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CRM is a Journey…Not a Trip

CRM is a Journey…Not a TripI 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 it 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 CRM as something that will ever really ‘end.’ It will be a necessary and even essential element of firm 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 …along with your CRM Plan.

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.

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 a 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 …

The Map
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 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. (How many of you have really even heard of Turkmenistan – forget about finding it on the globe?)

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

Winding Roads

Winding RoadsYou 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.

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.

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 that 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 want 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 well 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.

Rest Stops 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.

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