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Where Does CRM Fit for Accountants?

Jul 16th 2015
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Where Does CRM Fit For Accountants?

I want to finish our marketing conversation with a real-world approach to what Client Relationship Management (CRM) is and should be for most firms.

In addition, I want to dispel the myths about why CRM will not work for your firm and the false assumptions keeping partners from taking the plunge.

During this three part series, we have talked about how people have changed the way they make purchases and also the need for firms to react with a marketing approach.

We left off the last discussion talking about the need to message and connect with owners and decisions makers in the way they want to see information specific to their line of thinking or their pain points. The way marketers do this is to have the right segmentation with a number of different data points across different systems. Many of them try to get these data points and consolidate them using the traditional spreadsheets or Access databases but this line of thinking is just simply old school.

Dispelling the Myths

Before we delve deeper, let's address what you have likely heard or been told about CRM:

  • Most CRM vendors will tell you every single person in the firm needs to be on a CRM system for it to be effective. Not true.
  • Many CRM pundits will also say that you need to connect your calendar and track every interaction with a client.  Not true.
  • CRM is a dark science and will cause more work for the firm. Also, not true.

The Truth

A CRM database for many companies in today's marketplace is not just the place to track prospects and lead lists or to monitor how a sales team is doing. A CRM database in today's world provides an infrastructure to give you essentially a centralized view of your firm -- think of it as plumbing to make data flow across your organization and empower people to be most effective at doing the job they were hired to do.

There is a lot to be said for efficiency and when people are not grinding through information from different sources and entering or copying data from one place to another, you can then are realize some real results from the people you hired to market you.

In addition, one of the unintended consequences of CRM is that partners will have better access to real-time information in order to make better strategic use of their time or to work with other partners on a better direction in growing the firm.

Where does this deviate from the traditional view of CRM?  Well, think “connected” and don't think “data entry.” This thinking is the biggest single myth that scares partners or firms and half of it is propagated by CRM vendors that don't understand how accounting firms work. The other side is from vendors who specialize in the industry and misrepresent what CRM and marketing automation tools provide.

Clarity for Firms

Still not getting it? Do this for me: think about your firm today and what is used to market the firm.  Someone is probably looking at website analytics, using an email marketing tool for newsletters and communications, or managing spreadsheets to handle everything from event management to producing proposals.

They're also probably using another spreadsheet in order to track the pipeline and track prospective business and your results. You probably would not be the first firm to also ask anyone doing your marketing to use the firm's practice management database as a CRM tool or to double as the marketing database.

In a connected world, anyone doing your marketing can use a true marketing automation tool that is connected to CRM and have true business intelligence and analytics to do segmentation. More importantly, the best CRM products in the marketplace today connect to the best marketing automation tools in the marketplace so that your marketers can spend their time marketing and not crunching spreadsheets.

In case you are wondering, a real marketing automation system will handle email marketing, web analytics, event management, social messaging, and lead scoring and nurturing campaigns.

Now let's take this conversation to the next step. Imagine that your CRM database is also connected to your practice management tools so that partners can get real-time visibility and dashboards into segmented data across employees, accounts receivable, work in progress, practice-level break and client-specific breakdowns as well.  Because this connected system doesn't require any data entry, any management level person with access will have the ability to see information on any device from any type of browser in order to manage and run the business (including your marketing person/people).

Finally, we get to last piece of the puzzle which relates to both tracking pipeline, referrals, and proposal generation. This is where a traditional CRM technology will shine because these tools are very easy to use.

In accounting firms, we are most often seeing that marketing, admins and senior staff or practice leads are using the CRM tools in order to speed up the proposal process. And, because of the connectivity to practice management tools, there is no data entry or new client forms when onboarding new clients for billing.

Conclusion

Deploying a CRM technology with the right approach will streamline your efforts, eliminate silos of information, provide you real ROI on your marketing campaigns, and help you respond to prospective clients or existing clients in a way that will impact the shares that each person takes home at the end of the year.

Danny Estrada has been working as a thought leader in CRM for the past 20 years, with the last 10 as a CRM practice leader for New York based technology consultants [email protected]. His team has been involved with over 500 implementation cycles and most recently created a CRM vertical focused on the accounting profession. He is author of the Practical CRM blog (http://blog.practicalcrm.net), a columnist for CRM Magazine and a blogger for Search CRM.  In addition to being a Microsoft Dynamics Ambassador he is a member of AAM (Association for Accounting Marketing).

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