One of my former colleagues was fond of saying that CRM is like a treadmill. Nobody ever got in shape by just buying one – you have to actually use it.
He’s absolutely right, and for even more reasons. Have you ever shopped for a treadmill? The process can be quite intimidating. They come in all sizes and prices with more features and functions than you can imagine. In fact, if money were no object, you could easily come home with a top-of-the-line unit that boasts not only hands-free speed adjustment (which sounds scary to me) and a 50% incline (for those of you who don’t know exactly what that is, imagine Spider man walking up a wall really, really fast), but also a multi-speaker stereo system, a 7” flat screen TV, an iPod dock, high speed internet, a refrigerated drink holder and a foot-powered personal air conditioning unit (ok, I made those last two up, but wouldn’t that be cool?) And you get all this for just under $10,000. This bad boy will look pretty impressive gathering dust or clothes hangers.
CRM is no different. If you don’t know what you need or want going in, CRM providers have all the shiniest bells and whistles. You can get relationship intelligence, opportunity management, referral tracking, Client team support, strategic account management, financial or H.R. integration, PDA syncing, matter and experience management, a document repository, an alumni database, contact self-verification, competitive and business intelligence, taxi-cab reports, reminders with bells and whistles (literally) and a nifty graphical representation of your business development funnel (imagine an empty ice cream cone – both literally and figuratively for some firms) - all for the low, low price of under $500K. Too bad what you really needed was help with mailings and event management.
Don't get me wrong - all these things are great – but only when utilized to execute a well-planned business development or marketing strategy. Yes, CRM can do a thousand things. That doesn’t mean that it should. To be successful, start with the 2 or 3 things that are essential to helping your firm and professionals achieve their goals.
So, do your homework when shopping for CRM – because if you don’t end up using it, you can't even hang clothes on it.