• April 20, 2010
  • By Gregory Trinh, chief technology officer, Gradian Software

Conserve (and Capitalize On) Conversation

Show me the money!

We are always asked to do more with less. This is especially true in a tough economy. Therefore, we must invest our dollars wisely and maximize ROI to ensure continued growth.

The same rules apply when building a business development infrastructure. Powerful business development systems not only tie to your company's strategic goals and provide the necessary tools to carry out actionable objectives (e.g., create and manage client team initiatives, execute marketing campaigns, manage contact information, and track engagements) but they also generate a fast return on the investment.

What you should consider

Implementing an enterprise relationship management (ERM) system might just be what the doctor ordered.

ERM solutions identify contacts and relationships by analyzing content found in both users' address books and messaging mailboxes, such as Microsoft Outlook, Novell GroupWise, or Lotus Notes. Based on the prefix and suffix of emails, ERM solutions are able to generate and associate the contact name and company of both the sender and receiver of firm emails. No data entry is required from your busy staff!

ERM solutions have been around for a few years. Their initial purpose has not changed but they have become better at managing and integrating information collected.

It's important to keep in mind that they are only going after email stubs to retrieve the "TO", "FROM", and date information. For privacy purposes, they do not read nor store the subject or body content of any emails crawled. In a way, ERM solution protects relationships as they make it difficult for anyone to inadvertently stumble onto someone else existing relationship. Besides, a relationship is developed over time; it's not something that can be stolen from one another.

How ERM can help

An ERM solution can play an important role to any business development infrastructure as law firms need the most comprehensive set of relationships to help develop business opportunities and cannot rely on busy attorneys to contribute content at their leisure.

Below are some examples that demonstrate the importance of making accessible the firm's up-to-date relationships:

  • Do you fish where the fishes are? Or are you fishing in the wrong pond? Should you be expanding into new markets, new regions, or new industries? ERM can locate commonalities in your attorneys' pre-existing relationships so you can target your firm's lowest hanging fruit.
  • Are you leaving business on the table with your current clients? Might you have attorneys who know people working for other divisions of your client companies that aren't being utilized? If so, ERM can surface those hidden relationships so client teams can be created and current accounts can be expanded.
  • Do your attorneys blast out emails asking, "Does anybody know so and so at XYZ?" Do those emails inconvenience the vast majority of people who receive them? If so, a simple ERM search can narrow down the list to the relevant few within seconds.
  • Are you a "me-too firm," or do you look for ways to stand out by being more personal? When an entity is named in a suit, it is likely they receive dozens of calls from attorneys trying to earn their business. ERM can help firms to quickly locate their optimal attorney who already has an existing relationship with the entity, and who may have the greatest chance of winning the business.
  • Do you have an easy way to quickly track down a contact? Clients switch jobs all the time. Can you readily access a contact's new location and corresponding details to remain top of mind when she chooses counsel for her new company? If not, ERM can help you keep on top of your clients' whereabouts.

How to implement ERM

As a general rule, it takes very little time and effort to implement an ERM solution. Depending on whether you select a hosted ERM or an on-premise ERM, it can take hours to weeks to implement. Therefore, one of the great benefits is that it can quickly justify itself while enabling your team to continue building and deploying your business development infrastructure.

At some point, you may also want to integrate the content of your ERM into your CRM. It's all about quality, not quantity, of your CRM. Therefore, you'll need to be strategic when you integrate and filter the gold from your ERM into your CRM. First, augment your CRM contacts with missing relationships. Then, augment your CRM with missing business contacts.


ERM is one way that companies can mine their own network of contacts and explore untapped revenue streams. Be a hero at your next strategy-planning meeting and recommend ERM!

About the Author

Gregory Trinh is the chief technology officer for Gradian Software. He can be contacted at gregorytrinh@gradiansoftware.com.


Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below.

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the April 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues