Wednesday, August 5, 2015

CRM Building Project – Part 2: Teardowns

Many of the firms we work with have had their CRM systems for years or even a decade or more. They can likely still remember their original “move-in” day when they first bought the system (which hopefully didn’t require a mortgage) and migrated all their information in. At that point, their CRM system felt like the perfect place.

But sometimes a firm begins to get “growing pains.” Over time, these firms may have acquired a lot more “stuff” and may feel like they are outgrowing their CRM home. As a firm “family” grows, acquiring new offices and attorneys, the number of contacts often grows exponentially. If “spring cleaning” projects are not attended to regularly, data can become outdated. As marketing and business development projects increase, the number of e-mail campaign and event lists multiply. The next thing you know, a firm may suddenly feel like they need to make some home improvements. They may start to consider a renovation, an integration – or even a complete remodel. At this point, it’s important to stop and consider whether it really make sense to demolish everything and start over … (and yes, these are the actual before and after pictures of my house of 14 years being flattened.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

CRM Building Project – Part 1: New Construction

So for some reason, one day about a year and a half ago I decided that it would be a good idea to build a house. Not sure exactly why I thought adding this to my never-ending list of existing projects would be a smart thing to do (OK, perhaps my friends weren’t entirely wrong when they suggested that I was a bit of a type-A) but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Imagine the idea of having your dream house – designed exactly to your specifications. I’d finally get to have all the things I wished my current house had: more space, a garage, a guest room for friends or colleagues to use when they came to town, a modern kitchen, a fireplace and a roof-top deck.

But, of course, I didn’t decide to just build a new house. No, I decided to tear down the existing house (yep, that’s it there in the picture) I have lived in for almost 15 years and build my new house on the existing lot. Again, not sure what I was thinking. I obviously didn’t contemplate the fact that this would mean moving twice, but that’s a story for another post. Anyway, the good news is that my house building project has inspired me to think about how building a house is a lot like building CRM…

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 6: The CRM Wreck

Having worked with almost a hundred firms to help them achieve and enhance CRM success over the last 8 years, the biggest challenge we always seem to run into is CRM adoption. Firms consistently tell us that their CRM system is literally a ‘wreck’ due, in large part, to poor participation.

These firms frequently say that in the beginning of the CRM deployment, everything seemed to be running fine. They purchased the right system and implemented it without a hitch. The system was firing on all cylinders, but then at some point they seemed to hit a wall with adoption.

Down the road, this seems to become an issue for almost every firm. In fact, we ran into this exact scenario just last week. After investing thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time into their CRM implementation, the firm just can't get the partners to take the wheel. 

While it can be tempting for some rubberneckers to simply do a drive-by and observe this type of CRM car-nage, we think it’s more helpful to put on the brakes and actually analyze a CRM crash to help a firm shift gears and accelerate change…

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 5: Herding the CRM Cats

The beauty of a CRM system is that by relying on the collective information of all of the CRM users, contacts should be kept updated across the organization. If anyone gets updated information and simply modifies their contact information in Outlook, updated information should flow out to everyone who shares that contact. Everyone wins. That is, everyone who participates.  

But as we all know, getting everyone to participate in CRM can sometimes be like herding cats… very smart cats… with opposable thumbs. If users don't participate, if they don't share their contacts and relationships, if they don't update information or if they don't regularly review contact updates, then nobody benefits and CRM becomes just another piece of overpriced and underutilized software – aka, the glorified rolodex. So the question becomes, how do we keep this from prevent this from happening

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 4: The Missing Pieces

One of the most common CRM data quality complaints we hear as CRM Success Consultants is that key pieces of contact data in the system are missing. This significantly reduces the value of the system and hinders adoption. Let’s face it, it’s challenging enough to get people to actually use the system. But if they finally do decide to go looking for something and can't find it, it will be exponentially harder to get them to go there again.

What’s even worse is that, without complete contact information, it can be challenging or impossible to communicate with your contacts – which is the whole reason most organizations bought the CRM system in the first place. The goal is to share relevant information, communicate expertise and occasionally invite people to events. Without complete data, all the time and intellectual capital spent on producing content and events is wasted. And in a firm where professionals are often billing hundreds or over a thousand dollars an hour, that adds up quickly.

