Bring Your Rolodex Into the 21st Century!

by Cady Darago

When we are onboarding a new client, one of the questions we ask is if they have a CRM. Some don’t know what we are talking about (if that’s you, don’t worry – keep reading!). Most reply with an audible groan. Very few are excited to share their CRM with us because they are embarrassed about the terrible shape it is in. Why the negativity? Because CRMs are often a massive undertaking. But we’ve got some steps that will make it easy-peasy to get your CRM in order.  

First Things First

What is a CRM, and why do you need to build one? CRM stands for Client Relationship Manager. It is a list of everyone you know – those to whom you send holiday cards, thank you gifts, who receive your newsletter, who pay (and don’t pay) your invoices, who refer business to you, and more. 

Ok, I’m sold. What now? 

Choosing where to house your CRM will take some research (more on this later). In the meantime, here are a few things you need to focus on: 

Pull Your Contacts Together

Export your contact lists from Outlook or whatever email platform you use, LinkedIn, or anywhere else you keep this info. Combine it, remove duplicates, add missing info. We will assume you are working in Excel. 

Break the info into the following columns as your data requires: prefix, first name + middle initial, last name, suffix, spouse/partner first name (and last name if different), business street address, city, state, zip, home address, city, state, zip, work email, personal email, and phone number(s). 

Then, add everyone you know – referral sources, clients, former clients, other attorneys, prospective clients, vendors, alumni connections, attorneys you clerked with and judges you clerked for, folks who sit on non-profit boards with you, your bowling team, your caddy, reporters who have interviewed you, friends, family, your third cousin and his dog. You get the picture. Don’t exclude anyone. Include everyone. 

At this point, you will need to add a column to identify your relationship. We recommend making this a drop-down list so the information remains consistent and can be sorted accordingly. Your categories, or sources, should include referral source, client, attorney, prospective client, vendor, alumni, reporters, friend, family, and any others groups you have added. 

What’s Next?

Now you need to decide if you are going to invest in building a law firm CRM System. There are many, many options. We will discuss a few to keep your head from spinning and your checkbook from crying. 

Free or Almost Free

You can continue to house your information in Excel – but make sure to update activities accordingly. Tools like Zapier can help with this! 

If most, or all, of your outreach, will be via email, services like MailChimp or Constant Contact may be enough for now. These programs will allow you to send email campaigns to your audience and track who opens and engages with the content. You can create tags for clients who should receive certain news or alerts, so you are never “spamming” anyone. 

If you want to try out a CRM platform for free, give HubSpot a look. The free version offers decent functionality, and you can customize it as needed. 

Some Money or More Money

Platforms like Keap (Infusionsoft) and ContactEase (built specifically for professional service firms) will cost you some money. Still, the options of what you can do with this information are endless. Features include automation, integration, and tech support. These options are best if you are a die-hard marketer or have someone to handle your marketing. 

The key to having a successful CRM is keeping the information up-to-date and tracking how you connect with the people. So, kudos if you have one. If you don’t, building a law firm CRM is a wise investment. Have a question, contact us!

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