Measuring & Reporting Business Development Activities

I read a very nice article on JD Supra about Business Development coaching, The Four Essential Rules of Business Development Coaching by Kevin Mcmurdo of the Wicker Park Group. Kevin presents four principles that he believes improves the chances for success in business development coaching.

The second bullet of fourth rule, Manage and track performance, is pertinent to marketing technologists providing tools for attorneys to nurture their relationships. It states with regrads to developing performance measures:

“An activity measure. Track the increase in both number and quality of business development activities. Agree on the relative value of different activities.”

Let’s take a look at how your CRM can play an important role in this process by providing the tools to record and measure activities.

Journalizing Activities

Most CRM systems allow users to journalize the business development activities, such as meetings, pitches, emails, and phone calls. This is very useful, especially for “B” and “C” ranked contacts that are not contacted as frequently as their top “A” contacts  (see Collecting Contacts Continued: Ranking).

Journalized activities provide attorneys a quick reference of their most recent touchpoint with the contacts so they can have instant context available for the next touchpoint. It also can provide useful reports at the end of the year to summarize their annual business development efforts for reporting to firm management.

The key to collecting useful activity data is to make it habitual for the attorneys, to make adding the data part of their normal routine. Ideally you would want this task to added to the coaches training curriculum so that when they are discussing tracking their business development efforts, they have the CRM open and the attorney can enter an activity immediately. This reinforces the coaching concept and transfers the hypothetical into an actionable task. The coach can then segue into showing activity reports so the attorney can see first-hand how the activity data he or she just entered can be used to track and measure their business development efforts.

Beyond Out-Of-The-Box

Most CRMs provide out-of-the-box tools and reports where you can list or print activities for contacts or groups of contacts. For example, the attorney could print out all activities for their key contacts in the past three months. But Kevin’s point goes a step beyond those baseline reports and taking activity data to the next level by aggregating and tracking changes over time. Doing this provides tools to measure progress against their self-selected goals.

From a CRM point of view that means you have to transform discrete transactional data, the activities, into useful summarized data.  There are several ways to reposition the data to be useful for attorneys. One would be to summarize performance over a given period of time, such as a week. A new table would be added to the CRM system to record the weekly counts for each activity types. This provides a simple report that would list the counts for the most recent week, along with a line graph of historical trends, “Is the line going up or is it trending down?”  This would be an easy way for the attorney to see if they are on track to meet their target goals set during their couching sessions.

Attorney Activity Report

Graphs are useful to convey data quickly with greater understanding.  You can create custom reports with graphs for your CRM using Microsoft Report Builder and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).  See Add a Chart to a Report (Report Builder and SSRS) for more information

Other reports, such as counting activities by contact or by company can be created so the attorney can monitor their efforts for key contacts or targeted companies. It’s an extension of the out-of-the-box reports mentioned above, only it’s totaling counts instead of listing individual activities. The actual steps to implement may vary between specific report requirements and system database design. So, this will require some effort to construct with the assistance of your DBA and programmers.

But What About Quality

Counting is only half of the equation. The other half is quality. Counting is rather easy compared to measuring quality because quality is a subjective judgement that you have to devise a way to track and measure in your system. A simple approach would be to start with type of activity. For example, a face-to-face meeting could be inferred as a higher quality activity than a phone call, which is then higher than an email. So, an attorney may set goals for “X” number of meetings and “Y” number of phone calls and “Z” number of emails. The coach would work with the attorney to set personal targets for each type. You can combine this approach within the counting reports discussed above to provide this measurement.

Unfortunately, most CRMs don’t provide a way to distinguish activities in a given category. So how do you attribute a qualitative value to similar activities? For example, you could have two “phone call” activities, one to a referral contact to stay in touch and nurture the relationship, and another could with a prospect contact to discuss details that could lead to opening a new engagement. Both are important but obviously, the relationship building call is of lesser quality than the call that results in a new matter.

One option would be to expand the activity categories to differentiate. In the example above there could be two phone call activities; “Phone Call Referral Contact” and Phone Call Top Prospect.” The problem with this approach is that the list of possible activities to select in the CRM becomes longer and more of a potential obstacle to use.  A short list of five choices is far easier for attorneys to use than a list of a dozen or two. Frankly, I don’t have a good solution for this part of the puzzle and would welcome hearing your ideas in the comments section below.

Where To Begin

  1. Start with your coaches, most likely members of your business development team, to define what information and reports would be most useful for the business development skills they will be teaching. Include your IT liaison, whether it’s a project manager or your DBA. One, it gets them involved from the beginning, which allows them to advise
  2. Take the coaches’ input and your knowledge of the data in your CRM and mock up a few examples for feedback. I have found that it’s always more effective and you get more usable feedback if you place something visual in front of people. Again, this is a task where your IT team can help.
  3. Finally, work with your IT department to scope out the development effort and implement the reports in conjunction with attorney coaching.

