Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 2: Let Me Count the Ways – and Dollars

So what kind of CRM numbers or metrics might make sense? Ideally, you want to find ones that are particularly relevant to the attorneys and the firm. Often these will be the numbers that are frequently preceded by a dollar sign – ones that relate directly to top line revenue or enhanced growth opportunities, like:
  • Increased opportunities for business development
  • Increases in revenue from key Clients
  • Increases in newly discovered relationships
  • Increases in cross selling opportunities between practices and attorneys
  • Increases in referral business
Then there are metrics related to dollars saved, which also can contribute dollars to the bottom line. Some of these include:
  • Reduction in the amount of attorney and staff time spent on list management  
  • Reduction in the amount of time spent on repetitive or redundant tasks
  • Reduction in the number of disruptive internal e-mail communications
  • Reduction in the amount of time required to input contacts into the firm systems
  • Improved tracking and management of marketing and business development expenses
In addition to all of these numbers, there are additional numbers you can select based on the stage of your CRM lifecycle… 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 14: The Enemy

While it’s easy to portray business development as a battle – with the Clients as targets to be won over and your competition as the enemy standing in the way, this is a simplistic outlook. In reality, sometimes the enemy is us. We let our own issues or shortcomings limit our business development potential.

For instance, we may make excuses for not committing the necessary time to developing business. We tell ourselves we are just too busy. Well guess what: while you are busy being busy, there are plenty of other attorneys out there who will commit the time and do the work instead of making excuses – and they are likely talking to your Clients.

Additionally, some of us may feel uncomfortable in social situations. We would really rather not have to go to that networking event, conference or cocktail party. Frankly, I know very few people who relish this. But sometimes you have to just suck it up and remember that everything you want is just outside your comfort zone. Make the effort to meet new people and you will almost always be rewarded. 

Then there are some of us lawyers who can be overly critical (shocking, I know)… critical of others or even of ourselves or our own abilities. Rather than being open to new things, we reject them out of hand to avoid mistakes or embarrassment. But to be successful at business development, you can't be afraid to try new things and make a few mistakes. In the long run, they will make you a better business developer - and a better person.

Others of us may be perfectionists. While this can be a beneficial trait for practicing law, this tendency can actually get you in trouble in business development. I have seen so many business development plans that are beautifully prepared, bound in fancy notebooks… and gathering dust on the shelf. The goal of business development is not to wait to make a move until you are fully prepared for every contingency – which is impossible anyway. You would be much better served to focus on the execution. Do something. At a minimum, do more than you are doing now. If you don't fight you can't win. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 1: As Easy as 1, 2, 3

When people who are tasked with responsibilities for CRM systems are asked to define success, many words come to mind - words like challenging, demanding, difficult, stressful, time-consuming… painful, impossible, unattainable… changing jobs, retiring, quitting, outa here... It can be enough to have you contemplating the view from you office ledge.

Come down off that ledge. With just a little help, you may find yourself jumping for joy instead. Realistically, CRM success shouldn't evoke feelings of pain or frustration. Instead the thought of CRM success can actually bring you a sense of inner calm and peace – even a feeling of achievement or accomplishment. How is this possible, you ask?

One of the biggest frustrations about CRM success is that often it isn't clearly defined. How can you achieve something that isn't being measured? The best way to define success – and stay off that ledge - often involves utilizing numbers - like goals or metrics. They say what gets measured gets done. Measurements also let you know when you are making progress and doing the right things. But what numbers should you use…?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 13: The General

While there are many people who can aid and assist your troops in their business development battles, it is imperative to have the support of strong and effective 'generals'. This is why it is crucial that the managing partners, chairmen and other firm leaders be actively involved in any business development campaign.

Their leadership roles may involve many facets. Great leaders should be unwavering in their support for business development and the troops. They should measure and reward positive advances. They should also encourage and publicly praise individuals and accomplishments. While this may seem like an obvious or minor thing to do, it sometimes can be difficult for leaders who are overachievers themselves - and who have come to ‘expect’ this level of achievement from everyone else - to utter the words, ‘good job.’ Regardless, this is one of the most powerful tools in the leadership arsenal. 

Conversely, if any of the troops are not carrying their weight, a good leader should take corrective action privately and provide the assistance needed to promote the needed improvements. Most importantly, generals should lead the troops – by example. They should actively encourage business development. They should share their business development contacts. They should attend business development meetings. They should discuss the importance of business development to the firm as well as each individual. They should provide or serve as mentors for the newer recruits. 

Ultimately, when it comes to winning the business development battles, the troops are only as strong as the weakest link, which is why many firms are now focusing on promoting and rewarding leadership as one of the keys to business development – and firm – success. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps CRM Failure Away Part 6 - A Second Bite at the Apple

If at first you don't succeed at CRM... so then what? Should you just give up? Throw in the proverbial technology towel? Admit defeat and go look for a job doing something easier - like maybe becoming a lion tamer or a crash test dummy? No, don't even think about it. 

You should never give up, because it's never too late for CRM success. Besides, you are not alone. There are plenty of firms who have had failed CRM rollout attempts. In fact, research suggests that 50% to 80% of CRM systems may fail. Some law firms have even had to roll out their systems a second time… and even a third.  

This is because, at its core (don't forget our apple theme), CRM is about people, process and technology – and when it fails, it’s not usually the technology that’s to blame – and it’s certainly not you. It’s the people and process issues. So to succeed with CRM, all you have to do is create the processes and fix the people. How hard could that be in a law firm? (OK, stop laughing and get to work.) To do this, just stop focusing on the technology and start finding ways to solve problems and help your end users and firm to accomplish business objectives.

