Marketing and business development (BD) teams rose to the challenge and came into their own in the last two years. They displayed tremendous ability to think out of the box and adapt, even though BD was hard hit—referrals were far and few; bread-and-butter activities such as in-person meetings, conferences, and trade shows simply weren’t an option. And yet, it wasn’t all doom and gloom! Many firms did better than they could have ever imagined—not only did the majority survive, many also thrived.
As a Client Advisor for InterAction of several years, I’ve naturally extolled the virtues of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to firms, many of which adopted the function in varying degrees. But during the pandemic, the firm-wide adoption and utilisation of CRM bloomed, with the function becoming the key vehicle for data management, communication, and relationship management. In fact, our research shows that high growth firms exploited capabilities such as metrics tracking that are offered by CRM systems in combination with intelligence applications (like Microsoft® Power BI®) for their marketing and BD efforts. Interestingly, firms already had these capabilities, it just took the pandemic for the value of CRM technology to be recognised.
Needless to say, to my delight, we can now expect firms to continue on this path of more strategic adoption of CRM. Buying behaviours are still evolving, given that we are not yet truly out of the pandemic. With the new normal that is the hybrid business environment, managing relationships will need to be done differently, and remote client engagement at scale is now a “table stakes” competency, which in turn means that data quality will play a “make or break” role for marketing and BD. Good quality data is critical to driving execution and for better decision-making.
So, the CRM system can no longer be an island. There’s business value in integrating the firm’s CRM system with other core applications, such as matter inception process and onboarding, practice management, and so on. Additionally, in a hybrid landscape, users—be they marketing and BD professionals or lawyers and partners—require real-time access to the latest client-related information and business analytics, regardless of what device they use, where they are physically located, and what time of the day or night they choose to access it. Therefore, cloud capability is necessary.
Now, this doesn’t mean that firms need to have an all or nothing approach to cloud adoption. There’s choice, depending on where an organisation lands in its cloud journey, based on factors such as client requirement, IT infrastructure, business risk, and so on. A hybrid cloud adoption model is a good option, particularly for firms not ready or able to go full cloud as its IT strategy.
So, against this backdrop, if your firm is in the throes of devising its marketing and BD strategy for 2022, here’s some food for thought (in no particular order):
- How is the firm trying to improve and strengthen the BD culture/discipline in the organisation? Think of things like processes, education (at all levels in the firm), enablement, and beyond.
- What can the firm do today to help its marketing and BD teams, so that they, in turn, can support the firm better? Likewise, what can marketing and BD professionals do to rise out of the “admin” category and be seen as the BD professionals that they are?
- Is a data-driven approach part of the firm’s culture? For instance, does the firm use pitch-related data to determine “go or no-go” actions for new business or is this done purely on gut feel?
- What data management processes can the firm automate to make ensuring data quality and integrity routine? For example, is data capture purely a manual activity or is it done passively, too?
- Do the firm’s CRM and BD systems need reconfiguring to meet requirements of a hybrid business environment? For example, are any new metric fields needed from an analytics perspective?
To gain a good understanding of the above areas, it may be worth pulling together a steering group that is well-represented by stakeholders across the firm, then working with your Client Advisor at InterAction to build a data-driven BD culture in the organisation. The last two years have proven that this approach works!