We struggle to make the impact on our firms that we believe marketing is having in other industries. Lately, I can't help but think the answer (or part of it anyway, but this is a blog, so let me think big and unrealistic), lies not on the marketing communications side of the equation, not even in the traditional business development side either, but in the CRM or sales cycle part. The part with the dirty word (sales) and the acronym most people still struggle to really understand outside of "invite list" or "mailing list". I have written before about how I think CI is really or should really be about CRM+. More and more, I am starting to see how these two functions, that are often behind the scenes – the introverts next to their extrovert MarCom buddies, the strong silent types that comb through data, deserve more attention in the client conversion or retention conversation.
Regardless of what CRM system a firm is using or even more to the point where there is no formal CRM system in place, there is often resistance to having contacts and related activities shared within a firm. Whether owing to the law firm as hotel-for-lawyers mentality, privacy issues, fear that others will ruin the relationship, lack of trust among partners or some other reason lawyers generally don't want to share their contacts and firm's have yet to find a good way to change that behaviour en masse. There are always exceptions to the rules, but if you talk to your friends at sales organizations, the CRM system if the life blood of the organization and those that don't share are the exception. Not only are contacts shared but client touches are also shared – who has had dinner with whom, who sent pricing information and when, responses to pitches are recorded and client lessons are shared on the go through the CRM system. Occasionally, I am a the target of these sales pitches and for a moment I am always surprised that a new, or new-to-me sales person knows so much about me and my relationship to the organization. Then I remember I am but a record in the company's CRM system and a smart sales person will look me up before making contact and will therefore intimately know my history of engagement, how I feel about a product or service, who my account reps is and so forth before even picking up a phone. They may even know some personal details about me to help break the ice. Combine this knowledge with sales training or soft skills around appropriate communication so as not to come off creepy or stalker-like and imagine what you can do. What if you had the ability to call a client on any given day, and say something like "Hi, I see you are subscribed to our X Practice newsletter and received our most recent update on issue Y, I know you had lunch with Partner W last week, but I still wanted to follow up to see if you had any questions and to invite you to an event we are hosting on related topic Z. I believe partner W and some of his clients you might want to meet will also be there " There is real value in that for clients, instead of waiting for the phone to ring with a retainer, lawyers can be proactive in providing client service that is tailored, builds the firm's and the lawyer's relationship, engenders trust and requires very little effort other than consistent recording and reporting on the part of the lawyers and the CRM professionals. All you need to know who is subscribed to what, who is reading what and who is taking whom for lunch or to a golf tournament. Being able to connect those internal dots, along with knowing is what happening in the client's organization or industry so you can help your clients avoid surprises or capitalize on market activity - including your firm's own bespoke networking events, is client service euphoria.
Data is driving insights across all kinds of disciplines from healthcare to retail, data is also driving revenue for all kinds of B2C companies, culture is the only thing standing in the way of making data driven client service a reality for law firms as well. Its a simple methodology that does take some data clean up and data strategy, along with a workflow assessment, but with the right people in place and a culture that supports client service above all else it can happen. CRM and CI might not have all of the glitz and glamour you associate with legal marketing, branding and social media buzz, but I do believe that partnered together and used effectively as in the example above, these two strong silent types can effect real and tangible change for firms.