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Optimise CRM for international business development

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Technology has blurred geographic boundaries and provides the operational support needed to make international business expansion affordable for many professional services firms. Nevertheless, firms can’t adopt a ‘one size fits all’ business approach across different countries. They must devise a business development strategy that allows them to leverage the interdependencies between regions and yet exploit each country’s distinctiveness to offer a local and personalised service to clients. CRM systems can be utilised to centralise and optimise international business development to achieve business targets.

Referrals play a key role in helping firms expand their international presence, but many are not actively managing inbound and outbound referrals strategically. Knowing where inbound referrals come from allows firms to more effectively determine which firms to pass potential matters to; and who to preferentially reward with opportunities. Consider creating a referral tracking and management capability in CRM systems for visibility of how effectively their network of contacts is working for the business.  

Today many corporate law departments use panel reviews and online auctions as measures for cost cutting.  It is therefore important that firms pitching for panel work or bidding in online auctions are sure that the projects they secure will deliver profits. This requires business intelligence to assess potential resource availability and profitability of the assignment in order to make an educated decision. Think about integrating CRM and practice management systems. This approach will offer insight into who the most profitable clients globally are, existing internal expertise, how resources worldwide can be optimised and even where processes can be fine-tuned to increase profitability alongside relationship intelligence.

A proactive client management strategy must be integral to a firm’s business development activity, but it becomes challenging in an international scenario. There are cultural, language and regulatory differences to deal with. A centralised CRM system facilitates targeted communications to strengthen client engagement.  Make it the repository where global client objectives are stored. This will ensure that the right information reaches the right people in the right format, in a timely manner and in adherence with the data protection rules of the countries in question.

Fundamental to all the above is clean, high quality data. Ensure that there is a single instance of every contact in the CRM system – i.e. everyone is seeing the same information on a contact at any point in time, anywhere in the world. CRM systems offer multi-language capability, which is critical for global business development programmes. So if change to an entry is made in English in London, the system automatically sends an alert on the modification to the firm’s data steward in China so that it is reflected in Chinese.  

The CRM discipline has moved on. Aside from a marketing communications tool, it’s a strategic business development instrument that firms must optimise for competitive advantage. Seamlessly integrating with firms’ practice management system makes the combined solution even more compelling.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:


Fiona Jackson has spent over 15 years implementing and working with InterAction in professional services firms, including legal and accountancy. In these in-house roles, supported by InterAction, she managed marketing communications, devised and implemented business development strategies as well as trained and mentored fee earners. She worked closely with internal clients to understand their business processes end-to end and guided them in utilising the 'intelligence' gathered via InterAction to help them be successful at customer relationship management.

Fiona was previously a Client Advisor for five years at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions; and was often described as "an extension to our business" by her clients. She has now returned to the company to drive an InterAction ‘repositioning’ project for a large London law firm. Fiona is also working with other firms to help them align CRM to wider business development strategies. She specialises in strategic and tactical CRM best practice, and as an expert in devising user adoption strategies, her experience in rolling out and repositioning InterAction as a business tool is proving invaluable to clients.

Fiona is mother to two teenagers, who keep her firmly on her toes. Living in Hertfordshire, she loves walking, is often found obsessing over the latest box set and enjoys all that country pubs have to offer. She also has a spectacular Gin collection of her own. Recently, Fiona has discovered a love for cooking – the varying degrees of success hasn’t stopped her from continuing to giving it a go!

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