Archive for the ‘Marketing Technologies’ Category

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

A Beginning

I’ve always been a fan of the opportunities of incorporating computer technologies into marketing strategies. There is an elegance to the resulting system that produces a sense of beauty and satisfaction much as an artist achieves when he or she creates a strong image or haunting melody. Most cannot see the beauty in a computer system, in fact, most are intimidated or afraid of technology. So to them I may seem odd when I get excited when software and functions support marketing business processes “like a glove.” And the more simple the solution, the more elegant the system, the more satisfying I find the process.

 

The legal marketplace presents several challenges to implementing a 1-to-1 methodology.

 

First, the attorneys are both the product and sales force. Tradition legal business development practice places the focus on the attorney as being ultimately responsible for qualifying leads, developing the pitch and closing the deal. Marketing’s role in the process varies from firm to firm, from one end of the extreme of simply producing and mailing brochures to the more advance role of authoring RFPs, developing presentations and even coaching or role playing preparation for the attorneys.  Still, the ultimate sales responsibility lies with the attorney. The challenge is that attorneys do not have a formal marketing or sales background. Their preparation in school and in practice is centered on being the product; excellence in being practitioners of the law.

 

Second, attorneys are possessive of the book of business. To the attorney, their contacts are THEIR contacts. It’s the life blood of their value to the firm, and leverage to future positions if they chose to move to another firm at some point in their carrier. So anyone’s attempt to secure a copy of their book is tantamount to a threat to their livelihood. Of course what most do not recognize is that their book of business is just a list. And lists can be built from many public sources these day.  However, what brings true value to their list is their relationship, the bond that they develop and nurture with their contacts.  The irony is that it is in this task that the technology can be leveraged in terms or CRM applications (Client or Customer Relationship Management).

 

There are many more issues that I and others can identify and discuss, such as how some attorneys view marketing as an unnecessary expense that’s simply sucking the profits right out of their own wallet. All of these issues are obstacles we must face as we work towards bringing modern direct marketing techniques to the legal industry.

 

And now the world, and more importantly the next generation of Associates, are embracing the Internet 2.0 social networking paradigm on the web. Applications embracing the net such as blogs, social networks, RSS and more are commonplace among a large portion of the population. These technologies have the potential of taking relationship building to the next level of 1-to-1 marketing. Law firms and attorneys have the ability to target specific groups of clients and prospects with their message, and the targets are raising their hands to receive this message.  And a targeted message of value transmitted to a receive who requests and desires the content brings true value to the transaction. That transaction has real value and creates the foundation to build a long-lasting relationship.

 

Oh, what fun we can have!

 

If only we can overcome the issues that block acceptance and use.  That will be the subject for future posts on this site; how to leverage the internal and external technologies and build a law firm business development methodology that works and can be accepted by the attorney.

 

I welcome and ideas, comments and suggestions as we embark on this discussion. I will incorporate them into our future conversations.