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Law Firm InsightsReal Estate Best Practices

Big Apple Wisdom Part II: You’re Using That CRM System All Wrong!

By February 7, 2018 No Comments

Do you use a CRM (client relationship management) software system?  I do, but after attending LegalWeek in New York last week, I have a new perspective on how to do it better.

Me and Apto

As most of my readers know, I am an office tenant advisor in the commercial real estate industry. Because it is important for me to keep track of all of my interactions with clients, prospects and other contacts on a daily basis, I log all of them into Apto — a Salesforce CRM software overlay customized to the real estate industry.

I enter every non-transaction-related meeting date, phone call, voicemail, marketing material sent, etc.  I also enter personal notes about anything from a contact’s school allegiance (college football is everything in the South) to his/her wedding anniversary date.  Then, any time I am going to reach out to that individual, I can easily review our history.  Finally, I use Apto to set ticklers to remind me to stay in touch with people on a regular basis.

Law Firms and OnePlace

The legal industry has access to its own tailored Salesforce overlay: OnePlace.  OnePlace integrates time and billing records, client matter descriptions, client contacts, publications, marketing materials and management objectives for evaluation and tracking purposes.  It allows practice groups to set revenue targets, track progress in real time and disburse info to the group. It also helps firms capture each of the contacts they have with a client or prospect.

While I find CRM systems invaluable and have become a dedicated user, it seems I am rather isolated in this opinion.  Many of my colleagues who have been in commercial real estate for several years have developed their own systems for tracking information and are resistant to entering it all into another database that (in their assessments) is not nearly as functional as their existing systems.  Because I have “bought in,” this frustrates me.  I know we all see huge value in sharing our data to better interact with our mutual clients.

The Dilemma: The Users Aren’t Using the System

Which brings me to LegalWeek.  I attended a roundtable aptly titled “Is CRM a Bad Word in Your Firm?  It Doesn’t Have to Be.”  The roundtable was facilitated by two incredibly kind Canadian gentlemen (is that redundant: kind and Canadian?) from Introhive, a data automation service for CRMs that mines and populates contact data so that end users don’t have to.  Sitting next to me at the roundtable was the Marketing Technology Lead from an AmLaw20 firm.

Tangent: this firm has a person in the “Marketing Technology Lead” position?  This firm is going to light.  It. Up.

The Solution

Back to business. I was dying to know how a huge law firm got its attorneys to adopt a CRM system. I asked Marketing Technology Lead (hereafter “MTL”) for his secret.

His answer: the firm didn’t get the attorneys to adopt it.

Wait, What?

The attorneys do not have access to OnePlace to enter their own data.  Instead, they are sent meaningful data analysis by their business development team on a need to know basis.  Here’s where I acknowledge that I (wrongly) thought I knew more than MTL because how could there be any value to a contact database when the attorneys are not entering their contacts or meetings?

MTL patiently explained to me that giving the firm’s attorneys the ability to enter their own data was (1) significantly more expensive (you have to buy numerous licenses and they aren’t cheap) and (2) hopeless.  Data entry is time the attorneys cannot bill.  Also, they do not want to learn a new software platform.  The reasons attorneys won’t use the platform go on and on.  Thus, if database population were left to the attorneys, the database would sit empty and unused.

Consequently, MTL said that his firm uses Introhive to mine the firms’ emails (it looks only at the To, From and Subject lines so as not to compromise privacy), billing systems and other databases to gather contacts.  Introhive then cross-references those contact names with other databases to fill in contact information.  And, it regularly verifies this information so that it catches changes in office address, phone number or company.

Comes the Dawn

The business development and marketing teams at MTL’s firm then enter every content marketing campaign, client event, pitch, etc. into the database, tagging the appropriate recipients/attendees/contacts.  These teams then use the data to provide attorneys information like which campaigns a particular client reacted to — either by opening an email and clicking on a link or attending a firm seminar or webinar.  This can help the firm as well as the billing attorney better understand a client’s interests and needs and target future marketing efforts more accurately.

MTL noted that attorneys are welcome to ask the business development and marketing teams to add other useful data to the database as the attorneys become more comfortable with the database’s use and value.

I am still contemplating how my firm can apply MTL’s method for CRM integration to facilitate wider and more effective use of our database.  Maybe I’ll give one of my new Canadian friends at Introhive a call!

[Side note: unfortunately, this is not a sponsored post.]


Help Me Help You

Law and other service firm use of CRM databases is an ongoing area of interest for me.  To that end, I welcome anyone willing to share their CRM experiences with me on or off the record to please give me a call.  You can contact me here and I will update this article as I learn about how others optimize CRM use.

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