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Three Ways to Strategically Categorize CRM Contacts


How you categorize contacts in your CRM can play a big role in the success of email campaigns and general business development efforts. If you are hosting a private event in Scottsdale, Arizona or Atlanta, Georgia for a client or prospect, you don’t want to send an invitation to competitors in the same area and have them crash the event. 

Categories are frequently used to break your CRM database into more manageable groups or classifications so targeting and segmenting can become much easier. But there are many reasons – and a variety of ways – to categorize your CRM contacts. Some of the obvious ones are to categorize contacts as “clients”, “top clients” or “prospect.”

While you may already categorize your CRM contacts in these ways, there are other methods to use to segment contacts to develop stronger and lasting relationships, which we explore in this article.

Categorizing CRM Contacts

Target Practices

When you are trying to target key groups, it can be beneficial to categorize your contacts by firm practice area or group. This type of category can be helpful if you want to enhance communication efforts with clients of a certain practice or if you want to focus on cross-selling between practices.

How many times, in the recent past, have you been asked by a partner or professional to pull a list of the firm or organization’s healthcare or energy clients because the business is trying to expand in an area that is particularly ‘hot?’ Or maybe, more simply, the attorneys can’t believe that you aren’t able to quickly and easily pull a list of key contacts to invite to the labor and employment seminar.

If these types of requests sound familiar or are next to impossible, then categorizing contacts like this makes absolute sense. Remember, one of the best ways to really improve your aim at the key targets is to ‘practice.’

Location, Location, Location

Another type of category you may want to include is ‘location.’ A location category can help ensure that the right messages reach the right contacts in the right area.

For instance, some firms like to include categories for the offices that a particular contact works with the most. That way, when the office has an event, they can be sure to invite those clients. This is also important because a client may live in one place, but work for a company that is in another. 

You wouldn’t want to invite a Yankees fan to a Red Sox game. Location categories can help prevent that.

In addition, some firms may want to be able to categorize contacts with all the locations in which they do business. For instance, a company may be headquartered in one state, but have satellite operations in several states across the country. As a result, they may be interested in legal updates or alerts for multiple locations. 

If you search only by the company’s main address when you send an email, you might miss the opportunity to provide information – and possibly legal services – to those clients. But if you add a category for all their regional locations, you can make sure they get targeted information for each state.

CRM Status Symbol

Another way you may want to categorize CRM contacts is by contact ‘status’ or ‘type.’ This will allow you to better keep track of key individuals, segment your lists and target the audiences that you want to reach – and the ones you don’t.

Status categories may include a number of different types of classifications. For instance, you may want to track types of clients such as current clients, former clients, top clients, or at-risk clients. You may also want to keep up with prospects who the attorneys or professionals may be targeting and who could someday become clients. 

Additionally, you may want to categorize other contacts who can help you bring in clients such as referral sources like accountants or bankers. These groups of contacts are the people who you want to keep in contact with on a regular basis, share information with, or invite to firm events.

Then there are the contacts you categorize to make sure that you don’t share firm information with or invite them to events. These might include adversaries or competitors. Judges might also fall into this category.

So Many CRM Categories – So Now What?

So now that we’ve identified three different ways to use and categorize CRM contacts, your head may be spinning as you try to figure out what to do next. On the one hand, the great thing about CRM is that it can do so many things. On the other hand, the challenge with CRM is… that it can do so many things.

In fact, there are so many things that CRM can do that it can be very difficult to figure out what it should do. You also need to be careful not to try to do too much and end up not doing anything really well. As with many things, success with CRM requires focus.

So, focus on one small thing at a time like creating a new category of contacts that you can actively engage and provide value for. These small steps can go a long way in the success of your CRM initiative.If you need help with cleaning and categorizing the contacts in your CRM, CLIENTSFirst Consulting can help. For more than 15 years, the team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations improve Data Quality and 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

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