Tech Partner Talks: Putting the Right Teams in Place

In our earlier Tech Partner Talks, we shared questions to ask your tech vendor and why their answers matter, talked about the importance of law firm experience and why it’s important to know how many people are actually using the product, and the importance of understanding what happens when the implementation is finished. And while each of these talks is focused on helping you find the right partner, in this session we’ll look at both sides of the partnership — the one between vendor and firm. As always, you can find the full session as well as the earlier sessions in the Resources section of the ContactEase website.

Building the right internal team is just as important as selecting the right outside partner. You’ve heard it dozens of times if not more — it’s about the people and the processes not jus the platform. And it’s true! Including the right people from the start will help ensure buy-in for your project and keep it moving forward.

As Director of Client Services at ContactEase, Amber Elliot leads the implementation team – this means she works with clients from the start. It means working with firms rolling out CRM for the first time as well as transitioning from other products and overcoming failed implementations. After the implementation, she often finds herself offering guidance on best practices, providing a shoulder to lean on and works with our own internal teams like training and support to ensure clients receive relevant and useful content.

So, what does a successful implementation look like to Amber? Let’s hear from our in-house expert, “For me, a successful implementation really comes down to having the right team and a clear strategy. Identifying the right project team is a critical step in a firm’s planning process and it needs to be done early on. By the time a firms has signed a contract, they should feel pretty good about the vendor they’re partnering with and have probably met the people they’ll be working with, but often find that there hasn’t been a lot of thought given to the internal project team,” she said. Elliott finds that while most firms come into the project with a good idea of who the key team members will be often they’re surprised to hear her suggest adding or even not including others.

Depending on the size of the firm and the scope of the project, a typical project team for a CRM implementation might include:

  • Marketing & Business Development
  • IT
  • Internal Project Manager
  • Data Steward
  • Trainer
  • ContactEase Project Leads

Marketing/Business Development

When considering who to include from, you’ll want to think about how your team is comprised. How big is your team? If you’re a department of one (or even two), it’s pretty obvious that the entire department will be intimately involved with a software implementation. For larger teams, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to have everyone involved. When looking at who to include from the marketing and business development, your first instinct is probably to include your director or CMO. For some firms that will be the right decision, but that’s not always the case. Often times the director or CMO will be involved in the purchase of CRM, but they’re not always the best person for the implementation team because they have higher level priorities and don’t always have the time to focus on the project at a granular level. They will often entrust other members of their team to take an active role in the project and report back to them about what they need to know and what they need to do to keep things moving forward.

When you are selecting project team members, you want to make sure they are capable of understanding the higher concept ideas and the firm’s goals for the new technology so that they can translate those messages to others in the firm and ensure the identified goals for the project are being met.

Information Technology (IT)

Of course, no tech project is going to move forward without IT involvement. And it’s especially important for your IT team to understand the project’s technical requirements. For example, an on-premise solution may require more resources than something in the cloud.

Again, you might think that a CIO or director would be the good choice, but if their responsibilities are spread thin — working across multiple projects and priorities — you may want to rethink it. Questions to ask might include:

  • Who will be working directly with lawyers and others to implement the new technology?
  • Who will be answering technical questions?
  • Can the IT members of your team effectively translate the requirements to others in their department or in the firm?

Internal Project Manager

The internal project manager is probably the most important element of your team. It’s critical that you identify one member of your team as the internal project manager. This person will work closely with both the internal team and the vendor team and is ultimately responsible for the success of the project from beginning to end. Your internal project manager should be someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions, can make sure other members of the team are meeting deadlines, and has a clear understanding of the goals and objectives for the project.

Data Stewards

The data steward is the most common role we find hasn’t been allocated at the start of the project and it’s one of the most important. There are many ways to successfully fill the data steward responsibilities. Not all firms have full or even part time data stewards. Some prefer to dedicate a staff member for a couple of hours each week, others just do it where they can. There are also companies who provide data steward services, so outsourcing is an option. There are options for automated data cleanup as well. During the implementation, you’ll want the data steward involved because there will be key milestones for things like data clean up and finalizing your internal style guide. These are things that will affect the project even after the implementation is complete.