To solve the CRM puzzle, you have to ensure that your data is not only clean and correct – but also complete. Fortunately one of the benefits of CRM is to assist in this process. When users know the same contacts and they share this data into the CRM, when the duplicate records are merged, the final record will contain information from each of the users. Even if each person only has a piece of the puzzle, when the record is deduplicated, the pieces will come together into a much more complete picture. This is why data stewards are such an important piece of the CRM puzzle…

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 3: Adopt the Orphans

There is nothing sadder than a poor lonely little orphan – especially in your CRM system. When a record is left in the system and all the attorneys who once knew the contact are gone, the record is essentially abandoned. It’s left all alone in a CRM world where relationships are so very important.

So what is a CRM caretaker to do? Well, start by regularly keeping watch for the little abandoned orphans. It’s rare for them to be left prominently on your CRM doorstep. Instead, you have to go looking for them. Run regular searches for records with no relationships to individuals still at the firm. 

Once located, orphans require care and feeding. Essentially the firm should have a transition policy in place to assure that its orphans don't go uncared for. When attorneys leave the firm, their contacts should be regularly reviewed to determine whether they should remain in the system. Frequently, the answer is yes because they usually have a history with the firm and may be receiving communications.

The important orphaned records that remain should be ‘adopted’ by other attorneys in the firm who will agree to ‘foster’ relationships with them. With a little attention and nurturing, they may someday grow into happy new Clients...  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 2: “I See Dead People” (in my CRM system)

Many of us may remember that quote from the chilling movie The Sixth Sense. But seeing dead people in your CRM system can be almost as disturbing. Nothing is more likely to cause end users to tune out and turn off than finding deceased contacts in the system.

Even more disturbing, these contacts are often known by multiple people in your firm - but not everyone is always aware that the person has passed. So when the contact is taken off a mailing or event list, sometimes people will continue to add them back to the list. This can be incredibly problematic, as the last thing anyone wants is to send a card or invitation to a prominent former Client who died and then receive an uncomfortable phone call from their family or former company.

So you have to have a consistent process and procedure for dealing with deceased contacts. One good method is to have your marketing or data quality team involved in the process. When they find out that a contact has died, they can put ‘DECEASED’ in the title field and move all contact information to the notes field, along with the date the contact was marked deceased. This way, you ensure that the person should not receive future e-mails or calls. These updates will then flow back to other people who know the contact and everyone who looks at the contact record will then be aware of the person’s passing...

Friday, May 29, 2015

Data Quality Do’s and Don’ts – Part 1: Degrading Data

In today’s highly mobile markets, up to 30% of a firm’s CRM contact data can degrade each year. People get hired, fired, promoted and change jobs; they move and change addresses; they get married and divorced; some retire and a few die. This means that if you don’t pay attention to data quality, your end users will begin to distrust the data and, by association, the CRM system. It’s also important to appreciate that your CRM data represents relationships – and relationships represent revenue.

To encourage ongoing system adoption and utilization, data quality and maintenance have to be top priorities. Resources have to be dedicated – including time, money and people. Processes and procedures need to be put in place to maintain ongoing quality. Most importantly, training and communication are essential to ensure that end users don't create unnecessary duplicates or introduce more bad data into the system. Additionally, there are several areas to focus on to ensure ongoing data quality success…

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 7: The People

To ensure success, first the pipeline technology must be supported at the highest leadership levels in the law firm. Next, there have to be knowledgeable, well-trained people dedicated to inputting the data. Information has to be entered correctly, consistently and completely because bad data will not inspire attorney trust. Additionally, resources have to be dedicated to ongoing data quality to ensure the data remains current over time, since up to 30% of a firm’s contact data can become outdated each year. Finally, there has to be a focus on system adoption. Lawyers not only have to understand the value of the software for the firm, but they must also believe that there is something in it for them. Only then will firms be able to get the wide-spread utilization and value that will allow them to realize return on their pipeline investment.

One final note: While there is little doubt that pipeline software can be beneficial, it also important to remember that if the lawyers don’t continuously work on “filling up” the pipeline by regularly getting out of the office to go see clients and prospects, the software isn't really going to help. But that’s an article for another day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 6: The Problem

Over the years, we have all heard way too many stories of CRM systems failing to meet expectations. What we don’t typically hear is that the reason why these systems didn’t meet expectations was often that the expectations were unrealistic. Indeed, people have been complaining about CRM systems for as long as…well, as long as there have been CRM systems (and these complaints are not limited to law firms.)