But don't try to do too much or do it too quickly though. If you try to achieve perfection, you will always be in for disappointment. Never strive for things like 100% adoption or 100% data quality. That’s just setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to achieve small successes. Help one attorney communicate his or her expertise to a key group of targets. Help one practice group improve their success on pitches. Help one Client team with cross selling. And when you accomplish these things, share the successes.

The best recipe for ongoing CRM success is get a good result, communicate it, repeat. Once you do this, you’ll find the next group of willing attorneys lined up at your office door. And then your problem will be getting enough staff and other resources to handle the demand. Frankly, that’s a pretty great problem to have. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 12: Counterintelligence

Business development battles cannot be won without dedicated and motivated troops. But motivating attorneys to develop business can sometimes be challenging. Many attorneys went to law school specifically because they didn’t want to ‘sell.’ Just the mention of selling can evoke thoughts of a loud used-car salesman in a bad plaid jacket trying to overcome objections and ‘close’ a deal. That is not a motivator, by any means.

Sometimes the best way motivate your attorneys to develop business is to use counterintelligence, because what makes a great business developer can sometimes be counterintuitive. While initially it may seem to some attorneys that they need to ‘sell’ themselves to develop business, actually the opposite is true. To develop business, lawyers shouldn't try to sell anything. In fact, they shouldn’t spend much time at all talking about themselves, their services or their firm.

Instead, to develop business lawyers should focus on the prospective Client – and try to talk as little as possible. They should try to learn as much as they can about the prospect and his or her business and industry. They should ask good questions to gain an understanding of the Client’s needs and challenges. Most importantly, they should stop talking and really listen to the Client. Only then can they find opportunities where they may be able to help the Client.

That’s the real counterintelligence in business development: it’s not about selling – it’s about helping. Once they realize that this is true, your troops will be much more motivated – and much more successful – on the business development battlefield.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps CRM Failure Away Part 5 - Slicing the Apple

When it comes to CRM success, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are, however, some almost universal ways to fail. Trying to roll out the software to everyone in the firm all at once is one good way. Trying to get the lawyers to sit through point-and-click classroom training is another. Also good: trying to deploy every bell and whistle, feature and function during the initial rollout. These are some sure-fire ways to create frustration - and maybe even cause a minor mutiny among the key stakeholders. Ask any of the firms who have done these things - although they probably won't have time to talk to you because they are in the middle of trying to roll out their system for the second or third time.

In reality, the most successful CRM implementations are achieved one small bite at a time. For instance, because CRM has so many different features, it can - and often should - be implemented differently for different groups. For one practice area, it might allow for tracking activities, for another, opportunities. One group might want to send out eAlerts while another may want to manage events. One practice might want to create an experts database while another wants to track referrals. 

The great thing about CRM is that it can be many things to many users. But the most important thing is to understand that success is also defined by those users. This means you have to engage your end users early and often. But don't expect them to tell you what they want the CRM to do. In most cases, they couldn't... because they have no idea what it can do. Instead, you should inquire about their business needs and issues. What problems are they trying to solve? What processes are they trying to automate? What objectives do they want to achieve? It’s our job to think of all of the ways CRM can help. If we slice the apple this way, then there will be plenty of CRM success to go around.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 11: Purple Hearts

Alas, you are not going to win every business development battle. It can be daunting to put yourself out there in the field, face-to-face with Clients and prospects, who may either accept or reject your advances. While most of them will not be outright hostile, it's a fact that some of them are going to say ‘no.’ And when this happens, it can be tempting to retreat… to pull back and set up camp in your office, safely barricaded behind your desk. But that is the wrong battle strategy.

As confident as we attorneys appear, it’s really hard for most of us to take rejection. We take that ‘no’ very personally. Face it, most of us were not the ‘cool kids’ in high school. We were more likely to be the valedictorian or president of the Honor Society (guilty) than the captain of the football team or head cheerleader. And even though things turned out ok – sure, we’re successful professionals now – some of us still carry around that stigma from childhood. To some of us, a ‘no’ is more than just a ‘no’ – it’s puts us right back there in 10th grade being picked last for the team. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps CRM Failure Away Part 4 - The Golden Apple

Arguably, the most important thing a CRM system can help a law firm with is business development – attracting and retaining top Clients. This is the reason a lot of firms invest in CRM systems in the first place. Actually, this is the reason a lot of firms do a lot of the things they do.

The problem is that, after the fact, those same firms often complain that their CRM systems are not providing a return on their investments. The reason has less to do with the CRM technology and more to do with the fact that the system either isn't being used properly – or at all – or that the firm hasn’t found a way to adequately measure ROI.

Here are a few measurable things that CRM systems can do to enhance the firm’s business development efforts:
  • Communications can be targeted to key Clients and prospects to provide opportunities to generate business related to changes or developments in laws or regulations.
  • Invitations to events can be distributed to key prospects to provide opportunities to get face-to-face to discuss key issues and strategies for addressing them.
  • Client team meetings can be planned and scheduled to identify cross selling opportunities.
  • Information from Client surveys can be communicated to improve Client service and retention.
  • Reminders can be set to enhance follow-up after events.
  • Pipelines can be created to track business development progress with Clients and prospects. 
  • Financial information can be shared to help determine who the firm’s top Clients are so that the firm can serve them better and try to grow them – and to help identify who the firm’s at risk Clients may be so that the firm can serve them better and try to retain them. 

