Law firm business development is all about relationships. So it is not surprising that there has been a continual and ongoing search for technology and tools to assist firms in discovering and leveraging these crucial relationships.
For decades, the relationship technology tool of choice for law firms was CRM (Client Relationship Management). A large number of firms spent large sums of money attempting to deploy these systems to gain relationship intelligence and enhance Client communication, collaboration and service. But time has shown that CRM success can be challenging. In fact, some research indicated that over 70% of CRM implementations may have failed to meet expectations.
We’ve all been in that fun place: at a cocktail party, sitting on an airplane or in the back of a cab and someone asks, “So what do you do?” How do you respond? While this conversation rarely takes place in an elevator, the answer has been described as an ‘elevator pitch’ because ideally it should summarize what you do in the time it would take to ride up in an elevator with someone – about 30 seconds. It should also help to start an interesting conversation.
Unfortunately, the most frequent response is often a bland and generic,
People often say that word of mouth advertising is incredibly powerful. We know this must be true because almost every survey of buyers of professional services ever undertaken suggests that a personal referral is always the primary driver of the selection process.
Referrals are incredibly credible and, even better, they’re free. And as social media has gained in popularity – and influence – the power of referrals has become amplified. As a result, referral sources should always be included in your business development planning.
When thinking about potential referral sources you should consider current and previous Clients,
So what do you do if you feel like you are drowning in CRM data quality problems and you just can’t seem to get help from within your firm – or if you don’t have months to spend manually cleaning and deduplicating your data?
One solution is to pay a data quality company to clean and deduplicate your data. During this process, data is typically matched up electronically against a postal database to append and standardize mailing addresses. The output generated is typically a very large spreadsheet of potential duplicate matches, which then must be manually reviewed and validated by someone on your team.
When I ask some attorneys to describe their ideal Client, I often hear, ‘one that pays.’ This response is mildly amusing… but rarely true. Not every Client is a good Client. And what makes a great Client for one firm or professional might be a nightmare for another. So a big part of your business development planning process should start by defining your ideal target Clients.
A good place to start is often with your current Clients. Focus on the ones who have growth potential and who are not utilizing your firm to serve all of their existing needs.
So how big a problem is data quality depression really?
In the past, some firms neglected CRM data quality as a minor issue – to their detriment. In fact, poor data quality can become a serious problem, especially during an initial rollout because the attorneys can quickly lose confidence in the system if the data is a mess. After all, attorneys are trained to find fault – and when they do, they may jump to the conclusion that if the data is bad, the system is not trustworthy. Then adoption and usage will stall.
The Value of CRM Won’t Be Apparent Until Data Quality is Addressed
We commit random acts of golf or lunch – inviting the same people who have never given us business. We spend weeks preparing for presentations for groups of attorneys – who are competitors instead of potential Clients. We spend hours writing long-winded white papers – for obscure, scholarly publications instead of industry or trade periodicals. We pay thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for sports and event tickets – that end up unused or used by our associates and their friends.
Ultimately, at some point, you may realize that getting help for data quality depression is essential. Once a firm reaches a certain size, often around 100 users, a part-time data steward just can’t keep up with the volume of data changes in most cases. Larger firms will likely require a full-time data steward. And as a firm reaches the 250 user mark, even one dedicated data steward might not be able to do the job alone.
People Move, Change Companies, Get Promoted ….and Data Quality Degrades
The reason that data quality resources are necessary is that, no matter what you do,
Like most things that are challenging – but can also be rewarding – business development success starts with a plan. To be really effective, you have to put together a strategy and plan that you can execute and measure success against. Without a plan, you will likely end up wasting the one resource that is the most precious – time.
Because time is limited, it’s also important not to spend too much of it creating the plan either. Of course you need to spend enough time to prepare a well-thought-out plan, but remember, you aren’t writing a sequel to war and peace.
When it comes to data quality depression, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. There are literally hundreds of firms struggling with the same frustrations and issues. Often, the best thing you can do is to reach out for assistance.
Internal Resources Can Help with Data Quality Tasks
Frequently, help is closer than you think. In fact, you can often find relief within your own firm. There are plenty of people with the right skills and, more importantly, some additional bandwidth, who may be able to assist you with recurring data quality tasks. Good potential candidates include secretaries,
Finally, to take your personal value proposition up a level – to really connect with a potential Client – articulate characteristics that may be of particular interest to them. Discuss things that differentiate you or your practice. Describe a niche area of expertise. Mention unique skills or knowledge. Talk about your Client focus and how you help people avoid risks or solve problems.
Your personal value proposition should be compelling and memorable, something that would make a potential Client want to hear more – and remember you after your initial meeting. It should also be interesting and engaging,
If your data quality depression doesn’t seem to be responding to conventional treatments, fortunately there are now some alternative treatments available. One treatment that has been particularly effective for some firms is outsourcing.
If you aren’t able to hire full-time or permanent data quality resources, there are now outsourced professionals available who can help you to get a handle on your CRM data on a part-time or even full-time basis. For a very reasonable hourly rate, these professionals can assist your firm with individual projects – or even serve as full-time permanent data stewards.
Outsourcing CRM DQ Expertise Offers Pain Relief and ROI
These trained professionals will serve as members of your firm’s data quality team.
To really elevate your personal value proposition, begin by trying to articulate it in terms of Client needs. These needs can often open the door to new business. But remember that Clients typically have a hierarchy of needs – and some are more pressing than others.
The goal is to identify and find potential solutions for the ‘big’ needs, the ones that are the most imperative, because these are the ones that are most likely to drive a hiring decision. Some of these needs include:
- Increasing revenue and profitability
- Reducing costs,
While the bad news is that data quality depression may seem to be an epidemic, the good news is that it is treatable – and it’s rarely contagious. The treatments vary depending on the symptoms and the causes. As a result, your data quality specialist should diagnose your specific issue in order to prescribe a course of treatment specific to your firm’s unique needs.
For instance, if your symptoms include delirium caused by end users who do not seem to follow instructions or take responsibility for their own data maintenance, your consultant may recommend a course of training (also known as a training course.) The focus of the training should be not only therapeutic,
Your personal value proposition should be a brief and compelling statement that is designed to start off an (ideally) interesting conversation by defining the value you may be able to provide to the potential Client. Without providing value, business development can often be challenging since it will likely be based mainly on hope or luck, neither of which is a great strategy.
The trick is that value is in the eye of the beholder – or in the case of a personal value proposition, the listener. Even more challenging, each individual may define value in a different way because each of us has unique needs and ‘hot button”