Vendor Project Team

On the vendor side, you should also have a dedicated team. Make sure the technology partner you’re selecting tells you how they staff their project teams.

Don’t Forget About Your Stakeholders

While they aren’t official members of your project team, it’s important to involve stakeholder representatives. These are people who can convey key messages about your project and the problems it will solve to their peers. They can also work as an extension of your project team – they don’t need to be caught up in the details. Keep them well-informed and make sure they’re capable of selling the product’s benefits across the firm. And just like your project team, your stakeholders should represent user types from across the firm.

For more information on building the right teams and to hear how firms benefit, be sure to check out the full broadcast on our Resources page!

Tech Partner Talks: Questions to Ask Every Tech Vendor

In the latest installment of our Tech Partner Talks series, ContactEase Director of Client Services, Amber Elliott and Documentation & Training Specialist, Sara Coffey discuss the importance of finding the right partner to move your projects forward and share some of the questions they think you should ask every potential tech vendor.

The wrong partner can really derail a project and potentially affect buy-in for future projects however the right partner can be your success for years to come. Check out the full broadcast on the Resources page of our website and read on for our top three questions to ask every potential tech vendor.

Question 1: Have you worked with law firms? How many?

At ContactEase, our focus is on professional services firms. Many of our clients are law firms and many of our team members are former clients. We know the legal industry. This is important because law firms are a unique business culture and if your vendor doesn’t understand that they may not be the best partner for your firm. The distinction becomes eve more important if your lawyers are going to be involved in the decision making process and also if they’re going to be using the product themselves.

If you’ve come to legal from another industry, you know that law firms just run differently. In addition to the pace, there are considerations like ethics rules, client service and a general understanding of the culture, language and work.

Early in Sara’s career, she would try to bring in friends for creative projects and it caused some frustration because often they just didn’t understand how law firms operated. I’ve also seen She also experienced frustrations with vendors who argued they could make it work because they’d done it a million times before and “how different could law firms really be?”

Question 2: Does your product integrate with other firm systems?

Integrations are popular for many reasons. We’re all looking for ways to improve efficiencies and ensure we have the best data in front of us. You may not be able to add more people, but you can leverage products and processes to make your work life easier.

When it comes to CRM, some of the most important integrations are with financial systems and email campaign platforms. An integrated ERM component is also a huge benefit:

Integrating your firm’s CRM and financial systems streamlines data entry processes. It can eliminate a lot of that back and forth between marketing and finance and help provide you with the most current information when and where you need it.

Marketing automation integrations like with Constant Contact for example or any other email campaign tool –  improve efficiencies for the marketing department – not only when it comes to getting your mailings out in a timely manner, but also to ensure that you’re getting those campaign metrics back into your CRM system where you can analyze and report on the effectiveness of the firm’s targeted marketing initiatives.

An integrated ERM tool ensures you are getting all of the firm’s contacts into your CRM system – even those that aren’t being entered by the attorneys. And even more importantly – you get critical relationship information so you understand not only who knows whom but who has the strongest relationship with each contact so you can truly leverage those existing relationships.

The systems you’ll want to integrate with will vary from firm to firm and depend on your unique goals, just keep in mind some products claim to do it all but when you integrate different platforms rather than look for one that keeps everything in one place you can ensure your products are doing what they do best.

Question 3: How is your product accessed? Is it on-premise or in the cloud?

Historically, law firms and the legal industry as a whole have been reticent to move their systems to the cloud. While many firms were beginning to look for cloud-based solutions, the pandemic of 2022 sped things up for many. When we’re talking about the cloud, it’s really just a way to say that files are housed offsite on “someone else’s computer.” Some firms are moving towards cloud-only solutions while others aren’t quite ready. Ultimately, its up to the firm. As long as there is need, we will always meet our clients where they are and where they want to be.

For further expansion on the questions above as well as more questions to ask your potential tech partners, visit the Resources page on the ContactEase website. Be sure to check back next week when we’ll be discussing how to build the right teams.