One other thing to remember when it comes to ROI on CRM investments: CRM is about people, process and technology – and when it fails to deliver ROI, it’s more often an issue caused by the people, not the technology. All the technology in the world isn't going to get business in the door if the attorneys aren’t willing to walk out that door and go get face-to-face with Clients. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 10: Air Cover

No matter how great an army of seasoned business development veterans you may have at your firm, they will always be more effective when they have reinforcements. In the law firm, the group that is tasked with backing up the business development troops is the Marketing Department. They provide the air cover to help ensure that the business development battles on the ground are successful.

These loyal and dedicated members of your business development army can help to provide whatever the troops need to be effective. They can start by helping to draw up business development battle plans. They can ensure that the troops’ expertise is widely distributed through publications and placements. They can assist in picking the right targets. They can do research or other leg work to help with movements in the field. They can provide ammunition to use during meetings. Then they can help with follow-up to keep things moving forward. Most importantly, they can help to lay out and execute an effective business development strategy, which is essential to success. Remember, no matter how fierce the battle, the Marketing Department should always have your back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps CRM Failure Away Part 3 - The Apple of Our Eye

Sure, there are plenty of stories about CRM failures. But in reality, when rolled out successfully, CRM has tremendous potential. It can actually help a firm to improve communication, coordination and Client service. If you think long and hard about it, I bet you’ll have trouble coming up with too long a list of really important stuff we do in a law firm that don't involve at least one of those things. That’s because law firms are relationship businesses and relationships take a lot of all of the above.

Here are just a few of the things CRM can help us to do:
  • We can de-duplicate our contact lists so we don’t send the same people multiple communications.
  • We can generate lists that can be segmented by key categories to ensure that we can target information to the people who can benefit from it.
  • We can alert potential Clients of important changes in laws or regulations that can affect them.
  • We can coordinate Client team meetings and efforts.
  • We can share information gathered from client surveys about Client service preferences.

All of these things can help CRM to become the apple of our firm’s collective eye. Then, there are even more important things that CRM can do…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 9: On Targets

To win the business development battle, you first have to make sure you are aiming at the right targets. Each one you miss wastes valuable, and limited, business development time and resources. As a result, the most effective targeting involves aiming at the targets that you have the best chance of hitting.

Start with your current Clients. Presumably they are already your allies, since they are currently writing you checks. To effectively develop more business with existing Clients, first prepare a plan of attack. Identify areas where they have needs that are not currently being served by your firm. Next, divide and conquer. Have your troops spread out and make new contacts within the Client’s company. Learn about their issues and approach them proactively with valuable ideas and information. 

Next you may want to join forces with referral sources who may already be on your side. This could include other professionals with complementary practices such as accounting firms, consultants or lenders. It’s likely that you both have a number of Clients who could benefit from each other’s services. Putting together joint events such as seminars or roundtables on areas of interest to joint Clients can be a good plan of attack.

Only then should you consider prospects, who may be hostile, or at least less receptive, to your advances. Because you don’t have working relationships, it can take a long time and a lot of ammunition to overcome their defenses, resulting in protracted business development battles. To improve your odds, start with prospects with whom some of your attorneys may have existing relationships. Additionally, Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM) software can help you hone in on these relationships and point your top guns in the right direction. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps CRM Failure Away Part 2 - A Bad Apple

In the past, you may have heard stories about CRM failures and disasters. CRM has been branded as an over-hyped, overpriced technology with poor adoption and little or no ROI. It’s rotten to the core. In fact, some people have even proclaimed that CRM is dead.  

In reality, CRM success is more of an apple and tree issue. It’s way too easy to blame CRM failure on the technology. Usually when CRM fails to meet expectations, the problem is not about the technology at all. It’s about the expectations.

Firms install CRM systems and suddenly expect them to solve world hunger – or at least help to feed all the hungry associates and other attorneys who need more work but have been unable or unwilling to focus on business development. End users are mesmerized by the dog and pony show and plan to implement all the bells and whistles all at once. The data is bad because the firm was not willing to devote the resources to cleaning it up ormaintaining it. There is no plan or strategy for success – and, as a result no success (shocker!). But it doesn't have to be that way…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 8: Marching Orders

To be relevant for business development, the skills learned in basic training must be put into action. This is why it is crucial that well trained troops be deployed to the field as soon as possible. In other words, they need to get out from behind their desks and go see the Clients. These are the marching orders for any successful business developer.

Let’s face it: we all know that we didn’t really learn to practice law in law school. So why would anyone expect to be a natural born business developer? Being good at business development takes practice. You have to get out and engage with the Clients.

Many times, new recruits ask how much hand-to-hand – or face-to-face – Client contact is enough. The answer is that there is never enough. But since time is limited, here are some metrics that have served other business developers well: if you can manage 2 in person meetings and 4 phone calls a week, you will soon find yourself winning frequent business development battles. You will also be gaining allies left and right. If this seems like too much time to balance with your other duties, at a minimum, do something. When it comes to business development, each little thing you do can help you, and your career, to advance. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Apple A Day Keeps CRM Failure Away

Everyone has heard the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. OK, now I know some of you are wondering what the heck that has to do with CRM success.  

Well, sometimes it is the little things you do each day that really contribute to CRM success: taking a half hour to train new users at their desks, working with an assistant on formatting a letter, attending a practice group meeting to better understand how CRM could help the attorneys achieve their business development goals, communicating small wins to the entire firm. These little things really do add up.

