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 – Yes the 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 your website so all queries end up in your pipeline and are automatically 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!
- Zoho CRM – Zoho offers 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!