Not Just Another Feature

Remember that this exercise is not just another set of reports. You are collecting and presenting information for the attorneys in conjunction with the one-on-one coaching the firm is providing. This approach emphasizes the distinction between a one-hour class teaching CRM functions, and one-on-one assistance in developing life-long habitual skills. Integrating actual CRM tools within the coaching curriculum is far more effective because you are providing a reason for the attorney to use CRM and weave it into their daily processes and business tasks.

Collecting Contacts Continued: Ranking

In my last post, “Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List,” tip number 4 for new associates was to rank your contacts. The concept of ranking contacts is not new. And many of us practice this informally as we intuitively know who our key contacts are, those people that you remain in touch with constantly, some perhaps every day.  But then there are those that you talk to less frequently and some that seem to have dropped by the wayside. The problem is that those forgotten contacts may be valuable to you in the future. Implementing a systematic ranking system will help you keep in touch with these contacts.

Create A Systematic Approach

In my previous post, I suggested implementing a system of levels using “A Level,” “B Level,” and “C Level” to differentiate your contacts. Or if three levels is not enough, use four or five. You decide based on your own goals of how many people to track and the frequency of your calls.

For example, below is a possible communication strategy for a five-tier ranking with each level representing a specific tactic for call frequency.

A Level = Once/Week (or more)
B Level = Once/Month
C Level = Once/6 months
D Level = Once/Year
E Level = Never

To be successful your strategy must be practical and fit within your workload. Set realistic targets for your levels. Let’s say you decide that in addition to all you A Level contacts, you’re going to add three additional calls or touchpoints a week for your B, C & D Level contacts. Your strategy could look like this: two calls per week for B Level and alternate a call each week for C and D Level contact. (Note: I am omitting E Level contacts because they will never be scheduled for a call.)

Contact Touchpoint Schedule

Contact Touchpoint Schedule

When you extend this pattern over the course of a year it equates to forty-seven contacts. The brake down by level it looks like this:

B Level =   8 (2 per week)
C Level = 13 (twice a year)
D level = 26 (once a year)

Using a ranking approach forces you to apply critical thinking on your time allocation for business development efforts. And it also makes you evaluate the relative value of your contacts to your future book of business.

Putting It into Practice

There are two phases to implement this concept. First you need to identify and rank the contacts that are important to your business development efforts. Secondly you must integrate this philosophy into your daily workload.

Identify & Rank

Identifying your contacts is a simple process of printing out your contact list and marking up your key contacts. Start with your A Level contacts, the ones you are likely already reaching out to regularly.  These should be easy to identify. Next review the remaining contacts to identify the next forty or fifty contacts, depending on the number you settled on your communication strategy above. These will become your B, C and D Level contacts. I suggest that you identify them all at once in a first pass, and then assign ranking. Ask yourself, “Out of these fifty contacts, who are the 8 most important to me?” These become your B Level contacts. Then split the remainder into two, the C and D Level contacts.

Schedule Touchpoints

Now it’s time to put your plan into action, and this is where your firm’s CRM can help. Most CRM systems have a task scheduling or reminder feature to help you manage your communications.  They also allow you to record your activities so you can easily see when the last time was that you reached out to a contact and what was discussed.

For example, InterAction from LexisNexis lets you create reoccurring reminders. You can add a reminder on a B Level contacts set for the first Monday of each month. And another for the first Tuesday of each month, and so on with each of your selected contacts. Now all of your touchpoints are scheduled and will appear automatically in your inbox at the appropriate time.

The reminders include the persons contact information, their address, email, and phone numbers, and the summary of your last contact, provided you entered that touchpoint as an activity.

Recording Touchpoints

Adding activities is a great aid to help manage your relationships, especially with those contacts you have infrequent communications. Enter notes and comments specific to your conversation or meeting so that it’s easy to recall your last conversation a month from now or six months down the road. The activity can be specific to a business conversation but could also be more personal, like plans for an upcoming vacation, which provides an ice breaker for your next call. The goal is to capture information that will allow you to continue developing the relationship.

So here are the three basic steps you can employ to rank your contacts:

  1. Develop a systematic ranking approach and communication strategy goals of how many calls per week you want to make, making sure it fits into you existing workload.
  2. Identify and rank your contacts based on your communication strategy targets.
  3. Implement your strategy as part of your regular workflow and log activities to help maintain relationships.

 

 

Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List

A recent LMA webinar discussed tips on how to develop business development skills in new associates. One of the tips was to collect contacts to build a business development list. This is excellent advice. As the webinar slide advanced to the next screen, it occurred to me that there’s more behind the process than simply collecting contacts. I’ve been collecting contacts for many years and it’s become second nature to me. But that may not be the case with a new associate fresh out of law school or any new professional.

Why Collect Contacts?

