by Mark Powers & Shawn McNalis
If you’ve been accustomed to keeping your referral base data in your memory, you’ve no doubt seen the limitations of that method. Even if you are very successful in remembering facts about your clients and referral sources as you visit with them face to face, you cannot perform from memory many of the advanced marketing functions made so easy with a computer.
Special note: the following is written for those who do not have case management software that can be used to manage your contacts.
Remember that referral marketing is a numbers game. Contact management software allows you to perform the following high-leverage functions with relatively more ease, speed and in greater numbers:
- The ability to track historical data on all of your referral sources, other marketing contacts and activities.
- The ability to generate reports on all legal services performed and future legal needs identified. Mailings to groups of existing clients and referral sources informing them of future events in your office; inviting them to stop by and update their files; and keeping abreast of current legal issues that may be of concern.
- Mailings to specific groups of existing and past clients for cross-selling and upgrading purposes such as: Mailings to target groups of clients in your data base who fit the criteria for other firm services, i.e., the real estate client who qualifies for Estate Planning services. These letters can be invitations to attend information sessions or an offer for a complimentary consultation.
- Reports on how many referrals have been generated by existing clients through the years.
- Tracking the follow-ups to each referral and tickling an appropriate response such as a thank-you card or phone call.
- Research software that is a good fit to your existing storage and record-keeping systems. These will be industry specific and vary also with regard to individual preference.
- Look for the ability to create many databases – having a generous number of customizable fields will allow you to do this.
- Choose software that has the ability to easily import data from other formats.
- Look for software that can merge many databases into one for the easy reconciliation of all your data.
- Some software has the ability to auto-dial any phone number within its database for added convenience.
- Choose software that has the ability to date-stamp the notes you take for each contact.
- Software that allows you to store an unlimited number of contacts will allow you to expand your efforts easily.
- Look for software that has a clear, understandable and readable format for its contact history pages. These pages are the backbone of the system and will be referred to constantly.
- If you are using a computerized calendar system, or to improve on it, choose a contact management software that allows you or a staff person to easily manage your calendar through an integrated activity scheduler.
- Some software allows you to view your calendar by the day, week or month.
- Look for a software that will assign priorities to activities and allow you to view actions based on importance.
- Another feature to look for is the ability to rollover incomplete tasks from today to tomorrow.
- Choose software that has predefined reports including phone lists, address books, activity and status reports, and task lists.
- Is the software customizable? Does it allow you to change fields to generate different reports such as “search for all past clients who own their own businesses” or “all past and present clients who are over age 65.”
Word Processing Features
- Look for software that can mail merge letters, envelopes, and mailing labels.
- Some contact management software has the ability to “fax-merge” documents to multiple contacts.
- Customizable templates for business letters, report forms, memos, fax cover sheets are a must.
- Look for a software package that has the ability to add fonts and graphics to customize your presentation.
- Choose software that contains a spell checker.
- It will feature master and sub-project to-do list;
- track completion dates;
- allow you to change dates easily by picking and dragging;
- assist you by calculating due dates;
- key in alarms for deadlines.
- If inter-office confidentiality is a concern, choose a software with security options that will suit your needs. These options can include different security levels for added control; record locking; a public/private toggle switch; individual passwords and log-in IDs. Some have an advanced utility that allows you to manage user accounts and access rights.
- If you wish to take advantage of email, look for a software that has it integrated in the format you already use, such as Outlook.
- If you are networked, be sure to verify that the software can be shared easily among the different users.
- With networking you can share information about your schedule. Your appointments and activities can be kept private and accessible only by password.
Use the following criteria to evaluate which contact management software would best suit you and your office from a technical compatibility point of view:
- Does it operate with your computer’s existing operating system?
- Is it compatible with other software programs already in use? (Word, Word Perfect, etc.)
- What is the amount of hard disk space it consumes before data is entered?
- What is the speed of responsiveness when run on your computers megahertz?
- How much memory does the program require?
- Is the software compatible with your printers and printer drivers?