Successfully selecting – and deploying – a CRM system requires separating the ‘must have’ functionality from the ‘bells and whistles.’ When evaluating systems and providers, it can be helpful to keep in mind that bells and whistles can be essential… but usually only on a bike or a train. For selecting a CRM system, focus instead on your firm’s need and goals.
One primary need that is almost always articulated by firms of all sizes is enhancing communication and coordination of mailings and events. I’ve often heard it said, “Our firm spent all of this money on a CRM system and all we got was a really expensive mailing list.” However, usually the person making this comment has never actually had to personally manage a law firm mailing list. Many firms do hundreds, or even thousands, of mailings each year. They are sent to thousands, or tens of thousands, of contacts whose information chances frequently. In some firms this is compounded by the hundreds or thousands of attorneys who have relationships with these contacts and in some cases even act like they ‘own’ them. This is not a job that most people would volunteer for.
Fortunately, mailing list and event management is a core component of almost every CRM system. All of the systems have out-of-the-box functionality that allows attorneys or assistants to add contacts to mailing or event lists. The lists can then be incorporated into e-mails, invitations or other communications that can then be distributed.
The systems also allow firms to categorize and enhance information about contacts to better segment them. For instance, a firm might want to define who their Clients – or top Clients are. They may want to identify the contact's primary industries. They may even want to enhance contact information with business or financial intelligence. Ultimately this information can also be searched to create lists and enhance targeted communication.
Additionally, there are external providers who offer enhanced e-mail communication and reporting functionality, as well as the ability to have e-mails delivered from an alternate domain to avoid issues with SPAM. These products should be evaluated by firms who do a significant number of mailings and events.