I’m going to be honest with you. As an accountant, it took me forever to realise why I needed a CRM. My motto has always been, “Anything you can do, I can do better with a spreadsheet”.
Ah yes, the stubbornness of an accountant.
Eventually the leads at our firm started to pile up, and that’s when the questions came; who did I email? Who do I need to follow-up? Which follow-ups are most important? The spreadsheet clearly wasn’t cutting it anymore.
For firms that are truly looking to scale, it’s almost impossible to live without a CRM. If done correctly it should be the contact hub for marketing, sales and, possibly, even all project management.
Now, with multiple CRMs and multiple businesses under my belt, I wanted to share my experiences and give advice on what I believe to be the six best CRMs for your accounting firm, from least complex to most advanced.
Podio is a great piece of software for all things project management, especially if you want to try out a “light CRM” without diving all the way in. Podio has a basic, out-of-the-box lead management app that allows you to organise your leads in one spot, and manually update statuses.
Organisation is half the battle with any pipeline and due to all the manual effort that’s required, Podio falls short compared to more CRM focused applications. However, with a free account to start, Podio is a simple solution for any firm that is just starting off.
2. Streak CRM
Streak is unique because it’s a CRM right in your inbox (if you use Google Apps). It’s a logical next step after Podio, and something I’d suggest if there’s only one person managing your deal flow. Having a CRM in your inbox is extremely convenient since email and CRM activity commonly overlap.
Streak has some other useful features which will allow you to send emails later and drop in “snippets” of commonly used sentences or paragraphs. As well as email tracking and snooze for later options, there’s also a mobile app to help you manage activity while at meetings.
Streak has a free plan and its first tier of pricing starts at US$19/month for up to 10 collaborators, making it perfect for many young firms on Google Apps.
3. Capsule CRM
I have had little experience with Capsule CRM but given its position in the Xero Add-On Marketplace I thought it may be useful for many Digital First readers.
Capsule is a bit too compartmentalised for me, especially compared to a choice I’ll talk about later, RelateIQ. Although, I can certainly see why this would be a great introductory CRM for many small businesses.
Capsule has a long list of integrations which include Google Apps (although not Outlook). With a useful freemium and only $US12/month per user after that, it might be a great next step after Streak.
4. Base CRM
Base CRM prides itself on being cloud and mobile first, just like another company you’re probably familiar with (Xero). It was one of the first CRMs I tried when I began my search several years ago and I found it very easy to get up and running.
Base has some cool features for you to drag-and-drop leads to each stage of your pipeline, a friendly user-interface and it isn’t overwhelming for “non-sales” CRM users.
Base can integrate with Outlook and Google Apps, allowing you to generate emails directly out of Base and capture conversations and threads created elsewhere. It costs a little extra, however you can also sync your contacts to Base directly from Xero with Zapier (the latter has a long list of other integrations too).
Base is a great next step past Capsule and requires less setup than advanced CRMs. With prices starting at US$15/month per user, Base is a good starting point for many firms looking to take their marketing and sales efforts from beginner to intermediate.
RelateIQ is a personal favorite and the one we use today at Sqrl. RelateIQ has taken a fierce focus on eliminating data entry and mining available data to provide helpful and timely information. It’s an incredibly flexible platform to plug and play other services primarily via Zapier.
RelateIQ syncs to Google Apps and Outlook within seconds to capture all of your communications. Each conversation is then available in RelateIQ and can be shared with other team members. This is especially useful when multiple colleagues are interacting with the same leads.
I love the unlimited flexibility of creating “lists” to represent different stages of the customer cycle. Lists are based on “contacts” or “accounts”, and can include columns detailing any range of options which may be manually adjusted.
List data can be copied and pasted into Excel at any time, making deeper dives and analysis simple. While the price is a bit steep, with starting packages at $49/month per user, there’s no doubt that after its US$390 million acquisition by Salesforce.com, RelateIQ is reputable player well-positioned be a CRM of the future.
Salesforce is the grandfather of all CRMs and SaaS applications. They literally invented the SaaS category as we know it today.
Salesforce is an extremely powerful CRM due to their long list of add-ons and advanced configurations. However, I’d strongly suggest against using Salesforce if you’re a first-time CRM user.
I’ve found it to be most powerful when put into the hands of sales teams that have combined it with components of their marketing department – primarily marketing automation platforms such as Hubspot or Marketo.
I’d say take a look at Salesforce if your firm is 150+ professionals with dedicated sales and marketing staff. Otherwise, I think you’d be more than satisfied with the CRMs we’ve covered earlier.
And there you have it! A list of CRMs for your accounting firm whether you’re just starting out, looking to take your firm to the next level or a well established firm. If you don’t have one already, ditch the spreadsheets and start taking your sales efforts to the next level.