Marketing technology implementations are challenging in a law firm for a variety of reasons. The demand for trusted data for use by lawyers exactly when they need it is increasing, and the pressure on marketers to deliver just-in-time, relevant information and intelligence is greater than ever before.
I recently spoke at the Lex Mundi 2012 Americas Regional Marketing Roundtable about Experience Management, which I believe is one of the hottest areas on a chief marketer's hot-plate. Like CRM, which William Smith discusses below, experience database implementations are among the most challenging of all marketing technology initiatives - not because the technology is hard, but because gathering such data in a law firm culture is. But the challenges and obstacles are far from insurmountable – I'll dedicate my next blog post to this.
The Secret of CRM Success in a Law Firm
Guest Post by William A. Smith
Fifteen years ago, if you asked someone at a law firm what is “CRM” the responses could have been anything from a blank stare to “isn’t that what our eyes do when you’re in a really deep sleep?” Today, client relationship management has become an integral and vital part of business organizations. Whether a law firm, technology company, or retail conglomerate, the ability to understand the value of your client/customer relationships– who your clients are, how the clients view you, benchmarking and monetizing the value of those relationships– has become a
core part of business management.
When I was child, my father would always say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That axiom is true in life, politics and business. It is the very heart of social networking. Businesses have recognized the value of this “who knows whom” paradigm, going as far to seek out and develop technology solutions to help define:
what makes a suspect
what turns it into a prospect
how to develop it into a customer/client, and most importantly,
how to retain the customer/client.
There are numerous success stories out there where companies have experienced market share and revenue growth by utilizing this “business intelligence.” Client relationship management(CRM) technology has enabled organizations to develop the key performance indicators and marketing strategies that speak to their sweet spots and answers the question “how does our marketing investment translate into revenue?”
So why do law firms have such a hard time with CRM technology? You would think that it would be a perfect fit –a business model that leverages relationships, and a technology solution that helps to sort it all. Regardless of the brand of CRM, most firms have a love- hate relationship with their CRM platform. Love the concept, hate the execution.
On one hand, today’s firms are much more techno-savvy than just a few years ago– better equipped to handle new technologies that seem to spring up daily. They are also better at understanding the concept of integrating systems and knowledge management—leveraging the information in proposal systems, experience databases, time and billing systems and personal information systems.
But on the other hand, the cleanliness of concept crashes head-on into the chaos of implementation. In general, a CRM platform’s greatest strength is also one of its greatest challenges. These systems can be quite flexible, integrating with other enterprise systems to the point where implementation and maintenance can be quite a handful. Typically CRM systems do not act like a “normal” database. The data is constantly changing and updating (minute by minute) due to user interaction, and if it integrates with other systems (HR and experience databases, time and billing, proposal centers, etc.), it is not only communicating with those other systems but, in a perfect world, it might even update or be updated by those other systems.
Ok, so if these platforms can do everything except make frozen margaritas, why aren’t they being used to their full potential? CRM platforms tend to much more flexible than the environments in which they are placed. Face it — you have one platform that can talk to time and billing, HR, email, Internet, intranet, and with the right tools can even send and manage its own e-communications. All of these individual systems have their own individual experts. If a firm is lucky enough to have someone with CRM system background, that person often does not have expertise in those other aforementioned areas.
Technical teams are not “marketing-y” enough and marketing staffs are not sufficiently “techie.” In other words, an IT department may have the expertise to keep all of the firm systems up running as well as application/reports development, but they are not going to have the resources available to focus solely on the needs and nuances of a CRM system —reports, KPI, user acceptance, workflow, etc. Marketing may have unique expertise in the “use cases” and managing the CRM system, but often they will have no knowledge of the platform’s impact on the firm’s other resources and bandwidth, let alone any challenges with system integration and data management/analysis.
And let’s not forget about the attorneys. They want client information, market intelligence and any other data that will translate into billable hours or bring in the next big client and matter.
Each group is concerned about doing what they need to do—attorneys are about attorneying, marketers are about marketing and IT is about IT-ing. However, working in these separate silos illustrates a weakness in the business intelligence game plan. If these groups cannot share information, find redundancies and provide common solutions that move the entire enterprise forward, you wind up with bad intelligence, wasted efforts and more problems than solutions.
But there is an untapped resource available to firms—if developed and utilized it can give an organization quite an advantage. Firms that have a person who understands CRM from the technical, marketing, legal and business analyst perspective have the upper hand here. The ideal person (or persons) is someone that understands how CRM works in our legal environment—that has experience benchmarking, managing the project and implementing the CRM solution efficiently and effectively from start to finish. This is someone who is capable on the technical side; who can walk the IT walk, as well as speak to the end user experience.
In addition this person can provide key business analysis and intelligence rather than just throwing reports over the wall. Want to know the return on investment of lawyers’ travel and business development meetings, or what practice groups’-client relationships generate the most revenue? Curious about whether your e-communications are reaching your desired audience? Do those communications strengthen or weaken your bottom line? This person can find those answers.
Unfortunately most firms do not have such a person – they are hard to come by. Typically, there are several people who can provide different bits of information—but rarely do any of them have a single, holistic approach or share the same perspective. The fact that this person is unique shouldn’t deter firms from having a goal of finding or developing someone with this combination of skills, experience and viewpoint—a valuable resource that could pay dividends for years to come.
William Allen Smith is the former VP-Marketing Information Systems, Walkers Global LLP, and can be reached at email@example.com or 877-696-3480.