Even though the entire law firm business model is built around forging long-term relationships and connections, there probably is no other industry with more disconnected systems and data. Legal marketing professionals and technologists are constantly struggling with the challenges caused by juggling so many disconnected systems including: CRM and ERM, eMarketing systems and blogs, websites, intranets and portals, experience databases, proposal generators, social listening and competitive intelligence tools and more. And don’t even get me started on the spreadsheets. All of this can lead to a significant number of people and processes issues.
When, Where and Why to Integrate CRM
When systems are not connected, it causes challenges such as vast sets of duplicate contacts and duplicative data entry. Attorneys and staff waste time on inefficient tasks such as entering data into multiple disconnected systems, which is frustrating and time-consuming – and a real problem for professionals who make money by billing their time. These independent ‘silos’ of data can also keep attorneys from being able to effectively analyze this disconnected data to make informed, timely decisions.
One frequent solution to these problems is to build a bridge to connect the disparate systems and allow for enhanced information flow as well as efficiencies—aka integration. But then a more pressing question becomes where to build the bridge. One answer for many firms has been the Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. A CRM has many qualities that make it a good option. These systems have been around for a long time, and many firms have already made significant investments in them. More important, a majority of firms have deployed the software to the desktops of all or most of their attorneys. Plus, a potential benefit of enhancing the data in the CRM can be to drive adoption of the CRM, which is a goal for many clients.
While it’s important that integrations facilitate the flow of useful information, it’s also important that they be able to stand the test of time. Building integrations are often costly, so it’s important that there is potential for a return on the technology investment. For instance, frequently a client assumes that a financial integration should be part of the initial implementation of a CRM system, without first doing a cost-benefit analysis. As a result, when we work with clients who suggest this – or any technology integration – we always ask one simple question: “Why?” If you can’t articulate a reasonable and well-thought-out answer to the question, it’s likely that the integration may not be necessary – or at least may be better left to a later phase of the CRM implementation.
Involve Key Stakeholders
Too often these decisions are made without input from all the key stakeholders. Here is a case where that error had a major impact on a CRM implementation: A firm that we worked with was focused on creating an opportunity pipeline that the Marketing department could use to project future revenue and help staff upcoming projects. Meanwhile, the firm’s IT department was in the middle of a time and billing upgrade, and to get the firm to purchase the time and billing software, the consultant had offered the firm a ‘free’ CRM system that could integrate with it to let data flow into the opportunity pipeline. However, because Marketing was not involved in the initial system needs assessment or purchase, when it came time to set up the pipeline, the CMO realized that the finance department was entering data during the intake process in a completely different manner than the Marketing and Business Development teams needed to be able to report on the data in the pipeline. As a result, both projects had to be halted for several months of meetings so that everyone could agree on a consistent format and taxonomy.
Our next post will explore some of the most common and useful CRM integrations that firms should consider…
As a CRM Success and Business Development Technology Consultant, Christina Fritsch works with leading professional services firms across the country to implement the right Client Relationship Management and eMarketing solutions. She also writes and speaks nationally and was named a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management in 2017.
For more than 12 years, the team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations successfully select and implement CRM and eMarketing systems to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help with CRM Success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or Info@ClientsFirstConsulting.com.