So for the next few weeks, we are going to talk about the little things we can each do to make CRM more successful…  and about apples. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 7: Corps Competencies

Basic training should focus on the ‘corps’ business development skills and information that will help to prepare all recruits to win their personal business development battles. The troops should also be put through drills that will help to make all of this information actionable.

Typical drills may include things like 'ammunition loading' – gathering and analyzing information to prepare for Client meetings, 'targeting practice' – making sure to aim at the best business development prospects, 'mission readiness' - preparing for meetings with potential Clients, and 'hand-to-hand collaboration,' helping Clients to solve their problems and meet their business objectives in order to develop long-term business relationships.

While business development boot camp can be challenging, the troops who make it through should be well prepared for deployment. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So Many CRM Categories... So Now What?

So now that we’ve identified so many ways to use CRM categories, your head may be spinning as you try to figure out what to do next. On the one hand, the great thing about CRM is that it can do so many things. On the other hand, the challenge with CRM is… that it can do so many things.

In fact, there are so many things that CRM can do that it really can be challenging to figure out what it should do. You also need to be careful not to try to do too much because you may actually end up not doing anything really well. As with any many things, CRM success requires focus.

CRM success also requires planning. You have to make sure that the projects you undertake have real value for your firm and attorneys and that you have the resources in place to execute them. But CRM success also requires initiative. Once you your plan in place, you have to make things happen. Then, once you get started, CRM success will require momentum. You have to keep things moving forward because if you stop, it can be hard to get things going again.

Finally, CRM success requires persistence. Remember, Client Relationship Management isn't a project or an initiative – it’s a fundamental change in the way your firm manages relationships. Progress is a never-ending process. The good news is that once you do, it can really help your firm enhance communication, coordination, Client service and business development.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 6: The Drill Instructor

Basic training focuses on general business development skills and information that is essential for all recruits to understand before moving into the field. However, as with any type of training, up to 75% of this knowledge can be lost without the addition of regular one-on-one follow up coaching. This is where the individual battles are won or lost.

Finding the right instructor can enhance individual business development results exponentially. A good drill instructor or coach can help the troops to take the basic business development information and put it work for them to achieve their business development objectives.

So who makes the best instructor or coach? The drill instructor for business development bootcamp can be an internal staff ‘sergeant’ or an external coach– or a combination. Many attorneys feel that an outside consultant is often the best fit because of the sometimes-personal nature of the coaching relationship and the level of confidentially that can be maintained. 

Often having a variety of different styles or types of coaches can be beneficial to ensure that you find the best fit for each of your troops. Ultimately a good drill instructor or coach can be the difference between advancing on the business development battlefield… or retreating. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So Many CRM Categories, So Little Time

Since categories make it easier to segment and reach key Clients, it would seem like the more categories you have, the better, right? Not necessarily. 

With categories, sometimes less really is more. You don't want to give people too many choices. In fact, one firm decided to make it mandatory that before a new matter was opened, the assistant had to pick from a huge list of NAICS industry codes when entering a Client into the CRM. They were later amazed to discover that they were working with literally thousands of Accounting firm Clients. I’m sure this was the result of a very focused business development effort to target accounting firms and had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that ‘A’ just happened to be at the top of their enormous industry code list.
On the other hand, one category may not be enough. Another firm assigned practice area categories their contacts. This meant that most of the people who were known by the labor and employment group had been assigned that category. However, they were not further broken in to status types to describe their relationship to the firm. As a result, several labor leaders who happened to be in the database were almost invited to a seminar aimed at preventing union organization in the workplace. Not a comfortable position to be in. So when it comes to categories, you really have to be strategic and make sure you find a happy medium. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 5: Basic Training

Business development basic training for your troops should be done early and often. While it’s almost never too soon to begin training in the basics of business development, attorneys who have been practicing 4 years or more tend to make excellent recruits. 

The first element of basic training should involve getting the attorneys ‘over the wall.’ In other words, they need to know that business development begins by getting out of the building and getting face-to -face with Clients and prospects.  

‘Corps’ business development training should then begin with Client calisthenics. These workouts may include researching Clients and potential Clients to better understand their businesses and industries and learning to ask questions to help identify Client needs that they may be able to help with. The top candidates may then advance to a 'ropes' course where they get to learn the ropes of their Clients’ businesses by visiting their offices, meeting their key contacts, attending their meetings or events - or even doing a secondment. There is no better business development tool than spending time learning all you can about your Clients.  

Focusing on regular, ongoing training exercises will not only underscore the importance of business development to the firm, it will also demonstrate the firm’s commitment to the attorneys’ continuous development and growth, which can help in retaining top talent. After basic training, ongoing refresher courses should continue regularly to keep all attorneys in their best possible condition. Additionally, while training is crucial, even more important is regular one-on-one personalized instruction… 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Categorizing CRM Contacts - 'Status' Symbols

Another way you may want to categorize CRM contacts is by contact ‘status’ or ‘type.’ This will allow you to better keep track of key individuals, segment your lists and target the audiences that you want to reach – and the ones that you don't.

Status categories may include a number of different types of classifications. For instance, you might want to track types of Clients such as current Clients, former Clients, top Clients or at risk Clients. You might also want to keep up with prospects who the attorneys may be targeting and who could someday become Clients. Additionally, you may to categorize other contacts who can help you to bring in Clients such as referral sources like accountant or bankers. These groups of contacts are the people who you want to keep in contact with on a regular basis, share information with or invite to firm events.

