Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bucket of CRM Nails

Law firms often have buckets of issues that are particularly ‘pointed’ and for which there may simply never be a substitute for the trusty (or some might argue rusty) old CRM hammer. These types of issues come in many varieties, but they almost always involve communication, coordination, collaboration, Client service or, most importantly, business development.

Over and over again, I hear marketing professionals and attorneys complaining that they invested a significant amount of money in this or that CRM system and all they got was a mailing list or a ‘glorified Rolodex’. To address this complaint, I have to say that most of the people who make these types of claims have never actually had to do a law firm mailing themselves.

In fact, every single time I discuss CRM success with managing partners of firms of all sizes, from 27 attorneys to more than 1000, the number one frustration that they unanimously articulate involves the inability to communicate effectively with Clients and prospects. They just don’t understand why the firm can't seem to compile a current, correct and easily updated list of Clients and other contacts and why they can't seem to effectively execute something as 'simple' as an e-mail campaign. These issues can be a source of tremendous frustration in law firms...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking U Out of Your Cross Selling Alphabet

There is probably no objective that law firms put more emphasis on achieving – or that they fail more frequently at than cross selling. This may be because many law firms or lawyers don’t really understand what cross selling is all about.

Sure, some attorneys will do the work to figure out who could help them. They will identify other attorneys in their firm or professionals outside the firm whose Clients could be excellent potential sources of business for them. A few will even pick up the big, scary telephone and call these people. The real go-getters may even set up a meeting to talk about what they do and how the other person may be able to help them do more of it. And then they sit back and wonder why almost nothing ever comes of all this time and effort.

OK, here is the secret to why cross selling fails so often: like everything else in business development, it’s not about YOU. It’s not about how you can get the other person to help you. Cross selling is about figuring out how you can help the other person. This may sound counterintuitive, I know, but it’s still true. So start by removing you from your cross selling conversations...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The CRM Hammer

If we are going to think or talk about CRM as a tool, I think it begs the question: which tool would CRM be? In the wide world of tools, I think a lot of people would say that CRM is most like the hammer. It’s been around for a really long time. It can sometimes be big, clunky and even a bit unwieldy. It’s definitely not sexy. And if you don’t pay attention to how you swing it, you can certainly cause a lot of damage – and with CRM, it can be way worse than just smashing your thumb.

Additionally, since the dawn of the hammer, which is a pretty long time, there have been quite a few new electronic tools invented, like ERM, blogs and social media, to name only a few. So it makes sense to ask, with all this cool new stuff, do we really even still need the hammer?

Frankly, all of these shiny new tools are great problem solvers - until you are faced with a problem that looks like a nail. This is why none of these new tools have really 'replaced' the CRM hammer as a staple in any first-rate tool kit…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Betting on Your Referral Sources

Obviously focusing on referral sources is a really smart bet, but if you want to improve your odds for success, you have to be willing to up the ante and invest the time to educate them.

To really improve your payoff, you need your referral sources to say great things about you. Not just broad generalities, like that you’re a really smart lawyer who works with really great companies and who went to a really good law school. While all of that may be nice, it doesn't set you apart - and it's not likely to get you hired, especially by sophisticated buyers of legal services in the current hyper-competitive legal marketplace. In this game, frankly, being qualified is table stakes. Getting hired requires value – and value is about helping people.

So your referral sources have to understand the value you bring to the table. They should know your area of specialty, your ideal Client, your target market and any niche expertise you may have. Even better, they should be able to convey how you help Clients find creative solutions to challenging problems or achieve superior results.

You also want them to communicate not only that you are a great lawyer, but also that you are a great person to work with - someone who understands the Client’s business and industry, is responsive, provides great service and doesn't overcharge. Ultimately, this will position you as a trusted - and there is no better position to be in. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

CRM - Alive and Kicking

And yet, despite all the challenges in the past, people are still investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in CRM systems. In fact, in recent years, the worldwide CRM market revenue has actually grown 12.5 percent, according to leading technology research firm Gartner. Based on this, CRM still seems be very much alive and kicking.

Why is this? Perhaps it could be because CRM is the essential tool for enhancing communication, coordination and client service. Despite all of the new technological developments, when it comes to managing the myriad relationships that are essential to developing – and growing – your business and practice, there is no better tool for the job.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Focus on Referrals

So why would you take the time to focus on referral sources when there are other business development activities you could be spending your time on? First, it’s often much easier to get business from a referred prospect. In fact, research suggests you are almost twice as likely to get business from referred prospects. This is because they have essentially been pre-sold on your services by someone else who presumably had nothing to gain by making the referral.

Leveraging referrals may also be the most cost effective way to get business. Some business development experts have suggested that it may cost up to 400% more to get business from a prospect who has not been referred. It can also take up to twice as long to get business from a prospect without a referral because you haven't yet received that third party endorsement. As a result, unreferred prospects will often require you to demonstrate your experience, participate in a lengthy proposal process, provide a number of references or jump through other hoops, substantially lengthening the business development cycle.

Finally, when cultivated and cared for, referral sources are likely to stay with you longer, utilize more of your services and ultimately spend more with you. And they will often end up being most loyal Clients you have. Oh, and referrals are also free. All in all, it's hard to think of a reason not to focus on referrals. They are as close as you can get to printing money.