Sunday, October 31, 2010

CRM On the Shelf

It’s easy to question the relevance of CRM now that there is newer technology on the market or because of the CRM implementations that failed to meet expectations in the past. What is more difficult is to take some responsibility for CRM’s past failure

CRM is about people, process and technology – and when systems failed in the past, it was largely due to people and process issues, not the CRM technology. CRM requires a fundamental change in the way firms think about and manage relationships, and a lot of firms just weren’t prepared to deal with the change. CRM also requires significant resources in terms of time, money and people, and many firms weren't ready or willing to dedicate the necessary resources. 

Another problem in the past was that people’s expectations for CRM were sometimes unrealistic. They tried to do too many things too quickly. Many firms bought CRM systems thinking they would solve all the firm’s communication and relationship management problems. Guess what… they didn’t’. 

Some responsibility should also be shared by any of the CRM providers who touted all of CRM’s bells and whistles and trotted out the dogs and ponies during demonstrations, or the ones who recommended that firms roll CRM out firm-wide as quickly as possible so they could sell the most licenses in the least amount of time. Both of these strategies often backfired, resulting in a lot of CRM systems becoming shelf-ware – and a lot of customers becoming dissatisfied...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Referrals – Across the Street or Across the Hall

Once you have determined to focus on referrals, the next step is to figure out how to make them effective sources for developing new business. Help them help you... literally.

To actually refer you business, your referral sources have to be able to articulate good reasons for people to consult with – and ultimately hire – you. To do this, they actually have to know what you do. While this may sound obvious, I've seen plenty of attorneys who refer work across the street because they have no idea that another attorney, who just happens to be right across the hall, is well-versed in the same area of law that one of their current Clients has a need for. 

Think about it: do you have more than cursory knowledge about the practices of all of the other attorneys in your firm? Do you know the types of Clients they work with, the issues they help to deal with or the types of results they achieve? If you don’t, then don’t assume that other attorneys know your business...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is CRM Dead?

It might appear that the development of all of this new relationship management technology could make the old CRM seem a little, well… tired. Let’s face it, it does seem like CRM has gotten a little long in the tooth. Some people might even say it needs to have some serious work done.

As a result, one question I’ve often heard asked is, “With all of new products, services and technology that are available for managing relationships, is CRM still relevant?” Taken to the extreme, we could even ask: is CRM dead?

It makes sense that this question would – and should – be asked considering the millions of collective dollars that have been spent on CRM systems over several decades – and the disappointing results that many people have reported as a result. In fact, at one point, pundits had proclaimed that more than 70% of all CRM implementation failed to meet expectations. So this question certainly deserves an answer – and some attention…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Referrals - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

So what is the key to getting business from referral sources? First, like most everything else in business development: you need to give before you can expect to receive. If you want people to refer business to you, you should start by making referrals yourself.

The great thing about referrals is that they are the gift that keeps on giving: when you do nice things for people – like send them business – they often will be eager to repay you in kind. 

So start looking for opportunities to make referrals. They should be plentiful. As a trusted advisor, and a pretty smart individual (you made it through law school, didn’t you) it only makes sense that Clients and friends may come to you for advice on all sorts of issues. Find ways to help them – while helping the individuals you refer – who later may then help you. Look at it as a win-win… win.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Evolution of (X)RM

Law firm business development is all about relationships. So it is not surprising that there has been a continual and ongoing search for technology and tools to assist firms in discovering and leveraging these crucial relationships.

For decades, the relationship technology tool of choice for law firms was CRM (Client Relationship Management). A large number of firms spent large sums of money attempting to deploy these systems to gain relationship intelligence and enhance Client communication, collaboration and service. But time has shown that CRM success can be challenging. In fact, some research indicated that over 70% of CRM implementations may have failed to meet expectations.

Then came ERM (Enterprise Relationship Management), a technology that promised to reveal vast numbers of relationships with minimal effort required from attorneys. But as powerful as ERM may be for discovering relationships, it wasn't a complete solution to help firms leverage those relationships.