From a practical point of view, your contact list provides you basic information to connect with the people you know. You can quickly look up their email address or phone number when you need to connect with them. But good contact collecting and maintenance habits can convert a convenience tool into the foundation for your business development efforts. So here are my five quick tips to help you build that foundation.

  1. Enter Complete Information
    This may seem obvious but with the advent of smart phones it’s so easy to add someone to your contacts by saving only their email address of mobile phone number. Take the time to circle back to that contact and complete the rest of the contact fields including job title, company name and address. It may not be apparent right away but these data points become very helpful down the road. In a few years, you might be scratching your head when you look at a lonely phone number in your contacts and the only clue you left yourself was that his name was “Bob.” If Bob is someone you have frequent contact with, then there is no problem, you know who he is. But if he’s an infrequent contact having all his contact information quickly answers the question.

  2. Enter Notes
    Take the time to add useful notes to the record that will aid you in establishing a relationship, which is the whole reason to collect contacts. Some of the obvious notes will be spouse and children’s names, favorite activities or sports teams or other interests, and when and where you met. This last bit took me a few years to figure out on my own. It’s especially helpful if you are connecting with someone you have infrequent contact with. It will trigger your memory of the context in which you began your relationship. Perhaps it was a conference, a reception or a party. Or maybe you were introduced by another colleague. All of this information is helpful in establishing rapport quickly at a later date.
  3. Categorize Your Contacts
    Most contact apps allow you to make use of a user defined field, a data field where you decide what information you want to track. This is a perfect way to separate your contacts into tiers or groups. One simple categorization is business vs. personal. At some point in your career you will be asked to share your business contacts with the firm’s CRM tool. Having this category makes that process much easier. Other categories you might want to consider would be industry, role or even school.

  4. Rank Your Contacts
    Another, more useful categorization, is to rank the importance of the contact. For example, you might adopt a system where you label each contact as either an “A,” “B,” or “C” level contact. The “A” level contacts are the ones you talk to all the time. “B” might be someone you’d like to connect with every couple of weeks. And “C” might be someone you’d want to reach out to at least once a year. You can decide how to rank and define your ranks to match your own style. This is most useful in making sure you maintain connection with your less frequent contacts. For example, you can search for all of your “B” contacts and scan the list for those you haven’t talked to yet this month. Or look at your “C” contacts and decide which ones you might want to call, or send an email too, or set up a lunch date to reconnect.

  5. Purge Old Contacts
    F
    inally, every year you should scan through your contacts to see if there are any you need to remove. Every contact is an asset and provides you with value. Some are extremely valuable while others have no worth at all. And if a contact has no value it should be removed. Personally, I am very cautious about deleting contacts because you never know when your paths might cross again. But there are those that you can remove with confidence. For example, last year I finally deleted a software sales rep I met one time 20 years ago at a product pitch. I didn’t buy the product and the company she worked for is no longer in business. Clearly there is no value in this contact to me so I purged it. (Notice that I was able to determine this because I wrote good comments in my notes field.) Other examples could be people that have left the, retirees, and, unfortunately, deceased individuals.

Collecting contacts is valuable advice to anyone entering the work force.  But to build a solid foundation you need to enter clear and complete information, and make pertinent notes for future reference. Then you expand by categorizing and ranking your contacts, leveraging your list for your personal business development strategy. Finally, remember to keep your list clean by periodically purging obsolete contacts with no value.

Why Can’t We be More Like Amazon.com?

Yesterday I used Google to search for model and pricing information for a K-cup brewer. The search results pulled up various vendors, both brick and mortar and web only retailers. Amazon.com was one of the vendors that came up in the results with several of their partners offering products that caught my interest. So I ended up visiting 2 or 3 Amazon.com pages in my research. But I wasn’t ready to buy yet as I was unsure of what model I wanted, so I didn’t make a purchase.

This morning I have an email from Amazon asking if I am interested in something from their Coffee, Tea & Espresso department. The email includes images, pricing and links to several of the models I looked at as well as a few extra models I hadn’t considered. And the prices appear to be the best price available for each of the models presented. Amazon’s database tracked my interests as represented by the products I looked at and put together a custom offer for me. I have to admit that as a marketer I am impressed with how effective Amazon demonstrates an integrated database marketing strategy.

Database marketing is fundamentally about collecting relevant information about your target market and then using that data to drive the sales cycle. Leveraging database technology in sales was developed by catalogue and direct mail marketers in the eighties. The PC revolution provided a flexible and affordable platform for innovative direct marketers to capture, process and analyze large amounts of customer data. Direct marketers used this data to identify which segments were profitable and to customize offers to separate segments based upon their psychographic profile and/or previous purchases. Amazon has integrated this philosophy into their web storefront technology.  Based upon my viewing habits they identified what products I may be interested in purchasing. They then took this data and automatically constructed a custom offer and sent it to me via an automated cast email.

So why can’t legal service marketers be more like Amazon?

I think we can.

