Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 7: Rest Stops

Sometimes, when you are trying diligently to get to your ultimate CRM destination, the temptation can be to really ‘put the pedal to the metal’ and try to get there as quickly as possible. The problem is that when you do this, you may end up running out of gas before you get where you want to go– or you may find your team’s motivation levels 'on empty.'  
So slow down there, lead foot. CRM isn't a race. It's not about getting to the finish line as quickly as possible – especially since the journey is never really finished. CRM isn't a project or an initiative: it’s a fundamental change in the way your firm manages and leverages relationships. It’s a tool you will utilize well into the future to improve firm communication and coordination and enhance business development. So give yourself a break.

It’s important that you take a few rest stops during the rollout to get your bearings. Things sometimes change along the way that you may need to react to. New challenges or opportunities develop that were not anticipated when you originally planned the trip. Potholes may appear in the road. There may be mountains or valleys that you didn't anticipate during planning. When these things happen, you can't accelerate through them. Instead you need to pull over and just break out the roadmap again so you can plot a different route. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 7: Points of Interest

While focusing on your ultimate CRM destination is, of course, important, it can also be beneficial to check out the scenery along the way. You need to take a little time to smell the CRM ‘roses’ and relish your successes to ensure the journey is sweet.  

There are a lot of points of interest that can be…well, interesting. You may even want to plan in advance what sites you want to see. Think about what made you want to embark on the journey in the first place. What were your goals for this journey? What landmarks did you hope to see en route? Where did you hope to end up?

For instance, are there certain levels of adoption you want to reach? Are you interested in improving mailing lists or event management? Do you hope to be able to identify a certain number of relationships to enhance business development? Do you need to improve data quality as you move forward?

All of these are sites worth seeing. And when you arrive at one of these important points, you will want to memorialize the achievement by sending a postcard, so to speak. Communicate the successes with others at the firm to let them know that you have all worked together to reach a crucial milestone. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 6: Your Compass

Sometimes when you are on your CRM journey, you may get turned around.  You may even feel like you have lost sight of your destination. It can seem as though you’ve passed the same landmarks over and over again without making any real progress. You may even get so dizzy or disoriented that you don't know which way to go next.

At times like these, one of the things that can really help you stay on the right path is a good compass. By this I mean someone who you can turn to for guidance along the way. Your compass is the person who can point you in the right direction, even when you have gotten completely turned around.

This person could be a director or supervisor who sees where the firm is trying to go and who understands how CRM can help to get there. It could be a mentor at another firm or within the industry who has already blazed a similar trail. It could also be a consultant with significant experience and expertise who can help you create the roadmap and plot your course. 

No matter who you decide to turn to for direction, it’s essential that you find a compass who can help you to locate your ‘True North’ - CRM success.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 5: Winding Roads

You may initially think that a CRM implementation or rollout would be straightforward. So many firms have gone down this road before that you wouldn't expect to have to blaze a new trail. 

But what you will often discover is that you may have to drastically alter both your expectations and your course. You might start out planning to go in one direction initially, but soon find out that you are moving in a completely different direction - or even doing a complete 180.

With CRM, one minute can seem like smooth sailing. The next, you may find yourself caught in a whirlwind just trying to stay afloat. At times like these, it’s easy to feel like bailing. But don't. Before embarking on your CRM journey, you need to understand that achieving CRM success can be a long and winding road. That path can be filled with peaks and valleys and littered with roadblocks.

This is because the goal of CRM is to help the firm achieve key objectives, and these are often affected by the winds of change. Things like variable market conditions, economic upswings or downturns and increased competition can cause a firm to require a course correction. And as that course changes, sometimes the CRM implementation needs to change to support the new direction. But for firms that stay the course and are able to change gears and get things moving in the right direction again, the CRM journey can end up being incredibly rewarding and can take them to places they didn't even have on their original itinerary. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 4: The Map

If you don't know where you are going, how in the world will you know when you get there? This is some sage CRM success advice. This is also the reason that for every CRM journey – from international adventures such as a full-scale firm-wide roll-out, to simpler treks like CRM enhancements, upgrades or data projects – you are going to need a good map.

Of course, because CRM is a journey - and one that never really ends - you can't really ever hope to 'get there.’ But without a map, you won't even know whether you are making progress. In fact, you might not even be aware if you are covering the same ground multiple times – or even going in circles.

Your CRM plan is your map. Before embarking on any CRM journey, you need to really think about where you want to go and the best way to get there. Because CRM often requires consensus building and behavior change, you may find out that the best way to get from point A to point B is not actually a straight path, but rather a winding road. You may also learn that because things are always changing, even the best maps often have to be revised. Heck, 29 new countries have come into existence since the 90s. (Really, how many people have even heard of Turkmenistan - forget about finding it on the globe?) 