The main problem with CRM technology is that it’s just technology. It’s not a magic bullet. Lawyers shouldn't expect that purchasing a “shiny” new piece of software is going to solve all of a law firm’s business development challenges. The software has to be implemented strategically, which means that firms have to focus not only on the technology itself, but also on the people that can make it or break it…..

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 5: The Products

Recently, some CRM developers have begun building pipeline tools to meet the changing needs of law firms. A few years ago, Microsoft began offering a version of its Dynamics CRM through industry vertical resellers who configured the software specifically for law firms. This product, CRM4Legal, has since been acquired by Aderant. Two other companies have also released new offerings built on the Dynamics platform: Business Development Premier from Thomson Reuters and ProfessionalCRM from Consulting4CRM.

More recently, LexisNexis InterAction, the industry leading CRM for large law firms, began beta testing their new Business Development Module that should be released this year and has easy data entry, automated alerts and advanced analytics and dashboards. Additionally, ContactEase fromCole Valley, the most popular CRM used by mid-sized firms, has also implemented a new Tracking Module for Opportunity and Pipeline Management. The advantage of these pipelines is that they and are tied to existing CRM systems that work completely within Outlook and are typically deployed firm-wide, allowing attorneys’ contacts to flow in with very little effort, time or training required. This allows a firm to better leverage relationships into opportunities and, ultimately, new matters.

Even Salesforce has finally officially entered the law firm pipeline picture through several partners including one vertical reseller whose product, OnePlace, is configured specifically for professional services. Their cloud-based system is being looked at by a few US law firms and has been adopted by one firm in Canada.

While it’s great that firms are finally focusing on business development tracking and new pipeline software for law firms is being developed, it’s also important to make sure that we don't forget the fundamentals of successful business development as we move forward so that we don't repeat past failures….

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 4: The Past

When some larger firms with sophisticated marketing departments began to realize the limitations of spreadsheets years ago, they started looking for alternatives. But because the profession had not been focused on sophisticated business development tracking in the past, there were not many choices of pipeline software available that could meet the specific needs of law firms.

So as an interim solution, some firms started testing CRM software such as Salesforce to help overcome the limitations of spreadsheets. While these CRM systems included advanced pipeline functionality, unfortunately they didn’t make sense for a firm-wide deployment. Even though they had been commonly used for contact management in most other industries, because they were web-based, could be extremely expensive and were hosted in the cloud rather than inside a firm’s firewall, the lawyers wouldn’t embrace them.

To compensate for a lack of attorney utilization, a few firms did have some successes with deploying a limited number of licenses to BD or Marketing managers who would work with key lawyers or practices and were tasked with entering the data and generating the reports. But because the systems were not readily accessible to all the lawyers, many of the key business development contacts remained where they had always been – in the attorneys’ Outlook, which made these early law firm pipelines into just more “silos” of disconnected data….

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 3: The Pipeline

This is where real pipeline software can help to take a law firm’s business development to the next level. A true sales pipeline allows opportunities to be entered and linked to related people and companies. Pipelines also allow for entry of additional information such as activities related to an opportunity, which can then be assigned to the individuals who need to complete them. Once all the data is entered, a pipeline can also provide a perpetual history of the activities that took place during the business development cycle and reminders for activities to keep advancing the opportunities forward.

Sophisticated pipelines can also help to predict deal outcomes and project expected revenue. They can even be used to create dashboards and generate reports. By utilizing these types of analytics, lawyers can identify which opportunities may have become stalled or inactive and which ones may be “low hanging fruit,” the opportunities that are most likely to yield the best results with the least effort.

Most importantly, pipelines provide a good way to hold attorneys accountable for developing business. Many firms have found that pipeline activity and progress reports can be effective tools to improve results and foster a bit of healthy competition in practice group meetings….

