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.

Improve Your Metrics by Understanding Your Undeliverables

For many marketers, it might seem like getting sign-off for firm blogs and e-alerts (if not getting them written at all) is the biggest challenge to the success of an e-mail marketing campaign, but there’s one thing that matters even more – your email data quality.  

From layout to content approval, firm marketers spend a lot of time on email campaigns before they can even think about sending them. But, what good is any email if it isn’t seen by its intended recipients?

Sending to undeliverable or “bad” email addresses can have a significant impact on you email performance metrics as well as your overall sender reputation. Let’s take a look at two of the reasons why:

  • Sending to bad email addresses can negatively impact your open rate. When you send to bad email addresses, your open rate declines. While there are many reasons a recipient might not open your email, one of the most obvious is that they aren’t receiving them.
  • Sending to bad email addresses can negatively impact your sender reputation. Consistently including bad email addresses may result in flagging your sender account as spam and send emails from your account directly to the junk folder even when an email address is valid.  

So, how do you improve your contact lists?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Make sure you’re sending to contacts who want to hear from you (opt-in). Whether you have a process as part of your intake of new clients or a subscription form on your website, make sure your contacts want to hear from you and they know what they can expect to receive from you. It’s not just good manners, it’s good business and can also ensure your compliance with privacy regulations like CAN-SPAM, CASL and GDPR among others.
  2. Regularly review your engagement reports. If you have a high number of bounces or unsubscribes and a low open rate, there’s probably a reason why. Make sure you’re removing bounced email addresses from your lists and create a process to research and update with good ones. Keep track of when contacts unsubscribe and target your content accordingly. Think about a tool like ContactEase Change Tracker which can improve your deliverability by looking for changes to key fields like job title, email address and company name.  
  3. Segment your contact lists. Craft targeted content and build targeted lists to ensure that the information you share is relevant and meaningful to your readers.

Taking a proactive approach and reviewing your email engagement reports on a regular basis will improve your email metrics and ensure that your communications are getting to the right people at the right time. As former law firm marketing and IT professionals, the ContactEase team not only advises clients on e-mail and data quality best practices, but we’ve experienced many of these challenges ourselves. If you have questions about how to address data quality at your firm or want to know how firms are handling similar issues, contact us. We’re here to help!

Colorado Privacy Act: What Law Firm Marketers Need to Know Now

In a recent report from U.S. News, Colorado was ranked second in a list of Best States for economy. In that same study, the Rocky Mountain state was ranked 4th for business environment, 5th for growth, and 1st for employment. Colorado is also known for its highly educated workforce and is home to three of the top twenty performing cities in the United States. In addition to established businesses and industries, Colorado also has a thriving startup market. Over the past five years, capital invested in Colorado companies has grown nearly 90% in industries as diverse as artificial intelligence, software, biotech, fintech, media and telecommunications — all of which makes Coloradans lucrative to marketers in any industry.

To address privacy concerns and increased data collection, the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA) was recently passed by state legislators and will soon go before Governor Jared Polis for his signature. So, what does this mean for firms marketing their services in Colorado? Firms that acted under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should be in good shape.

Wondering if the CPA applies to your firm? Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Does your firm collect and store data on more than 100,000 Colorado residents?
  • Does your firm earn revenue from the data of more than 25,000 Colorado consumers?
  • What kind of opt out process do you have in place?
  • What kind of data are you collecting and storing (in your CRM, for example)?

If you answered yes to either of the first two questions, the CPA applies no matter where your firm is located. Unlike CCPA and GDPR, the CPA includes a provision for a universal opt-out which would provide Coloradans with the ability to say no to the collection of their personal data across all websites (akin to the National Do Not Call Registry). With the universal opt out in play, it’s important to have a process for managing your opt outs.

Worried you’re not quite ready? Don’t fret! If signed by Governor Polis, the effective date for the bill is July 1, 2023 and the universal opt out must be must be honored starting in 2024 — you have some time. In the meantime, our team of former law firm marketing and IT professionals are here to help! Contact us with questions about the data your store in your CRM or to conduct a database audit.

Look for a post on best practices for managing your opt outs and unsubscribes coming soon. Having a process in place isn’t just a best practice, it’s good business. The integrity of your contact data and the quality of your mailing lists impact your deliverability and your sender reputation which ensures that those wanting to read your communications get the chance to do so.

Whittier to Speak on Future of CRM at LMA Northeast 2016 Conference

Jennifer Whittier, Chief Operating Officer for Cole Valley Software, will be among the panelists at next week’s LMA Northeast 2016 Conference in Boston.  Her session: “The Future of CRM – and the CRM of the Future” will provide attendees insight into features of CRM that can provide firms with real value, including:

  • Signature scraping
  • Relationship scoring
  • Opportunity pipelines
  • Activity and referral tracking
  • Business card scanning
  • Company data enhancements

Panelists will also discuss best practices to address common issues such as:

  • Adoption issues
  • Attorney buy-in
  • Effective communication
  • Data integrity
  • ROI

Jennifer has extensive customer relations experience and is responsible for the successful implementation of numerous ContactEase CRM installations.  A former ContactEase client for over five years, she joined Cole Valley Software in 2009. She is a frequent speaker on best practices of CRM implementation, including the integration of technology and marketing. Using her in-house experience as a former Director of Marketing and Client Relations, she understands the need for successful team work and collaboration. Jennifer enjoys visiting law firms across the country to share her knowledge of CRM best practices. Her clients rely on her for sound advice, extensive knowledge and most of all, her ability to bridge the gap between marketing and information technology.

For more information on “The Future of CRM – and the CRM of the Future,” or to register for the conference, please visit https://lmaneconference.com/.

Webinar – Practicing Effective CRM Data Management and Stewardship

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

Register now!
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2980439944696281345

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 sales@colevalley.com.

CRM Implementation Best Practices Whitepaper

What 3 Leading Firms Did to Achieve Success – To discover what goes into a successful CRM implementation we convened a panel of marketing directors from two law firms and an accounting firm to share best practices learned in the process of identifying needs, getting buy-in, implementing a system and maximizing ROI. http://colevalley.com/Resources.aspx

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Reflecting on the 2014 ILTA Annual Conference

Last month our entire ContactEase team had the opportunity to attend the 2014 ILTA Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee themed Imagine. The four-day conference had over 200 peer-developed educational sessions, numerous networking opportunities, and provided our team with the insights and inspirations to better partner with our clients and prospects.

Having our entire team at the conference also allowed us to come together afterwards and discuss the sessions we attended. These sessions varied from creating marketing and business development ROI to implementation and deployment best practices. With so many sessions and an overwhelming amount of content, we have decided launch a new blog series “ILTA Reflections.” Once a week until the end of October we will be reflecting on one of the sessions a team member has attended. Next week the series will kick off with the blog post “ILTA Reflections: Using Big Data To Measure Marketing and Business Development ROI.”

If you also attended the conference and are interested in sharing your take on a session we would love to share it here. Just send an email to marketing@colevalley.com with your session recap and we will post it here with you as our guest author!

Hello to a New Year and a New You!

As everyone is settling back into the office after the holidays, this is a great time to take a fresh look at your plans and objectives for 2014. Reflect on your initiatives from 2013 and identify what was successful and where improvements could be made. When creating your plan for this year, consider the following:

Make Your Plan Sizeable and Scalable
It is important to make a plan that is achievable. There is always a multitude of projects that are urgent and at the top of the list. Evaluate each of them carefully and understand which ones are actually achievable. Someone once gave me great advice which is to always under promise and over deliver. If it is unrealistic due to approvals, budget, buy-in, etc. that a project will get accomplished add it to the wish list but don’t promise to deliver on it.

Add Process Documentation as a Part of the Plan
This is going to be another year of a lot of change as the market is starting to pick up again. As personnel change they take along their knowledge of the firm culture, systems, styles, etc. It is key to document and set expectations of processes in your department. For example event planning is an area where a specific process can be created and documented so that as new members join the team the process is not being re-created from scratch with every event. This frees up time to work on other initiatives and tackle some of those wish list items.

Measure, Report, and Share
Measuring and reporting are key to identify success and justify initiatives. When measuring success it is important to understand not only what should be reported but how it should be reported out. With so much content, it is hard even to break through internally. Make sure you are reporting on the things that matter the most. Opt to go with a quick synopsis that is easy to scan instead of that lengthy report, PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet. Many times reports are created and only shared with select recipients; plan a way to periodically share your teams’ successes firm wide.

Unfortunately and all too often, by the middle of the year the marketing plan that was created becomes more of a marketing wish list. That is why planning ahead and having specific goals for the year are key to your team and own personal success.

We would love to hear from you… what are your firms’ goals for the year, as well as your professional personal goals?