You will also want to consider points along the way where makes sense to stop, rest, regroup – and plan your next move forward. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 3: Travel Companions

It’s always more fun to travel with a friend, so you may want to invite some other folks along for the ride. CRM is a team sport. Trying to go it alone is not only incredibly painful – it’s impossible.

Get key people in the marketing department involved. During the rollout you will want their help with things like planning, communications and training. After the rollout you will need them to be involved in ongoing meetings with the attorneys to answer questions and help them grasp how CRM could actually be a business tool that can help to bring in Clients – rather than just a glorified Rolodex.

And why not find a few lawyers who may have sense of adventure. You may actually be pleasantly surprised to find some (but start looking now because it may take a while). You can't pull this off without support from firm leaders – and without most of the other attorneys in the firm participating, it can all fall apart.

Most importantly, be aware that you may run into some hills and valleys along the way, so it can be extremely beneficial to build a bridge with your IT department. They can be great guides. They often know the territory because they have been down similar paths in the past. But even with all of this help, you are still going to need a good map …  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 2: Packing

So what should you pack for your journey to CRM success? First I would start with some patience. CRM success is rarely instantaneous, and if you are in a hurry to see immediate results, you are often going to be sadly disappointed.

Next I would bring along a positive attitude. Being successful with CRM requires changing behavior and attitudes, which can be challenging, so it’s essential that you lead by example by being upbeat and optimistic. That may not always be easy, but it certainly will make the journey more pleasant for everyone involved. Remember no one likes to fight on a long trip - that’s why there are portable DVD players.

Finally, bring a map. CRM success isn't as easy as just getting from point A to point B. The road can sometimes be winding and there will often be obstacles blocking the way. The only way to get through is to have a well-thought-out strategy and a plan in place to keep you moving forward. One final packing note, be sure to roll instead of folding to reduce wrinkles. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Your CRM Journey - Part 1: CRM Is Not a Trip

I recently heard someone comment that CRM is a journey, not a trip. Truer words were never spoken. 

As many of my Clients will tell you, I am fond of saying that CRM is not a project, an initiative or a rollout – it’s a fundamental change in the way that your firm manages and leverages its relationships. And these relationships are essential to the success of the firm. This, therefore, makes CRM essential to the success of the firm. That’s a pretty thought-provoking syllogism… well, almost.

This also means that you can't think of your CRM journey as something that will ever really ‘end.’ It will be a necessary and even essential element of the firm's success and growth. So be prepared: you are in it for the long haul. And since the CRM journey will never be over, you better start thinking about out what to pack…

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 8: Golden Years

As your CRM implementation ‘grows up,’ there are a whole lot more numbers that become important. You have to keep your system healthy as it becomes more ‘mature. You certainly don't want your CRM getting 'age spots'… or losing its 'vision.'

As your implementation reaches a ripe old age, which can be as early as 3 to 5 years after the rollout (CRM ‘years’ are a bit like ‘dog’ years that way) you have to make sure it gets a regular physical to keep it in shape and make sure it doesn't lose its ‘muscle.’ You should run all the necessary tests to make sure it is still providing the firm and attorneys with value and ROI.

Here are a few numbers that can help to identify this value:
  • Numbers of relationships identified for business development
  • Numbers of records categorized to help with targeted marketing
  • Reductions in the amount of bounced e-mail communications
  • Reduction in the cost of returned mail
  • Numbers of key contacts added to mailing or event lists
  • Numbers of industry codes added to key contacts
All of these things can help the firm save billable time and money and enhance marketing and business development. The return you will receive on any of these can allow the system to pay for itself in time. In fact, if your CRM system is doing even a few of these things – and none of the attorneys are actively campaigning to toss it out the window – it’s definitely ‘golden.’

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 7: Too Many Numbers – or Balls – in the Air

The CRM success goals you set should be measurable, achievable and agreed upon by the firm’s key CRM stakeholders. They should also be relevant. In a law firm, that means saving time, solving problems or, best of all, increasing revenue. Most importantly they should be limited in number. If you try to keep too many CRM success balls in the air, you will often end up dropping them all.