In our business our potential clients browse our website for two reasons; credentialing and education. Those interested in our credentials are browsing pages on our practices, locations, experience and attorney biographies. And those looking for education they will seek out articles, white papers, blogs and events on the subjects that interest them. All of these elements can be turned into data points that could be captured and recorded in the CRM database.

In order to accomplish this you must first identify which elements are important to the sales cycle. For example, is it important when a contact visits your Real Estate practice home page? What if they also click on a few real estate attorney bios? And then visit your experience section looking up what your firm has done with REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)? Such behavior would tend to make one believe they have an interest and perhaps a need for real estate legal help with regards to REITs. If your website were to track and record each of these hits and record them as marketing touchpoints, you could process and analyze the data to identify individual needs that match your offerings.

The most important step – use the data to drive the sales cycle

This is where the Amazon email is so exciting. They tracked my interests, recorded my touchpoints in their database, identified their product offerings that best matched my needs. then they used this data to send me a custom offer. Granted the selling legal services is very different than a coffee brewer, but law firms could do this too for their product offering.

In the legal environment example above the equivalent would be tracking the contact’s interest in REITs. Based on this single touchpoint you should at least add the contact to your REITs mailing list to make sure they receive future marketing communications on the topic. But if your data collection strategy is robust you may have additional data points that could trigger other actions as well.

  • Is the contact an employee at a current client company or a targeted prospect company?
  • Does the contact have an existing relationship with one of your attorneys?
  • What’s the contact’s job title?
  • Has he or she attended any of your Real Estate related events? How many?

The answers to these questions could trigger specific actions from your firm just like my interests triggered a response from Amazon. For example, if the contact has an existing relationship with an attorney that attorney should be notified of the interest so he or she can reach out to the contact if appropriate. Or if the contact is an employee of a targeted prospect company the record should be added to a VIP list for the practice

Your response depends on your objectives and business development strategy.  The point is that there are data point that you should be collecting and then leverage that data to drive your marketing program.

By the way, I did make my selection and purchase as a result of the Amazon email. So I know first hand that the strategy works.

D&B’s Data as a Service (Daas)

I attended a Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) preview on their new DaaS product, D&B360 (Twitter account @DnB360). The basic concept is that a connection is established between your CRM database and their database to allow access to their demographic information. Company records in your database are then uploaded to their service where their software goes through an extended match process. The result is a screen that lists your matched contacts and their recommended match. The tool lets you scan up and down the candidate company’s family tree so you can select which one best matches with your knowledge of the client or prospect company. Once you select the match, D&B maintains the connection between the two records and will automatically update your data on a schedule you set.

We subscribe to D&B for the current manual process where we upload a file set to them and then they process the match and recertification process on their machines. And then a few days later we receive a file in return that we import into our database, updating our records. The benefit of D&B360 is that once the match link has been set, you do not have to touch that record again. It will always be current. And the process reduces the amount of resources we dedicate to the process quarterly to manage the export, import and subsequent reconciliation. So DaaS has great potential for any organization that’s either currently using D&B’s data, or for those that wanted to but don’t have the resources or expertise to develop the back-end processing necessary to integrate it manually.

A more strategic benefit is the future ability to tie other third party data into your CRM through D&B360. For example, let’s say you’re interested in the Fortune 1000 list. Your current option is to go to Fortune magazine’s website and print out a list of the companies. Then search through your data record-by-record to match up Fortune’s company list with the companies in your CRM; tagging those that match and adding new records for those you don’t already have. And if you did this process last year you’ll also need to identify those that dropped of the list so you can “un-tag” them in your data. But if D&B has already identified the companies in their data, which they have, you’ll be able have your records updated automatically, including those that have dropped, and add the ones you don’t have into your CRM. It can’t get much easier than that.

Obviously this represents a fantastic potential revenue stream for D&B. One they have the connection established to your CRM they can become the conduit to add meaningful data to your system, without the pain and suffering of a manual match process. But you benefit as well because now you can have access to data sets and demographic data that you couldn’t have before.

I am optimistically excited about the prospect of this product in my operation. But I also have some reservations or issues that I need to examine closely before I sign on the dotted line.

First issue is price. This was understandably not addressed at the group demo. Since DaaS changes the way in which we process data completely I am certain that the current pricing model becomes antiquated. My hope is that since this new approach to delivering data also improves the efficiencies on their side by eliminating the semi-manual batch match and recertification process, that the pricing will remain comparable or even less than what I pay now. They do have a significant upfront investment to recoup but I think they will experience stronger long term subscriptions as their service becomes tightly integrated with your CRM. And they have so much more opportunity to sell additional third-party data, like the Fortune 1000, that they didn’t have before. But we’ll see. I think over pricing the product would be a mistake as they’ll reduce their market penetration which will stifle the acceptance and growth.