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 2: The Spreadsheet vs The Pipeline

At its most basic, a pipeline is simply a way to track and report on business development efforts. Initially, when law firms began tracking business development opportunities, the original tool of choice was Excel. Even at some of the largest firms, lawyers often tended to gravitate to spreadsheets to track just about everything. There are several reasons: they are easy to use, they’re on the desktop, they allow you to enter almost unlimited information, and they can even be used to print detailed lists and colorful charts and graphs. As a result, for many firms, Excel was a good place to start building basic business development pipelines.

The problem with spreadsheets, however, is that they have limitations. First off, they're “flat.” Spreadsheets were designed for quick and easy entry of large amounts of basic, linear data such as the contact names and information for people or companies as well as other key details, which are the basic building blocks of a pipeline. But because spreadsheets are flat, they don’t allow for ongoing tracking of important activities related to an opportunity or for capturing historical information such as last steps and next steps. This type of information can be incredibly important when trying to move opportunities forward or determine the best process for bringing in business….

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pipeline to Success - Part 1: Law Firms Finally Embracing CRM for Business Development Tracking

What gets measured gets done. This can certainly be said about “non-billable” activities in law firms. For anyone familiar with attorneys, this is not surprising. Busy lawyers are tasked with competing demands for their very valuable – and very limited – time. And for lawyers, time is money – literally. So when there is client work to be done, anything that takes away from billing often ends up being put off until they have time – which sometimes means indefinitely.

But as competition for work has increased recently, law firms are finally being forced to focus on the one non-billable activity that makes all the other billable activities possible: business development. As a result, attorneys have learned that successful business development takes time. So, not surprisingly, they are now searching for technology to make this process less time-consuming and more effective. One type of technology that can help enhance law firm business development efforts has actually been ubiquitous in other industries for years: the business development pipeline (of course, most other industries call it a sales pipeline, but let’s not split hairs)….

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 11: Don't Do It Alone

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, don't worry. Few people have the extensive experience to successfully deploy a CRM system by themselves. Still fewer are excited about expending the effort to get this experience. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone. You can reach out to CRM providers for assistance, engage experienced consultants or, even better, ask for advice from LMA colleagues. The willingness to share knowledge is what makes the LMA community such a valuable resource.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 10: Evolve

CRM isn't a project or an implementation. It’s a fundamental change – and improvement – in how your firm manages its most important assets – its relationships. As a result, CRM deployments shouldn’t end – they should evolve. There will always be new problems to solve and new business to bring in. So be sure to plan for the future and continually explore features, upgrades and integrations...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 9: Dedicate Required Resources

Too often, firms are willing to spend money on a system but don't budget for other essential resources. More important than the investment in the technology can be the time and human resources required for success. Dedicated CRM staffing is not only necessary, it is essential.

For all firms, a CRM project manager will be beneficial during the rollout. Larger firms may also need a dedicated full- or part-time CRM manager for ongoing success. Data quality resources are also imperative, especially during the rollout when shared attorneys’ contacts flow into the system creating a significant number of duplicates. Additionally, an estimated 30% of contact data becomes outdated each year as people move, change jobs, get married and have other status changes. This means ongoing data quality support will be required because if attorneys don't trust the data, they won't trust the system……

Monday, March 2, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 8: Train Continuously

Finally, even if you get everything else right, CRM won't succeed without effective training. It’s important to develop training plans and materials targeted to the needs of key groups. Assistants should attend classes customized to their work routines, while training for attorneys should focus on business processes, not buttons to push. To really enhance attorney engagement, training should take place in their offices and should take no more than 30 minutes. This training is often most effective when it’s done by someone who can communicate CRM benefits, which is why many firms have Marketing lead the attorney training. Also, because CRM is ongoing, training doesn't end after the rollout. Be sure to create continuing education for new hires and laterals. Finally, to get people to attend training, don't forget one of the biggest keys to CRM success in a law firm: food…….!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 7: Communicate Effectively

As with any type of technology implementation, ongoing communication and training will be imperative. End users need to understand the reasons for CRM and, most importantly, what’s in it for them. Create benefit statements for key groups. Provide relevant information and answer questions. Get firm leaders to sign off on key communications to demonstrate support. Most importantly, when good things happen, share successes.

Additionally, as marketers, we all know that a bit of branding can make anything (even CRM) more appealing. Come up with a theme for the rollout – and don't be afraid to have some fun. Yes, I also just used the words “fun” and “CRM” in the same sentence. Create campaigns and contests and give away prizes to drive participation….