Here are some relevant goals that I’ve seen firms set – and achieve:
  • Clean up just one list for an upcoming mailing or event – and then another – and another
  • Categorize a group of contacts such as competitors or vendors so that we don't inadvertently invite them to our next event
  • Get one BD-focused Practice Group to enter their reimbursable business development activities with prospects
  • Print reports of marketing activities with top Clients to provide at the monthly client team meeting
  • Input industry information or codes for the firm’s top 100 (or 200 or 500) Clients so that lists can be generated for industry-focused publications or events
  • Build an expert witness database for the litigation group
  • Create some specialized fields for firm personnel records to track languages, education or expertise for pitches
  • Here’s a particularly (or not) relevant goal for quite a few firms: this year, let’s fix the holiday card list.

 Fixing that one may just pay for the CRM system. Better get started in August though…

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers – Part 6: Stretch Goals

To really achieve results and ROI with CRM, you have to put metrics in place to enhance and track success. It's a fact that what gets measured gets done. As an added benefit, achieving goals can give everyone involved a feeling of accomplishment so they appreciate that the project is progressing and the time and money hasn’t been wasted.

But the worst thing you can do is to set unrealistic goals or metrics - what some people call “stretch goals.” In my experience, people who like to combine those two words are often the same ones who make unrealistic demands to get a challenging project accomplished in an impractical amount of time with insufficient resources.

Here are some of the “stretch goals” that are often set during CRM rollouts:
  • We want 100% data quality
  • We have to clean up ALL of lists right away
  • Let's put EVERYONE through an hour of classroom training
  • We should enter EVERY business development activity
  • We are planning to roll out the system to the WHOLE FIRM ALL AT ONCE so we can get immediate results
And, my personal favorite: 
  • We have to get ALL of the attorneys to use it – without making ANY additional work for them – and without irritating ANYONE.

Good luck with that one. 

Instead of achieving enhanced results, in most cases, setting these types of “stretch goals” actually ends up being counterproductive. I mean, who is willing to bend over backwards to try to accomplish goals that they don't believe are even achievable… 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 5: 0-Sum Game

CRM Success is not a zero-sum game. By definition, in a zero-sum game, the sum of the winnings and losses of the various players is always zero. Basically, it's winner-take-all.

In contrast, if the CRM Success game is played right, everyone wins. The attorneys get more Clients, the firm makes more money, the Clients get better service, and the Marketing Department and CRM manager get to keep their jobs. The problem is figuring out how to play the game… especially when there are no written rules. This is where some game strategy can come in handy.

While CRM can't be everything to everyone, it can help some key law firm constituencies with some challenging issues. On a good day, CRM can be pretty effective at improving communication, coordination, Client service and business development – things that all seemed to be important in the law firm the last time I checked. In fact, I bet if you asked almost any attorney in the building if any of those things is on their "important-stuff- I-need-to-do" list, at least one of these things is somewhere near the top.

But those same attorneys would never be able to tell you how CRM can help them – because most of them have no idea what it does. Some of them don't even know what it is. But that’s ok because it’s not their job to know. It’s ours... 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 4: How Many Licks Does It Take?

At Valentine's Day, it's hard to resist a few candy references. So, as the rollout progresses, you may think you have this CRM project licked. In fact, you may even start to think that sweet success is so close you can taste it. You’ve gotten the hard parts out of the way: The end users are on board. The installation is done. The invoice is paid. Now you think it’s all downhill from here, right?

Not always. What you may not have considered is that as more and more users are rolled out, all the new information pouring into the system can actually gum things up. During this phase, you if you don't get on the stick and really focus on data quality, things can quickly get out of hand.

So how many numbers does it take to achieve CRM data quality? Plenty. Start by gauging the ongoing data cleanup. Good metrics here include:
  • Number of contact records cleaned
  • Number of duplicates merged
  • Number of records with complete contact information
  • Number of bad e-mail addresses fixed
All these numbers can help you to stay on top of the data quality which can keep the whole CRM project from going sour.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

CRM Success by the Numbers - Part 3: Proxies for Progress

There are also some good numbers that can be used as proxies for CRM success and progress, especially during the initial stages of a rollout. This is a time when it can be a bit premature to try to count actual Clients or dollars in the door. But, at the same time, we may also have to deal with the reality that sometimes the people who just wrote that big check for the system may have slightly less-than-reasonable expectations – like thinking that once the system has been installed, money should start falling from the sky.

To reassure any of your key constituencies during the CRM rollout phases, you can consider metrics such as:
  • Numbers of attorney contacts and records cleaned to prepare for system installation
  • Participation levels of key groups including partners, other attorneys, secretaries  and/or other key staff members
  • Numbers of assistants or attorney or attorneys trained on the benefits
  • Numbers of missing required data elements added and…
  • Numbers of prizes awarded to assistants or attorneys for achieving goals or progress
Once the rollout progresses and you realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn't a train) there are even more numbers you can use…