It seems that the daunting task of managing contacts and CRM systems has followed me throughout my career, despite my tireless efforts to avoid it! In my first job out of college, I was tasked with helping to set up a customizable contact management system, along with importing tons of information and keeping it up to date. To say that I was confused and overwhelmed by the process and the enormity of it all would be an understatement. When I began working at Marketri a couple years later, I was relieved to learn that we already had a great contact management system in place. I simply was responsible for keeping it clean and up to date. However, as my responsibilities at Marketri grew and I began to work as an account manager serving our clients, I began to encounter some of the all too familiar contact management challenges. It seems that the process of managing contacts and selecting a CRM system is a common challenge among small and mid-sized professional services firms. In our experience, we have found this to be especially true for our accounting firm clients.  As a result, I have found myself pulled back into the grips of the contact management monster.

Fortunately, due to the growing number of accounting clients who have sought our help in this area, Marketri has fine-tuned the process for assessing contact management needs and effectively approaching the process for implementing a new system. So, if you’ve been tasked with helping your accounting firm navigate the messy seas of contact management, don’t send out that S.O.S. signal just yet! The considerations below will help you wrap your head around your firm’s needs and point you in the right direction.

  1. How are contacts currently being managed? It is important to get an idea of where all of the information is and how consistently it is being tracked so that the firm understands how much gathering needs to be done to get all contacts in one place.
  2. How much information does the firm have for each contact? If there are key pieces of contact information, such as email addresses needed for email marketing and newsletters, it is important to see how much of that info the firm already has and how much still needs to be gathered.
  3. What fields and reports are important? What information is most important for the partners, marketing department, and business development to track? Key areas your firm may want to consider are: contact owner, industry, sector, and contact type (i.e. client, referral source, lead, or prospect).
  4. What is your budget? It is ideal to approach the process of selecting a new CRM system with a solid idea in mind of how much you are comfortable spending in this area. Many of the top contact management systems are not cheap. However, there are ways to curb spending, such as limiting the number of users. Having a rough budget will help to guide the selection process. It’s also important to budget time. I always caution our clients that implementing a new contact management system takes quite a bit of time. It is definitely a matter of months rather than days, so practicing patience and managing expectations is key.
  5. What capabilities are most important? We recommend surveying the key decision makers such as partners, marketing professionals, business development professionals, and IT to assess which capabilities are most important to the firm. The results of the survey can be used to guide your hunt for the right software. For example, some people may be interested in having the capability to take notes on conversations, whereas others may want very robust reporting capabilities.
  6. Do you already have a means of tracking contacts, or is a new CRM system needed? Answering the above should help you gain an understanding as to whether a current system can meet the firm’s needs or whether a completely new system is needed. If you plan to use existing resources, be sure you thoroughly assess the tool or software to see if it can provide the capabilities, fields, and reports that your decision makers need.
  7. Who will use the system and have access? Answering this question will provide an understanding of how many users you may need. It may be that the majority of users can have limited access, but you will likely want to have at least one power or administrative user who can run reports and make adjustments to the system when needed.
  8. Do you want the system to be integrated/work with any other important software? This is an especially important consideration for accounting firms. Many of our accounting clients want a contact management system that can be integrated with both their email system and their time/billing system, allowing them to enter a contact just once, rather than several times in each different place
  9. Does the firm want a system that is “cloud” based? Generally, there are cloud based contact management systems and hosted options that exist on your company’s server. You’ll want to get an idea of which works best for your firm. If you do decide to go with a “hosted” option, be sure to check with IT that your firm can support the system requirements.
  10. What is the process/procedure for entering information and maintaining the database? Once you’ve selected and implemented a contact management system, it is important to have a clear-cut procedure for entering and maintaining information. Our recommendation is to have 1 or 2 points of contact who are responsible for entering information using a clear protocol.

Has your accounting firm recently implemented a new contact management system? Or are you in the midst of the process? I’d love to hear about your challenges and successes in the contact management process!