Second issue is how much resources will I need to dedicate and what skills do we need. The phrase “80% out of the box” was used in describing how D&B360 integrates with specific CRMs and it’s up to the customer to build the remaining 20% using the CRMs API. Now that sound useful as it can potentially open up new possibilities for customizing your application. But it’s not clear yet what the real impact on my system will be. I need to learn what baseline features I would expect and need will require custom programming by someone in my organization. And do I have that resource or am I going to have to plan and budget for outside help. The upside is that there exists the opportunity to customize your CRM. For example, lets say I search for records in the DaaS cloud to identify a target market segment. I would then like to automatically pull those selected records into my CRM in a mailing list, updating those records that I already have and inserting those that I don’t have. I am positive this is not an “out of the box” feature but would be a very desirable.

I have more issues and questions, but it’s very early in the process yet as they have yet to officially announce that they will integrate with my CRM, InterAction. I am confident they will, especially if they want to sell into the legal market. Once they do and we start seeing one-on-one pre-sale demonstrations I’ll be in a better position to evaluate the service and how it can or cannot fit in our organization and what it will take to implement.

I’ll post more on this product as I learn more later in the year. And, as usual, I welcome and comments or feedback.

Is it Necessary to Track Social Media Communications in Your CRM?

We’ve had internal discussions recently on whether or not the new social media tools such as RSS feed, tweets or blog subscriptions, that circumvent traditional CRM database tracking present a problem to your marketing strategy requiring changes in your communication tracking tactics. Or do they represent a new order of marketing communications that one can leverage but not worry about recording in your CRM.

The trick is to balance end user needs for quick, targeted information with the firm’s desire to collect and track information.  We don’t have a perfect solution yet but my thought on the subject is as follows.  With regard to tweets, RSS feeds and blogs, I don’t perceive a need to track every single user.  Wed have lists of thousands of contacts and only a small percentage are actually important contacts to the firm with regard to business development and managing the client.  The rest are using the firm’s communication to to learn while the firm benefits from increased brand awareness. Both end user education and brand awareness are valuable marketing tools, but I don’t believe you need to worry about tracking them.

Rather you should spend you effort on tracking the qualified leads that are critical to growing and maintaining your business.  For marketing communications this generally equates to event management and tracking. These folks have responded to your offer for one-to-one education (in-person or webinar vs. newsletter, alert, blog, etc.)  These folks represent the first cut of contact qualification and they are the ones we need to worry about tracking in our CRMs.  From these you want to identify the truly qualified contacts and step them through the sales pipeline via other targeted marketing efforts of attorney business development activities.

As a practical matter we still manage thousands of contacts in our mailing lists for newsletters and alerts. But this is a achieve economies of scale in processing broadcast emails, as well as ensure consistency in meeting ethical and anti-spam guideline. In truth is all of our communication were switched to new social media with email subscription or following Twitter accounts, we would not lose any value.  Look at your lists and see if you can evaluate the worth of any of those contacts.  The ones that are valuable should be targeted and exist elsewhere in your system so that if you deleted the newsletter list you would still have the influential contacts in your CRM.  And your business practices should be designed to funnel in the non-tracked contacts, such as blog subscribers, into your CRM when they raise their hand to start the qualification process, such as registering for an event.

Now the problem lies in the fact that it is nearly impossible to politically to delete newsletter lists and marketers are established in their existing work process and will resist change that that threatens their daily work habits. But I believe in the long run this is the direction firms will follow as social media matures and firms become more sophisticated in allocating their marketing resources for business development tracking.  Think of the hours saved for marketers if they no longer have to push marketing communications to thousands of contacts that are not critically important to the firm. Instead they can focus their time and energy on the percentage of contacts that can make a difference to the firm’s success.

 I’d like to see what others think on this topic as we are in the midst of changing and shaping our policies during this social media revolution.  My opinion above is certainly not the only one out there. And it have been evolving over the past few months and will likely continue to change in the months ahead.

Tracking Referrals in your CRM

Referrals are one of a law firm’s key sources for new clients and tracking them in your CRM provides a useful tool for creating networking opportunities as well as collecting valuable data for analysis. There are two types of referral data. First there are the people or contacts that are part of the referral network. These are the relationships that you map out in your CRM. Then there are the actual referral transactions. Track these as inbound and outbound referral activities.

 Relationships – The Referral Network
The contacts in your database that are part of a referral transaction or potential referral transaction comprise your attorney’s referral network. Each referral transaction has three relationships. There’s your attorney and his or her referral contact. Then there’s the relationship between the referral contact and the party in need of service. This as the referred contact. Finally, once the referral has been made, there exists a knows relationship between the attorney and the referred contact. If it’s for an outbound referral, chances are your attorney already has a knows relationship as the referred contact is part of their contacts. If it’s an inbound referral, then the attorney will add the referred contact to their PIM and establish a new known by relationship.

Mapping these relationships takes effort but it’s worth the effort. It will improve your Who Knows Whom search capabilities as your CRM now has additional connection points to calculate possible relationship maps. And it provides the base data for creating referral network reports.