Then there are the contacts who you categorize to make sure that you don't share firm information with them or invite them to events. These might include adversaries or competitors. Judges might also fall into this category. You might also be sure to categorize personal contacts to prevent them from being included in the CRM system at all.

Then there are more innocuous categories you can use to make it easy to find certain people or companies when you need them. For instance, you may want to categorize different types of experts or vendors that the firm uses frequently. You may also assign a category to other types of businesses that may be in the system such as restaurants, hotels or clubs. All of these categories make it easier or more efficient for the attorneys and staff to do their jobs and accomplish firm goals. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 4:The Troops

Of course, the most important factor when it comes to winning or losing the business development battle is your troops. They must be loyal, courageous, dedicated and prepared.

You also must be careful to select the right troops. Different battles require different deployments. For some, you may need a small army of foot soldiers. For instance, when responding to an RFP or when a potential Client has a project that requires attorneys from multiple practices or specialties, you may want to send in a pitch team. Other battles may call for an army of one. You may move in a lone sniper who rarely misses, armed with information and ideas, when the Client needs laser-focused expertise for an unusual or unique situation.

In other situations, it may be more effective to engage a few top soldiers who are highly trained in special operations. These special forces would be called up when a Client has ‘bet the company’ litigation or a complex deal that simply must go precisely as planned. Situations like these require the best of the best, attorneys whose skills are unquestioned and unequaled.

But no matter how you may choose to deploy your business development troops, one thing is crucial: they must be well trained.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Categorizing CRM Contacts - Location, Location, Location

Another type of category you may want to include is location. A location category can help to ensure that the right messages reach the right contacts. 

For instance, some firms like to include categories for the offices that a particular contact works with most frequently. That way, when the office has an event, they can be sure to invite those Clients. This is also important because sometimes you may deal with contacts who live in one place, but work for a company that is in another. You may not want to invite the Yankees fans to the Braves game. Location categories can help to prevent that. 

Additionally, some firms want to be able to categorize contacts with all of the locations in which they do business. For instance, a company may be headquartered in one state,  but may have operations in several states across the country. As a result, they may be interested in legal updates or alerts for multiple locations. If you search only by the company main address when you send the email, you might miss the opportunity to provide information - and possibly legal services - to  those Clients. But if you add a category for all of their regional locations, you can make sure they get the targeted information for each state.

Other firms take location categorization to another level by utilizing software to convert zip codes to specific counties or regions. For instance, you might be having an event in Atlanta, but because the population is so spread out, you also would want to invite people in the surrounding cities or counties. As with many other things, CRM success sometimes really is all about location.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 3: Intel

Planning for the business development battle starts by gathering intel. You need to do your homework to gain a keen understanding your Clients and prospects, your adversaries – and even your own troops.

One way to begin gathering intel is to do research. Find out all you can about your Clients' and prospects’ businesses and industries. Are they expanding or contracting? Are they hiring employees or laying them off. Are they adding new locations or closing them? Are they moving forward or backward? Are they developing new products or services or acquiring them through purchases? Are they content with their current locations or entering new markets? Do they want to be regional, national or global? Are they targeting new companies for acquisitions - or might they be potential targets themselves?

So why is this intel so important? Why do we care about these things? Because each one often involves issues or challenges that may require legal services - and each represents an opportunity to help the Clients or prospects - and ultimately develop business. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Categorizing CRM Contacts - Target Practices

When you are trying to target key groups, it can also be beneficial to categorize your contacts by firm practice area or group. This type of category can be helpful if you want to enhance communications with Clients of a certain practice or if you want to focus on cross selling between practices. 

How many times recently have you been asked by an partner to pull a list of the firm’s Healthcare or Energy Clients because the firm is suddenly looking to expand in an area that is particularly ‘hot’? Or maybe you are trying to induce a new lateral or group of attorneys to come on board, but first they want to see the firm’s top Clients in their particular practice specialty. Or maybe it's as simple as the attorneys can't believe that you can't quickly and easily pull a list of key contacts to invite to the labor and employment seminar. 

If these types of request are next to impossible, then this type of categorization makes absolute sense. 
Remember, one of the best ways to really improve your aim at your key targets is to ‘practice.’ 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle Part 2: Battle Plans

While business development battles are often waged on many fronts, ultimate success almost always starts with a battle plan. No matter how large or how small the battle, a well-thought-out strategy can fortify your defenses and prevent unacceptable losses.  

Think of business development strategy and planning as a chess game. The moves you make will depend on a variety of factors. You have to understand where you are now, where you want to be and the best way to get there. 

How do you want to grow your practice or your firm? Do you want to try to cross sell to expand business with existing Clients, or should you attempt to bring in new business from prospects. Is your best opportunity to leverage your referral sources or to emphasize your experience and knowledge in a niche area or industry? Should you focus on reputation building activities or would it be more productive to get face-to-face with Clients and prospects? Only when you have considered all of these moves will you be prepared to battle it out.

You must also take into consideration the moves of your opponents. The better you can anticipate their moves, the better prepared you will be to outflank them. You need to pay close attention to what your competitors are doing – and what they are failing to do. Which markets are they in now, and which ones do they plan to enter? Which Clients do they have now - and who do they plan to go after? Which practices areas do they currently focus on, and which ones may they be thinking about adding or eliminating? How are they perceived in the market – and what are they doing to affect or change this perception. 

