The ultimate checklist for accountants and bookkeepers to choose the right CRM for their firms

As mentioned in our previous blog post, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution is an excellent tool to help accountants and bookkeepers maintain and grow their clienteles.

However, no CRM is created equally, and the CRM market can be a landscape of seemingly complicated features, lengthy and costly implementations, elusive ROI, buzzwords and technical “mumbo jumbo.”

The CentrixOne team has compiled a comprehensive list of things to consider when choosing the right CRM for your accounting or bookkeeping business.

Do you want a cloud-based or on-premise solution?
In the past, accountants and bookkeepers opted for on-premise solutions. However, thanks to their affordability, scalability, continuous updates and security, cloud-based CRMs are widely gaining in popularity.

How many users will access your CRM at any given time?
Most CRMs are priced based on the number of concurrent users, so make sure you factor in a variety of use case scenarios to pinpoint the right number.

What type of user permissions are needed?
Not all CRM users need the same permissions or features. For example, a secretary may only need access to the contact management module of your CRM, while a sales rep will require sales features and not marketing functionalities. By carefully analyzing your needs, you can balance your costs based on feature sets.

How easy is the CRM to implement and use?
Time is money. The last thing you want to have happen is paying for a lengthy implementation and onboarding process that takes you and your team away from the core business. The CRM you select should require minimal setup and can be easily learned in just a few hours.

How easy is it to import data from your other systems?
Do you have client data housed in a spreadsheet, email or contact management tool? Make sure the CRM you choose has a seamless way to import your information so that you avoid costs and time-consuming data re-entry. Oftentimes, importing data can be carried out by an .xls mapping; however, other means may be available.

Does the CRM integrate within your accounting software?
In order to streamline operations between your clientele development, existing clients and accounting, find out if and how the CRM you are looking at connects to your accounting software.

What type of features are you looking for?
CRMs can be simple, enhanced contact management tools—or they can be full-featured, all-in-one solutions that incorporate sales tracking, pipeline management, email campaigns, website form and landing page creation, marketing automation, customer service modules and more. Map out how you currently or plan to attract, convert and retain your clients using various sales and marketing initiatives. This will determine the specific CRM features you need.

What type of clientele do you manage?
Your firm’s sales strategy may be based on acquisition, retention, growth or a mix between the three. If your firm is newly established or looking to acquire new clients, a CRM with powerful lead generation and marketing features is probably your best bet. Looking to maintain your existing clientele or grow at a steadier pace? Marketing features are still important; however, they make take second place to client management as well as task and scheduling functionalities.

How much reporting and analytics do you need?
As an accountant or bookkeeper, you are obviously someone who loves to crunch numbers. However, how much do you really need to delve deep into your sales and marketing performance? Several CRMs allow you to set up simple reports and dashboards with a variety of different metrics. Again, determine what KPIs are important for your firm and select a CRM that offers the right level of reporting. Remember, data is great, but do you really want to drown in dozens of reports that you may not really need?

Do you need to go mobile?
If you are constantly on the road or work remotely, you may want to select a cloud-based CRM that is responsive (can be accessed on desktops and mobile devices) or has its very own app. Again, think of each use case scenario. Will you access your CRM on a desktop computer at work, tablet at home, and smartphone while on the go? How fully will you use the CRM when you are not at the office?

How scalable is the CRM?
From both a cost and feature standpoint, you need to identify if a particular CRM can evolve as your business grows. For example, does the CRM offer monthly plans based on the number of users and are the requirements to switch levels (how “big” do you have to jump”) reasonable? Look into each CRM’s update and maintenance frequency. Does it regularly add new features and tweaks? Do you have to pay for them or are they in your monthly plan?

What are the training and support costs?
Some CRMs offer free training and support. Others do not. Read the fine print to figure out the true acquisition cost beyond just the user access or install. Also, keep in mind the level of comfort in technology that your team members have. If they are technology whizzes, support and training costs will be low. However, if they are tech-phobic, you may need to invest in additional training and support to get them up to speed on your CRM.

According to Nucleus Research, companies that make new investments in all-in-one CRM solutions experience, on average, a return of $5.60 to $8,71 for every dollar spent. That is a great ROI—if you find the right CRM for your accounting and bookkeeping firm. Take extra time to answer the questions above before acquiring your next CRM. It will definitely be worth it!

But a word of warning: as much as it is important to ask questions to your potential CRM suppliers, make sure they don’t lead you down a path where you end up having to pay for features you don’t need, and foot hefty consultant and integration bills!

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