Referral Network Relationships

Referral Network Relationships

It’s important to remember that these relationships are connecting people contacts and not companies. This may not be obvious at first but consider this scenario. If an attorney has a referral connection at ABC, Inc. and that person takes on a new position at XYZ, Corp., The attorney no longer have a tie at ABC, Inc.. But as the contact’s employment relationship link gets updated to his or her new employer the attorney now has a referral relationship at XYZ, Corp.

 There are several referral reports that leverage the referral network relationship data, such as a listing all of the referral contacts by attorney by office. But one the most useful reports lists referral contacts and the attorneys that know them by the referral contact’s company. This can be useful to evaluate the strength and depth of your referral network.

 Referral Activities
There are two types of referrals; inbound referrals which an attorney receives from their network, and outbound referrals they give out.  Track each with a separate activity type in your CRM. Set a standard syntax for entering your referral summary. This makes the list view in the CRM and your reporting data meaningful. The summary should at least provide the nature or area of law, and the referred contact’s such as, “Labor negotiations for Whatchamacallit, Inc.” Most of your reports will already include the attorney’s name and the referral contact’s name and company. So having this information in the referral activity summary completes the transaction’s key elements at a quick glance.

It’s also important to add all contacts that are party to the referral to the activity. Each referral activity should have five contacts attached.

  •  Attorney Name
  • Referral Contact
  • Referral Contact Company
  • Referred Contact
  • Referred Contact Company

 Note that attaching the company record to the activity is a change over the process for recording the referral network. The referral activity is a snapshot of the transaction at the time it occurred. So adding the referral contact’s company at the time of the referral records the actual history. Lets take a look again at the ABC, INC. vs. XYZ Corp scenario but from the point of view of the referral activity. . An attorney’s referral contact gives the attorney an inbound referral when he is employed at ABC, Inc. He later changes jobs and takes a position at XYZ, Corp. Having ABC, Inc. attached to the activity accurately records the transaction as it happened.

 The importance of this is evident when you produce your referral reports. For example, one of the most powerful reports lists all referral activities by referral company (referral contact’s associated company record). Since the activity has the referral contact’s original employer record attached, it accurately displays all referrals received or given by it’s employees. This report is very useful when meeting with strategic referral partner companies as you are able to demonstrate what referral business has been given and received . This lets you discuss your relationship with the company in very specific terms.

 Managing the CRM Data
Setting up a system to capture and report referral data is useless unless there’s also a process for entering and managing the data.  The best model we have discovered is to assign a main referral contact within an office to whom the attorneys can route all their referral data. A central contact eliminates the need to rely upon all of the attorneys or their assistants doing their own data entry. And since it sometimes can be challenging to decipher the information they forward, this contact point needs to understand the business well enough in order to translate the information into the appropriate CRM relationships and activities.

 The reports also become an important tool. As the data grows in your CRM the reports will show who has been active with regards to referrals. Attorneys that are active but have not been participating by submitting referral data to the contact point will be excluded from the report. I have seen an office partner meeting where the office managing partner distributed a referral activity reports and attorneys who had not participated to date immediately pointed out that they also had referrals, to which the managing partner instructed them to provide the details to the central contact for data entry. So the managing partner used the report internally to improve data collection and the completeness.

Summary
There are two referral data types to track in your CRM system; the referral network and referral activities. The network describes the relationships between the attorney, his or her referral contact, and the referred contact that’s part of the lead. Each referral transaction is recorded as either an inbound activity or an outbound activity, depending on whether the attorney is receiving or giving the referral. Be sure to record the referral and referred contact’s company records to referral activities to create an accurate history of the transaction. And the most effective approach to managing the data is to have each office managing partner assign a central contact point to receive and enter the office’s referral data.

Searching for Companies Using CBSA and CSA Codes

One of the most basic search criteria we often use to target companies for our marketing communications is geography. This is especially true when promoting a local event at one of our offices. You want to reach out and draw clients and prospects that work within a reasonable distance from your office as they are most likely to travel to your location to attend the event. Many folks will create a mailing list based on the company’s address using city names or zip codes as part of their selection criteria. But this is inefficient as most major urban areas are so large that these criteria are too unwieldy to manage. It is much better to take advantage of the governments coding system for defining your target geography.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) creates and maintains a code standard to define cities and urban areas to enable consistent reporting from all of the governmental agencies. Marketers can take advantage of this coding system as a way to identifying geographic target markets that is much easier than building a long list of zip codes or city and neighboring suburbs. They define the urban areas  by evaluating not only the proximity of neighboring cities but also the social and economic connections of nearby cities and counties.. Socially you can imagine that for a city such as Chicago that you will find Bears football fans in communities well  beyond the city limits. The number of surrounding suburbs and “collar” counties where locals will turn on their TVs Sunday afternoons and root for the Monsters of the Midway would be considered part of the Chicago urban area. And economically you can easily imagine a similar broad geographic band around the Chicago area where businesses will recruit employees or find local suppliers for goods and services.

