The CRM Marathon

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When you first begin a CRM rollout in your firm, it’s easy to get carried away and want to really take off right out of the gate. It’s perfectly understandable that you might get excited about the potential of CRM to help the firm solve problems and automate processes. You know how effective CRM can be in improving communication, coordination and client service – so it’s tempting to run around telling everyone what it can do.

Can it fix the mailing lists? Absolutely. Support the firm’s Client teams? Of course. Allow tracking of referrals and opportunities? Sure. But realistically, when it comes to CRM, it’s often better to pace yourself. There are a thousand things you can do with CRM, but if you try to do too much at once, you often won’t end up doing anything well. And the last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver.

Instead, slow down and pace yourself. Remember, CRM success is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves a fundamental change in the way your firm thinks about and manages its crucial relationships. While change is good, it is also rarely easy and if often takes time. If you just put take things one step at a time, you will be prepared for the long haul.

Slow and Steady Wins the CRM Rollout “Race”

To win the CRM marathon, you have to take things at a slow, methodical pace. I often work with clients who are just so eager to roll out their CRM systems that they just can’t wait. They want to implement all the bells and whistles, integrate with all of the firm’s other technology, automate Client intake, replace the conflicts system… solve world hunger.

While I applaud the enthusiasm, my counsel to them is often one word: why? This isn’t meant to be a sarcastic or snarky question they need to answer for me. Rather, it’s the question they need to answer for themselves before they embark upon that ‘boil the ocean’ CRM rollout. There needs to be a really good answer to the why question before moving forward with any CRM initiative. If that answer is not compelling, it can wait until phase 2… or phase 22.

Because CRM isn’t a project or an initiative, but rather a fundamental change in the way the firm manages relationships, there will always be time to tackle that complex problem, to implement that new, cool feature or integrate that system. Some of these projects can be incredibly complex and expensive and often they take time – time that could be spent on implementing the core functionality that the attorneys and marketers need to develop business and grow the firm.

A better goal for CRM success is this: just try to be a little better each day. Put one foot in front of the other, start with baby steps. Walk before you can run. Repeat.

You would think that as a CRM consultant, I would be thrilled when a law firm CRM manager told me how excited he was after his recent CRM training. Now he could go to all of the lawyers and ask them what they wanted to do with CRM.

CRM Rollout Hurdles

While you are running your CRM race, sometimes you can get ahead of yourself – even though you paced yourself, hit your stride and were prepared to go the distance. Your goals are set, everyone is trained, the data quality is under control, the assistants aren’t complaining, the technology is chugging away – and, most importantly, your attorneys are actually using the system. Yep, it’s all downhill from here.

Then suddenly you run into the CRM hurdles: Out of nowhere, your key staff person quits. The venerable old server finally gives up. The attorneys’ new smart phones pour a river of personal and incomplete contacts into the database. Your time and billing integration doubles the database with duplicates. Microsoft stops supporting the software you’ve been using since ’03 forcing you to upgrade to ‘the Ribbon’ and retrain everyone on everything. The custom integrated software you had developed is no longer compatible with the new release and will have to be rebuilt.

You suddenly feel your heart racing and you’re thinking of giving up the race. But now is not the time to stop. You’ve come so far. There’s no turning back now. To keep pace through the CRM hurdles, you just need strategy – and a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt. Just try take them one at a time – slow and steady – and keep breathing. The finish line is in sight. It’ll be ok…

The CRM Finish Line

Once you have gotten through the CRM rollout hurdles, it’s only natural to start looking for the finish line. Surely it must be close. I mean, come on… you’ve worked so hard. Clearly deserve your reward or maybe some recognition – or at least the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Actually, forget satisfaction… you deserve a medal. Right? Or at least a rest.

Unfortunately, the problem in looking out for the CRM finish line is that you must assume that there is actually is one. I hate to be the one to break the news to you: there isn’t actually a CRM finish line. In fact, this is one really, really long race.

I know that right now some of you may be thinking how depressing this sounds. You have worked so hard … endured so much… and for what? Now I’m telling you that you aren’t done – and you don’t even get to rest. You may feel a little like Sisyphus, the guy in mythology who was doomed to spend eternity pushing a huge rock up a steep hill only to have it roll back down each time he got near the top. (OK, I admit I took way too much Latin as a kid, and I’ve been looking for a chance to use some of it… but I digress.)

But wait. Don’t get discouraged. The fact that CRM is never finished is actually good news. (And yes, I am one of those annoying glass-half-full kind of people). Because there is no finish line, it means that, when it comes to CRM, you don’t have to worry about being in a hurry. You can take your time. It’s not a competition. In fact, all you have to focus on is moving forward and getting a little better each day. If you just do that, you will have won the CRM race without even breaking a sweat.