By:  Brian Swanson

Practice growth is a core concern for every CPA. Each year, partners look for new and practical ways to enhance the effectiveness of their marketing programs. Some turn to direct mail, telemarketing, advertising, referral networking or newer digital media marketing. While these are all proven methods, there is an internal step you can take that will add immediate value to your efforts: Implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system!

A CRM can help your firm track key data on clients and prospects. This data can be used to focus marketing efforts, drive new service offerings and help the firm address emerging trends.

Benefits of a CRM

Unfortunately, most firms do not leverage CRM to increase the effectiveness of practice growth programs. However, if properly implemented, a CRM can add significant value to an accounting firms marketing efforts, including:

  • Cross Selling. This is an effective strategy for practice growth that many firms struggle with due to a lack of detailed information. A keenly organized CRM will allow your firm to find new opportunities within your current client base. Examples may include cost segregation opportunities for commercial or industrial property owners, or tax incentives for companies that recently acquired property. The key benefit here is the ability to track this information through the CRM and leverage it to help grow the practice.
  • Targeted Marketing Communications. The information you collect in a CRM will allow your firm to send targeted marketing communications that specifically address client needs. Oftentimes, a firm sends a newsletter with broad content that applies to a variety of businesses. However, a CRM can provide enough information on clients to allow you to send targeted marketing communications. For example, if your firm has several biotech and high-tech companies, you can send this group a more focused newsletter that provides in-depth information on R&D tax credits, rather than a marketing piece where more than half the information is not relevant.
  • New Service Offerings. CRM data gives you the ability to identify trends that impact your clients. Essential to this process is the CRM data and what it tells you about clients. Such information allows you to be proactive in helping clients beyond the typical tax and accounting compliance work and bring “value added” services that address the day-to-day operational issues of their business. For instance, if you notice several clients are experiencing falling revenues, you can then create a profitability analysis service that will help a client identify profitability drivers while reducing overall costs.
  • Enhanced Client Satisfaction. As your firm becomes more proactive in addressing and anticipating client needs their overall satisfaction will increase. This will have a positive impact on client retention and referrals. The more clients understand the value you bring to their business, the more willing they will be to refer other opportunities to you, reducing the overall cost of client acquisition and bringing new opportunities where previously there were none.

In Perspective

To leverage the sales and marketing benefits a CRM offers, it is essential to select a CRM package that best addresses your firm’s needs. Some firms may be just fine using the CRM component of their time and billing system, while others may decide to purchase a separate CRM with more advanced features. For some firms, it makes more sense to have a custom CRM built to address very specific needs. When selecting a CRM application, be sure to consider your budget, and choose one that has the features/benefits most important to your firm.

Regardless of what solution you select it is important to understand that implementing a CRM package is not an easy task. It takes planning, coordination and a team commitment to make it work. However, through consistent updating and analysis of data, your firm will have an invaluable tool that can propel practice growth for years to come.

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