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 6: Roll Out Gradually

Once you have selected your system, you can begin planning for the rollout. Don't make the mistake of attempting a “boil the ocean” implementation, deploying too many features to too many people in too big a hurry. Firm-wide rollouts are usually a bad idea because without taking the time to properly test the system, any problems or missteps you run into can be amplified exponentially.

Instead, begin with a pilot group of attorneys and assistants who have an interest in participating, are invested in system success and have time to provide the critical feedback that is needed to improve the rollout for the rest of the firm. Most importantly, roll out the system to address the needs and challenges identified during the assessment. Each group should be exposed to the features of the system that can best address their unique needs. Follow the same plan when moving forward with the broader rollout: deploy in groups that share common goals or objectives and match features to their needs….

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 5: Check References for Providers

Once you have narrowed the potential products, it is absolutely essential to check references for providers. The ideal relationship with a CRM provider will be ongoing and, as with any long-term commitment, it’s important to know what you are getting into. Find out how many implementations the company has and how successful they are. Ask about their experience in working with law firms, their training and implementation resources, their documentation, processes and best practices and, most importantly, their dedication to customer service.

When following up with references, prepare questions in advance. Here are a few reference checking questions that may be helpful. Also be sure to reach out other legal marketers for more candid opinions. I still remember a reference checking call where a marketer broke down in tears over a failed 2-year implementation. No one wants to end up in that situation. Ask the right questions to make a smart selection….

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 4: Vet Systems and Vendors

Only once you have clearly articulated needs and agreed upon goals, you can begin identifying potential systems to address them. Properly deployed and supported, CRM systems are invaluable because they can do so many things. Even the most basic implementation can provide a centralized repository of clean and complete contacts that can be easily updated firm-wide. They can also assist with core marketing activities such as e-mail campaigns, event management, relationship intelligence, activity tracking and categorization and segmentation of key contacts.

The real challenge is that CRM should probably only do a few things initially – and those things are often different for each firm, office, practice - or even individual attorneys. This means CRM selection must be strategic. During CRM demonstrations, don't be sidetracked by ‘bells and whistles.’ Instead, to prevent losing focus, it can be helpful to create a roadmap in advance of demos to thoroughly assess the relevant functionality. Have the providers dig into the features you really need.

Be sure to also spend time on critical details including privacy and security, how data changes are handled and how the system is hosted. While many corporations have embraced the reality that external hosting may actually be the most secure, at law firms allowing sensitive Client data to float beyond the firm’s firewall into “the Cloud” requires significant discussions….

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 3: Involve Key Stakeholders

CRM is often more about people and process than technology, so success starts with your users. Involve them early and often. Special attention should be paid to the assistants because often they are expected to do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in terms of contact entry and maintenance. If you want their participation, make them feel like part of the process. To get the attorneys to buy in, find ways to make their lives easier. Additionally, CRM won't succeed without another key group: firm leadership. Their conspicuous, consistent support is required to prevent CRM from be perceived as optional when the real goal is to make CRM usage habitual….

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 2: Analyze Needs and Set Expectations

Research tells us that, too often, CRM implementations fail to meet expectations. What they don't often tell us is that too often this is because those expectations were wrong. Before buying CRM (or any other) technology, make sure to set proper expectations for success. The best way to do this is with a CRM success assessment. Take the time up front to interview key stakeholders and get their input about how the CRM could help them. These should not be conversations about features and functions. This should be a dialogue that explores ways in which the technology may be able to help the firm and individual attorneys with things they care about like solving problems, improving processes, reducing costs and developing business….

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CRM Success Steps and Strategies - Part 1: CRM Success is Possible!

Yes, you read that title right. The words ‘CRM’ and ‘success’ were just used together. That’s because whether you are rolling out a new CRM system for the first time at your firm or trying to enhance adoption of an existing system, success is possible!

But that doesn't mean CRM success is simple. You can't just install the system and expect clients to line up at the office door with bags of money. In fact, compared to other technology implementations, CRM can actually require extra effort because (ideally) the attorneys actually use the system. Also, even though the ultimate goal of CRM is to make things easier, some initial work is required. All this makes having a strategy even more important. On the road to developing your strategy, it can be helpful to follow a few steps that have helped other firms achieve CRM success….