Before you can answer all of these questions and really plan your strategy, you will likely need some intel…

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Categorizing CRM Contacts - Let me Count the Ways

Categories are frequently used to break your CRM database into more manageable groups or classifications or to target or segment your contacts. There are many reasons - and variety of ways - to categorize your CRM contacts:

They Love Me

One of the most frequently used categories is 'clients'. These are often ripe targets for cross selling and other business development efforts. The idea is that, since they already are writing you checks, presumably they like you - and might want to do even more work with you. They are also the ones you want to make sure you keep in contact with and communicate with regularly.

They Love Me A Lot

Some firms go a step farther and break out their 'top clients'. These are often the ones that contribute 80% to 90% of the firm’s revenue. As a result, you may want to single them out for special treatment. Some firms focus their most strategic marketing and business development activities, such as Client teams or Client surveys, on this group.  

They Could Love Me

Another useful category might be 'prospects'. For firms that are interested in developing business with new Clients, targeting prospects may pay dividends. Plus you may just want to keep in touch with these folks on a regular basis so that the firm is top of mind when that big case comes in.

They Love Me Not

Another type of useful category is ‘status.’ No, this doesn't refer to your really cool or celebrity contacts. It's actually a good way of identifying contacts of specific types that you may want to include or exclude from a particular list or activity. For instance you might want to categorize your adversaries or competitors so you don't send them your newsletters or invite them to your seminars. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Winning the Business Development Battle

I just spent the day at John Remsen's Managing Partner Forum with a room full of law firm Managing Partners discussing business issues and challenges, and one of the recurring topics was business development. From the level of frustration during the discussion, it appeared that, when it comes to business development, many firms seem to be fighting a losing battle.

In a law firm, getting attorneys to take any kind of marching orders is never easy - especially when it involves non-billable time. This is compounded when it comes to business development because even the thought of having to 'sell' makes quite a few attorneys rebellious. Hence the frustration among the managing partners. It's bad enough to be at war with your competitors, but it's even more challenging when you are also having dissension among your troops.  

There are many additional reasons why business development has been challenging for some firms including: a failure to make business development a priority, inability of current compensation systems to adequately reward and encourage business development efforts and alack of attorney business development training and coaching. The discussion also surfaced some fundamental misconceptions about business development.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing some of the fundamental concepts – and weapons – for winning the war on business development… 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The CRM Finish Line

Once you have gotten through the CRM hurdles, it's only natural to start looking for the finish line. Surely it must be close. I mean, come on... you've worked so hard. Clearly deserve your reward or maybe some recognition - or at least the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Actually, forget satisfaction... you deserve a medal. Right? Or at least a rest. 

Unfortunately, the problem in looking out for the CRM finish line is that you must assume that there is actually is one. I hate to be the one to break the news to you: there isn't actually a CRM finish line. In fact, this is one really, really long race.

I know that right now some of you may be thinking how depressing this sounds. You have worked so hard ... endured so much... and for what? Now I'm telling you that you aren't done - and you don't even get to rest. You may feel a little like Sisyphus, the guy in mythology who was doomed to spend eternity pushing a huge rock up a steep hill only to have it roll back down each time he got near the top. (OK, I admit I took way too much Latin as a kid, and I've been looking for a chance to use some of it... but I digress.)

But wait. Don't get discouraged. The fact that CRM is never finished is actually good news. (And yes, I am one  of those annoying glass-half-full  kind of people). Because there is no finish line, it means that, when it comes to CRM, you don't have to worry about being in a hurry. You can take your time. It's not a competition. In fact, all you have to focus on is moving forward and getting a little better each day. If you just do that, you will have won the CRM race without even breaking a sweat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stop Selling and Start Helping

So many attorneys are hesitant about developing business because they don't like the concept of 'selling.' They bristle at the thought of picking up the big, scary telephone or meeting with a prospect one-on-one to 'pitch' their services or, even worse, having to 'close' business.

If you are one of these lawyers, I have good news for you: you don't have to 'sell' to develop business. In fact, I don't even recommend it. Experience teaches us that a sale is often just the pleasant by-product of helping a Client succeed. So instead of selling, you should be in the Client success business. 

To help your Clients succeed, first you must first understand their needs. To do this, you have to do your homework to gain an understanding of their business and industry. Then you need to plan and prepare to have a business conversation them. This conversation will involve a ‘needs assessment,' which simply means asking questions that are designed to surface the Client’s challenges, issues and/or problems – aka needs... 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The CRM Hurdles

While you are running your CRM race, sometimes you can get ahead of yourself - even though you paced yourself, hit your stride and were prepared to go the distance. Your goals are set, everyone is trained, the data quality is under control, the assistants aren't complaining, the technology is chugging away - and, most importantly, your attorneys are actually using the system. Yep, it’s all downhill from here.

Then suddenly you run into the CRM hurdles: Out of nowhere, your key staff person quits. The venerable old server finally gives up. The attorneys’ new smart phones pour a river of personal and incomplete contacts into the database. Your time and billing integration doubles the database with duplicates. Microsoft stops supporting the software you've been using since '03 forcing you to upgrade to 'the Ribbon' and retrain everyone on everything. The custom integrated software you had developed is no longer compatible with the new release and will have to be rebuilt.

You suddenly feel your heart racing and you're thinking of giving up the race. But now is not the time to stop. You’ve come so far. There’s no turning back now. To keep pace through the CRM hurdles, you just need strategy - and a good sense of humor doesn't hurt. Just try take them one at a time - slow and steady - and keep breathing. The finish line is in sight. It'll be ok... 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thinking Outside the Business Development Box

Being a successful business developer often requires thinking outside the box. That’s because some things about business development may seem counter-intuitive, at least on the surface.

