Archive for the ‘InterAction’ Tag

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.


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.

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.