The Evolving CRM

A CRM is a system that helps you centralize marketing and customer communications with clients and prospects. It stands for Customer Relationship Management, and most of these systems are now in the cloud as web apps.

What CRMs Do

It’s amazing what CRMs can do these days. As client contact points have grown the last few decades beyond phone and fax, so have CRMs’ capabilities to unify client messaging.  At the core level, all CRMs typically allow you to store customer and prospect contact data, such as name, address, company name, titles, and so forth. Most of them allow you to create custom fields so that you can store things like type of entity, marriage or filing status, and what accounting software they use.

Here’s where it starts to get fun. Most CRMs used to simply have a place for you to store meeting notes about the client. Record things like spouse’s name so you can remember to ask about them on the next phone call.  Today’s CRMs go one step further by integrating appointment scheduling automation so that a client can book, pay for, get a Zoom link, and show up for a meeting with you, all without you having to do any of the clerical part.

In some cases, you can also email clients directly from a CRM so that the communication is recorded right in the app.  Most CRMs allow you to group clients so you can email several clients at once messages containing deadline notices or newsletters.

A few CRMs are now integrating voice mail and SMS – smartphone texting – into their features so that when you get a message, it goes straight into the client record. With some CRMs, you get a phone number for texting that you can use so that you don’t have to use your personal cell phone number with clients.

Most CRMs also include a task management feature where you can create and assign sales type tasks to sales reps or simply yourself.

Integrated CRMs have multiple marketing apps built in to expand their functionality.  Examples include e-commerce functions with order forms, shopping carts, and online store features; marketing automation so you can automate client service communication delivery, marketing messages, and sales funnels; and other add-ons, such as accounting system integration, social media integration, affiliate sales tracking, reporting and metrics, and more.

What CRMs Don’t Do

CRMs’ adoption has been slow in the accounting profession, and I believe there are several reasons. One is that CRMs don’t do everything we need them to do when interacting with a client.

Most CRMs do not have a client portal or document-sharing portal; in most cases, this is connected to your tax software and not your marketing software. While CRMs have basic task features, most do not have an integrated workflow process as complex as what we need; you can only find that in project management software or practice management software, of which most do not meet our needs either.  And CRMs do not track time or do our billing for us (except for the ones with e-commerce).

Nevertheless, CRMs are incredibly useful for sales, marketing, and communications and are vastly underutilized in our profession.  We have to think about the cost of losing track of even one client and how much revenue loss that could be. When we think that way, we can justify CRMs even if we only have about 50-100 leads per year. When we can integrate CRMs with other client-facing apps that meet the more operational aspects of our firms, then we’re in business.

If you’re interested in implementing a CRM for your business, we offer ThriveFuel360. Find out more here: