In looking to mimic what growing and successful small businesses do to bring in more clients and effectively manage their contacts, your law firm should implement a CRM.
Small business sales teams, even when there is only one salesperson, use CRM software. Which means, even if you are a solo or small firm, don’t overlook the value of a CRM. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is essentially a rolodex of your current and prospective clients combined with a to-do list and calendar. Typically how a CRM works is, when you get a new prospective client, you add their information to the CRM. Then, you set an appointment to follow-up on this lead to make sure it doesn’t go cold. So, if you had a phone call from a new prospective client, you would add their information. You would then set a follow-up note in your CRM to get back in touch with the client in X days to discuss
There are a wide range of CRMs out there. Some are even legal-specific.
The most well-known CRM out there now is Salesforce. For lawyers, Salesforce is like the sportscar of CRMs: It’s expensive, it’s powerful, and you probably won’t get much use out of it day-to-day. There is also an industry built around setting up and consulting for implementing Salesforce. For most law firms, you probably don’t need that.
CRM vs. Case Management Software
How is a CRM different from MyCase or Clio? As of now (October 2015) there are not any case management software applications available that really focus on client acquisition. They are centered on helping you be more productive with existing clients and cases. Though Clio recently announced Campaign Tracker to help law firms evaluate their marketing ROI, there is not currently a CRM for tracking prospective clients through different deal stages.
Some CRM suggestions:
Lexicata – A CRM made specifically for lawyers. What makes Lexicata special is it is more of a hybrid between a CRM and a client intake software, which makes the most sense for law firms. Its platform also allows you to capture lead information with its intake form system, create and send documents for signing (e.g. retainer agreements, other boilerplate forms), and track your matters up until the client is signed. It also integrates with Clio, the most popular cloud-based practice management software for lawyers.
Contactually – This CRM is built with a focus on building relationships. With Contactually, your contacts are categorized into different groups (such as potential clients and referral sources), and at specific time intervals you are reminded to get back in touch with them. Pretty easy to use and not too intimidating. They also have automation sequences to schedule repeated activities and outreach that includes auto-sending emails and creating new tasks.
Pipedrive – Pipedrive is a very sales-focused CRM. It has different stages for deals to go into and has a lot of customizable areas to store deal information. So, if you know there is a stage for initial contact, setting an appointment, intake, and follow-up, you can move deals along these stages.
Infusionsoft – Very expensive platform that offers a CRM with a lot of additional features including marketing and sales automation tools. More expensive than Salesforce and there’s an industry of Infusionsoft consultants because of how much there is to the platform. This is what most law firm consultants charge you thousands to customize, but it also is extremely powerful.
ZohoCRM – It’s free. Zoho, as we’ve mentioned in previous posts, is a Google Apps alternative. They offer free email hosting and a suite of other services including a CRM.
And there are a bunch more. Like a lot more. Below is a fraction of those out there, but some other popular options:
- Nimble – integrates with your social media
- Insightly – popular platform with integrations for Google Apps and Office products
- Highrise – Made by the makers of project management software, Basecamp
- SugarCRM – good user interface, popular CRM
- Streak – works in Gmail (potentially slows down your Gmail)
- Close.io – very deal-focused, a bit pricey
How to Choose Your Law Firm’s CRM
If you have decided to take the plunge and add a CRM to your practice, you need to make sure 1) it will add value to your firm; 2) you can train people to use it if needed; and 3) you will actually use it consistently.
Given that there are many options for CRMs out there, I would recommend trying out a few to find what feels the most comfortable to you and seems like it can integrate well into your day-to-day as well as with the other softwares you are currently using. At the same time, keep in mind that no CRM will be 100% intuitive and ready to go out of the box. There will be a small learning curve (hopefully very small), but once you are past that, find out what suits your firm best.
A lot of CRMs tout their features and integrations. But, you may not need an integration with Google Apps or Office 365 or Quickbooks or Zapier or Mailchimp or Paypal. Ignore the bells and whistles and focus on what aspects of the CRM you will use (and may possibly use in the future as your firm grows).
Here’s how I would evaluate CRMs in order of importance:
- Goals – since they all do slightly different things and have slightly different goals, you need to determine what your #1 goal for implementing a CRM is, and pick around that goal.
- Core features – “can the CRM help me better follow up with potential clients and referral sources?”
- User interface – “Can I easily do what I need to do and will my staff be able to figure out how to use it/actually use it?”
- Customization to my needs – “Can I do what I want to do in the way I want to do it?”
- Third-party integration – “Does the CRM work with software I already use?”
Pricing should not be the biggest concern as a CRM that is a good fit for your firm has huge ROI potential. First, find what works for you, then worry about price. For the record, most of these CRMs range in price from $9 per user per month to $50 per user per month. Not a huge investment considering what it does for you.
How to Configure and Use Your CRM
Once you have selected your CRM, you now have to figure out what you’re gonna do with it and how to turn the thing on.
Step 1: Define Your Goals
What will you be using the CRM for? To generate new business? To keep track of potential clients? To stay on top of partners, vendors, and referral sources? This will help you assess how you will want to set up your CRM and how you will use it going forward.
Step 2: Configure Your CRM
Before adding all your contacts and deals, you will need to set the CRM up how you want to use it. Some pipeline-oriented systems have different “deal stages” (for example: Introduction, Set Meeting, Consultation, Follow-up, Signing).
However you have your contacts listed in your current contact database, you should make sure you retain all of each contact’s information when adding them to your CRM. So, for example, you may need some custom fields in your CRM. This will allow you to take into account some contact details beyond the typical “Name, Address, Phone, Website”.
Since each CRM is different, beyond the custom fields and stages, your next steps for configuring your CRM will be very platform-specific. Some platforms (e.g. Salesfore) require a PHD to figure out and configure.
Step 3: Import Contacts / Calendars
First you will want to import all of your contacts into your CRM. Everyone. Some contacts you may do nothing with, and that’s fine. But others you may note as potential referral sources or partners who you will want to get in touch with every so often.
A lot of CRMs don’t charge you per contact so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about hitting a cap.
Start your import with a small sample size to make sure that the contacts and any custom fields were imported correctly. Easier to import and delete 3 test contacts than importing your 3,000 contacts, finding errors, and trying to wipe everything.
Step 4: Set Up
Now it’s the time to create “deals” for potential clients. We use the term deal because that’s how most CRMs frame the conversation (Lexicata uses “matters” instead of deals, and that’s why it is the only CRM on my list targeted towards law firms). What we’re really talking about is putting potential clients into certain pipeline stages that provides you with information on what you next need to do to get that client to sign.
Step 5: Go!
Now that your potential clients and referral sources are set up, it’s time to start bringing in new business.
A CRM is a powerful tool to help law firms grow their practices. CRMs are used by small and large businesses to keep track of their potential clients, and your firm could likely benefit from using one.