Lately social media is all the rage – and we have new and sexy SRM (Social Relationship Management), technology touted to assist us with monitoring and managing these social networks and relationships in the hopes of increasing ‘engagement’ and ultimately, revenue. With the advent of all this exciting new technology, it’s not surprising that some people have questioned whether CRM is still relevant…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Referrals We Trust

People often say that word of mouth advertising is incredibly powerful. We know this must be true because almost every survey of buyers of professional services ever undertaken suggests that a personal referral is always the primary driver of the selection process. 

Referrals are incredibly credible and, even better, they're free. And as social media has gained in popularity – and influence – the power of referrals has become amplified. As a result, referral sources should always be included in your business development planning.

When thinking about potential referral sources you should consider current and previous Clients, friends, colleagues, other types of professionals with complementary practices, members of associations or organizations you are active in or anyone else who likes you and values the service you provide. 

One category of potential referral source never to forget is other attorneys in your firm. It’s not uncommon for attorneys to refer work across the street instead of across the hall because a potential referral relationship hadn't been cultivated. This is the worst kind of lost opportunity. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Data Quality Depression - Get Help…Somewhere

So what do you do if you feel like you are drowning in CRM data quality problems and you just can't seem to get help from within your firm – or if you don’t have months to spend manually cleaning and deduplicating your data?

One solution is to pay a data quality company to clean and deduplicate your data. During this process, data is typically matched up electronically against a postal database to append and standardize mailing addresses. The output generated is typically a very large spreadsheet of potential duplicate matches, which then must be manually reviewed and validated by someone on your team. After the review, data can be fed back into the CRM for deduplication. The entire process can take weeks or months and can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. However, if you consider that manually standardizing and deduplicating the same data could sometimes take a full-time data steward almost a year, sometimes the cost and time savings can seem justified.

Alternatively, there are now outsourced professional data stewards you can hire to assist you. These data quality professionals can work with your team on a full-time basis – or just lend a hand part-time when you need additional support during a rollout or to assist with a project. You can hire one or several data stewards and have their help for as long or short a period of time as you need. While outsourced data stewards function as members of your firm’s team, you don’t have to deal with hiring or managing them - and the cost can be significantly less than hiring a full-time internal data steward.

One final note: while data quality depression can be serious, you don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to colleagues, peers or industry organizations for help. Additionally a CRM success consultant can often provide you with information, ideas and best practices. Feel free to call us anytime for data quality assistance or outsourced data quality professionals. But if you don’t get help for data quality depression from a CRM Success consultant, get help… somewhere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Business Development Targets

When I ask some attorneys to describe their ideal Client, I often hear, ‘one that pays.' This response is mildly amusing… but rarely true. Not every Client is a good Client. And what makes a great Client for one firm or professional might be a nightmare for another. So a big part of your business development planning process should start by defining your ideal target Clients.

A good place to start is often with your current Clients. Focus on the ones who have growth potential and who are not utilizing your firm to serve all of their existing needs. The reasons to start with current Clients are pretty simple: they are already writing you checks, so presumably they like you – and would be open to discussing the possibility of working together with you in other areas. Plus, it costs significantly less to develop business with current Clients than to pursue prospects with whom you don’t currently have a relationship. Additionally, if you are new to initiating business development conversations, often it can be less intimidating to begin a dialogue with people that you know.

Be sure to also make your ‘inactive’ Clients a top priority. These are the people who you consider to be Clients but with whom you haven't had a meaningful conversation in more than 6 months. These people also have another name – non-Clients – because frankly, if you haven't been in contact with them in this period of time, there is a good chance that they aren’t your Clients anymore. Call them… soon.

Additionally, one of the best ways to develop business is to help Clients solve problems, so another category of good potential targets is people with problems you can help with. Look for target Clients in businesses that you have experience with, in industries where you may have particular expertise or at companies that have issues that are similar to those of your current Clients. This will allow you to initiate a compelling conversation about how you have helped similar Clients deal with these types of issues successfully. After you have put together your list of targets, you may want to enlist a little help from your friends…