CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 3, Implementation

Last week we shared CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting. This is our CRM five part series:  1) Getting Buy-In, 2) Planning and Budgeting, 3) Implementation, 4) Data Management, and 5) Impact and ROI.

Part 3 – Implementation

This is where the rubber meets the road. How you go about implementing your CRM system can determine whether it is successful, as well as whether you maximize the benefits you get from it. Here are some things the panelists suggest to do or keep in mind as you put CRM to work for your firm.

View More: Hafley comments:

For me, the key to implementing CRM is figuring out your main goal, identifying a champion and getting feedback from staff. So if your culture is the type where your people have input into the process, they are much more likely to follow and use a system that they feel they are a part of creating.

“When you’re thinking about implementation, think about training the end users and realize that the needs of different users are probably going to be different.”  — Kim Hafley

While it’s easy to get excited about all the bells and whistles a CRM system has, it’s important and easier to be successful if you pick one feature as a goal, implement it, and then track the metrics involved that prove you were successful in realizing benefits. Then you can go on to phase two and phase three.

When you’re thinking about implementation, think about training the end users and realize that the needs of different users are probably going to be different. In our focus groups with support staff, we were able to get a good handle on what the secretaries needed to feel successful using CRM, what the paralegals needed, and what they thought the attorneys needed. This led to our doing a lot of one-on-one training. You may
think that’s not very efficient. But it turned out to be incredibly efficient for our culture because we were able to go through a checklist and make sure everyone had a core competency.

We were also able to ask how firm members thought CRM  might benefit them, or what immediate benefit they saw, whether it was being able to see what other newsletters a client might be receiving or who else in the firm might know the client. This made the training personal, so people felt more responsible for the system, and it really helped us in keeping the data clean over the long haul, because people realized how important that is.

In the focus groups we also looked at the data fields. Everybody’s got a preferred way of entering data; for example, whether they use titles or put nicknames in the name field. We told the groups that we can have only one way to enter data, and we’re not going to be able to accommodate everything. Instead, we need to find a common denominator and agree upon a standard. This exercise helped immensely, because we had dialogue and people felt involved. So if a field wasn’t what they preferred, they understood the reasoning behind it.

The other thing that helped was to appoint a data steward who enters the data not only for the marketing system but also for the accounting system, so it’s the same person. That suggestion came out of our focus groups. Implementing it made the staff feel that their concerns and ideas are listened to. So they are very “bought into” the system and continue to come up with great suggestions.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:
The one aspect of implementation I did not appreciate enough, but certainly do now, is the different levels of what I’ll call “housekeeping” that people do for their Outlook contacts. I just didn’t realize how bad some of the attorneys’ housekeeping was. One had the same person in his contacts seven times at seven different jobs. As the person changed jobs, the attorney just kept putting in a new record and never took out the obsolete entries. Even though we were very clear in our request on what we wanted people to do and share, they took the easy route sometimes.

“It really helped to be able to get on the phone with Cole Valley and ask what I should do. They had done so many implementations that I never threw anything at them they hadn’t already encountered.” — Barbara Joseph

Also, we initially felt that more was better and encouraged people to add in all of their contacts and relationships. But a lot of the older contacts were not current. That muddied up our data.

We’re more watchful now as data comes in. That’s one of the reasons we slowed down the implementation and brought in smaller groups of attorneys at a time. That helped us control the data.

As analytical as I thought I was and as much homework as I did on CRM, many times I hit a fork in the road during implementation and would have to make a decision about something I hadn’t considered. It really helped to be able to get on the phone with Cole Valley and ask what I should do. They had done so many implementations that I never threw anything at them they hadn’t already encountered. That kept me from taking the wrong fork or just being paralyzed, not sure which way to go.


The first time I rolled out a CRM system, I rolled out everything at once. The problem wasn’t that firm members didn’t like CRM or that it didn’t eventually succeed, but that it was too much all at once. The main thing I’ve learned is to phase in CRM. This keeps it exciting and new, rather than giving so much information at once that people’s heads are going to explode.

This time I was able to break down the implementation process and focus on what the new users absolutely needed to know and do. Going one step at a time starts to embed the system into people’s everyday activities and teaches them something that’s simple yet helpful.  Then you can build on that.  Being realistic is key.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 4, Data Management. For the full whitepaper visit our website –


CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 2, Planning and Budgeting

Last week we shared CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 1, Getting Buy-In. This is our CRM five part series:  1) Getting Buy-In, 2) Planning and Budgeting, 3) Implementation, 4) Data Management, and 5) Impact and ROI.

Part 2 – Planning and Budgeting

Since CRM software enables you to not only manage client contact information and mailing lists easily and efficiently, but also to integrate contact information with your time and billing system, Outlook, and VoIP phone system, as well as to schedule events and identify cross-sell opportunities, it can be very powerful.

But to get the most out of it, you can’t just plug and go. You need to determine what you want to do with CRM, budget for it, and then allow time for planning and preparation. Here’s what the panelists had to say about that.

View More: Hafley comments:
There’s a lot of baby steps involved in implementing CRM. We broke the process down into a couple of key projects so we could show what the current situation was and how CRM would make it better. We had hoped to get CRM going the same year we started, but because we moved slowly and methodically, it spread out over two budget years. It was about 10 months between when we started looking at systems and when we kicked off CRM with a firm-wide meeting.