Think about it: the fundamental goal of business development seems to be about getting things for yourself: more Clients, more work, more engagements and, ultimately, more revenue for your firm and for yourself. It seems like it’s all about you.

But if you approach business development this way, you will often fail. This is because, in reality, successful business development is not about you. It’s all about the Client.

Good business developers know this. They are all about the Client. They are genuinely interested in their Clients. They make it a point to learn all they can about the Client’s business and industry. They ask good questions and then listen so that they can identify and understand the Clients' issues, challenges and needs. Then they find ways to help them. They build relationships. They provide superlative Client service. These are the things that make them good business developers. Then there are the great business developers...

Slow and Steady Wins the CRM Race

To win the CRM marathon, you have to take things at a slow, methodical pace. I often work with Clients who are so eager to roll out their CRM systems that they just can't wait. They want to implement all the bells and whistles, integrate with all of the firm’s other technology, automate Client intake, replace the conflicts system. While we're at it, we might as well solve world hunger.

While I applaud the enthusiasm, my counsel to them is often one word: why. This isn't meant to be a sarcastic or snarky question they need to answer for me. Rather it’s the question they need to ask themselves before they embark upon that ‘boil the ocean’ CRM project. There needs to be a really good answer to the why question before moving forward with any CRM initiative. If that answer is not particularly compelling, it can wait until phase 2… or phase 22. By compelling, I usually mean that it will help the firm or attorneys save a lot of time, fix a challenging problem or get closer to their business development goals.

Because CRM isn't a project or an initiative, but rather a fundamental change in the way the firm manages relationships, there will always be time to tackle that complex problem, to implement that new, cool feature or to integrate with that software or system. Some of these projects can be incredibly complex and expensive and often they take time – time that could be spent on implementing the core functionality that the attorneys and marketers need to develop business and grow the firm.

A better goal for CRM success is this:just try to be a little better each day. Put one foot in front of the other, start with baby steps. Walk before you can run... repeat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The CRM Marathon

When you first begin to roll out a CRM system in your firm, it's easy to get carried away and want to really take off right out of the gate. It's perfectly understandable that you might get excited about the potential of CRM to help the firm solve problems and automate processes. You know how effective CRM can be in improving communication, coordination and Client service – so it’s tempting to run around telling everyone what it can do.

Can it fix the mailing and event lists? Absolutely. Support the firm's Client teams? Of course. Allow the business developers to track referrals and opportunities? Sure. But realistically it when it comes to CRM, it’s often better to pace yourself. There are a thousand things you can do with CRM, but if you try to do too much too fast, you often won't end up doing anything very well. Besides, the last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver.

Instead, slow down and pace yourself. Remember, CRM success is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves a fundamental change in the way that your firm thinks about and manages its crucial relationships. While change is good, it is also rarely easy and it takes time. If you just take deep breaths and move forward one step at a time, you will be better prepared for the long haul. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Business Development Homeruns

Business development is, in part, a numbers game. As with baseball, the more times you are at bat, the more likely you are to get a hit. In the business development game, the more interactions you have with prospects, the more likely you are to get a new Client. But focusing on the numbers is only half the game. If that’s all you do, it could take you a lot of time and work to really see results.

To really improve your business development batting average, you also need skill – and a strategy. Start by working smarter, not harder. Look for the best prospects – the ones who are the most likely to hire you.  Start with current Clients. They are writing you checks, so presumably they already like you.

Next you should consider prospects that you or someone else in your firm has a relationship with, but who are not currently your Clients. Because of the existing relationship, they are more likely to take a meeting with you and to be open to listening to your ‘pitch,’ assuming you deliver one that they can connect with. 

After you have exhausted these, you can move to new prospects. But you need to be aware that you are a lot more likely to strike out with them. In fact, studies show that it can take up to seven times more time and effort to develop business with people you don’t have relationships with. Plus it will often involve a ‘cold call,’ which, for most people is a particularly ‘foul’ task.

The good news is that the more you practice, the better you will become – and the easier it will be. So swing for the fences. Who knows, you may even find that you like business development… especially when you are hitting homeruns.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Diving Into CRM Part 5: The Lifesaver

You thought you were ready, so you took the plunge and dove right into the CRM pool. You had a plan, prepared adequately, worked hard, committed resources, staffed up and seemed to be paddling along smoothly. You headed directly for the deep end because you thought that was where you would best be able to provide real value to your firm. But at some point along the way, you started to get a CRM cramp and suddenly you realized you could be in real trouble. You got a little scared and weren't sure what to do.

First, relax. Whatever you do, don’t start struggling or flailing as that will only make things worse and wear you out. Plenty of marketing and CRM professionals before you have done this and ended up drowning in the CRM pool. Maybe that's one reason why their average tenure can sometimes be less than 18 months.

You can also take a deep breath and try to float for a while, assuming that if you don't stir the CRM waters, you won't cause any more ripples – and maybe the whirlpool will finally calm. While I know it can be tempting to take the easy way out when you run into CRM issues and just let the current carry you back into the basics, you will likely lose control of where you end up. Ultimately, if you float too long you are likely to end up just treading water or worse, circling the drain.

So don't give up. Instead, you may find that if you just signal for help, someone will often throw you a lifesaver. Call up your peers, colleagues or your CRM provider for support and ideas. Reach out to industry associations like the Legal Marketing Association where there are articles, white papers and presentations on CRM success. Join a LinkedIn user group for law firm CRM systems. Several top CRM providers including ContactEase, CRM4Legal, Hubbard One and InterAction have these types of groups where you can post questions and learn from other members. Subscribe to blogs like that focus on CRM best practices. Finally, don’t forget that you can always contact a CRM consultant. We're always happy to throw you some helpful information, ideas or other 'flotation devices.'

