Why CRM, Why Now: Part 1

In late 2021, ContactEase Director of Client Services, Amber Elliott, sat down with two law firm marketing professionals to talk to them about the importance of CRM and why 2021 was the right time for their firms to implement ContactEase. Joining Elliott for this discussion were Jil Rinne, Director of Marketing at Larson LLP in Los Angeles and Lindsay Vendegnia, Marketing Manager at Moye White in Denver. Over the course of the discussion, they shared:

  • How they identified the need for CRM
  • The problems they were trying to solve
  • How they made the business case for CRM

CRM is often driven by marketing, but shortly after joining Larson, Rinne’s managing partner asked her to find one — the firm’s first. “While this isn’t the first firm where I’ve used CRM, it is the first time I’ve selected and implemented one,” she said. Because the firm had already identified CRM as a priority project, it only took her about a month to decide on ContactEase. She admits she already had a few providers in mind, but after receiving several referrals from the legal marketing community, her attention turned to ContactEase. “And it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for,” she said.

While ContactEase was one of the first platforms Moye White looked at, it took the firm a little longer to make their decision. Vendegnia and her team used a technology broker to identify options that they may not have considered initially. Even before she joined the firm in 2017, Moye White had been looking for a new CRM solution. “The technology broker looked at other options to make sure we weren’t missing anything, and every single time we kept coming back to ContactEase.”

Why ContactEase

For Rinne, it was the fact that ContactEase integrates seamlessly with marketing automation software, specifically Constant Contact. She was looking for a solution that would integrate seamlessly with Outlook and she didn’t want something with too many bells and whistles because she wanted to focus on the basics – getting lawyers to enter their contacts and share information to maximize the firm’s relationships and drive business development and marketing forward. She wanted to keep things easy for them and didn’t want to force them to learn new software.

For Vendegnia, the ContactEase team’s law firm experience was a key differentiator. “Everyone on the team that we talked to or worked with has law firm experience. From the first conversation I had, I knew they understood my needs and to communicate the value of the platform and the value of a firm-wide CRM strategy.” She continued, “The other platforms we looked at just didn’t seem to understand the professional services model in general. They were focused on sales and not on the relationships which was really important for us.”

It was important that the firm’s new CRM work with their email platform, but other integrations like time and billing and ERM (ContactEase Relationship Discovery) were just as important. “We needed to know that when we invested in a platform that it could grow with us. We weren’t interested in trying to grow into a solution. We knew that ContactEase would allow us to move into something more robust, so we didn’t have to start by spending a lot of money on features we weren’t ready to use and that our lawyers may never use,” she continued.

It was also important that the platform was easy to use. Vendegnia’s management expressed concern about low adoption rates among CRM platforms, so ContactEase’s industry-leading adoption rate was especially attractive.  With that knowledge, she knew that the firm’s chances for a successful implementation were good and that lawyers were actually using the system. “We’re not at 100%,” she admits. “We do have some attorneys storing their contacts in Excel, but that’s a different issue altogether,” she said with a laugh.

Of course, firms look for CRM for many different reasons. And what matters to marketing  may not be of importance to the firm’s lawyers, but it’s important that a firm’s CRM meet expectations for all users. When Vendegnia learned that the firm’s current CRM would no longer integrate with Outlook, she knew she had to act and she had to act fact. “We walked into 2020 knowing that the system would no longer work for us,” she said. Vendegnia has worked hard to build a culture of business development and knowledge sharing at her firm and she worried that without a system in place some of that work would be undone. When looking for a CRM, she went back to the basics.

She wanted to do a better job sending client alerts and driving registration for webinars and events. At the time, she had no idea how important that would be. Short term, she wanted a central database of correct, updated contact information to ensure clients and contacts were receiving the firm’s communications and she wanted to provide her lawyers with access to that information. The firm also experienced a growth spurt in 2021 and wanted to make better connections across the firm. “Our attorneys can go to ContactEase instead of sending an email to everyone asking, “Hey, does anyone know this person?” And they’re using this information to manage key relationships and make strategic connections.”   

For Rinne, it was about improving the performance of the firm’s email campaigns and encouraging a culture of business development and doing it in one platform. At Rinne’s other firms, the systems didn’t integrate which often led to inaccurate data and a lot of inefficiencies. She found herself working in multiple platforms, “At the same time, all the time,” she recalled. Who can’t relate to that?

Next time: In the next post, we’ll share how the firms approached implementation during a pandemic and the problems they’ve solved with CRM.

The Results Are in: Law Firm Holiday Card Survey

Law firm CRM has come a long way. From integrations to automation, it seems like today’s CRM can do it all. From integrations to automation, it might seem a little silly to focus on something so basic, so traditional as holiday cards. Then again, given the response to the survey it seems like most marketers understand pretty well.

Yes, CRM can integrate with your firm’s systems like time and billing and it can automate processes and improve efficiencies. When used as part of a firm’s overall marketing and business development strategy, it can even help win new business. Yet with all the advances CRM has made, we receive numerous questions about holiday cards every year.

Holiday cards can be a lot of work. Are they worth it? Respondents to this year’s survey seem to think so.

Breakdown

  • Firm size: Ranged from 13 lawyers to over 1200 with an average of about 160 lawyers per firm.
  • Firms sending cards: 90% of firms responding sent cards in 2021 (down slightly from last year).
  • Total number of cards sent: Ranged from 150 to over 29,000 with an average of 6,000 cards sent per firm.
  • Time spent: Ranged from about 5 hours to over 200 or about 800 hours cumulatively and 40 hours on average, or in the words of one unnamed respondent, “Ugh. Too many!”

While it can be hard to quantify ROI, we know that most firms are spending tens of hours on holiday cards. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the time spent by marketing or others in the firm who are sending requests for contact information or updates to mailing lists – the cat herding you have to do leading up to holiday card season. No matter how you approach it, you’re probably reaching out at least a few times.

Other interesting takeaways from this year’s survey include:

  • Fewer firms are sending paper cards
  • More firms are sending electronic cards
  • More firms are designing their own electronic cards and videos

And is it just us or are law firm cards getting more creative? We’ve seen many cards taking advantage of the firm’s musical and artistic talents. From pulling together a firm band to sharing old family recipes, today’s law firm cards are increasingly clever, creative and personal. For some inspiration, check out Above the Law’s annual holiday card contest winners.

Based on the survey results, it’s a safe bet that many marketers will be focused on holiday cards again soon. There are a some things you can do now to get started and prevent future holiday card horror stories:

It’s never too early to get started. Take a little break to enjoy the new year and reflect on your successes.

Q1: When you’re ready, take some time during Q1 to go through your undeliverable cards – whether that’s bounced emails or a stack of returned envelopes, don’t wait until the next holiday card season to know who isn’t receiving your communications. If they didn’t receive your holiday card, they probably didn’t receive anything else you sent them.

Q2: Start thinking about the type of card you’ll send. Did you get great feedback to the new video card? How can you improve? Will you need outside assistance? Now is the time to make a plan.

Q3: If you’ve done the cleanup and planning in the first half of the year, Q3 can be dedicated to getting lists in front of your lawyers to give them plenty of time to update their contacts.

Q4: And if you do that, you’ll be ready to send those cards in Q4 and maybe even get out of a few of your own! 

View the recording along with the results of our holiday card horror story contest on the Resources page of our website.

Want to avoid holiday card horror stories of your own? Contact us!