Joseph_Barb_PP (1)Barbara Joseph comments:
We split our CRM startup, as well as the budget for it, over two years. Because of the recession when we started in 2009, and the fact that CRM would be a major purchase, it was about 14 months from the time we started the RFP process until we implemented the system.

Because our database was so bad, I started by doing an audit of our attorneys to find out how many contacts they had and how they were managing them. It ran the gamut from business cards, Rolodex, and Word document to Excel spreadsheet and Outlook. But we were pleased to find that 60% of our attorneys were using Outlook contacts, which showed they could use a system like ContactEase that integrates with Outlook.

 “By doing the cost-benefit analysis, I was able to show how we could reallocate personnel time, save money, and expand our benefits. For me, that was the most persuasive argument for investing in CRM. ”  — Joy Long

We then looked at a lot of different products and talked to a lot of people. Also, we did focus groups internally to find out what we would want besides basic contact information so we could categorize contacts. Then I wrote a detailed RFP that covered all the different items we were looking at and their costs. I was willing to push for CRM because I believed that once people could see the system in motion, they would support it.

Two months after the botched mailing I mentioned, the word came down that we were going to move forward. We purchased CRM a few months later, and then it took about two more months to get ready and start implementation.

One thing I’ve learned from doing three CRM implementations is that you need to keep your plan simple. You see so many bells and whistles and possibilities when you’re trying to buy a CRM. But when you get down to brass tacks, what do you really need?

Cole Valley was great about providing us with an implementation plan that gave us a base for developing one tailored to our firm. This is where you have to be absolutely realistic. I’m not saying to under promise and over deliver, but to be realistic about what your staffing is and what you can do and accomplish, knowing what your company’s needs are.

Another thing I’ve learned is to never say: “Let’s just get the product and I’ll worry about how to keep it running correctly later.” For me it’s important to have a full-time data steward, someone who is in charge of the database and has primary responsibility for data cleanup. This is something you have to think of when you’re budgeting for CRM. If you’re not looking at how you’re going to keep the data clean, I don’t know how CRM is not going to fail.

Stay tuned for next week’s article – CRM Implementation Best Practices – Part 3, Implementation. For the full whitepaper visit our website –

ROI: How CRM Can Boost Revenue – Case Study by Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC

Wouldn’t you like to see numbers like these at your firm?

Businessman Holding ROI With Upward Moving Arrow

  • $53,463 in annual savings on newsletter costs
  • 200% increase in the number of newsletters sent out annually
  • 700% reduction in time spent on data entry
  • $15,600 in annual savings on list management costs
  • $121,973 in fees from three new Ag Law clients
  • 149% ROI on your CRM investment

Those are just some of the benefits that Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC, a 95-attorney law firm based in Lansing, Michigan, has realized from implementing ContactEase CRM — and that your firm can enjoy, too. Others include a more accurate and easier-to-update database of 42,000 records, the ability to readily track and manage business development activities by type, and the ability to manage client compliance with employee benefits laws and maintain related forms and correspondence. For the full Case Study by Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC,-


Webinar – Practicing Effective CRM Data Management and Stewardship

Join us for a webinar on Mar 09, 2016 at 2:00 PM EST.

Register now!

Avoid the chaos, practice good data management to realize your CRM’s full potential.

Join us on Wednesday, March 9th at 2pmEDT to hear from subject matter experts why client relationship data is one of the most important tools in professional services marketing.

  • Jennifer Irvine, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Bowditch & Dewey LLP
  • Caroline Emery, Business Development and Marketing Senior Manager, Sherin and Lodgen
  • John Wood, Founder and Principal, Data Health Associates

The job of keeping your client relationship management data clean and up-to-date can be a daunting task if you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to the process. Inconsistent, inaccurate, duplicate, and incomplete data can cause chaos even after a successful implementation. The more effective CRM implementations have made a focused effort on data integrity. Some firms use a partial marketing role, some use a data steward who assumes the primary responsibility for managing the accuracy and reliability of a firm’s data and others outsource the role for data grooming assistance on an as needed basis.

Why is clean data important? With good clean data the firm is able to capture and segment data for delivering relevant important communication to the right clients at the right time. Let’s face it, your competitors are doing it. If you can’t get the right information to the right clients, you run the risk of potentially losing clients. Ultimately CRM impacts everything you do in your role as a marketing or business development professional: Email marketing, Business Intelligence and Reporting, Business Development, Cross-Selling and Referral Programs. The entire value of your firm’s CRM system is predicated on having clean, duplicate-free, reliable data!

Topics covered will include:

    • Why is clean data important?
    • How have the more effective CRM implementations focused ongoing effort on data integrity?
    • Can success be accomplished using someone in a partial marketing role, a full-time data steward or an outsourced data steward?
    • What benefits can be maximized with good clean data?
    • What is the impact if you can’t get the right information to the right clients?

For more information about ContactEase CRM Made Easy for Professional Services Firms, please contact us: 1-800-447-1712 ext.2 or

How Do You Engage Firm Members in CRM?

AAAMMinuteAM Minute – Best Practices

Brenda Sleeper, ContactEase CRM

Engagement and adoption with a customer relationship management (CRM) system begins with looking at the different personas that will be using the system. Visualize the team members and the different needs that each of the individuals will have; what is important to ‘Paul the partner’ is different than what is important to ‘Angie the admin.’ Involving your team members from the onset is important to the success of your CRM implementation and usage. For a list of practical guidelines –