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Client Service Stories Part 2: Apple

As you may have read in our post last week, every once in a while we will take time out from our regular discussions about building business through relationship development and Client Relationship Management (CRM) to talk about Client service, which is a core element of both. After last week's post, I am more convinced than ever about the business development power of Client service, as I have never received so many emails and comments as I did after that post. It just proves how important it is to take care of your customers...  as I recently learned that Apple does.

So after a 3 month wait, I finally got my little computer from HP, only to realize that, unlike the iPad, its on-screen keyboard was basically useless. The buttons were too tiny to press and there was no way to use the keyboard without resting your hand on the screen and inadvertently typing all kinds of crazy stuff. Additionally, trying to manipulate the cursor with the little pen or your finger was awkward. So off I went on a quest for a keyboard and mouse.

Like many technology consumers, I have always been intrigued by the stylish look of some of Apple's peripherals (ok, yes, I know this makes me a bit of a geek) so I decided to investigate further. The Apple keyboard was wireless, light and stylish. The mouse was magic, literally. (It's actually called the Magic Mouse) Again, great design – functional, but with no buttons. To click, you just press on the left or right side. To scroll down the page, you slide your finger from the mouse's head to tail – very cool.

But would the Apple toys play nicely with a Windows computer? The helpful salesperson said he thought they would. If they didn’t work with Windows, I figured I could always use them with my iPad. Besides, I was informed that  Apple has a 14-day no hassle return policy. How could I say no? (Business development lesson #1: make it easy and painless to buy from you).

When I got them home, I needed to connect the new devices to my Windows computer wirelessly via Bluetooth. I was ready for a fight, but was pleasantly surprised. I put in the batteries and fired them up. First the keyboard. Windows recognized it, prompted me to type in a code on it and it worked. Just like that. I was shocked. Hooking up the mouse was... well, like magic. It just worked. Technology is great when it does that. 

Then a few weeks (and a few road trips) later, it happened: the keyboard got a mind of its own. One minute it was working... then it wasn't. Windows found it... then it disappeared. It was connected... then it wasn't. And, of course, this happened at the worst possible time - when I was on the road in a hotel room preparing for a big training session with a Client. Ugggggh. Then I remembered: I had seen the neon glow of an Apple store just a few blocks away. Maybe they could help. I figured it was worth a try.

What I learned is that customer service is not dead (although some would argue that it seems to have taken one heck of a beating judging from the treatment you get from most companies.) But not Apple. As I walked towards the entrance of the store, I was greeted by some really friendly associates who opened the door for me asked me if I had a service appointment. I didn't even know I needed one. Great, now I knew I was doomed to wait for hours, or worse, they might not even be able to help me at all today. 

But I was wrong. Instead, the associate walked me over to a Mac, where he typed my info into their system to put me in the online cue for the Genius Bar upstairs. He said the wait would be about 20 minutes. Well, since I had to wait, I might as well make the most of the situation and check out some of the shiny new Macs. Of course, I knew I couldn't get one because all of my business applications ran on Windows. I mentioned this to the associate, who then asked me if I knew that I could actually run Windows on a Mac. (Business development tip #2: to really develop business, ask questions to determine the Client's needs before you try to make a sale)

Really…Windows on a Mac? But I was sure that running two operating systems would affect the performance and slow things down. He assured me it wouldn’t and asked me if I was aware that the fastest Windows computer for the last few years was actually a Mac? (Business development tip #3: provide information targeted to Client needs, as determined by the questions you asked) Uh... no, I didn't know that... tell me more.

He told me all kinds of things I didn’t know (Business development tip #4 - describe only the benefits or features of your service or product that the Client needs). I learned that I could do everything that I was doing now on a Mac. I also learned that Apple is about to come out with a new operating system that will let the Mac work more like an iPad, which I love. Plus, no more endless virus and spam issues or blue screens of death (if you've ever used a Windows computer, you are painfully aware that this is slang for a software crash that takes the whole computer to its knees and leaves you curled up in a little ball praying that when it comes back – if it comes back - you haven't lost several hours of work just because you had forgotten to hit 'save').

I also learned that Apple calls their tech support folks Geniuses for a reason. Let's be clear - going into that store, I had zero expectation of getting my problem fixed. I was asking Apple to troubleshoot a problem that I thought was almost certainly caused by a Windows driver. Plus, the keyboard really wasn't even meant to be used with Windows computers… and I had purchased it a while ago… and not at an Apple store.

The Genius didn't care. He said he would try to help - and he did. He got it to sync up right away, but it wouldn't stay connected. He said he thought this probably meant it was a Windows issue, but since I was there, let's at least try a new keyboard first. Did I have a receipt that he could look up? No, since I was on the road - and since I didn't even buy the keyboard at an Apple store (please don’t tell the Genius).

Anyway, the Genius opened up a bright, shiny new keyboard and tried it. It worked perfectly and stayed connected. Then he offered to have an Apple business consultant talk me through how  Apple computers could work for my business. What did I owe him, I asked? No worries, he said - and no charge. Then he even gave me a new set of keyboard batteries. 

Guess what? That day that I became an Apple customer. And I don't even care that their computers cost more. I'll pay top dollar for that kind of service.  

Can you say that you are providing this Apple-like service to your Clients? If you aren't, it's ok... someone else will.