Depending upon the country in which clients and prospects reside, there may be laws and other government regulations about how law firms, or other types of businesses, may contact them for marketing purposes—both by mail of printed materials and by email. Typically, the client or prospect must give the firm permission to contact them, and by what method, and the firm must be able to document this permission. If a person, or company, does not wish to be contacted in any way, the firm must be able to ensure that they will not be. CRM systems provide features, as described below, which can help firms comply with these requirements.
Email consent instructions and mail type
The CRM system will require every contact added to have an email consent instruction, e.g. permission has been given, denied, or status unknown, and a corresponding mail preference such as only email, only printed materials, both, or none at all. Each firm can set default values, so that all new contacts added in Outlook will have them assigned automatically—the attorneys or other professionals won’t have to do anything extra. A firm that requires consent from most of their contacts would set a default email consent of permission not given, or possibly of status unknown. The default mail preference could be either none at all, or perhaps only printed materials. Contacts with no email permission given, and with no mail allowed, will not be eligible for inclusion in any mail tasks. A firm not requiring consent from most contacts would set a default email consent of permission given, with a corresponding mail preference that could allow both email and printed materials, or just one or the other. Contacts can be included in mail tasks, but if for example the mail preference is just email, then they would not be eligible for inclusion in mail tasks for printed materials mailed. The CRM system provides for the email consent and mail type to be changed. A contact may later give permission, via a telephone call or email to the attorney, and may state a preference for the type of mail he or she will receive. In order to provide documentation of this change, the system will require the Outlook user who makes this change to select a code or perhaps enter a note; the system logs the date and time automatically
Contact selection for mailings
The CRM system provides for selection of contacts to receive an email invitation to an event, or to receive printed material such as a holiday card or letter. The program that selects contacts reads the permission and mail preference for each one; contacts with no permission and no mail allowed will be excluded. Contacts with, for example, no email permission but printed materials allowed may be included in a holiday card mailing. After the contact selection has been processed, most CRM systems will provide an “exception page” to show the user which contacts could not be included in this mailing and why.
Automatic expiration of permission based on last invoice date
Some anti-spam laws may allow firms to send emails to contacts as long as they have an invoice, from the firm, dated within the past 2 years. Permission is “implied” for active clients. The CRM system may provide a way to link contacts in the CRM database to clients in the firm’s accounting and billing database. As a result, the CRM system can keep track of the last invoice date for each contact so linked, and can send an automatic warning email to a contact a designated number of days or weeks before their permission is set to expire. This email can provide a link to the firm’s website, where the contact can give email permission, select publications they would like to receive, or request to be unsubscribed permanently.