Tech Partner Talks: Making the Business Case for New Technology

ContactEase Director of Client Services, Amber Elliott, and Documentation and Training Specialist, Sara Coffey recently got together to discuss how law firm marketers can successfully make the business case for new technology. Spoiler alert: address your lawyers’ pain points to solve your own! In this inaugural session of ContactEase Tech Partner Talks, Elliott and Coffey reflect on their own experiences as law firm marketers as well as what they’ve learned helping firms implement ContactEase. To listen to the full talk, visit the ContactEase CRM Resources page.

In her role as Director of Client Services, Elliott works with firms of all sizes to implement ContactEase CRM and other products. She works with firms that brand new to CRM as well as those who are transitioning from other platforms. From helping prospective clients obtain buy-in and choose the right partner to helping firms refresh their CRM strategy years after an implementation, the ContactEase team has developed strong relationships. During each talk, we’ll use that experience to show how finding the right partner can be just as important as finding the right platform.

As marketers, you have to have the systems and processes in place to market your firm, help your professionals strengthen their relationships, and win new business. You don’t have to go it alone. The right partner can carry some of that load for you. Over the next few weeks, we’ll show you how to make the business case, find the right partner, build the right teams, and keep it all moving forward! The examples we’ll share do come from CRM, but the advice is the same no matter the platform you’re considering or the problems you’re trying to solve.

When making the business case, it’s important to identify your key stakeholders first. Some marketers may be in a position to make the buying decision, but in a lot of firms that happens at the committee level. Either way, you need to have buy-in from the key decision-makers and your stakeholders who will be using your new platforms. It really doesn’t make any sense to invest in technology your lawyers aren’t going to use. That’s why, when you make your business case, it’s critical to put them first. Focus on their pain points and their problems. In doing so, you’re going to find that you’ll be able to address your own. A win for everyone!

Let’s take a look at some of the common pain points we hear from marketers:

  • It takes too long to pull together a mailing list
  • Our contacts really aren’t receiving relevant information from us
  • We lack coordinated outreach

I bet you can relate to at least one of those, right? But, what’s missing? How it affects your attorneys. Attorneys don’t really care that it takes you hours to pull a mailing list together, or that you’re waiting for them to provide feedback on a list you sent weeks ago, but when you take that problem and position it in a way that impacts them directly — their practice, their professional reputation, and their relationships — they’re going take notice. So, your problem goes from, “It takes us hours to pull together a list” to things like:

  • Contacts aren’t receiving the e-alerts you’re writing
  • Contacts are missing out on timely and relevant information from the firm
  • Contacts are receiving this information from our competitors
  • Contacts may think we’re behind the curve

Elliott recalls working with practice groups at her former firm. One practice group she worked with was very active sending frequent alerts and always ready with information to send to their contacts. On the surface, they were doing everything right, but when they took a closer look at the lists they realized nearly 1/3 of the contacts didn’t have an email address. This meant that they weren’t receiving any communications at all. It’s examples like this that you want to look for in order to tell your lawyers how new technology will solve their problems.

So, when we look at the problems we’ve identified above we can argue that with a CRM we’ll have all of the firm’s contact data in a central location which is going to make it easy to categorize contacts for targeted marketing campaigns, update and review lists efficiently and ensure you have the data you need to get your e-alerts and mailings out quickly and to the right audience.

It’s a good way to show lawyers they’re doing it right but they could be doing it even better. Another frustration we often hear from marketers is that “we don’t know what our lawyers are doing.” Sometimes lawyers don’t understand why this is important for marketing. Let’s think about the implications when marketing doesn’t know what their lawyers are doing:

We don’t know what mailings clients are receiving or if they’re receiving them at all. When this happens, either through a missing email address or the inability to track the touchpoints, clients and contacts are missing out on potentially important regulatory updates that affect their business and their bottom line. They may think that the firm didn’t know about emerging issues and are just behind the curve.

When multiple lawyers reach out to the same clients, it shows a lack of coordinated outreach. The firm could appear disorganized and unprofessional, and it can be confusing for clients, too.

