Do You Really Need a CRM?


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems come in too many forms to truly categorize them as one group of software. However, they all have the functionality to store contacts. Yes, technically, from this basic definition, Outlook is a CRM. And when it was originally developed, it was used much like a rolodex which was truly the original CRM (no, I am not too young to remember those, but thanks for thinking it!). A CRM provides many benefits for a growing tax firm and I recommend using something (just please not Excel).

Tax accountants could benefit from organized contacts in multiple ways. It is not all about sales. Here are the most common uses for a CRM:

  • Contact Management –Yesthe basic function is still important. Being able to categorize and tag each contact is very important. Understanding who they are, who is related to them, when their birthdays are, what services you provide to them, and so on will give you a better handle on managing the relationship.
  • Automation – Many CRMs will allow you to automate some of your communication. Maybe you want automatic birthday cards going out to clients. Maybe you want different newsletters to go to different subsets of your clients (businesses versus individuals for example). CRMs also allow for automation through the sales cycle. You may enter a contact as a lead, have a proposal sent, and move them into a client status. When they become a client, it can trigger a project being created to track the work you just sold.
  • Email Marketing – CRMs are great to organize people for drip email marketing. You know those updates you get from literally every vendor you’ve ever talked to? Yeah, that’s what I am talking about! Those actually work to convert more business.
  • Practice Management–This catch-all term has become the go-to buzz word to talk about anything that helps you run a practice. Well, a CRM does indeed help you run a firm. It can also track projects and work associated with every client.
  • Client Experience – A good CRM should improve your client experience. It should give you the organization and data around each client to provide better client service.

The most famous CRM in existence is Salesforce. At this point, Salesforce does a whole heck of a lot more than function as a basic CRM, but that is where it started. It has now developed into a complete ERP and back-office automation platform. Most tax accountants do not need anything quite as robust as Salesforce.

Here are a few CRMs that might be worth checking out:

  • Canopy – Canopy’s whole product is geared towards tax firms. Their CRM functionality includes all the basic information storage and then it even has a client portal. This CRM gives you the ability to collaborate with clients directly!
  • ActiveCampaign– This more generic CRM option has the best automation for the price. You can hook it directly into yourwebsiteso all queries end up in your pipeline and areautomatically added to the CRM. It also allows for a whole slew of marketing and client experience automation.
  • Hubspot– While this platform was originally created as a marketing automation software, it does function quite well as a CRM. The base level is even free!
  • ZohoCRM –Zohooffers a free CRM for up to three users. If you’re running a small firm, or there is a very limited pool of people interacting with clients, this might be a good free option to pull you through some growth.
  • Accelo–This tool can run your whole practice and they have a robust CRM built in.

Whatever you end up doing to manage your clients, make sure it works for you and you do not lose people to disorganization!

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Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is the Founder of High Rock Accounting, Rebel Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, publishes a YouTube show (The Hot Accounts), and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her husband and young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.