By Michael Warren, VP, Client Development & Intake, Wilson Allen

See this article in the Winter 2021 issue of PSMG’s Centrum magazine.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu declares, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Lessons from this ancient treatise still hold today – especially how professional services firms use and deploy CRM tools and data to set goals (strategy) and achieve them (tactics).

We are operating in a world of increasing and increasingly diverse competition. To contend with shifting market dynamics, your firm needs to do more than execute unconnected marketing tactics. It needs to form strategies and implement tactics that ultimately deliver actionable insights to stakeholders. Outreach efforts and operational decisions need to be based on data derived from key points throughout the client engagement life cycle.

Strategic business development

Consider the importance of business development. All firms need to win new clients, but as we all know, growing existing clients is arguably easier and more profitable. So a business development strategy would be to grow your existing client base profitability. The tactics are then to understand what your clients look like, determine how to segment them, and then identify opportunities in each segment. If there is “white space,” you can identify what proposals, pitches, relationships, or activities you can exploit or leverage. To do that, you need to have several things in place, such as the ability to:

  • Segment Your Clients  You need to have clear definitions of how you segment your clients. One of the challenges of taking a marketing focus when it comes to CRM is that it has traditionally been very list focused. This approach tends to perpetuate the same people being on lists and the same people not being on lists. You need to break down your segmentation to the basic building blocks, value, engagement, subject matter, industry, and then build out your segments using combinations of those building blocks.
  • Broaden Your View  You then need to be able to harness data from different sources. Think of CRM as the reason for pulling data together to answer specific questions rather than being a system for doing CRM. In this case, you would need to pull data together that provides financial information and relationship information and activity.
  • Deliver Insight  Once you’ve segmented your clients and brought together data from across the firm. You need to bring together and draw meaning from the data, your experience, your people, your clients, and your competitors and deliver it a useful way. Only then can you create effective strategies to differentiate your offerings, go to market, and communicate to appeal to a target audience that’s more demanding and price-sensitive than ever.

Using Data from Across the Life Cycle

Historically, firms would rely primarily on data residing in practice management systems (PMS) to inform decisions. And while this information is valuable in providing insight into specific financial and operational metrics, it falls short in supporting business development and managing relationships more efficiently. Fortunately, advances in reporting make it easier than ever to deliver actionable insight based on comprehensive data into decision-makers’ hands.

For example, this client segmentation dashboard was built using Power BI (see Figure 1). It pulls together time and billing data from Elite 3E, CRM data from Introhive and Vuture, and customer feedback data from ClearlyRated.  Power BI is an excellent tool for agile development projects to demonstrate the benefit of merging data from different sources to deliver intuitive and actionable reports.

Figure 1 Client segmentation dashboard

In this example, the resulting data mashup provided insight to segment clients and deploy tactics tailored accordingly, including:

  • Key Clients– These are multi-practice, long-term, high-value clients. The strategy is to mark key individuals, create annual business plans, and conduct quarterly strategic reviews. A director is assigned to coordinate communications and regularly report to the client.
  • Strategic Clients– Typically, these are relatively new clients where the transaction has a high value or the client is a target of strategic importance. The goal here is to identify the relationship’s level and depth and identify three or four specific key client development strategies to pursue.
  • New Clients– The focus for new clients is to ensure that the onboarding process is focused on the client experience and not operations. Regular check-ins should take place to ensure that the client experience is a positive one, and a full matter review before the end of the first engagement should always take place.
  • Growth Clients– Typically, these are long-term clients but typically only in one practice. The strategy is to create a cross-selling plan to identify in which other practice areas with the strongest relationships to create introductions. Competitive intelligence is critical for this strategy.

Going back to the dashboard, think of it as a building block to create your client segments and inform your strategies. The dashboard is highly interactive, so you can click on and drill down on all of the different visualizations. It changes the data you’re seeing to reveal different information about your client base.

Power BI is not the only way to accomplish this visibility. But the key here is for CRM to succeed, it must encompass data from multiple places, and the data needs to be intuitive to understand and interact. It must answer simple questions and enable people to act on the data that they are seeing.

To learn more about using CRM more effectively, please contact us, visit our CRM Solutions page, or watch this three-part PSMG CRM Master Class series with Michael Allen on demand:

  • Part 1: Technology: How to Master CRM and Engage Your Stakeholders to Want to Use Your System
  • Part 2: Process: Using CRM Technology and Reporting to Drive Engagement and Deliver Value
  • Part 3: People: Using CRM to Grow Existing Client Relationships and Build a Better Brand