We don’t know the status of proposals and pitches. You may miss out on important deadlines or pitch for work that doesn’t pay well. You may even be including irrelevant or outdated information. At one of Coffey’s former firms, marketing decided to start tracking RFPs from a couple different angles:

  • Win rates when marketing was involved from the beginning
  • Time to complete when marketing was involved from the beginning
  • Who won the work

When the firm started tracking this information, they realized that when marketing was involved from the beginning there was a higher win rate and it took less time to respond. The marketing team also helped make the case against submitting certain proposals which freed up time and resources. When lawyers learned that marketing’s involvement paid off, they were brought in earlier and often.

In our last example, we don’t understand the firm’s relationships. Lawyers think they know their relationships and so they don’t think about the benefits of a firmwide understanding. To drive the importance of this home, lawyers need to hear:

  • We’re missing opportunities because we aren’t spending the best person to ask for work
  • We’re unable to effectively cross-sell the clients
  • We’re missing out on additional opportunities to provide superior client service
  • We don’t understand what more we can be doing for our clients

To address these pain points, you may want to look for an enterprise relationship management or ERM platform that integrates with CRM. This ensures you have all of the firm’s contacts in one location, even though that don’t make it into the attorney’s Outlook. On its own, CRM will tell you who knows whom, but when you add ERM into the mix, you can also who has the strongest relationship, and that will let you know how you can leverage those existing relationships across the firm for business development purposes. ERM also provides industry segmentation that allows you to identify growth opportunities in different sectors.

At Coffey’s last firm, understanding industry segments allowed the firm to develop a new industry group. The firm used NAICS codes to identify and segment industries in CRM and uncovered growth opportunity in higher education and other industries. a lot of relationships in higher education and make the business case for the industry group and expand our representation of colleges and universities.

These are just a few pain points we hear from firms. Just remember, no matter what yours are, when you really start thinking about your pain points and find a way to position them from your stakeholders’ vantage point, you’ll be able to gain the momentum you need and get buy-in for your projects.

WEBINAR: Why CRM, Why Now

Communicating with your firm’s contacts has never been more important. In this webinar, you’ll hear from Jill Rinne, Marketing Director at Larson LLP and Lindsay Vendegnia, Marketing Manager at Moye White — two law firm marketers using CRM to advance marketing, strengthen relationships, and help their firms win more business. 

What We’ll Discuss:

  • How they identified the need for CRM 
  • The problems they were trying to solve 
  • How they made the business case for CRM (and why they selected ContactEase)
  • Lessons learned and advice for fellow marketers

And of course, we’ll leave time for questions. Anything you ever wanted to know about CRM? Here’s your chance to ask! Feel free to submit them in advance when you register.

Can’t join us live? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording. 

About the Panelists

Jil Rinne, Marketing Director, Larson LLP

Jil Rinne’s enthusiasm for branding and persuasive messaging combined with her insight into the legal industry and a keen understanding of how lawyers think, work, and communicate allows her to create effective and compelling stories about the people behind the firm. Prior to joining Larson LLP, Jil managed the marketing and communications department at a litigation boutique in Los Angeles and worked at two Am Law 100 firms in Boston. She is a member of the Legal Marketing Association and co-chair of the Homelessness Working Group for the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance.

Lindsay Vendegnia, Marketing Manager, Moye White LLP

Lindsay Vendegnia uses her passion for marketing, communications, and business development to develop new tactics to support emerging and developing practice areas and work with her team to create and implement the strategic efforts of her firm’s practice groups. Prior to joining Moye White, she acted as the Client Services Director of JC Denver Home Team and the Program Communications Director at the Parkinson Association of the Rockies. Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and is pursuing her Master’s in Marketing from the University of Colorado at Denver.

About ContactEase 

ContactEase is CRM Made Easy for lawyers. With an industry-leading adoption rate, ContactEase CRM ensures your important firm contacts receive the right communications at the right time. In addition to its easy-to-use CRM platform, ContactEase offers an integrated suite of products from marketing automation to financial system integration and enterprise relationship management to strengthen relationships and help firms win more business. Learn more at contactease.com.