management department. Instead, the market was guaranteed: Corporate customers had to get facility services through the department. Today, many facility management customers are given the option to outsource facility management. Facility managers now compete with contracting firms that have developed considerable marketing skills.
As the struggles for market share intensify, workers in all companies have been besieged with entreaties from their leaders to be sensitive to their customers. This issue has particular urgency for facility managers, whose customers have become increasingly aware that they have choices of where and how to obtain facility services. In many companies, executives openly permit departments to shop for facility services, putting corporate facility management departments in direct competition with outsourced providers.
In recent years, facility management customers have become quite sophisticated. They are smarter, better informed, and far more cost conscious. Many have substantial experience in marketing their own products and services and expect others to market their goods and services similarly. They may know as much as the facility management team does about topics such as indoor air quality or accessibility for the disabled.
Facility managers must also understand that their customers are not people whose needs, motivations, and objectives are identical. Most companies have several different types of customers. From the facility manager’s perspective, each one constitutes a niche market — a particular population with certain characteristics and needs that are distinct. For example, top management has needs unlike those of administrative support units or core business units.
Facility managers should also know the skills of their staff. Every staff member makes an impression on a customer in every transaction, whether it is by email, telephone, in person, or in a report. For marketing purposes, every worker should understand the customer. Mechanics, custodians, and housekeepers who make contact with customers may exert more influence on them than higher-ranking facility management employees who are seldom seen.
Develop a Marketing Plan
To develop a marketing plan, it is important to identify the marketing elements already in place. The greatest asset is the range and magnitude of customer contact. There is a fundamental maxim of customer service that applies particularly well to facility management marketing: “If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is.” A marketing plan can be organized around the following basic steps.
To implement the steps mentioned above, an overall marketing strategy is needed. This strategy incorporates several key elements that form the backbone of an effective marketing plan.
This article is adapted from BOMI International's Fundamentals of Facilities Management course, part of the FMA designation program. More information regarding this course or the BOMI-HP™ credential is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.
How to Create a Marketing Plan for Facilities Management