For years the two types of codes we used to define these geographic areas were the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) codes. But these are now obsolete as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) replaced these with two new designations in 2003. We now use Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) and Core Statistical Area (CSA) codes. The CBSA is the basic code that’s used to defined urban areas and the CSA code is generally assigned to the larger urban areas. CSAs are comprised of multiple CBSAs that have grown together to create a larger metropolitan area. The dark green border around Chicago on the map bellow shows the extent of the Chicago CSA. Notice that it is made up of three CSAs; Chicago-Naperville-Joliet IL-IN-WI  CSA, Kankakee-Bradley IL CSA and the Michigan City-LaPorte IN CSA. These are marked off by a slightly thinner green border.

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

 

Source: State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps November, 2004
http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/stcbsa_pg/stBased_200411_nov.htm

Using CBSA & CSA Codes in Your CRM

In order to create searches in your CRM based on CBSA and CSA codes you first need to load the codes as part of your company contact record or as part of its address data. Which one depends upon on how your system manages address data and how you use your address data. For our system we decided to load these codes as additional information fields on the company records based upon the location (zip code) of the primary mailing address. The codes are readily available online from the OMB website, but we license a monthly update from Zip-Codes.com. It’s very inexpensive and saves time. They provide us with a monthly update file that we run against our database. The codes  themselves don’t change but there are frequent changes in the included zip codes, which are maintained by the USPS. There will be some major changes soon once the government completes it’s work on the 2010 census.

 We don’t append this data to the individual people records in the database. Instead we modify our searches so the we find the people who work at companies whose code matches the target area.  For example, the logic of a search for inviting folks to a seminar in Chicago sounds like this:

           All people whose associate company’s CSA is 178

You may want to consider appending the codes to individual records if you plan on targeting people for individual tax or estate and trust practices.

Naturally the Chicago query would be a little more complicated as we would further refine the search with demographic criteria such as company size or industry codes. We append that data in a separate process with data we license form Dun & Street.  I’ll discuss that concept in another future article.

 References

Combined Statistical Areas and Component Core Based Statistical Areas, November 2008, with Codes

Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Wall Maps, November 2008

State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps, November, 2004

Don’t Follow Blindly

Don’t follow blindly has always been good advice even before Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools. And it’s even more important these days where following or friending without a strategy can become a marketing nightmare.

I first became aware of the potential problems when I innocently used the word “p*rn” in a tweet on Twitter. I forget the actual message but it had nothing to do with the sex industry. Within seconds I receive several emails announcing new followers. So I clicked on the link to check out their profiles and was surprised to see that they were fictitious accounts set up for escort services. They are rather easy to identify as they feature provocative profile pictures, have a high number of folks they follow with almost no one following them, and have only one or two tweets they have sent out. The tweet will have a short URL that leads to their website promoting their services. Lately Twitter has been very active in flushing these folks out and I frequently land on a page announcing that the account has been suspended, “nothing to see here, mosey on.” If the account is still active I will actively block them.

Obviously these folks are using search software to automatically follow folks based on keywords. Not all of them are in sketchy industries. I have a friend that was tweeting about how much she and her family were watching the “NatGeo” channel. Almost instantly she received a message that National Geographic was now following her. I haven’t researched these tools yet but I suspect there may be ways to employ them for marketing legal services. I also suspect there may be ethical reasons why attorneys and firms shouldn’t use them as well!

So the first rule is to never follow blindly, always check out the account before you follow someone new. I know many folks are into trying to ratchet up their follow and following counts but you don’t have to play that social networking game. Remember your goal is to use these tools to brand yourself and drive your business development activities, not to win a “high score.”

Second, evaluate the contact to see if he or she is relevant to your goals. Check out their profile and open the link to their website. Most folks provide the link as part of their profile. You can easily tell if they are a spammer or even a direct marketer using Twitter to promote their products or services. Don’t forget that you may have interests outside of business and chose to follow folks not related to the legal industry. I follow several accounts related to science and space, camping and Scouting. Just remember that anyone can see a list of who you are following, and that includes and escort services you may have robotically followed back. (This accentuates the blending of what’s business and what’s personal in social networking).

So why bother be so selective? At worse, your account may become the target of spam attacks. I know of one account where the owner routinely followed everyone that followed him. He did this as a social networking courtesy, “Ill follow you if you follow me.” His account is now flooded with direct message spam, thousands of messages. Remember that people cannot direct message you unless you follow them. It’s really no different that email spammers. Their goal is to gather your account ID so they can flood you with messages about their “offerings.” This poor guy has been working with Twitter to try to stop the torrent of unwanted messages but I fear he’s fighting a losing battle. His only recourse will likely be to abandon his account and start all over with a new one.

