CRM Options for Smaller Accounting Firms to Consider
Customer Relationship Management – or CRM – can be a lot to manage no matter the size of your accounting firm. So if you’re among the smaller accounting firms, CRM might seem especially intimidating.
But it doesn’t have to be. There are some upsides to CRM for smaller accounting firms, too. One upside is you’ll likely have fewer CRM managers, so that will likely save you money. Fewer CRM managers or users also means fewer people to train. And as a smaller accounting firm, you probably have fewer clients and prospects to track in a CRM system.
So what are some CRM options for smaller accounting firms? Check out some options below:
Excel and Email Lists
There’s nothing fancy about this option but the upside is your firm likely already has these tools on hand. And your team probably knows how to use them! You can track prospects in Excel and send newsletters and other communication to clients and prospects via email lists. There are some obvious downsides and limitations with this option. But it’s a start and a way some smaller accounting firms do CRM.
While there are several pricey options with Hubspot – a marketing automation tool – there are some free options, as well, including a free CRM, which is probably a great option for smaller accounting firms.
My firm is a mid-size firm and while we pay for Hubspot’s marketing side, we find the free CRM sufficient for our customers relationship management needs. The free CRM’s tools include a reporting dashboard, company insights, deal tracking and pipeline management.
The biggest CRM company in the world probably doesn’t sound like a possible CRM option for smaller accounting firms. But it was surprising to learn Salesforce offers a wide variety of plans with a wide variety of price points.
According to a blog on FindMyCRM.com, there’s a Salesforce option for $25 a month per user that includes account, contact, opportunity and task management; customizable sales process, activity feed, the creation of a calendar, full offline mobile functionality and inbox mobile app. For a small accounting firm, being billed by user if you only have a small number of users is a great way to make CRM affordable.
FindMyCRM.com has a very comprehensive list of 11 CRM options, their various levels and price points. In addition to Salesforce and Hubspot, the list covers pricing and options for Zoho and Microsoft Dynamics, two other popular CRM options for accounting firms. And again, while big companies like Salesforce, some of the bigger CRM companies have some affordable options suitable for smaller accounting firms. Zoho, for example, has plans starting at $12 a month per user.
ABLE was developed especially for accountants. Instead of focusing on keeping in touch with hundreds of clients, prospects and referral sources, ABLE focuses on maintaining relationship with your key clients, prospects and referral sources.
As a smaller accounting firm, a more limited CRM may be a good option. You can find out more about ABLE’s features and pricing here. ABLE also has a comparison chart on its website, weighing its offerings to those from Hubspot, Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft along with other CRM options including ContactEase and SugarCRM.
What CRM Options Smaller Accounting Firms Actually Use
A big challenge with figuring out which CRM to use if you’re a smaller accounting firm is there are a lot of options out there. And then with some tools, there are multiple tiers to consider on top of that.
So what CRM Options Smaller Accounting Firms Actually Use? Here’s some insight from some consultants who work with accounting marketers.
Becky Livingston of Penheel Marketing wrote her own blog about CRM for accounting firms. She polled the Association for Accounting Marketing members forum and found these are the 10 most popular CRM options for accounting firms. They were HubSpot, SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ABLE, ContactEase, SugarCRM, Interaction, ZoHo, Deltek Vision and Redtail CRM.
“Before choosing a CRM, keep in mind that the most popular may not be the right fit for your firm,” Livingston advises. “Do your research, ask around, and test drive a couple before making that final decision.”
For AAM members, the member forum is a great place to ask other accounting marketers about their real life CRM experiences.
Jamie Miller of Marketing by Numbers works with many small-to-midsize accounting firms. The firms’ CRM tools range from excel spreadsheets and email services like Mailchimp to Hubspot and Salesforce for the larger firms.
Many smaller accounting firms use an in-between option such as Agile CRM or BenchmarkONE. They’re easier to use and cheaper than Hubspot and Salesforce but still offer the main CRM functions accounting firms need, Miller says.
“What’s important in CRM for accounting firms is contact management and segmentation, being able to tag contacts based on industry, service line, etc.” Miller says. “Also, if the tool allows you to track what people are clicking on, what emails and pages of your website, then you’re going to be able to capture intel.”
What CRM Will Work for Smaller Accounting Firms
Like many things in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to CRM options for smaller accounting firms. The good news is there are a lot of options – and even a lot of reasonably priced options – out there.
Reach out to other accounting marketers to find out what CRM they’re using and what they like and don’t like about it. By drawing on the experience of others, you should be able to find a good CRM fit for your smaller accounting firm.
About Lynn Olanoff
Lynn Olanoff is the marketing communications specialist at Concannon Miller, a CPA and business advisory firm in Bethlehem, Pa. and St. Petersburg, Fl. She has worked in accounting marketing since September 2015 and was previously a newspaper reporter for 13 years.
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