CPA CRM Software: What to Know BEFORE You Buy
by René de Jong on October 7, 2020
So you want to buy CRM software? Good luck.
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, choosing a CRM can be confusing and overwhelmingly consequential. In short, it’s a big decision, which is why we’re here to help...
FYI this is NOT a guide to choosing CRM software. For that, we recommend checking out Capterra’s guide: How to Compare CRM Software.
Instead, we want to make sure CPAs know the answer to ONE QUESTION before choosing a CRM:
Will it still be right for my business in 10 years?
Choosing the right CPA CRM software is about the long game. To help you figure out whether or not the CRM you’re thinking about purchasing fits the bill, consider the following points before you purchase.
We’ll help you first understand at a high level what a CRM does and then briefly go through the options out there for CPA CRM software. Finally, we’ll dig into the capabilities and integrations that are critical to consider before adopting a CRM.
It’s a big commitment that requires deep thinking about today, tomorrow, and even a decade from now to get the most bang for your buck.
What is CPA CRM software?
First things first, you need to understand what CPA CRM software does. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms provide a system for managing relationships with your customers/clients. As your business grows and you take on more and more, it becomes critical to have a central place where all the information regarding your clients lives.
A CRM will keep all info and conversations involving your clients under a unified, digital roof, so that you and everyone on your team can easily see the current status of any and all customer relationships.
"When you can easily see everything that’s happening in the customer relationship, you eliminate confusion and have a better shot at retaining those long-term, high-value clients everybody wants."
CRMs are designed to get everyone on your team on the same page by organizing all the details of your leads and customers. Like any adept software for CPAs, the power is in maintaining visibility.
How does a CRM benefit CPA firms specifically?
At a high level, CRMs exist to help you grow your business by developing leads into customers. Specifically, a CPA firm can use CRM software to:
- Maintain a list of customers and points of contact with contact information.
- Maintain a record of communication with leads and customers.
- Track marketing and sales activity.
What are the CRM options for CPA firms?
There are plenty of CRM options to choose from for your CPA firm, but some of the most popular are:
HubSpot is one of the top choices for small-to-medium-sized businesses and provides a ton of value with their support and helpful content. The HubSpot marketplace will help you integrate other beneficial platforms for financial services and accounting to make your sales pipeline next-level efficient.
Salesforce is the CRM of choice for heavy hitters like BBVA and T-Mobile. Over 150,000 businesses around the world currently use Salesforce, from small teams to Fortune 500 companies.
Insightly unifies CRM with all your marketing activities to improve the customer experience. The platform is known to be easy to use and provides killer email templates to streamline all your customer email communications in a beautiful way.
Keap also wants to keep (see what they did there) all your marketing together with your customer relationship management. The folks at Keap focus on automation to help businesses get more accomplished in less time and promote high visibility for everyone on the team.
Pipedrive is hyper-focused on the sales pipeline, giving you a detailed visual representation of everything that’s happening with customer leads. It doesn’t necessarily have the functionality of the other options we've listed, but can offer enough for smaller businesses in some cases.
Zoho is a favorite of larger companies we all know like Netflix, Bose, and more. With users in over 180 countries, the platform remains a viable choice for global businesses who have to manage customers across the world.
Finally, Microsoft Dynamics delivers the old-school reliability you’d expect from the brains at Microsoft with their real-time customer data platform. This CRM leverages predictive analysis and is also the answer for well-known companies like Pandora to manage everything related to their customer relationships.
But CRMs aren’t just CRMs...
We already mentioned that choosing a CPA CRM software platform is consequential, but what exactly does that mean?
CRMs used to just be databases for storing customer information — they were essentially fancy spreadsheets and rolodexes with limited functionality. But that is not the case anymore!
"These days, CRMs are acting as main operating systems for businesses. Choosing a CRM is like choosing iPhone or Android — it’s going to affect every single app purchase you make down the line. Remember that when looking toward the future needs of your business."
Leading CRM providers like HubSpot and Salesforce (these tend to be the most popular choices for small and medium-sized businesses) have moved light years beyond basic CRM functionality to also offer:
- Marketing automation
- Service desk/support
- Sales management
- Website content management
- And more!
Integrations are KEY
In addition, for CPAs and CPA firms it’s important for your CRM to integrate with:
- Compliance software
- ERP software
- Invoicing/billing software
- Contract management software
- Project management software
- Time tracking software
Remember that once you choose a CRM, you’re going to be limited by its additional features, partnerships, and the sweet spot, integrations. When you’re going down the line of choices, weigh these considerations with the future in mind because…
...Switching CRMs isn’t easy.
Once you’re dug into a CRM, it’s hard to switch. CRM migration is a complex process, and usually requires third-party support. In fact, there’s an entire industry of agencies who offer or specialize in CRM migration.
Switching CRMs might require switching other parts of your tech stack, too. An obvious headache. And as we touched on before, not all integrations will be suitable.
Once people on your team get used to a CRM, path dependency makes switching difficult.
Every CRM behaves slightly differently, so you’ll need to change your habits and re-train employees. Again, another reason to look to the future before investing the kind of time and money it takes to get everyone on board.
Forward-thinking is the secret.
In short, choosing CPA CRM software is an exercise in forward-thinking. Think of buying a CRM like buying a home. The entry and exit costs are high — you have to stay invested for a while in order to see a good ROI. So before you buy a CRM for your CPA firm, don’t forget to think about INTEGRATIONS.
And ask yourself, Will it still be right for my business in 10 years? If the answer is yes, that’s your winner.