Having to erase your account is a marketing disaster. If you have been tweeting for a while you have built up a decent following of folks interested in your tweets. You lose all of them with a new account. Most of them you have no other way of contacting them other than through Twitter. Are you tracking your key contacts twitter ID and other social networking accounts? You may want to start so you can rebuild your following if you have start over. Another problem of starting over is that you lose your original ID. You have spent a lot of time branding that account. It’s how many folks on the net know you. Worse yet, it may even be your company brand and now you have to walk away from that account ID as it becomes unusable.

Twitter and social networking is still rather new but it’s growing up quickly. This is evident by how quickly the spammers have infiltrated its service. It’s a shame that we cannot just innocently tweet away on the internet anymore. But that’s the nature of the beast these days and we all must learn how to protect ourselves and our online identities. So make sure you practice safe computing with Twitter and don’t follow blindly.

I’m No Longer Two-Faced

Previously I reported on how I created two separate Facebook accounts; one for my personal social network and a second for a more business related social network. But after months of neglect I have decide to deactivate the business account. I found that it was just too much of a hassle to maintain two separate accounts, and I tended to gravitate to my “personal” account almost exclusively. With other social networking tools competing for face time (pun intended) I just stopped managing two different personas.

Throw In The Towel?

But I haven’t given up on the concept of Facebook being a valuable business development tool. But you must be very selective on who you friend and what you post. I would reserve Facebook to only those contacts you already know and have a strong comfort level that they will accept your personality. Because even if you are very cautious about what you post, you cannot escape the likelihood that some very personal information will eventually make it’s way to your home wall or someone else’s wall.

It could be as innocent as an old high school or college buddy posting and tagging pictures of you from some frat party. (Tagging is when thy click on your image and enter your name so folks viewing the picture know it’s you!). Or perhaps you and you family share comments about a birthday, graduation or other family oriented life event. There is nothing inherently wrong with that information, it’s just that it opens your personal life up to business contacts that you ordinarily wouldn’t share. There are some security settings where you can restrict what information is visible, but sometimes these settings can create a false sense of security. If you post a comment on a friends page, and then another person who is not your friend but shares your first friend comments on the same thread, he or she can see you comments. So you had better think twice before you post comments.

So Why Should I Use Facebook Anyway?

But the same issues that may lead you to be leery in “friending” business contacts can also be the exact reason why you want to friend them. You will gain insight into their personality. Collecting birthdays is an obvious benefit. But you can easily start to pick up on facts about family members, spouse & children’s names, school events, extra-curricular activities, likes and dislikes. If you pay attention you can harvest a wealth of information. Now you can leverage this information to initiate conversations or use to deepen relationships as you blend personal information with business conversations. Good salespersons are expert at this technique as are experienced rainmaker attorneys. That’s why lunch meetings, sporting events and other social gatherings are used to strengthen business relationships. With Facebook you can gather this information on contacts without expending the time and money on lunch or golf.

Enter What You Learn into Your CRM

Be sure to leverage your CRM as you gather this information. At the very least you should be entering bits of information in your email address book notes so you can refer to them when you plan a call or meeting. Ideally you should condense the most pertinent details in a shared notes field so that your colleagues on your team have good data when they make or receive calls. You don’t need to share everything as that may tend to be spooky if it isn’t worked into the conversation properly. You may have a valid conversation entry point as you can say “I noticed on your Facebook status that your daughter just graduated, congratulations!” But a colleague who is not on the contact’s friend list should never use  that type of data. But you could add data such as A favorite sport team or hobby. Then your teammate can lead with “John tells me you’re a big Notre Dame fan…” This also highlights the importance of identifying the source of your notes in the CRM, even your personal notes. You should always make note of the date and source of the information. This let’s you frame it’s use properly, such as referring to Facebook in the first example, or by allowing others in shared notes to cite their source of the information.

For example, for a personal note the entry may look like this:

 “5/27/09 From Facebook: John commented on his daughter’s graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology. He graduated from ND and is a booster of their basketball program”

Whereas the shared note may look like this:

 “5/27/09 from Bill Vannerson: John graduated from Notre Dame and is a boster of their basketball program.”

Documenting shared notes like this allows the reader to refer back to you if they have questions or need clarification.

Alsonote that you can also learn valuable tidbits by looking at the contact’s profile for what Facebook groups they are “fans” or “friends.”  Again, take the time to convert this knowledge into CRM notes so you have access to them in one central application.

At all times you should respect the privacy of your contacts and be extra careful with sensitive information. Misuse of this information, even if it’s made public on Facebook, can be disastrous you your relationship if the contact is offended or even scared by your approach.

Facebook has a valid business development role for attorneys, but you must

  • be very cautious on what you share about your life,
  • select your friends very carefully (some things never change),
  • be alert and pick up valuable relationship building clues, and
  • record what you learn in your CRM software.